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What to do about 35mm Nitrate print c.1917?

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Hello everyone! Last summer, I was vacationing in Flagstaff and as I normally do on trips, I went to some antique stores and found something interesting. I asked the fellow at the booth if he had any 16mm film, and he pulled out three cans of 35mm film! I looked at all three and because of money constraints I only got one, a boxing match. The store was called Flagstaff Antiques. I bought it for the novelty and collector’s value, and sat on it until now. I am wondering what I should do about this. I believe it is nitrate, as it is silent, and if I’m not mistaken, nitrate was used for BW until the 40s, far after the silent era had ended. I also believe it is from either 1917 or 1915. 1915 because of the side it reads, “Du Pont-Pathe 15.” But I think it is most likely 1917 because of this pamphlet:

https://www.kodak.com/uploadedfiles/motion/Guide_to_Identifying_Year_of_Manufacture.pdf

It has info on markings on the side of film stock indicating the year, and the markings for 1917 match up with the ones on the film. It does not have a strange or vinegary smell. It is rather clean considering its age. There are some tears and lots of sprocket hole damage. Here are some images of the reel and the film taken with a DSLR:

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Capture of a frame of the film:
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Torn sprocket holes:
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An example of a tear:
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https://www.instagram.com/servanov_/

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wow, finally someone mentions something that has actual value on 35mm, seems everyone is worried about movies that will always be available in some form of HD. it doesnt actually look that bad for 1917, any luck on identifying the fighters or which match this was?

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Very cool! If it is indeed nitrate, might be best to store it properly or get in touch with an archive like the Library of Congress. Maybe the folks over at the Nitrateville forums might be interested as well.

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timemeddler said:

wow, finally someone mentions something that has actual value on 35mm, seems everyone is worried about movies that will always be available in some form of HD. it doesnt actually look that bad for 1917, any luck on identifying the fighters or which match this was?

I wasn’t able to find it, the reel seems to be incomplete, it just sort of “starts,” the reel can only reads, “20s Boxing.” I can surmise it wasn’t anyone too important or big at the time, or else the reel would have been worn out and much dirtier.

https://www.instagram.com/servanov_/

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This stuff looks beautiful! Would it be possible/safe to take some more scans with some punches landing? I’d love to do some drawing/studies of these.

Thanks kindly for posting what you found.

OT-DAWT-COM nieghbour and sometime poster (Remember, Tuesday is Soylent Green day!)

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Rogue-theX said:

This stuff looks beautiful! Would it be possible/safe to take some more scans with some punches landing? I’d love to do some drawing/studies of these.

Thanks kindly for posting what you found.

I’m trying to avoid too much contact with the print because of it’s age and unreliability being nitrate, that is until I can find a way to have it scanned and/or preserved well.

https://www.instagram.com/servanov_/

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Cool find! Just be careful, as I’ve heard that nitrate film can spontaneously combust. Back in the old days, one of the major studios lost a ton of silent films due to that. It seems like that’s only likely to combust if the film is decomposing, but I’d take precautions just the same. See this link for info: https://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/support/technical_information/storage/storage_and_handing_of_processed_nitrate_film/default.htm#spont

Hope that helps! 😃

What can you get a Wookiee for (Life Day) Christmas when he already owns a comb?

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ScruffyNerfHerder said:

Cool find! Just be careful, as I’ve heard that nitrate film can spontaneously combust. Back in the old days, one of the major studios lost a ton of silent films due to that. It seems like that’s only likely to combust if the film is decomposing, but I’d take precautions just the same. See this link for info: https://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/support/technical_information/storage/storage_and_handing_of_processed_nitrate_film/default.htm#spont

Hope that helps! 😃

Thanks for letting me know! I don’t think there’s any risk of combustion, it’s not too bad in terms of damage actually. I have already purchased a different film can to put it in. I am currently looking at ways to have splices and tears fixed in non destructive ways and possibly even scanning.

https://www.instagram.com/servanov_/

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The pamphlet you linked to is for identifying edge codes of Kodak stocks only. Your film is DuPont stock, which didn’t begin production until 1920. This link should be more useful:

https://erikpiil.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/dupontedgecode.pdf

Please read the link ScruffyNerfHerder posted and be careful with this stuff. I urge you to study this data sheet closely, too:

https://amianet.org/wp-content/uploads/Resource-Nitrate-Safety-Data-Sheet.pdf

Because your film is nitrate, there is and will always be a risk of combustion. Cellulose nitrate film is classified as dangerous goods by the UN and cannot be shipped through the post or carried on public transportation. Handled and stored in ideal conditions, nitrate can last over a hundred years, but when it isn’t, the consequences can be tragic, to say the least. The film should be kept far away from sources of heat or ignition, no matter its apparent condition. It needs to be kept cool and dry. Nitrate film fires cannot be put out because the film itself contains an oxygen supply. The smoke is extremely toxic and potentially fatal if inhaled. Nitrate doesn’t combust randomly, it combusts due to ignorance and human error. This is and has always been the case. Please heed my warnings and treat this matter as seriously as possible.

And it wasn’t merely one studio that lost many silent films due to nitrate fires. Many studios and archives worldwide suffered from major nitrate fires through the 1980s, when it began to be understood how to safely store and handle it.

Side note - DuPont film was a bit lower grade than Kodak film and is known to decompose quite badly, so it’s cool to see such an early specimen of theirs in apparently great shape, aside from the mechanical damage.