Three reels of early home movies showing theater actress Annie Russell (1864-1936)—the only moving images of her known to exist—have been discovered in the University of Georgia Libraries' Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, the only public institution in Georgia devoted entirely to preserving moving images.
Born in England, Russell was a stage star from a young age in Canada before moving to New York to perform on Broadway. By the 1880s, she was one of the most popular and successful stage actresses—a contemporary of Ethel Barrymore, Edwin Booth and Maude Adams. In 1905, she traveled to England where she originated the role of Barbara Undershaft in George Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara."
The films are part of the Pebble Hill Plantation Film Collection (c. 1917-c. 1976), which includes Georgia's earliest home movies and were donated to the Brown Archives last year. Pebble Hill, just outside Thomasville, was bought in 1896 by Howard Melville Hanna of Cleveland, Ohio, as a winter home. In 1901, he gave the property to his daughter, Kate Hanna Ireland, and her children Livingston and Elizabeth "Pansy" Ireland. Pebble Hill's trustees donated the family's films to the archives in order to preserve their unique scenes of the family and property.