American Theatre -- Geographic subdivision--Philadelphia (Pa.) Search this
Arch Street Theatre -- Geographic subdivision--Philadelphia (Pa.) Search this
Forrest Theatre -- Geographic subdivision--Philadelphia (Pa.) Search this
Kensington Theatre -- Geographic subdivision--Philadelphia (Pa.) Search this
Standard Theatre -- Geographic subdivision--Philadelphia (Pa.) Search this
Wilmington Theatre -- Geographic subdivision--Wilmington (Del.) Search this
0.25 Cubic feet (1 box)
Theater plat book used at the Philadelphia Theater in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania showing stage plats for various productions.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of one item, a theater plat book compiled by Frank Simonson, a stage carpenter, containing design drawings and placement for stage sets for a variety of plays. The volume includes not only diagrams for the placement of flats and platforms, furniture, and props but also includes elevation renderings for a small number of plays. The plats are not always dated and contain little information other than dimensions and placement of sets, flats, and furniture. The volume illustrates a wide range of the sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate, sets employed in the theater of the early 20th century.
Series 1, Theater Plat Book, 1911-1913, undated The volume was begun in 1911 when Frank Simonson was employed at the American Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1913 is the latest date found in this plat book. A list of plays appears at the beginning of the volume, and the designs are indexed. The volume contains set diagrams for many popular and now obscure plays including Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Prisoner of Zenda, Romeo and Juliet, Lena Rivers, George M. Cohan's Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway, Jane Eyre, Secret Service, The Squaw Man, and many others. The volume is indexed and contains plats and/or renderings for 152 plays.
This collection is arranged into one series.
Series 1: Theater Plat Book, 1911-1913, undated
Biographical / Historical:
Frank Simonson was born in April 1879 in New York, New York, the son of George and Harriet Hunter Simonson. George was a carpenter and his son persumably learned the trade from him. The family lived in East Rockaway, Queens until 1900 when upon George's death, they moved to Palmer Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On August 23, 1902 he married Mabel Matheys, the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Warley Matheys in Manhattan, New York. The Simonsons first lived on Gordon Street in Philadelphia, but by 1920 they had moved to East Dauphin Street. He and his wife appear to have had no children.
Simonson was a charter member of the local chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). He built sets for several Philadelphia theaters, including the Arch Street Theater, Standard Theater, Forrest Theater, Kensington Theater, American Theater, and the Wilmington Theater. In the 1900 United States Census Simonson listed his occupation as "stage carpenter". In the 1906-1907 Julius Cahn's Official Theatrical Guide Simonson is listed as "prop man" for the Standard Theater. In the 1909-1910 edition of the Cahn guide he is listed at the same theater as a "stage carpenter". Simonson's plat book was started in 1911 while he was employed at the American Theater, Philadelphia. By the 1940 Census Simonson was listed as "installing sound equipment" in the Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia where he was listed as part of the technical staff. Simonson died on August 18, 1958 and was buried in Oakland Cemetery, Philadelphia.
The plat book was obtained by Wayne See in 1981 when IATSE (Local 8) was vacating its offices at 1720 Delancey Street in Philadelphia.
Donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian by Wayne See in May 2014.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
These scrapbooks were created to record programs from various theaters in Washington, D.C. and New York. They contain playbills, advertisements, and cast lists.
Scope and Contents:
Though two of the volumes are labeled "Theatre Program" these volumes actually consist of playbills. The volumes contain an extensive array of playbills for productions that played in Washington, D.C. and New York City. The printed broadsides contain information on the theater management, the production, cast list, production personnel, synopsis, and the program of the play. The playbills are mainly for musical productions, but there are playbills for dramas as well. Each volume was numbered, some have retained the actual number on the front of the volume, and two volumes do not but can be put in the proper order from the dates of the playbills therein. Many personalities and supporting players of the period are listed on the playbills.
Many Washington, D.C. theaters are represented: the Grand Opera House, the Majestic, the Columbia, Poli's, The Lafayette Square Opera House in Washington, D.C. that was eventually renamed The Belasco and others. There are early playbills for the Knickerbocker Theater which became famous for the tragedy that occurred there in 1922 with the collapse of its roof due to heavy snow fall. There are also many New York City theaters represented, including the New Amsterdam, Hammerstein's Victoria, and the Herald Square Theatre. There is one playbill for the Bijou Theatre in Richmond, Virginia. Also, there are playbills for theaters in Montauk, New York. There is an ad for The Clansman by Thomas Dixon, Jr. at the Columbia Theater, Washington, D.C. during the season of 1905-1905. There are a few theater programs pasted into the volumes, many for The Lambs' Star Gambol, one for a Ruth St. Denis dance program, and two "souvenir books" for the Hippodrome in New York City.
The volumes are arranged chronologically according to year. The exception is Volume 3, which carries an earlier date than Volume 1 because a few stray playbills from 1893-1897 were pasted into the back of the volume. The bulk of Volume 3's contents span the dates 1905-1907. Volume 3 and Volume 4 are labeled on the cover, "Theatre Program". Volume 6 is indexed alphabetically according to title of play. There is one folder of loose playbills, a Woodrow Wilson Memorial Address, by Edwin Anderson Alderman, 1924, and a broadside for the Sanitary Grocery Company in Alexandria, Virginia, 1932.
The collection is arranged in one series, chronologically.
Series 1, Theatre Program Scrapbooks, 1893-1948, undated
Biographical / Historical:
American theater came into its own during the nineteenth century. American musical theater is generally acknowledged to have begun with The Black Crook, which opened September 12, 1866 at the 3,200-seat Niblo's Garden on Broadway in New York City and ran for a record-breaking 474 performances. By the end of the century most American cities and towns of any size boasted an opera house or theater, with many cities having numerous venues for traveling productions. Local companies as well as companies out of New York City mounted productions of musicals and dramas for the theater-going public. Showmen such as Florenz Ziegfeld, Charles Dillingham, David Belasco, and Charles Frohman mounted traveling productions of their successful New York productions and sent them on the road. In the days before the existence of unions for actors, musicians, and stagehands these productions could have huge casts working many hours and nearly every day of the week. Theater-producing organizations employed booking agents to schedule the production's tour. Each theater usually had its own management team, many being independently owned and operated. Washington, D.C., like any other city, had more than one theater competing for the public's business. The Washington theater district was generally located between Lafayette Square and the area around 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Not much is known about these six volumes of theater playbill scrapbooks. They appear to have belonged to either a theater owner or booking agent. They were donated to the Little Theatre of Alexandria by Mrs. Mark Price in 1963 and may have been salvaged by Mrs. Price when a theater was demolished or perhaps acquired by an acquaintance or member of her family who worked in a theater.
AC0060 Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Theater and Motion Picture subject categories
AC0300 Sam DeVincent Collection of Illustrated American Sheet Music
AC0404 Archives Center Collection of Business Americana, Theater and Motion Picture subject categories
AC1211 Donald J. Stubblebine Collection
The British spelling of this collection's title is on the scrapbooks.
This collection was donated by the Little Theatre of Alexandria, Virginia in 2010 which had received them from Mrs. Mark Price in 1963.
The collection is open for research use.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions.