AT&T's 'Long Distance!' (1941)

More

The Prelinger Archives is a vast and wonderful collection of “ephemeral” films: documentaries, educational films, advertisements, and industrial footage, all in the public domain. Rick Prelinger, founder of the Archives, shares one of his favorites, a promotional film for AT&T, made in 1941. Although the first lasting transatlantic cable was laid in 1866, it's not hard to feel a thrill as the film's narrator compares the expansion of AT&T's network to the explorers who made their way to the American west.

Rick Prelinger: Long Distance! is a hymn to the combined efforts of communication engineers and the "alert young women" who provide the "watchful feminine  presence at the switchboard." It's also a great example of a lost genre: poetic documentary, beautifully shot, elegantly blending music and narration. At the same time, it's also about geopolitics, linking the buildout of U.S. long distance infrastructure with the spread of U.S. influence throughout the North American continent, and implicitly showing the relationship between communications networks and state power. I also like the unusual end title.

For more films from the Prelinger Archives, see http://www.archive.org/details/prelinger.

Jump to comments

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Video

Just In