The White Caps
The two men renown as pioneers of early US cinema, Edwin S. Porter and D.W. Griffith, shared another claim to fame/infamy: each created a work inspired by Thomas Dixon Jr.'s 1905 The Clansman. Griffith's 1915 film The Birth of a Nation was adapted from the stage version of the novel. Edwin S. Porter was inspired by the novel to create this film. According to Before the Nickelodeon: Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company, Edison advertisements held a pro-vigilante view, proclaiming: A lawless and criminal element almost invariably accompanied the advance guard of civilization and to keep this element in check the law abiding
citizens were compelled to secretly organize themselves for their own protection...We have portrayed in Motion Pictures, in a most vivid and realistic manner, the method employed by the “White Caps” to rid the community of undesirable citizens.
While the White Caps role here as Morality Police may seem relatively benign compared to the lynch justice in The Birth of a Nation, the book also points out: This film narrative exactly parallels an earlier account of “White Cap” activity in a turn-of-the-century newspaper. In the newspaper account, the tar clogged up the man's pores and he eventually died.