It’s no surprise that when the first hand-cranked home movie cameras went on sale in the early 1920s, adventurous visitors to Martha’s Vineyard wanted to bring them along and try them out.

The earliest home movies known to have been shot on the Island were filmed in Edgartown by summer residents Clara F. Dinsmore and her brother Bill in the summer of 1926. Using a French camera and 9.5 millimeter stock, they filmed dozens of minute-long segments of Main and South Water streets through the windshield of a car.

They also filmed the length of the commercial harborfront from a motor boat, showing off an industrial world of coal sheds and schooners, a sidewheel steamer tied to Memorial Wharf, and a Chappy ferry that was still a rowboat. They also shot the family enjoying the wilderness along the ocean shoreline, where they could lay campfires for picnics on unpopulated beaches, cast for bluefish by hurling weighted lines into the surf and drink what looked like Prohibition-era liquor from flasks.

For the past five years, the Vineyard Gazette, through its Historic Movies of Martha’s Vineyard project, has been collecting hundreds of hours of home movies and commercial films from the descendants of those who shot the films.

Producers John Wilson and Tom Dunlop edited a two-minute clip of scenes shot in and around Oak Bluffs by three different families between the early 1930s and early 1970s — the period when most of the Island movies found to date were filmed.

The Oak Bluffs scenes, digitally transferred by Art Donahue of Franklin, offer footage from the Hehre family of Vineyard Haven of an adult and youngsters rolling a rowboat on a cart past Sunset Lake and down to the harbor (whose shoreline in the early 1930s, still marshy, has no modern bulkhead or slips) as well as a drive up Circuit avenue, where Darling’s famous popcorn emporium can briefly be seen to the right.

Also included in the clip is film of the Ralf Meshack Coleman family cavorting at Inkwell Beach in the late 1950s, and a summery-blue scene of the slender, tall-stack steamship Nobska departing the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority wharf as she neared 50 years of age. The footage was shot by the late John Boardman of Harthaven in the early 1970s.

The historic movies project has presented 21 film clips to date and has screened footage to sold-out houses at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven. In 2016, it won the innovation award from the New England Newspaper and Press Association, and today presents a live-action record of an Island surprisingly unchanged from the period when those early adventurers shot their first films on the Island nearly 100 years ago.

The project saves, archives and introduces old Island films to the public. The collection of 21 Vineyard films presented to date is available online. For information about the project, or to have old Island films transferred digital files, contact (To avoid damage, please do not run old films through a projector.)