Saturday, 14 March 2015

San Antonio, Cartoon Capital

This is not an animated cartoon. This is a house in Richmond, Virginia. It was designed by architect Harvey L. Page, who was based in Washington, D.C. in the 1880s and early 1890s. He moved on to Chicago then, for whatever reason, relocated to San Antonio, Texas and continued his architectural work. He was also bitten by the animated cartoon bug.

Page developed, or maybe financed, a kind of stop-motion technique involving drawn figures. It’s described in this story in the San Antonio Light of November 5, 1915.

Harvey L. Page Devises New Method—Make Test at the Grand.

Harvey L. Page, architect of San Antonio, has perfected a method of producing animated cartoons in motion pictures and has completed his first experiment in the new field. The animated cartoon production is entitled "High Old Times at Chevy Chase Hunt" and he calls it a "Clipinsnip" photoplay. For the benefit of a number of his friends, the animated cartoon will be shown at the Grand Opera House at 10 o'clock Sunday morning. Mr. Page has sent out invitations to friends to view the picture and criticise it.
All of the "characters" in "High Old Times at Chevy Chase Hunt," including manikins, horses, a pack of hounds and a number of wierd phantoms the hero of the photoplay sees in an inebriated dream, were constructed by Mr. Page from cardboard. Pinions at all joints allow them to make any sort of motion and he has been able to perfect the various figures so that varying facial expressions can be obtained.
This is Mr. Page's first experience in animated cartoons and the idea of making the production by the method he has perfected is entirely original with him. After his first effort is shown to his friends Sunday morning at the Grand Opera House, he will send it away to a motion picture agency with which he has been in correspondence.
The new animated cartoon field in motion picture production has received considerable attention from moving picture corporations in the last several months. If Mr. Page is successful in his new venture, he plans to develop the production of animated cartoons in San Antonio.
He expects to write the scenarios himself, as he did in "High Old Times at Chevy Chase Hunt." Photographing of the animated cartoon was done in Mr. Page's studio on East Houston street.

Page held three patents but none involve the process described above.

It’s no coincidence that Page’s cartoon involves Chevy Chase. The Chevy Case Club, founded in 1892, was organised at a meeting in his office in Washington, D.C.

What happened to the cartoon? I haven’t been able to find out. It remains an interesting footnote in early animation.

This appears to have been Page’s only foray into animation. In 1908, he wrote History of the World in Nursery Rhyme, which the Light described (Sept. 2, 1908) as the first of three volumes (“with handsome mezzographs”), the first dealing with events from Adam to Jesus. You can read a short biography of Page here.

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