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19th Century playbills

THC.PLAYBILLS

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

Repository:
Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department
Creator:
Glase, Paul E.
Title:
19th Century playbills
Date [bulk]:
1852-1902
Date [inclusive]:
1803-1939
Call Number:
THC.PLAYBILLS
Extent:
29.25 Linear feet (117 volumes (many volumes are boxed))
Language:
English
Abstract:
The 19th Century playbills collection contains a range of material related to theater culture in nineteenth century Philadelphia and in selected other theaters across the northeastern United States. Researchers will find nineteenth century playbills from the following Philadelphia theaters: the Walnut Street Theatre, the Academy of Music, the Arch Street Theatre, the Chestnut Street Theatre, National Theatre (Walnut Street), the National Theatre (Chestnut Street), the Melodeon, and the Continental Theatre. There are also playbills from the Chestnut Street, Arch Street, and 11th Street opera houses. This collection contains an assortment of scrapbooks which include newspaper clippings, photographs, and reviews of actors and performances. The majority of scrapbooks were assembled by various theater enthusiasts; however ten were compiled by theater producer and director Paul E. Glase, who was active in the Philadelphia theater scene during the early twentieth century. Because the collection covers an extensive period of time, it would be extremely valuable to researchers interested in the history and evolution of theater in Philadelphia, especially the latter half of the nineteenth century. The scrapbooks also have considerable research value, as many include newspaper clippings and photographs of famous actors and actresses of the nineteenth century whose careers may not otherwise be extensively documented.
Cite as:
[Description and date of item], [Box and folder number], 19th Century playbills, 1803-1939 (bulk, 1852-1902), Free Library of Philadelphia, Rare Book Department -- Theatre Collection.
PDF Version:

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Biography/History

Theater in Philadelphia has a long history, extending at least as far back as 1766 with the construction of the Southwark Theatre, which was located on South (then Cedar) Street, close to the waterfront. Since that time, the city has developed a rich theatrical heritage that included the establishment of theater troupes and the construction of new theaters throughout the city. Of note was the Chestnut Street Theatre, nicknamed as “Old Drury,” the Walnut Street Theatre, Arch Street Theatre, and the Academy of Music. Philadelphians enjoyed a wide breadth of popular entertainment at those theaters including, but not limited to, burlesque shows, minstrel shows, vaudeville, melodramas, comedies, and musical shows. In the mid 1800s, “Philadelphians loved ephemeral pieces based on contemporary life. At least thirty-seven plays, produced between 1841 and 1854, had the name of Philadelphia in their titles…” (Weigle, p. 342).

Paul E. Glase (born 1885) was an avid collector of early American playbills and materials relating to the history of the entertainment world. He is one of the best known directors and producers of amateur productions in the greater Philadelphia area. Glase started his entertainment career as an extra at the turn of the 20th century and later gravitated towards theater management. He was a manager of Wilmer & Vincent’s Embassy in Reading, PA, the State and Capitol theaters, and a press agent for the Hippodrome, Princess, Empire, Pictureland, Grand, Palace, and Orpheum Theatres. Glase also wrote for The Historical Review of Berks County and issued an annual pamphlet, “Lest We Forget,” in 1938 that contained brief reviews of careers of show people who died the previous year.

Bibliography

Weigle, Russel, editor. Philadelphia: A 300 Year History. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1982.

“History of Theatre in Collection of Showbills.” Box Office, January 26, 1952. 48-49. (http://issuu.com/boxoffice/docs/boxoffice_012652-1)

Scope and Contents

The 19th Century Playbills collection contains over 100,000 playbills dating from 1803 to 1899. The majority of playbills in the collection are from Philadelphia theaters, but there are also selected playbills from New York and other cities in the Northeastern United States.The collection also includes 26 scrapbooks which document the theater culture of Philadelphia from 1852 to 1939.

The “Playbills” series, 1803-1899, houses playbills from Philadelphia theaters including: the Walnut Street Theatre, the Academy of Music, the Arch Street Theatre, the Chestnut Street Theatre, National Theatre (Walnut Street), the National Theatre (Chestnut Street), the Melodeon, and the Continental Theatre. The series also contains playbills from the Chestnut Street, Arch Street, and 11th Street opera houses; and advertising sheets for several local museums, including the City Museum, Colonel Wood's Museum, and the Dime Museum.

The “Scrapbooks” series, 1852-1939, consists of two sets of theatrical scrapbooks. The first, “Philadelphia Programs,” is a set of 16 scrapbooks that documents the history of Philadelphia theater through playbills, articles, and illustrations of actors and actresses clipped from popular magazines. These volumes cover the period 1852 to 1939.

The other set of scrapbooks, “Paul E. Glase scrapbooks,” were compiled and donated to the Free Library of Philadelphia by Paul E. Glase. These ten scrapbooks are arranged alphabetically by actor and actress, and include playbills, programs, articles, and magazine illustrations. The Glase scrapbooks include materials from Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.

With the exception of the Glase scrapbooks, most items in the collection are included in the Theatre Collection's Philadelphia Theatre Index, which chronicles where and when professional productions played in Philadelphia between 1855 and 2000.

Arrangement note

The collection is arranged in two series: I. Playbills; and II. Scrapbooks. Series I is arranged alphabetically by theater. Series II is divided into two subseries: i. Philadelphia programs is arranged chronologically; ii. Paul E. Glase is arranged alphabetically by actor or actress's last name.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department,  2010.06.22

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Megan Good and Forrest Wright

Sponsor

The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

The right of access to material does not imply the right of publication. Permission for reprinting, reproduction, or extensive quotation from the rare books, manuscripts, prints or drawings must be obtained through written application, stating the use to be made of the material.

The reader bears the responsibility for any possible infringement of copyright laws in the publication of such material.

A reproduction fee will be charged if the material is to be reproduced in a commercial publication.

Processing Information note

This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.

Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

Historical Society of Philadelphia: Playbills collection.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)
  • Academy of Music (Philadelphia, Pa.).
  • Arch Street Theatre (Philadelphia, Pa.).
  • Chestnut Street Theatre (Philadelphia, Pa.).
  • National Theatre (Philadelphia, Pa.).
  • Walnut Street Theatre (Organization : Philadelphia, Pa.).
Form/Genre(s)
  • Clippings
  • Playbills
  • Scrapbooks
  • Souvenir programs
Geographic Name(s)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)
Subject(s)
  • Burlesque (Theater)
  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Minstrel shows
  • Musicals
  • Performing arts
  • Theater
  • Vaudeville

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Collection Inventory

Playbills, 1803-1915.

Box

11th Street Opera House (Sanford's Opera House), 1855-1862.

1

11th Street Opera House (Sanford's Opera House), 1859-1871.

2

11th Street Opera House (Sanford's Opera House), 1863.

3

11th Street Opera House (Sanford's Opera House), 1863 September-1863 December.

4

Academy of Music, 1860-1895.

5

Arch Street Opera House, 1872-1878.

6

Arch Street Theatre, 1828-1849.

7

Arch Street Theatre, 1851 September 18-1852 December 31.

8

Arch Street Theatre, 1853 January 1-1853 May 31.

9

Arch Street Theatre, 1853 April 1-1853 December 19.

10

Arch Street Theatre, 1854-1858.

11
Volume

Arch Street Theatre, 1858 August-1859 May.

12
Box

Arch Street Theatre, 1860-1899.

13
Volume

Arch Street Theatre, 1860 August 20-1860 December 29.

14

Arch Street Theatre, 1861.

15

Arch Street Theatre, 1861 January 1-1861 April.

16
Box

Arch Street Theatre, 1861-1863.

17

Arch Street Theatre, 1863-1864.

18

Arch Street Theatre, 1864-1866.

19

Arch Street Theatre, 1866-1868.

20

Arch Street Theatre, 1867-1868.

21

Arch Street Theatre, 1869-1871.

22

Arch Street Theatre, 1871-1874.

23

Arch Street Theatre, 1874-1879.

24

Arch Street Theatre, 1876-1878.

25

Arch Street Theatre, 1879-1883.

26

Arch Street Theatre, 1883-1885.

27

Arch Street Theatre, 1885-1887.

28

Arch Street Theatre, 1887-1890.

29

Broad Street Theatre, 1880-1900.

30

Chestnut Street Opera House (Fox's American Theatre), 1880-1899.

31

Chestnut Street Theatre, 1803-1827.

32

Chestnut Street Theatre, 1828.

33

Chestnut Street Theatre, 1829-1849.

34

Chestnut Street Theatre, 1851-1900.

35
Volume

Chestnut Street Theatre, 1876-1879.

36-37

Chestnut Street Theatre, 1876 January-1979 June.

38-41
Box
Dime Museums, 1842-1889.
Scope and Contents note

This box contains playbills from the following museums: American Museum (1871), Barnum's Museum (undated), Broadway Theatre (1852), The City Museum (1854-1889), Colonel Wood's Museum (1872-1883), Forepaugh's Theatre and Museum (1886), Frazier's Museum and Theatre (1887), The Great European Museum (undated), Long's Museum (1859), Peale's Museum (1847), and Philadelphia Museum (1842-1849)

42

The Melodeon, 1860-1861.

43

Minstrels, 1830s-1915.

44

Minstrels, 1860s-1870s.

45

National Theatre, Circus, and Amphitheatre (Chestnut Street), 1842-1853.

46

National Theatre (Walnut Street), 1854-1860.

47

National Theatre (Walnut Street), 1861-1863.

48
Volume

National Theatre (Walnut Street), 1880-1883.

49

New York Bowery Theatre, 1827-1828.

50

New York Bowery Theatre, 1828-1829.

51

Philadelphia Theatre, 1817-1818.

52
Box

Walnut Street Theatre, 1820-1835.

53

Walnut Street Theatre, 1835 January-1849 November.

54

Walnut Street Theatre, 1850 June-1852 December.

55

Walnut Street Theatre, 1853 January-1862 March.

56
Walnut Street Theatre, 1858-1859.
Scope and Contents note

This box includes some Arch Street Theatre playbills from 1858-1859

57

Walnut Street Theatre, 1862 September-1862 December.

58

Walnut Street Theatre, 1863 January-1863 December.

59

Walnut Street Theatre, 1864-1900.

60
Volume

Walnut Street Theatre, 1866.

61

Walnut Street Theatre, 1866-1867.

62

Walnut Street Theatre, 1868-1869.

63

Walnut Street Theatre, 1869-1870.

64

Walnut Street Theatre, 1870-1871.

65

Walnut Street Theatre, 1871-1872.

66

Walnut Street Theatre, 1874-1875.

67

Walnut Street Theatre, 1874, 1877-1878.

68

Walnut Street Theatre, 1875-1876.

69

Walnut Street Theatre, 1882-1883.

70

Walnut Street Theatre, 1883-1884.

71

Walnut Street Theatre, 1885-1886.

72

Walnut Street Theatre, 1886-1887.

73

Walnut Street Theatre, 1887-1888.

74

Walnut Street Theatre, 1880-1889.

75

Walnut Street Theatre, 1889-1890.

76

Walnut Street Theatre, 1890-1891.

77

Walnut Street Theatre, 1891-1892.

78

Walnut Street Theatre, 1892-1893.

79

Walnut Street Theatre, 1893-1894.

80

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Scrapbooks, 1852-1939.

Scope and Contents note

Researchers should be aware that dates provided for the scrapbooks are approximate. Though not always noted, processors noticed clippings from as late as the 1960s intermingled with clippings and other materials from the late 19th centry.

Philadelphia programs, 1852-1939.

Volume

1852-1876.

81

1863-1933.

82
Box

1876 January-1876 August.

83
Volume

1878-1887.

84
Box

1878-1892.

85
Volume

1879-1923.

86
Box

1886-1890.

87

1887-1893.

88

1889-1890.

89

1890-1891.

90

1890 December-1891 December.

91

1891 December-1892 April.

92

1892 October-1893 March.

93
Volume
1890-1902.
Scope and Contents note

Material from the following theatres can be found in this scrapbook: Broad Street Theatre (1890-1895), Grand Opera House (1892-1894), Chestnut Street Theatre (1890-1900), Walnut Street Theatre (1899, 1901), Chestnut Street Opera House (1893-1900), and the Garrick Theatre (1902).

94
Box

1893 March-1893 December.

95

1893-1900.

96

1894-1896.

97

1894-1897.

98

1894-1900.

99
Volume

1894-1900.

100
Box

1895-1902.

101
Volume

1895-1902.

102
Box

1896-1909.

103

1896-1939.

104
Volume

1897 September 4-1898 July 4.

105

1898-1899.

106
Box

1899-1900.

107

Paul E. Glase, undated.

Arrangement note

The Paul E. Glase subseries is arranged according to its original order, first with "Minstrels" then arranged alphabetically by actor and actress's last name.

Box

Minstrels, undated.

108

A-Bos, undated.

109

Bou-C, undated.

110

D-F, undated.

111

G-H, undated.

112

I-L, undated.

113

M-O, undated.

114

P-R, undated.

115

S-T, undated.

116

U-Z, undated.

117

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