40th Anniversary of Encyclopedia Britannica Films
and its Predecessor Companies
Commissioned by Charles Benton, President EBEC in 1966/1967
by Kenneth Kaye,
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Early Beginnings 1928-1933 Page 3
Chapter 2 ERPI Classroom Films/ University Page 43
Chapter 3 William Benton Encyclopedia Page 66
Britannica Films Early Years 1943-1958
Chapter 4 Expansion of the Business and the Field
with Government Funding from the
National Defense Education Act (NDEA)
to the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act (ESEA) 1958-1968
Chapter One: Early Beginnings 1928-1933
For twenty years James A. Brill could drive audiences of elementary school teachers wild by reading excerpts from the 1937 film The Adventures of Bunny Rabbit. The narration drove them wild, not because they thought it cute, nor because they recognized Jim Brill’s even, fatherly tones as “The Voice” in hundreds of instructional sound films, but rather because the teachers knew what Bunny Rabbit could do to five and six year olds. They had seen children spellbound as the fox chased Mother Rabbit, fascinated as they learned with Bunny about the other animals’ different diets, and delighted as the farmer “plumped” Bunny down into a doll house. And they knew, too, how those same children profited from the ten-minute film. The teachers used it as a springboard to expression. The dullest child and the shyest, as well as the brightest and the most talkative, all had their own ideas about what Mother Rabbit was telling Bunny. Teachers who had once used the film showed it year after year.
But it was not always that way. The teachers, their principals, and school boards had required a lot of convincing. When Bunny Rabbit was produced, only a negligible fraction of America’s schools were well equipped to use it, even if they had been inclined to buy it. ERPI Classroom Films, the company that made it, had not even begun in 1937 to try to convince the schools that its films were superior to its competitors. ERPI had been too busy, in its nine years, selling the general idea that talking pictures could be a valuable tool for classroom instruction.
The film The Adventures of Bunny Rabbit was the first educational film to speak to the child in his own language without attempting to impart information directly. The sound track and the visuals captured the child’s imagination and made it possible for learning experiences to follow under the teacher’s direction. The final sequence in the script suggests the flavor of Bunny Rabbit and all subsequent films for the primary grades:
He nibbles and nibbles and chews and chews. My, how good the lettuce is!
(Sound: wheelbarrow) But what is that? The farmer is coming out of the barn to water his plants in the greenhouse.
Will he find Bunny? Well, he sees something down under the glass, but Bunny is so busy eating he doesn’t hear a thing. Very quietly the farmer opens the window and grasps Bunny by the neck. “You pesky little rabbit! I’ll put you where you’ll do no more harm!” And he plumps him down into the doll house.
Even though he is frightened, Bunny is still hungry, so he hops on the chair and samples the doll’s food.
It tastes good. But now he thinks, “I’d better get out of here. The farmer may come back. Can I get out through this window?” Now Bunny wants very much to go, but he can’t open the window.
“Ah! Right through the door – this is the way. Now I wonder how to get back to the woods. I wonder if it is this way! No, it must be this way. Yes, there are the trees of the woods!”
How good it is to be back in the cool, green woods again.
And now Bunny is once more with his mother. What do you think he is telling Mother Gray Rabbit – and what do you think Mother Rabbit is telling Bunny?
It was in 1928 that John E. Otterson, President of Electrical Research Products, Inc., first conceived the idea of an educational department to explore the potential of the sound motion picture in schools. ERPI owned all the patents then in existence for quality sound film recording and projection equipment, and the company was determined to investigate every possible new market. But something more altruistic was involved. Otterson knew that his new products had a potential for communicating information more powerfully and effectively than had ever been done before. ERPI was doing a $20,000,000 annual business in leasing equipment to theatres; the company could afford to experiment. It was natural to look for ways of making good some of the boasts that had been made about the talkies.
The story really begins earlier. It is difficult, in the late sixties, to imagine what a stir the new talking pictures created. Probably no invention in the field of communications will ever again be able to astonish us and thrill us so much, because after the talkies we could believe that anything was possible. An over-exuberant witness hailed them as “the nearest thing to a resurrection!” A sense of the excitement was produced in 1926 when the Warner Brothers presented the first talkie is conveyed by a contemporary account of the premiere. It took place on Broadway on August 6, 1926, a series of musical shots followed by John Barrymore in Don Juan:
Eight-thirty arrived. The lights dimmed; babble of voices hushed. A white beam shot overhead and splashed upon the screen; the beam from the movie projector. But it fell first on the draped curtains on the stage, revealing a subtitle. The curtains parted on a conventional cinema screen. The title gave way, familiarly, to a photograph…a man…Will H. Hays. He advanced to the foreground and there was a little sound. It penetrated through people’s minds that they had “heard” him clear his throat.
Then, suddenly, the picture began to speak.
The audience hung on its every word, half expecting something to happen…that the machinery would break down. In the first trial of every machine there is a good chance that it will break. One lacks confidence in it.
The phenomenon was like watching a man flying without wings. It was uncanny. The shadow of Will H. Hays was true to life. His lips moved and the sound came forth. His was a short speech; when it was done and he stood there, people found themselves clapping unconsciously. As if he had heard them, he bowed. He seemed to be present, and yet he did not seem to be present. No wonder a scientist the next day called it: “The nearest thing to a resurrection!” 
a way, it was a resurrection, of two phenomena that had been around for some
was not the first time that telephone research had led to the development of
new products unrelated to the telephone business. But it did promise to be the most profitable
new product the research organization had come up with, and as such it
presented a problem. The word “monopoly”
struck terror in the hearts of AT&T executives. It was decided that Western Electric should
form a subsidiary, which would handle marketing of unrelated byproducts whose
patents were owned by the parent company.
The new subsidiary, ERPI, with offices in AT&T headquarters in
Warner Brothers’ first attempt had avoided the difficulty of recording sound
directly on the film. The sound was on
regular disc records, which were synchronized with the moving pictures. This presented another difficulty:
synchronizing the record and the film at the theatre each time the film was
shown. William Fox of the Fox Film
Corporation had passed up the chance to be the first with talkies, so that he
could refine ERPI’s sound-on-film process and adapt it to the particular techniques
Jazz Singer,” with Al Jolson, broke all box office records at every theatre in
which it played, and ERPI made it clear that it was ready and eager to equip
other theatres for sound so that they could show the film. This, coupled with Fox’s success at putting
sound on film, was evidence too big for the other studios to ignore. In the early months of 1928, ERPI granted
licenses on behalf of Western Electric to
ERPI was ready to place projection equipment in any theater in the world that was willing to make the investment. Unfortunately, there was more involved than simply making the equipment and sending it out. The company had to install it, train projectionists and set up servicing centers all over the world to guarantee the equipment’s performance. This meant a rapid growth in personnel, expanding from 200 to 1200 in 1928 alone. But the increased payroll and the expense of establishing a network of field offices paid off for ERPI. A couple of dozen other inventors soon entered the market, once it was evident that the producers were all going into sound. But their devices were inferior and not much cheaper than ERPI’s, and none of them could match the leader for reliability and for speed of servicing.
public relations staff was headed by Howard G. Sokes, who had come to ERPI from
Western Electric. Capitalizing on the
As if all these feats were not enough, Otterson began as early as 1928 to give Stokes other newsworthy material. He began to talk about the potential of the talking film in education.
Edward Otterson was an
Otterson’s years at Western Electric had taught him the value of playing up the Bell System’s public service angle. He spoke with conviction about the contribution to American art and entertainment made by his company’s equipment. But he had even greater contributions in mind. He knew that these contributions would reflect well upon his company. Far more important, he believed that the talkies had potential to revolutionize contemporary instruction. He had been familiar with the research going forward at the Bell Telephone Laboratories since long before it was revealed to the public. He had heard the scientists discuss possible applications of the equipment, and as soon as it was shown on Broadway, Otterson, Bloom, and President Gifford of AT&T had received letters from creative people who had seen ways in which the sound film could make an improvement in existing methods of communicating. It seemed sure that in a very short time all sorts of groups would begin making talkies for purposes other than entertainment.
But nothing happened. When he saw that the makers of instructional materials, the religious organizations, and the industrial giants were slow to experiment with the new medium, Otterson took it upon himself to sell them on the idea.
In November 1928, John Otterson made a prediction: a statement which represents, as accurately as any one statement can, the founding of the audio-visual industry:
Were I to enter the field of prophesy, it would be to speak of the application of talking pictures to the fields of advertising, politics, education, and religious teaching.
I visualize the use of talking pictures to deliver the message of factory executives and sales managers to their employees, to their conventions, to prospective customers in sales and demonstration rooms throughout the world.
Political campaigns in which Governor Smith and Secretary Hoover will speak in screen person to thousands of audiences throughout the country in place of submitting to the limitations of their physical endurance to withstand the hardships of speaking tours.
Schoolrooms where children are privileged to listen to the lectures of great teachers and national leaders and to receive the inspiration of their speaking personalities.
Small churches where the shrinking congregations may be replenished and awakened to a new interest in spiritual life by the opportunity of hearing and seeing the really great ministers and religious leaders.
To help set up lines of communication between ERPI and the groups who would soon be making films for advertising, religious teaching, and education, he established three separate departments within the company. (Because of its sensitive position as a sprawling public utility, AT&T stayed clear of politics, the fourth part of Otterson’s vision.) To head the Educational Talking Pictures Department he picked Frederick L. Devereux.
much like Bloom, had come up the hierarchy of regional phone companies. But his educational background was
exceptional. He had both a law degree
and a Ph.D. from
Devereux,” John Otterson said, “all I want you to do is to start the ball
rolling. Put together some clips from
newsreels that our men can use to demonstrate the new portable projector – get
some footage that is really educational.
Interviews with Lloyd George,
It was indeed quite evident to Devereux that only a minimum effort should be necessary to sell schools on the idea of talking pictures. The silent film had been used to teach for over twenty-five years, and sound was nothing more, nor less than a vast improvement. Obvious as this was to him, however, it was less obvious to educators. He sooned learned that there were extremely good reasons standing in the way of their immediately accepting the new medium. The best reason was money.
It had taken schools a long time to invest in silent films and the equipment necessary to show them. Only a handful of schools were equipped to make use of the films in the first catalogue, a 336-page book published in 1910 by a New Yorker named George Kleine. His Catalogue of Educational Motion Pictures included 1,065 titles organized into thirty main topics. Each film was summarized in a few sentences, and in many cases there were lists of individual scenes. But most of Kleine’s listings, with the exception of some of those made by Edison, were educational only peripherally – there was hardly enough of a school market to make it worth anyone’s while to produce films specifically for classroom use, And as long as the films’ contribution remained in doubt, the number of users remained small. Besides, the film and the projector were both so cumbersome that they could be used only in an auditorium, and the danger of fire from the highly flammable nitrate film stock frightened away many potential users.
arbitrary width of 35 millimeters dated back to
I introduced the use of motion pictures in schoolrooms and prepared educational pictures which, as I promised, would teach everything from mathematics to morality. Lessons were rendered so vivid that children would really want to go to school. Perhaps, some day, such methods could be perfected and all knowledge taught through motion pictures.
* * * *
I consider that the greatest mission of the motion picture is first to make people happy, to bring more joy and cheer and wholesome good will into this world of ours. And God knows we need it. Second – to educate, elevate, and inspire. I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system, and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks in our schools.
Kodak and Dupont, the two chief film manufacturers, both solved part of the
problem by developing acetate stock that would not burn. About the same time, in 1917 Alexander Victor
of the Victor Animatograph Company began work on a portable projector that
would use slightly smaller film. In 1918
Willard Cook of the Pathescope Company teamed up with Victor to try to
standardize the 28mm width for portable projectors. In October, 1919, Victor introduced a continuous
optical reduction photographic printer, which made it possible to reduce 35mm
negatives to 28mm prints. Nonetheless,
Victor and Pathescope, a firm which specialized in high-quality industrial
films and pictures for the well-to-do to show in their homes, never quite
achieved standardization and universal satisfaction with the new width. The issue came to a head in 1922, when George
Eastman announced his new “reversal” stock for amateurs, by which the negative
itself could be developed into the positive print. If amateurs were now going to be buying
cameras, they would want them small and easy to handle/ At the annual meeting of the Society of
Motion Picture Engineers, Bell and Howell proposed simply splitting the
theatrical width in half, to 17 ½ mm.
But Victor argued that some unscrupulous laboratory man might cut down 35mm
nitrate stock, which was less expensive than the acetate, and make easy profits
by ignoring safety factors. Eastman
suggested 16mm as a width which afforded both safety and economy, and Victor
immediately went home to
There were two
great projects undertaken in the field of educational silent films. The first, launched in 1918 by the Yale
University Press, was too early to take advantage of the smaller standard size,
though its productions were reduced to 16mm much later. Yale had lent its name to a series of
comprehensive works covering American history since
The second great
project to be undertaken was a case in which the film experts had to go to a
book publisher for help. By 1926 when
16mm film was a few years old, George Eastman had spent considerable time
researching the school film market. As
early as 1923 the National Education Association had appointed a committee to
study the availability of appropriate reels for schools, and the committee’s
headm Dr. Charles H. Judd, the University of Chicago’s director of education,
had contacted Eastman for information.
Now, three years later, Eastman was ready to move, and in March of 1926
he invited a group of noted educators to his office in
Eastman turned out fifty films in time for the opening of the 1927 school
year. These were used in an experiment
financed by the company, in which the films were used in classrooms throughout
the country. The findings were reported
in 1929 in a book by Dr. Ben D. Wood of Teachers College,
To cope with
this threat, Eastman had to turn to a book publisher. The venerable G&C Merriam Company of
The expense of shifting back to 35mm equipment, even more expensive because of the sound apparatus, was one of the reasons Devereux would have problems with the new medium. The report by Freeman and Wood, recommending the use of portable projectors in classrooms, was another. And there was a third. The educators who had taken an interest in visual aids to instruction, the men with influence at the country’s normal schools and teachers’ colleges, each had personal preferences among the various media. Some preferred lantern slides, others concerned themselves with wall charts, and many were firm believers in the efficiency of silent film. All had sound scientific data to support their claims that their particular choices were uniquely effective. In a sense, each had staked his reputation upon one or the other of the aids. As soon as the press began to report Otterson’s speeches about talking pictures, Maddock had no trouble whatever rustling up professors who insisted that being approached through two sense “gates” at once was both confusing and emotionally disturbing to children. In addition, many teachers did not like the fact – pointed out to them by Maddock’s salesmen – that they would no longer be able to talk while a film was in progress.
“Why don’t we get some scholars of our own?” Devereux suggested. “Why don’t we put a few more open-minded Ph.D’s on the payroll and really prove the effectiveness of these talking newsreels?”
Otterson was not sure. He did not think that was necessary. “Those narrators are trained radio announcers,” he protested. “Anybody knows their voices are better than a schoolteachers’s. And besides, they have the facts. They’re like newspaper reporters.”
“Sometimes it takes years before these schoolteachers will accept what ‘anybody knows,’” Devereux replied. “They like to have everything documented. I guarantee that if we send our salesmen into a school – even if you get the portable projector on the market – the school won’t buy unless a couple of professors have endorsed it.”
“What about Dr. Kitson, who worked with us last summer” Wasn’t he enough of an endorsement?”
“No,” Devereux said, “he was merely endorsing the potential of the talkies. We hadn’t prepared any really effective materials at that time. And in any case one professor is hardly enough. The presence of the man’s name is only a part of what we need. We need advice more than anything else. I haven’t been inside an elementary school, except to attend a PTA meeting, in thirty-five years.”
“Whom would you suggest?”
“I’ll start with the Superintendent of our Bronxville schools, Alex Stoddard. He is doing some research at Teachers College. Between him and Dr. Kitson, we ought to be able to make some contacts.”
was September, 1929. Prof. Nickolaus L.
Engelhardt and two of his associates, Drs. Paul R. Mort and Alexander J.
Stoddard, were delighted to come to ERPI offices at
A few weeks later, Mort was called to Engelhardt’s office. “I just got a call from Co. Devereux,” Engelhardt told him. “He wants us to suggest someone with the proper background to serve as a full-time research director. I can’t think of anyone. Can you?”
Clyde Arnspiger, at the age of 33, had already acquired more different kinds of
experience in the field of education than even Engelhard and his associates
could boast of. In 1917, fresh out of
Engelhardy talked, Arnspiger ticked off the advantages on his fingers. Here was a chance to go to
“Why not? There’s important research to be done in this field.”
“I’ll be there in two weeks,” Anspiger said, and he was – the day of the stock market crash on Wall Street.
Devereux was a quiet man of 47, famed among his fellow Ardsley Club members for the elegance of his dress. Co-workers in the Bell System had long grown used to seeing him arrive in the morning in spats and white gloves. Arnspiger was a talkative, active 33, a man who could communicate equally well with Syrian drilling hands’ children, with distinguished professors, and with businessmen like Devereux. Despite their different appearances, the two men liked each other at once.
About a month
after his arrival in
“Because they aren’t produced with the needs of the teacher in mind,” Arnspiger explained. “A lot of them are good supplementary material that clever teachers can integrate with their lessons, but even in the best film clips at least half of the footage is wasted on pretty girls or brass bands. And the worst mistake of all is that they don’t make maximum use of sound, which is the whole idea we’re trying to sell.”
“Do you suggest that we should go into the business of making teaching films for schools?”
“I think we ought to make a few just to demonstrate what can be done with this medium. We believe it is the greatest invention for the classroom since the printing press. Let’s prove it conclusively by making the best demonstration films we possibly can.”
Devereux smiled. This was exactly what he had been thinking of when he set out to hire a man with Arnspiger’s background. The next day, the two men went to see John Otterson and reminded him of his desire to “start the ball rolling.” Arnspiger repeated his arguments, and Otterson suggested that the three of them should take it up with the Advisory Board. The board met the following Saturday morning, and began by reviewing the films that had already been made for the school market.
Stoddard had seen some talkies that supposedly had been produced expressly for schools. He was disappointed, he said, because the filmmakers’ idea of an educational picture seemed to stop short after the selection of an educational subject. He agreed with Arnspiger that a film made with the needs of the classroom teacher in mind would be vastly superior to a series of disjointed, unplanned scenes. The other experts, too, felt that an educational film should conform with a given lesson as taught by successful teachers and that, in accordance with Aristotle, it should have a beginning, a middle, and an end clearly defined.
the “road show” which had traveled to summer schools at leading teachers’
colleges the previous summer. ERPI
salesmen had shown a film featuring Dr. Harry Kitson of Teachers College, who
was billed as an “educational talkie impresario” and who introduced segments of
Two weeks earlier, Pathe Exchange, Inc. had announced that its newly-formed Educational Department was cooperating with Harvard University in the production of two series of films, one on “Regions of the United States” and the other on “Commerce and Industry.” The eminent Harvard geographer, Professor Kirtley F. Mather, and the Chairman of the Board of Pathe were reported by the press to be the first to use sound in motion pictures produced for educational uses only. The Pathe chairman was Joseph P. Kennedy, whose family’s association with Harvard proved to be a long and distinguished one.
The name Harvard aroused even more competitive spirit in the Teachers College professors who comprised the Advisory Board than the name Pathe generated in the ERPI men. The two Harvard-Pathe series would not be ready in time to be shown during the current school year, and it was highly unlikely that the college-level insights of Kirtley Mather would anticipate the problems of school-oriented instructional materials as accurately as the professors of education could do. All were agreed that ERPI should produce a few well-conceived films that would establish the company as a dedicated organization with a firm understanding of modern methods of education.
men came up with three film subjects at three different grade levels. The first was to be a junior high or upper
elementary school film on American government, narrated by an important public
official, such as the Commissioner of Education, whose presence would give the
film a great deal of added prestige. The
second would be a high school or college film on child development, a field in
which Engelhardt’s colleague, Dr. Charlotte Buhler, who was visiting
Devereux observed that the national press had lately given a great deal of attention to news releases dealing with the talking as a teaching medium. Howard Stokes had given him two clippings from magazines which had come out during the week preceding the meeting. Both were skeptical. An editorial in the November 9, 1929 issue of Judge had mentioned that H.G. Wells was making a talkie on the history of civilization and that William Fox had offered to give one quarter of his fortune, or $9,000,000 to put projection equipment in every classroom in the country. The editorial went on:
We are all for the plan. At least it ought to cut down the amount of damage done by dub teachers and preachers. Canned foods are a great improvement upon the half-bakes, unappetizing cookery of the average home kitchen. Canned education will be a great deal more digestible and nourishing than the old variety. But the tidbits of knowledge it can bring will be largely factual. For the transference of ideals nobody has ever been able to build a better machine than the traditional log with a student sitting on one end and Mark Hopkins on the other. The igniting spark of education will continue, as it has from Socrates down, to spring only from the impact of personalities present in the flesh.
The New Yorker of November 9, 1929 had mixed feelings about the vision of John Otterson, William Fox, and their allies:
We have read,
very solemnly, Mr. Fox’s plan for introducing talking pictures into schools,
hospitals, and churches. It is an exciting
prospect, and one we’re not sure about.
It means that children will hear the guns of
The six men were dedicated to meeting the challenge posed by these articles and by others like them. They were already convinced that the day foreseen by William Fox, and by John Otterson a year earlier, and Thomas Edison thirty years before that, was inevitably to come true: a projector in every classroom.
The first chore was the recruitment of researchers to assure the accuracy of the scripts. Arnspiger was not satisfied with sending the scripts out to collaborators for approval. He envisioned a research staff that would carefully investigate the schools’ needs before any film was produced. In the months that followed the meeting at which the first three films were envisioned, Arnspiger added more film subjects to the list of proposed titles. As he did so, he added specialists to his department: Edgar Stover, a young graduate who was to conduct research in the use of films; Howard Gray, an experienced teacher with a Ph.D., who was to head the department’s work in the social sciences and in teacher training; Max Brunstetter, who had just received his Ph.D. at Teachers College in the field of vocational guidance; Miss Laura Kreiger, an attractive Ph.D. whose field was testing and measurement; and two men who were to stay with the company for more than a quarter-century.
Melvin Brodshaug had worked with Engelhardt at
James A. Brill had been one of Arnspiger’s co-teachers in Drumright. At 39, he was an accomplished musician and artist in his own right, and he had taught both subjects at all grade levels. Arnspiger called Jim Brill “the most artistic man I know.”
Artistic as he was, he was soon disappointed by the education experts, who advised that art was still only a “frill” subject and that school administrators would not buy teaching aids for it. They did, however, suggest a series on the symphony orchestra for music classes, and Brill very quickly found that his artistic talents were in demand not only for these films but for everything ERPI undertook.
With the research department staffed, Arnspiger began systematically to build a library of films which would be helpful to ERPI salesmen in demonstrating their projectors. By the end of the first year it was generally conceded by even the most fiscally conservative ERPI executives that money had to be allocated to producing a good many films beyond those originally commissioned. When Arnspiger first got approval to produce a few “samples,” he and Devereux had thought that other companies would take over the bulk of the production. A few did, but the number remained so small that school superintendents were afraid to buy the equipment lest they have nothing to use it with. To the regret of all except Arnspiger and his staff, ERPI found itself taking the lead in the making of teaching films.
Brodshaug undertook fourteen reels in elementary science, with the
collaboration of Dr. Clyde Fisher of the
In selecting the topics to be treated in the films, Brodshaug and Fisher considered two factors. The obvious question was whether a given topic was normally covered in a majority of science classes. But equally important was the choosing of subjects that would lend themselves to special treatment by the use of slow motion or time-lapse photography, animation, microphotography or close-up work. These techniques were unique to the film medium and were strong selling points. Teachers instantly realized that the scene showing the development of a frog’s egg, shot through a microscope with the action speeded up, was an indispensable tool for introducing developmental biology.
same techniques were useful in nearly all of the other films ERPI
produced. Slow motion and stop-action
photography and animation made possible a series of four reels on “The
Fundamentals of Football” starring the
The first films to be made without fear of shifting rapidly from distance shot to close-up were the series on the symphony orchestra. During the week when the films were being shot, Brill told Arnspiger “we couldn’t have possibly made these films for $20,000 if we’d insisted on medium shots every time we went in for a close-up.” The reason was that in addition to his crew Brill had 62 union musicians on his payroll; he could not afford to pay them to run through the music an extra time while his cameras shot the same scenes from a different location. As another money-saving measure Brill shot all the scenes requiring the full orchestra on the first day, cutting down his cast until by Saturday, five days after shooting began, only the conductor needed to come to the studio. For $20,000 Brill was supposed to deliver four films, one on each of the four major sections of the orchestra. Without any additional money except for developing and printing costs, Brill was able to put together a fifth film on the whole orchestra from the footage he had made for the other four films.
From the very beginning of ERPI’s operation, production was characterized by an uneven budgeting policy. If a topic required enormous expense to send a photographer abroad, or to the top of a mountain, or to hire an airplane, the money was somehow made available. If such expenses were not necessary, the producer usually found that his budget was cut in the middle of production in order to provide funds for someone else’s film. Brill and Brodshaug very quickly grew used to inventing ingenious ways of saving money. They were not above begging union representatives to consider them as a non-profit public service group; the unions were usually – but not always – sympathetic.
Howard Stokes became director of production, taking charge of the business matters and overseeing budgeting. Arnspiger and his associates, when shooting and editing, had to operate as frugally as possible for only one reason: they were determined to spend as much time and money in the research that preceded each film as was necessary to assure accuracy, thoroughness, and effectiveness. They chose collaborators whose standards they knew were high, and they strove to meet those standards. Here, too, of course, they were acting with shrewd business sense. The better the reputation of the collaborators who approved the films, the more sales they would have. But Arnspiger and his assistants were educators themselves. What primarily moved them was the desire to make a unique contribution to their field.
Professor Harry D. Kitson of Teachers College, the “educational talkie impresario,” helped make two more films on vocations. This time the films were specifically geared to the students themselves rather than to their teachers and superintendents. Kitson produced handbooks similar to those Brodshaug had done for the science series. Other Teachers College collaborators included Dr. David Eugene Smith, famed geometrician; Dr. William H. Kilpatrick, outstanding exponent of the philosophy of John Dewey; Dr. Arthur I Gates, expert on reading improvement; and an expert in testing and measurement, Dr. Ina C. Sartorius. “Accomplishment Tests for Babies,” made by Dr. Charlotte Buhler of Vienna, was accompanied in the teacher training series by two reels on infant behavior made at the famed Yale psycho-clinic of Professor Arnold Gesell. Gesell had earlier used the silent film in his experiments and ERPI now used the same footage with his own narration.
in the teacher training series were two films made with the collaboration of
school administrators. One of them was
the film originally suggested by Devereux, featuring an experienced elementary
teacher from the Bronxville schools.
Stoddard had by this time moved tot eh superintendentcy in
Of the three pilot films originally suggested by the Advisory Board consisting of Engelhardt, Mort, and Stoddard, the most successful was that in which Commissioner of Education William Cooper had cooperated. He had sat in his office and answered the questions put to him by two junior high school students, illustrating his explanation of the workings of the Cabinet and its departments by frequent film clips and by animation. Cooper became an important advocate, and immediately began making speeches praising the new medium and urging other educators to enter the field.
Gradually the film library enlarged. By mid-1930 newspapers across the country were carrying articles about demonstrations held by ERPI salesmen. Parent-teacher associations, civic clubs, summer classes for teachers and principals, any group that was interested received a free two-hour program in its auditorium. The films – three dozen by the end of 1931 – were the main attraction, but it was the projectors that the men were trying to sell. There were two of them, completely different, and both so new that they could be featured anywhere as “the first such demonstration in the Northwest,” or in the state, or the county, or the town.
of the projectors ERPI was offering to the educators was its 35mm “portable”
model. It was like the projectors used
in theatres in every respect except that it could be packed up into four trunks
and moved from place to place.
The second projector offered the advantage of being able to be used in the classroom rather than an auditorium. It used 16mm film. Since no one had yet devised a way of putting the sound on the film as was done in 35mm, ERPI supplied disc records which were synchronized – if teachers started them in synchronization – with the pictures. Clyde Arnspiger was determined that someone could find a way to put sound on 16mm film, but the engineers insisted they could not. “We can’t get far,” he told Devereux, “showing the horse talking and the farmer neighing.” But meanwhile 16mm had the advantage of lower cost and lighter weight, and proved far more attractive than 35mm to most purchasers. Each production was printed on both sizes of film.
In 1933 the technical difficulties involved in using the sound-on-film method with 16mm film were finally eliminated. The problem had been simply that the 16mm projector was too small for the flywheels that kept the film moving in jumps across the projection lens but at a constant rate across the sound drum. When a better projector was designed, a major obstacle to sales was eliminated. But ERPI still had thousands of 35mm projectors in warehouses, and thus continued to market both types.
The growing battery of salesmen in ERPI’s district offices often had the benefit of demonstrations by education specialists from Arnspiger’s department. When a salesman had to present his pitch alone, he took with him a manual including dozens of “Typical Sales Resistance Questions” with answers provided by the specialists. A few of the questions and answers indicate the inertia against which salesmen fought:
Q. – What assurance can you give me that you will continue to produce pictures
A. – The amount of time, energy and money spent thus far in the program by an organization of such standing is in itself assurance enough that the program will be continued.
Q. – These pictures are very interesting, but the whole project is so new and relatively underdeveloped that I do not feel justified in spending the taxpayers’ money on it until it has been tried, tested and proved thoroughly satisfactory.
A. – Appeal to his personal pride as a
leader in his profession and community.
Make him feel that he should lead in this movement instead of being a
follower. Visual education is not new. It has been tested and approved. The newest feature is the talking picture which
has this background of proven merit, and in addition its worth has been
demonstrated in the government supervised test recently conducted at
Q. – Are you paying the educators who are cooperating with you for their service?
A. – The compensation of any person or persons employed either directly or indirectly by Electrical Research Products, Inc. is unknown to his or her associates and is something that is never discussed in our organization.
the first installation of permanent equipment in the
of Devereux’s neighbors in Bronxville was Beardsley Ruml, a
“What do the others do?” asked Devereux.
“They go to the aquarium, or the library, or the Encyclopaedia Britannica, or they stay in bed all morning. But at the end of the two years we hope all of them, those that attend the lectures and those that do not, will have a feeling that they’ve really learned something and that they have a capacity to learn more.”
Devereux wanted to know how the courses themselves were taught.
“In every case,” Ruml said, “they are taught by the most distinguished men in the field, teaming up so that each man lectures only in his special area. There are large lectures and smaller discussion groups.”
“So that we might produce films that would enable the lectures to present their material more effectively to the large audiences,” Devereux suggested.
“I believe films like the ones you have shown me would make a great contribution if they were made specifically for our courses, and you might even be able to market them in other schools.”
“We would have to,” Devereux said, “or we couldn’t afford to make them in the first place. Would Hutchins be willing to discuss such a project with me?”
mention it to him,” Ruml said, and within a week he had outlined to Hutchins
the history of ERPI and its Department of Education talking pictures. As it happened, Hutchins was already an
advocate of teaching films, and he was familiar with the work done at Teachers
College by Engelhardt, Mort, and Stoddard in testing the effectiveness of such
films in the classroom. He needed no
convincing as to the potential of the medium.
At his request, Ruml arranged a meeting with Devereux and Arnspiger in
a few months they had a firm contract: the film company would make twenty five
films specifically for
“We are not going into the entertainment business,” President Hutchins told the Associated Press, “and we are not trying to jazz up education. This will be the first organized attempt of any university to find out what talking pictures can contribute to classroom work. We expect to extend it to all branches of the university, to our courses in adult education and to many of the other institutions which use our new system of instruction.”
reporter asked Hutchins if he thought
Hutchins felt that the addition of sound films to the general courses was a
natural and fitting step in “the experimental tradition of this
university.” He did not use the word
“Experimental” lightly. Hutchins was
talking about more than simply an experiment in education conducted by a
university; that had been done before.
He felt, however, that
Hutchins became President of the
The films could help if they enabled the
professors to get across a great deal of basic factual and conceptual
information in a relatively short time, so that they had much time free for
discussion and for stimulating their students’ curiosities. This created a dichotomy between the films
and the live lessons. To the films would
be assigned the dry, dull material, while the live lectures would present the
excitement of the professor personally involved in his research and in teaching
his individual students. This division
of task conformed perfectly with the theory of educational filmmaking as
practiced since the very earliest silent productions. Because the word “movies” conjured up all the
inherently glamorous and exciting popular images of
even as dull as the first
Nor was it unusual for a professor to make important discoveries in the course of production. For the film on the solar system, which remained one of the classics of educational filmdom long after many of the others were obsolete, astrophysicist Dr. Walter Bartky spent three months doing the necessary mathematical computations to describe the movement of the planets and their satellites and to prescribe their paths for the production crew. In the course of this work he made three separate original discoveries which were reported in the astrophysical journals.
as important as the accuracy of the teaching was the creation of new means to
illustrate concepts that were never available to teachers before. One lecturer was accustomed to tying a rope
around a doorknob and wiggling it to show the motion of a sound wave. “Of course,” he would point out, “sound waves
really travel in all directions at once.”
In other words his demonstration was next to useless. With animation he was able at last to improve
upon his rope-and-doorknob example. For
these reasons the
For the University, however, the principle benefit from the alliance had been less a learning experience than a public relations opportunity. For the film company it had been both: the films could not have been made without the faculty, and their sales were multiplied enormously as a result of the University’s name. But the University had profited, too, from having its name spread throughout the country’s school systems. Not only were potential students impressed, but also potential donors. The press followed the progress of the experiment with great interest, and it clearly established Hutchins’ institution as an innovational leader in the field of higher education. As the films began to be used in more and more classrooms – even in elementary schools – the Board of Trustees realized that ERPI Classroom Films was a very important part of the University’s public image.
1935 that image suffered a severe crisis.
Drugstore magnate Charles Wagreen had withdrawn his niece, Lucille
Norton, from the college on the charge that she had been subject to “subversive
teaching” and “Communist influences” in her social science general
courses. One of the books on the reading
list had been the Communist Manifesto.
Within a few months a special state senate committee cleared the
University of all Walgreen’s charges, but the damage had already been done to
the school’s reputation. Three of the
First, the failure of producers knowing the technique of production properly to correlate their knowledge with the knowledge of educators. This failure has resulted in the production of films unsuited to the schools.
Second, there has been much scattering of shot due to confusion in the minds of producers between educational films for theatre distribution and those required for schoolroom use. This confusion of objectives has resulted in mediocrity, in films unsuited to either purpose.
Third, the failure of educators and of school boards to realize, due to lack of information as well as to lack of suitable films, how much moving pictures can assist in the educational process. Educating the educators is perhaps the longest of all educational jobs.
Fourth, the red tape in buying schools supplies; the limited budgets of the schools; the entrenched position of the textbook companies; high distribution costs in trying to operate in this field – these and other handicaps hamper the development of a sound business in producing and selling educational films.
Fifth, just as many of the foregoing seemed to be breaking down, silent films gave way to sound; and this radical innovation was almost immediately followed by the depression, which greatly set back both producers and the school systems.
He then outlined the University’s
involvement with the one high-quality innovator in the classroom film field,
now called ERPI Picture Consultants. He
revealed to the Trustees that AT&T had three good reasons for wanting to
sell the company: it had already made an investment of seven million dollars
which was not paying off; it had stopped manufacturing projectors and thus had
lost its original motive for spreading the use of films; and it feared the
accusation that the Bell System was trying to propagandize the schools – an
accusation that could be dangerous in the forthcoming Federal Communications
Commission investigation of AT&T.
all this turmoil over ERPI,
Colonel Devereux claims that it now takes “five times too long to make a picture.” Although the men at the University are essential to the proper production of pictures, the University itself may not be essential. Unless the Administration takes advantages of its previous farsightedness and of the head start its experienced men give it in the field, production companies may employ the faculty members and forget the University. Colonel Devereux says that the group at the University is “the only group of educators in the world with experience in developing real educational pictures.” Much more dramatic than a textbook from the pen of one teacher is the fact that fourteen scholars collaborated in the making of just one picture.
Chapter Two: 1933-1943
the early thirties, ERPI Classroom Films acquired a hallmark and a slogan. The hallmark was Jim Brill’s even, fatherly
voice, which was to narrate every film the company produced for nearly twenty
years. Whether you were a teacher or one
of the taught, if you were exposed to classroom films even as late as the
fifties you were sure to be able to identify Brill’s semi-mellow tones just as
accurately as you could the more emotional and grammatically less correct patter
of the similarly faceless Mel Allen or Amos ‘n Andy. The slogan, too, was easy to remember: ERPI FILMS BRING THE WORLD TO THE
CLASSROOM. And it was true that the
company saw as it principle aim the filming of places, people, events, and
concepts which could not be adequately presented to children through any other
medium. Unfortunately, however, only a
small minority of
There were many reasons for the slow acceptance of the new medium: it was still regarded as being in the experimental stage; educational institutions were normally slow to change and slow to adopt innovations; there were complications and red tape involved in making the necessary purchases under the existing systems of school budgeting; and the nation was in the grip of the Depression.
effects of the 1929 crash had not been felt as suddenly as
Besides their continuous battle against the economic forces of the Depression, Arnspiger, Brodshaug, Brill, and all the other specialists were battling to get their films out of the experimental stage and into common use. This meant improving upon their initial efforts, and it also meant setting their own standards both for film quality and for the areas of curriculum they would cover. After the first effort at producing a few selective demonstration films the educational staff and consultants had to turn to the task of systematically analyzing and providing for the schools needs. With the exclusion of controversial subjects like sociology and civics, they ventured into almost every area and every grade level in which it seemed to them that films could make a unique contribution.
One of the first series of films the company had put together had been the elementary science series made by adding narration to the silent footage bought from British Instructional Films. Although the footage was technically excellent, Brodshaug was limited, in planning the films, to the particular scenes he had at hand. It soon became apparent that he would need to hire photographers to go out and shoot special nature footage to meet the needs of the curriculum. It happened that a highly successful nature photographer, Lynwood Chace of Massachusetts, submitted to ERPI a silent production he called The Adventures of Bunny Rabbit. He wanted ERPI to make it into a talking picture for elementary schools. Brodshaug and Brill, along with Laura Krieger the elementary specialist, recognized that Chace’s work had possibilities both for nature study and for language arts, as a story-telling experience. They retained him for Bunny Rabbit and for a set of other films that would use nature photography to enrich communication skills; over a period of many years Chace produced some of the company’s award-winningest and money-makingest classics, notable Gray Squirrel and Snapping Turtle.
Both Jim Brill and Mel Brodshaug continued to be closely involved in this series, beginning the friendly rivalry and efficient working partnership which characterized their joint career for the next twenty years. Bunny Rabbit, though it was the first film distributed in the series, had been sent to the company in an advanced state. Gray Squirrel really was the first such film planned and executed by ERPI.
The Adventures of Bunny Rabbit was a turning point for ERPI, demonstrating graphically to collaborators and pedagogical skeptics alike that the sound film as a medium had its own set of conventions which schoolchildren would accept just as adults were willing to accept the dramatic conventions of the theatre.
At the adamant insistence of the collaborator, an apologetic prologue had been tacked on to the beginning of the film: “OF COURSE THIS IS JUST A FANTASY. ANIMALS DO NOT REALLY TALK TO ONE ANOTHER.” Jim Brill had violently insisted to Arnspiger, “Let’s can this guy,” although the collaborator was a leading expert on reading whose name added considerable prestige to this title. Arnspiger coolly calculated that the response from teachers would more than justify removal of the offensive caption without alienating the collaborator. The film’s release was met with immediate praise, but true to their prediction Arnspiger and Brill were universally begged to remove the silly statement. Hundreds of teachers were in agreement: “The film is great, but children fully appreciate that it is a fantasy. We are surprised that your distinguished collaborator allowed you to make that ridiculous apology at the beginning of the film.” It was quietly edited out. But it was in the adaptation of Chace’s Bunny Rabbit that the team first established the pattern subsequent productions for children would take, and the way that pattern emerged from intelligent discussion and insightful self-criticism is illustrative of the creative process that pioneered audio-visual education.
Much to the disgruntlement of Jim Brill, who was always suspicious of specialists with talents less varied and diverse than his own, the job of writing a script for Bunny Rabbit was handed over to Laura Krieger (who shortly becamse Laura K. Eads), the young and pretty PhD psychologist fresh out of Teachers College. Brill thought she was too stilted and professional in her language, and when the Educational Advisory Committee met to preview the finished film, with Brill reading the narration in the screening room, everyone had to agree that something was wrong. As poor little Bunny tried to jump over the fence and get away from the farmer, The Voice was saying to the audience, “You will notice that the rabbit’s rear legs are five and one half inches long while his front legs are only two inches long.” When the film was over Brill came over and, citing that passage in particular, suggested concisely to the staff and its advisors that what was wrong with the film was that the picture on the screen, in all its emotional impact, proclaimed one message visually which conflicted with the more pedagogic message of the narration. The children who saw the film would be open-mouthed and gasping, wondering if Bunny would get away. So the film was revised, and from that point on the company always made films whose sound and picture combined to make an integrated and useful whole. And they also humanized the scripts of children’s films.
other films made for the youngest grades were similarly fraught – in their
production stages – with an experimental, trial-and-error character. And their production was attended by
considerable challenges to the ingenuity of producers and cameramen alike. For a film on sunfish, for example,
collaborator E. Laurence Palmer demanded that Lynwood Chace provide a scene
showing the particular mating behavior of the species. Chace set up a series of aquaria in
semi-circle, so that he could swing his camera around quickly to whichever pair
of fish happened to begin to mate. After
waiting in vain for a few days, he phoned Brodshaug in
series begun about this time, for children slightly older, were the “Children
of Many Lands.” Made with the
collaboration of many of the leading experts on elementary education, including
Arthur Gates and Celeste Peardon of Teachers College, these films were produced
by hiring freelance producers who would travel to Germany, Switzerland, South
America, China, or wherever, and either single-handedly or with the aid of
hired crews provide the footage which the scripts demanded. They also, of course, had considerable leeway
to shoot scenes of their own choice, to which scripts could usually be
adapted. The most famous of these
freelance filmmakers was probably the explorer Amos Burg. For Children of China, Burg had to
flee the advancing Japanese troops on the mainland, finally smuggling his
undeveloped film out of
the same time, Brodshaug and Brill began working with the National Parks
Service on a series of geology films.
They worked closely with Dr. Carey Croneis of
One of the big problems ERPI faced was convincing school authorities that talkies in the classroom were more than just a fad, that they were a serious and efficient means of communicating information rather than an unnecessary luxury for teachers and students. It helped somewhat that ERPI’s films were as unlike Hollywood’s as possible – until after World War II there was not even background music during the opening titles. But the company sensed that more positive proof was needed, and by the middle thirties it sponsored and published a number of experiments done by others as well as by ERPI researchers.
1933, the University of Chicago press published The Educational Talking
Picture, a book written by Frederick Devereux together with Engelhardt,
Mort, Stoddard, Arnspiger, Stokes, Brunsetter, and Eads. The book described how such pictures were
made and how they could be used, as well as discussing the various tests that
had been used to measure their effectiveness.
In the three years since the first such experiment in
the beginning, the staff realized that teacher training in the use of talking
pictures offered more hope for future sales of films than attempting to move
education’s Old Guard. An important
feature of the company’s promotional effort from 1928 onward was the summer
demonstration at teachers’ institutes all over the country. By 1933 the relationship with
one of the
had been president of the Victor Talking Machine Company of
Six months later, when Shumaker sat in the office of the president of Western Electric asking for more money to expand the classroom film operations, he was met with a sigh of resignation: “Et tu, Brute?”
he got the money he wanted, and from that day on, though twenty years were to
pass before it would climb out of the red, the company began to show a good
prognosis. Shumaker, to change the firm’s
image from consultants to producers, renamed it ERPI Classroom Films, Inc. He was its president, with Devereux
continuing as vice-president, the title he had held since the Educational
Talking Pictures Department was separately incorporated. A few years later Col. Devereux retired. So also did Howard Stokes. Max Brunstetter and Laura Eads left for other
jobs, and Howard Gray died during the war.
John Otterson went to
Although the ranks of those who had been with the company since its inception were thinning, in 1936 ERPI Classroom Films began picking up some of the men who were to stay with it for thirty years and more. The first such was Jim Eggert, a youngster hired by Brill, who was an expert on the technical side of film processing and handling. John Walker, who came to production two years later, had worked with Brodshaug as a photographer for the National Parks Service. And Warren Everote, who was to return after World War II when the firm bore the initials E.B.F., freelanced some scripts for ERPI while still a doctoral student at Teachers College. But the newcomer who was to have the greatest impact before, during, and immediately after the war was Dennis Williams.
1936 Dennis Williams left his job as school superintendent in an
As a result of such innovations, Williams was well known to Harry Grubbs through the local salesman. At this time ERPI Films were sold by franchised dealers who carried a variety of other equipment and materials, including projection materials of various kinds, mostly produced by other companies but some of which came from different branches of Western Electric. Grubbs asked Williams if he would like the local salesman’s job. Rather than do anything behind his friend’s back, Williams attempted to find out whether the latter knew he was to be replaced. He got him into a conversation in which the salesman suddenly began to complain of how it was impossible to sell classroom films and how there would never be a market for them. It turned out that he had not been able even to gross the amount necessary to cover his salary and expenses, which were only $6600. Williams decided to give it a try.
started off on a nine week tour of the Southwest, leaving his young family at
home. He traveled by
Williams joined the main office in
the other hand, though the dealers on the whole were selling poorly, some of
them were making a lot of money from ERPI.
Under their agreements, they received 25% of all sales to schools at
which they had demonstrated films. This
often led to disputes when two dealers had demonstrated in the same school
system, and Williams had to settle such disputes arbitrarily. The final blow was his discovery that five
men were collecting 90% of all the commissions, and that these five were making
so much money that they did not even work full time and so did not begin to
cover all of their territories. In the
The solution, it seemed to Grubbs and his staff, was to give the franchise exclusively to only one dealer in a region. Having films to show would give him a great advantage in selling his projectors, and in return he would be expected to devote as much time to the films as all the other dealers in the region had done, combined. This regional manager system was a first step toward establishing full-time ERPI managers who would have no other products to sell but the films. It was greeted with something less than joy by the dealers who lost their franchises, but several of the former dealers remained as exclusive regional dealers.
Harry Grubbs was responsible for the idea that was to revolutionize not only ERPI’s sales but that of the whole industry, as smaller companies quickly followed his lead. Realizing that a film library costing $5000 or so was an expensive proposition for a school system, Grubbs sought to reduce the impact of such a sum by spreading it out over a period of years. The problem was that school boards were not allowed to commit their successors to debts of this kind. The rent-to-own plan solved the dilemma by allowing school systems to rent films on a yearly basis. After paying rent for four or five years the system automatically owned the films. Thus if a superintendent were not satisfied with the films after a year’s time he could simply return them. He had used them and paid for them for a year. Nearly all customers, of course, completed the payment and bought the films. Gradually the purchase of films under the rent-to-own plan mushroomed; the more teachers used the materials the more they wanted to use others from ERPI. Film budgets were increased until it became simpler just to buy individual films outright. But the rent-to-own plan remained an important means of purchasing larger packages of films.
Williams soon engineered a further twist.
Paul Mort used to say that it took an idea fifty years after the educators accepted it in principle before they accepted it in practice. When historians of education some day take the long retrospective view of the audio-visual movement, they will have to conclude that World War II considerably accelerated the practical realization of the principle that classroom films were a necessary tool in the teaching process. For Army planners, free of the inertia of educators and unencumbered by tight budgets, overnight created the largest library of training films ever assembled. Before they were through they had changed both the character of the educational film itself and the receptivity of the market.
Signal Corps, with headquarters in
The most amazing aspect of the Signal Corps’ work was its ability to distribute all its films rapidly to wherever they were needed, to train instructors in their use and to set up audio-visual centers on short notice all over the world. Dennis Williams had a leading role in establishing this system, first in the Eighth Service Command where he set up a regional and district distribution system, and later overseas. In the theaters of war, the Army found, films like Sex Hygiene and morale-boosting propaganda films were even more necessary than in boot camp. So Williams created mobile audio-visual units that could be set up in a matter of hours wherever a fairly permanent base was established. The result was that 15,000,000 men returned home after the war with a keen sense of what instructional films could do – and some of them had also been trained in their use. Many of these veterans became teachers. Others were active parents, school administrators, state legislators, even Congressmen. They did not need to be convinced that films were a good way to learn. Nor were they suspicious of such things as music and cartoon characters in classroom films. As these men grew to hold positions of responsibility in American education, the audio-visual movement gradually acquired permanence and acceptability everywhere.
Everote, Walker, Williams, and the other former ERPI staffers who had been
drafted returned to the company after the war, they found it had acquired a new
name and a new owner. AT&T had
finally found an appropriate means of disposing of its prodigy. Although Arthur Page had begun talks with
William Benton in 1937, when the
The Board deliberated carefully, even arranging a screening of some ERPI films. It turned out that the Ford, Bacon, and Davis report had been paid for by Nelson and Laurance Rockefeller. But their father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. did not want to invest in a venture that would connect the Rockefeller name with selling products to schools. The General Education Board agreed with him. It turned down the proposal.
Benton,” Hutchins said in a speech to the faculty when the gift from Sears,
Roebuck was announced, “has been the victim of his own propaganda.” For more than a year Benton had been talking
– first persuading General Robert E. Wood that Sears, Roebuck should give the
prestigious encyclopaedia to the University, and then persuading the Board of
Trustees, headed by meat magnate Harold Swift, that they ought to put up the
money for working capital. Wood was
willing because the book needed a new edition – a costly venture – and because
his firm stood high in the excess-profits tax brackets. But the Board was unwilling to take the risk,
after he assumed the chairmanship of the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Board – and
began to assemble the distinguished Board of Directors for which the company
has since been famous –
Chapter Three: William Benton Encyclopedia Britannica Films
Early Years 1943-1958
(chapters 3 and 4 of the company history have not been transcribed in digital form)
For information about Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation, contact the office of Charles Benton, The Benton Foundation, 1560 Sherman Ave., Evanston IL 60201