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This Rare Footage In The 1920s Shows Arkansas Like You’ve Never Seen Before

Scouring the Internet for old footage of Arkansas, we found this six and a half minute silent film shot in the 1920s to promote Eureka Springs. It begins with text that says, “Ponce de Leon tried to find the Fountain of Youth in the Everglades of Florida. Ponce had the right idea but the wrong address. He should have gone west as Horace Greely advised young men to do.” That text shows how confident the people in Eureka Springs were about the healing powers of the springs there.

The text continues throughout the film, even going so far as to explain that “Eureka is an original Greek word meaning ‘I have found it.’” It shows oddly-dressed people gathering water at the spring, then moves on to more text declaring, “Where horse is king and Dame Nature rears her graceful plumes.” The next images are of people riding horses through the woods. After a shot of a western-attired mustachioed man on horseback smiling and talking inaudibly to the camera, viewers are then told that “Eureka welcomes the stranger in good old western style.” The following image, like many of the images in this video, is super bizarre. It’s just a wide shot of people on horseback on dirt road, riding into town and dismounting.

It may be additionally bizarre for many modern-day Arkansans to think of Arkansas as a western state because we’ve been considered part of the South for so long, but this video is proof that even as late as the 1920s, cowboys on horses were a big tourist draw for Arkansas.

The next text says, “Where the hand of man has claimed the wilderness, cleared and cultivated it.” The following image is that of a panoramic, though grainy, view of the lovely Ozarks. The video goes on for another five minutes. There’s something pretty comforting about how little some things have changed in Eureka Springs, like the historic buildings and the fact that most houses from that era are built into the hillsides. There’s one image of Eureka Springs in this section that might have been taken yesterday.

It appears that this silent film was sponsored by Ford Motor Company, and there’s some emphasis on building roads. The road-building section is one of the oddest ones, as it seems misplaced. Additionally, there’s something to seriously doubt in the screens that declare that “the men from the penitentiaries” who built the roads “[didn’t] hate to get up in the morning.” That looks like grueling work.

Check out the amazing, bizarre video:

What did you think of this footage? Let us know!

J.B. Weisenfels
J.B. Weisenfels has lived in rural Arkansas for three decades. She is a writer, a mom, and a graduate student. She is also an avid collector of tacky fish whatnots, slightly chipped teapots, and other old things. In her spare time she enjoys driving to the nearest creek to sit a while. If you were to visit her, she'd try to feed you cornbread.