TAMIS receives grant to restore farming films

Mary Pom ClaiborneFeature

Knox County Public Library’s popular historic film collection reveals history in some unexpected ways. In 2019, the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound received two reels of 16mm film shot in Clarksville, Tennessee, around 1939.

The films, titled “The Four Pillars of Income,” were originally made by the First National Bank in Clarksville to encourage their agricultural clients to diversify their crops. The silent, documentary-style footage was shot on various locations in Montgomery County and depicted farmers cultivating tobacco, wheat, cattle and sheep with both traditional and industrial methods. Black farmers and farmhands, who are chronically underrepresented in historic film collections, appear prominently in many sequences.

The crop rotation program that the film was promoting was credited with stabilizing Clarksville’s economy. It received national attention including an article in Reader’s Digest. The US State Department commissioned a short documentary about it that was distributed in Spanish-speaking countries after World War II.

The story behind the film, the quality of the footage and the fragility of the original reels all convinced TAMIS staff that the film was a strong candidate for grant-funded preservation. The National Film Preservation Foundation is a federally created organization that awards annual grants to nonprofit institutions to fund film preservation projects. NFPF grants pay for new film negatives and film prints, which offer the most stable option for film preservation available but at a cost that is prohibitive for many small institutions.

TAMIS received the good news in late August that The Four Pillars of Income was approved for a $11,905 grant. Be on the lookout for an upcoming screening of this soon-to-be restored footage. This is the ninth project funded for TAMIS by NFPF.


If you didn’t get enough of Clarence Brown in August, you’re in luck. TAMIS’s Thursday, September 21, (6:30 p.m.) screening at Central Cinema features their 16mm film print of The Rains Came (1939), directed by Brown and starring Myrna Loy. The film tells the story of an Indian aristocrat, Rama Safti, who returns from medical training in the U.S. to give his life to the poor folk of Ranchipur. Lady Edwina and her drunken artist ex-lover Ransome get in the way, but everyone shapes up when faced with disaster. 

Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development for Knox County Public Library


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