Historic Clips for Your Documentary Projects
Explore historical stock footage for February events as we surface archival clips from our vast editorial library. Browse through top-quality, timely inspiration that’s perfect for marketing content, news stories, and biographical projects. This month, we explore the U.S. Supreme Court, Hollywood, Thomas Edison, the Volkswagen Beetle, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
First Session at US Supreme Court
February 1, 1790
The Judiciary Act of 1789 established the first Supreme Court of the United States, making it the highest court in the country.
President Washington chose the first group of judges with the Senate’s approval. John Jay became the very first Chief Justice, joined by John Rutledge, William Cushing, James Wilson, John Blair, and Robert Harrison. All traveled to the Royal Exchange Building in New York City for the first assembly on February 1, 1790.
Today, the Supreme Court is the custodian of the U.S. Constitution. Its function is to ensure each government branch recognizes its specified limits, preventing majority opinions from undermining fundamental American values such as freedom of speech and religion. The Supreme Court hears around 80 cases yearly—of over 10,000 submitted for review.
Witness legal history through US Supreme Court archival footage and photos.
Hollywood Officially Registered
February 1, 1887
In the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office, real estate mogul Harvey Wilcox registered Hollywood, 160 acres west of L.A. The prohibitionist and his wife, Daeida, dreamed of establishing a highly moral Christian haven where the devout could thrive, far from the influence of vices. Hollywood’s first streets were made of dirt, lined with pepper trees, and led to a church, a school, and a library. Time, however, would reveal a sharp U-turn.
By 1910, the small community experienced challenges with infrastructure, and water shortages led to a vote for incorporation into L.A. In a big plot twist, the promised land was rich ground for different prospectors than those featured in early Westerns. Diverse landscapes and a pleasant climate attracted those panning cameras for the silver screen. And this industry struck gold. In 1911, Nestor Studio became the first film studio to open its doors, marking the beginning of Hollywood as a film production hub.
That’s how Hollywood became known worldwide as the gilded center of an industry built on fantasy, fame, and glamour. Discover photos and footage of early Hollywood in our curated media collection.
Thomas Edison Born
February 11, 1847
Thomas Alva Edison sold candy and newspapers by a railroad stop at thirteen. He spent his teenage years as a telegrapher, which proved a sound investment—he went on to develop telegraph-related inventions that garnered capital for the big moves he’s known for today.
Edison’s Menlo Park, a first-of-its-kind research and development laboratory, is where he began to change the world. His tin foil phonograph was the first known machine to record and reproduce sound. The following incandescent electric light—the first to be functional, safe, and economical—ushered in the electrical age. His practical approach toward phonograph development created the recording industry. Likewise, his invention of the kinetoscope movie projector and the kinetograph movie camera set the film industry in motion.
Not everything he touched turned to gold, however. Edison lost a decade of work and millions of dollars in mining ventures but bounced back with an alkaline battery that became his most profitable product. His final significant contribution was an affordable source of rubber for automobile tires at the request of friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone.
Edison’s curiosity turned him from a newsboy to an inventor, industrialist, and the ultimate symbol of American ingenuity. Get curious with our Thomas Edison media collection.
Volkswagen Beetle becomes world’s top selling car
February 17, 1972
On this day, the Beetle surpassed the Model T production record as the 15,007,034th car rolled off the assembly line. V.W. Beetle’s history dates back to 1930s Germany when Chancellor Adolf Hitler and engineer Ferdinand Porsche collaborated on an affordable “people’s car.” Full-scale production only began after World War II.
Volkswagen entered the U.S. in the 1950s but didn’t exactly hit the ground running. The American ‘muscle car’ palette did not like the small and unusually round form—not to mention, driving a Nazi-made car wasn’t a good look in 1958.
One year later, sitting behind the same wheel was considered good taste, thanks to the greatest rebrand in history. Wildly popular print ads from DDB, ‘Think Small’ and ‘Lemon,’ took the public by storm with self-deprecating humor that showed small size as a pro rather than a con. Over the next several years, V.W. became the top-selling auto import in the U.S. Production of the original Beetle continued until July 30, 2003.
Dive into a Beetle’s bonanza with this Volkswagen Beetle collection.
Metropolitan Museum of Art Opens to the Public
February 20, 1872
The Met was founded in 1890 without a building or any items to show. This remained the case until the first acquisition, ‘The Purchase of 1871’, including a collection of 174 old master paintings. In 1872, the Trustees founded the Museum’s first exhibition space on Fifth Avenue in New York City. John Taylor Johnston, Museum President, detailed the opening reception attended by over 6,000 visitors, which included artists, students, and critics:
“We had a fine turnout of ladies and gentlemen, and all were highly pleased. The pictures looked splendid, and compliments were so plenty and strong that I was afraid the mouths of the Trustees would become chronically and permanently fixed in a broad grin … We may now consider the Museum fairly launched and under favorable auspices… We have something to point to as the Museum, something tangible and something good.”
Guests surely agreed, and the Institution stood strong. In 1880, the Metropolitan opened its first building at its current location in Central Park.
Discover more in our curated Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.