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Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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At a Glance
Selected materials cataloged remainder listed and arranged. This collection is arranged in 11 series. Materials within each series is arranged alphabetically.
Correspondence, memoranda, reports, laboratory notebooks, technical drawings, film samples, screen samples, photographs, and printed material of Sponable. The collection is almost entirely technical and commercial in nature and relates especially to Movietone News and to the Fox laboratories' work with color film, television, theater television and the Eidophor System, and Cinemascope. Also, files relating to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, of which Sponable was a member and officer. There is cataloged correspondence from Sir Edward Gordon Craig, Lee deForest, Samuel Lionel Rothafel, Spyros P. Skouras, and Darryl F. Zanuck.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Other Finding Aids
Restrictions on Access
The following boxes are located off-site: 2-120, 122-124. You will need to request this material from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
This collection has no restrictions.
Access to nitrate film samples stored in Reprography Dept. freezer requires several days advance notice. Nitrate film samples lost as of 2018; last seen in 2000 in the Preservation Department Freezer.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Earl I. Sponable papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Source of acquisition--Alden, Alex. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1981. Accession number--M-81.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 09/--/89.
Film and screen materials were separated from papers during processing, to prevent further damage to paper, and to prevent damage to film and vinyl-based materials from thymol treatment of the paper (treated circa 1980s). These materials are now stored in Boxes 123-125, and their original locations are noted in the finding aid.
April 2020 PDF replaced with full finding aid, YH
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Earl I. Sponable was born in Plainfield, N.Y., 18 September 1895, attended public schools and in 1916 received the degree of Bachelor of Chemistry from Cornell University. Following his graduation he established, with Theodore W. Case, the Case Research Laboratory at Auburn, N.Y., holding the position of Chief Research Chemist. During World War I he was a civilian consultant to the Naval Experimental Station at New London, Connecticut, working on secret infra-red signaling systems. He remained at Case Laboratories until 1925, working primarily on electrical and mechanical components of sound-on-film recording and reproducing; in the early 1920s he achieved successful television transmission on a closed-circuit system.
Sponable joined the Fox Film Corporation in 1926, and was their Chief Engineer and Director of Research until 1962. He held approximately twenty patents, primarily relating to sound on film, and was the primary developer of the Movietone News newsreels. He was an active member of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers (later the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) and served as its president in 1949-1950. He died on 16 November 1977.