Skip to Main Content Scroll to the top Icon

Home movies from the J.E. Coupe collection

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​For the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage on October 27, the Simcoe County Archives (SCA) is highlighting the captivating home movies from the J.E. Coupe collection (PC​-0151).

In 1987, the estate of J.E. Coupe donated film reels, photographic slides, and film equipment to the SCA. The film reels were created from 1961 to 1976 and document the daily activities and travels of Coupe within Simcoe County and beyond. The film reels were digitized in 2021 to maintain access by reducing wear on the original reels. Other footage created by Coupe can be found at the Archives of Ontario within the J.E. Coupe fonds (Fonds – C 326)

A close-up of J.E. Coupe on 8mm film, colour, ca. 1961-1964.

​Family History

John Edwin Coupe (1905-1985) was born in Blackburn, Lancashire County, England to Thomas Edwin Coupe (1878-1957) and Agnes [Chaples] Coupe (ca. 1883-1927). The Coupe family immigrated to Canada in 1911 and settled in Toronto for several years. 

Thomas Coupe worked in the real-estate industry, managing the Island View Hotel at Gordan Bay, Muskoka, from 1914 to 1918, and later the Peninsular Park Hotel at Big Bay Point, Simcoe County. Thomas Coupe also briefly managed Robinson House at Big Bay Point, which served as a summer camp for boys. Thomas remarried in 1928 to Grace Kinsman (1892-1977) after the death of his first wife. 

John Coupe resided in Hawkestone within Oro Township, now Oro-Medonte Township, from about the 1940s until his death in 1985. Presumably an avid traveller, there are records of Coupe travelling by steamboat from Hamilton, Bermuda to New York City in the 1930s. Like his father, John Coupe was a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, an organization dedicated to the advancement of astronomy and science. 

J.E. Coupe speaking to the camera, no sound. With few photographs of Coupe, this footage provides a useful substitute for his image. 8mm film, colour, ca. 1961-1964.
Interior of J.E. Coupe’s home. Super 8mm film, colour, ca. 1971.

Film and Equipment

The J.E. Coupe collection contains seven silent film reels in colour and black and white. Specifically, there are four 16mm reels, two 8mm reels, and one Super 8 reel. The gauge refers to the width of the film and the type of perforations, or row of holes, present. The most common gauges are 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm. Super 8 films have an 8mm gauge with smaller perforations for a larger image on the film strip. 

The collection also contains several unique pieces of film equipment, including a Bell & Howell 16mm film projector, a Bauer T170 Sound 8mm Film Projector, and a Sears 8mm Film Editor. A 1953 advertisement for the Bell & Howell projector promotes its ability to easily rewind and pause playback. This equipment likely demonstrates Coupe’s passion for creating and displaying films.

Coupe's Bell & Howell 16mm film projector, Design 273, Model A, and a film container from the J.E. Coupe collection.
Coupe’s Bell & Howell 16mm film projector, Design 273, Model A, and a film container from the J.E. Coupe collection.

Rise in Home Movies

Amateur filmmaking became more accessible through the introduction of 8mm film in the 1930s by the Eastman Kodak Company. Another notable manufacturer was the Bell & Howell Co. founded in 1907 by two projectionists, which produced cameras, lenses, and other motion picture equipment.

Before 8mm film, the standard 35mm film base was made of cellulose nitrate, which is highly flammable and required expensive processing. Later, cellulose acetate, or safety film, became available in a 16mm format that considerably lowered production costs. 8mm film became the most affordable option because its smaller size was less expensive to produce. As a result, working-class families had the opportunity to capture scenes from their daily lives and document their experiences on film.

​ Scenes of nature and wildlife, 16mm film, black & white and colour, ca. 1971.

Nature and Entertainment in Simcoe County

Coupe’s home movies capture the changing seasons in Oro Township, Barrie, Georgian Bay, and the Muskoka region. The clips of falling snow and wildlife reflect a creative hand holding the camera as he observed his environment and experimented with different types of film. 

Coupe’s home movies also document various events occurring throughout Simcoe County and beyond, such as winter carnivals, parades, and antique car shows. These films provide an engaging glimpse back into the fashion and natural landscape of the 1960s and 1970s. 

Scenes from the Barrie Winter Carnival featuring the Kempenfelt Drum Corps and two performing ice skaters. 8mm film, colour, ca. February 1966-1967.


Coupe’s film reels were migrated to VHS format as an early preservation strategy to combat the emulsion damage occurring on some of the original films. Motion picture film consists of several layers, most notably the base and emulsion. Bases are commonly nitrate, acetate, and polyester materials. Emulsion is a light-sensitive layer that is adhered to the film base and contains the actual image. Thus, damage to the emulsion causes a noticeable loss of information. As an amateur photographer, Coupe could have processed his home movies himself, and certain imperfections may have been the result of errors during the laboratory process. This damage can be seen notably around the edges of the film reels, but thankfully, it does not heavily obscure the entire image.

In 2021, the original film reels were digitized off-site by Frame Discreet in Toronto to create higher resolution copies. This preservation action allows the SCA to store the original reels in our dedicated climate-controlled vault for film, kept at a stable temperature of below 3°C and a relative humidity of 30%. Film is best kept in a cool, stable environment, away from light and dust.

Trains passing through Simcoe County, with a title card written by Coupe. 16mm film, colour, ca. 1971.

The World Day for Audiovisual Heritage reminds us of the beauty of film and the importance of ensuring its long-term preservation. ​Coupe’s passion for filmmaking is evident in his home movies, and fortunately these captivating films can be enjoyed for years to come.

The full films from the J.E Coupe collection can be viewed onsite at the SCA. Visit our archives booking portal to create an appointment.

Written by Olivia White, Digital Preservation Archivist

​​Works Consulted​​​