Squirrels have long been popular in American culture. In 1959 Jay Ward introduced us to Rocky the Flying Squirrel and today we have the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and her squirrel friends. The Washington Post even has an annual squirrel photography contest. So it’s no surprise that in 1953 the producers of the Universal Newsreel series were very pleased to offer an exclusive look at the trained squirrels of Mrs. Florence Hinton.
According to a magazine clipping in the newsreel’s production file, Florence Hinton had been an opera singer on tour when a little boy gave her two baby squirrels in exchange for tickets to her performance. She later brought the squirrels with her to a performance for children. Her audience was so delighted that she decided to train the squirrels “despite warnings from experts that it could not be done.” At the time of the newsreel, she had eight performing squirrels with an arsenal of tricks.
Universal cameraman Jimmie Lederer filmed Hinton and her squirrels at her home in Grover City, Calif., on October 19, 1953. At the bottom of the caption sheet that accompanied the film reels back to Universal he noted, “If not released in three weeks, she will let the other [news]reels who have asked for this story make it—SHE HAD LETTERS FROM ALL REELS IN LOS ANGELES….and will hold off!!!!” Universal wasted no time, running this exclusive story on October 22.
Other stories in this release include the dedication of the Falcon Dam on the US-Mexico border, a ticker-tape parade for retiring Army General Mark Clark, an Italian fashion show, and a demonstration of the Bongo Board. You can view the whole newsreel, and many more, on our YouTube channel.