Thomas Edison Films about Tuberculosis

Between 1910 and 1915, Thomas Edison's film company made six films about tuberculosis in collaboration with the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis. They're often called the Red Cross Seal films because they also advertised the stamps.

The six films are:

  1. The Red Cross Seal, 1910
  2. The Awakening of John Bond, 1911
  3. Hope: A Red Cross Seal Story, 1912
  4. The Price of Human Lives, 1913
  5. The Temple of Moloch, 1914
  6. The Lone Game, 1914

I note that these films had to negotiate two big changes at the same time: the stylistic transition from early silent film to narrative film, and the transition from earlier notions of disease transmission to current ideas about germ theory. I argue that narrative and germ theory perform similar functions in these films. Both arrange people and places into logical chains of cause and effect, and both attempt to make sense of a disorderly, arbitrary world.

You can find my essay in Learning with the Lights Off: Educational Film in the United States, edited by Devin Orgeron, Marsha Orgeron, and Dan Streible (Oxford, 2011).

View The Temple of Moloch (1914)