The first nature movie, featuring the wonders of Yosemite,fields of wildflowers, and people, was shown on an evening in the first part of the summer season after night had fallen on the porch of the Studio of the Three Arrows in the Old Village of Yosemite. The location was a few feet toward what today is called Curry Village and near the verge of the road. You can see The Gazebo Pillsbury built in front of the original studio building at Studio of the Three Arrows.
As his first duty of the day Pillsbury's youngest son, Arthur, would sweep the porch and pick up any residue from the day before. This routine began in 1913, when he was eight. But people had been enjoying the movies at the Pillsbury Studio since the season of 1909. Down the page you will see one of the post cards Pillsbury had printed to advertise these regular evenings to be spent in Yosemite which was sent to friends at home. It is postdated June 15, 1010.
The showings were free, but many patrons came early to buy cards to send home and then waited in the gathering shade, eating a picnic lunch before the show began.
As evening came people would start to gather, awaiting the images which would appear and the narration provided by Arthur C. Pillsbury.
Everyone went to Pillsbury's when they were in Yosemite.
Although this was the first nature movie ever made it was also a movie with a specific mission. That was to persuade John Muir that the best way to oppose the renewed threat of Hetch Hetchy being taken as a water supply for San Francisco. Mayor Phelan of San Francisco had renewed his plea for the Hetch Hetchy as a water source on May 7, 1908. The city had gained sympathy because of the 1906 Earthquake when the lack of an adequate water system had allowed fires to consume much of the city.
The debate was not lost of Arthur C. Pillsbury. But his approach was to bring the beauties of the Yosemite, including Hetch -Hetchy, to people using film. Unfortunately, John Muir viewed film as a novelty, not as a serious way to persuade people to the need to protect the natural world, specifically the glories of the Hetch-Hetchy. Muir was of a generation whose experience was taking people into nature to experience it first hand. But PR is a numbers game, and so this was a war Muir would have lost even without the manipulations of those who sent him first to South America and Africa in August of 1911.
The timeline strongly suggests Muir was gotten out of the way so the deal to elect Wilson could go forward with the Hetch-Hetchy as payment for delivering California to Woodrow Wilson.