Pittsburgh Sound + Image Receives National Film Preservation Grant for Rediscovered Silent Film

PITTSBURGH, PA – Recently formed nonprofit Pittsburgh Sound + Image (PSI) has received a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation. The $20,000 award will support the preservation of a previously unknown film about Etna-based pipe manufacturer Spang Chalfant & Company. The feature-length, silent movie, titled Spang’s First Century: A Record of the Past, The Story of the Present (circa 1926), is the only copy known to exist and no records of its original exhibition are known to survive.

Sponsored by Spang Chalfant & Company (founded in 1828) and produced by the New York-based Lang Film Company, Spang’s First Century starts by charting the first 100 years of Spang Chalfant in conjunction with the story of the Pittsburgh region. Lithographs of the city give way to beautifully exposed views of local factory interiors and exteriors from the 1920s, lost landscapes of the region, and portraits of laborers practicing bygone crafts. Intertitles proudly describe Pittsburgh as the center of industrial production for the country, and detail the importance of Spang Chalfant & Company, innovators in pipe manufacturing, within this ecosystem. 

The film was found by and donated to PSI programmer Steven Haines during the cleanout of the Regent Square Theater after its closure in 2019. Subsequent research revealed that, decades prior, the film was donated to Pittsburgh Filmmakers by David Newell (Mr. McFeely on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood). Now, nearly 100 years after its creation, PSI is proud to present these images to Pittsburgh audiences. Plans are already underway for a theatrical premiere with live musical accompaniment in 2023. A crowdfunding campaign to raise the remaining funds needed is forthcoming.

This grant from the NFPF enables PSI to work with locally-based, internationally-recognized company MediaPreserve to create a 4K scan of the original 35mm film print, which remains in excellent condition, and to also create a new 35mm internegative and 35mm answer print, so that Spang’s First Century can be preserved and exhibited on film for generations to come.

Spang’s First Century is one of 61 films selected for preservation this year by the NFPF. Other organizations from this year’s funding cohort include George Eastman Museum, National Gallery of Art, New York Public Library, NYU, UCLA Film & Television Archive, and other highly esteemed colleagues.

About Pittsburgh Sound + Image

Pittsburgh Sound + Image is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to film preservation, screenings, and education. It also publishes a comprehensive weekly listing of Pittsburgh cinemagoing opportunities at www.pghcinema.com.

About The National Film Preservation Foundation

The National Film Preservation Foundation is the nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Congress to help save America’s film heritage. The NFPF is the charitable affiliate of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. NFPF’s press release about this year’s grants is posted on their site.


For more information, please contact Steven Haines, Director of Programming at Pittsburgh Sound + Image, at info@pghcinema.com.

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