University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

American Academy of Music

1852 - c. 1940
(bulk dates 1896 - 1919)

Manuscript Collection Number: 308
Accessioned: Gift of the Moyerman Family, 1972
Extent: 1.6 linear ft.
Content: Correspondence, programs, and annual reports.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: October-November 1994 by J. Andrew Armacost.

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Table of Contents

Historical Note

The American Academy of Music, incorporated on March 24, 1852, built in Philadelphia one of America's grandest nineteenth-century opera houses. The structure, designed by the architects Napoleon Le Brun and Gustav Rung‚ and erected between 1855 and 1857, is located on the southwest corner of Broad and Locust streets in center city Philadelphia.

Not long after its incorporation, the Academy came under the influence of the Baker family of Philadelphia. Two successive generations of the Baker family presided over the Academy from the 1880s to the 1920s. Alfred G. Baker (1831-1892) was active at the Academy as early as 1881 and was elected president in 1884; he was followed by his son George Fales Baker, M.D. (1863-1929) who succeeded him as president in 1892.

Under their tenure, the Academy became widely known for presentations of opera and classical music. This aspect of the Academy's performances forms a large part of John Marion's 1984 history of the Academy Within these walls: a history of the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Less well known, however, is that the Academy also offered many other kinds of attractions. It presented new technologies through phonograph concerts by the Girard Phonograph Company and early moving pictures by Lyman H. Howe. The Academy served as well as a hall for political and religious gatherings, educational lectures, and especially travel talks. Many of the great travel lecturers of the period were regulars at the Academy. Lecturers like Burton Holmes initially brought their hand-colored lantern slides to illustrate their "travelogues." Later speakers like the popular Edward M. Newman incorporated motion picture segments with their travel talks.


Caldwell, Genoa ed. The Man who photographed the world: Burton Holmes travelogues 1886-1938. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1977.

Kavanaugh, James V. Three American opera houses: the Boston Theater, the New York Academy of Music, the Philadelphia American Academy of Music. M. A. Thesis, University of Delaware, 1967.

Marion, John F. Within these walls: a history of the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Restoration Office, The Academy of Music, 1984.

Musser, Charles and Carol Nelson. High-class moving pictures: Lyman H. Howe and the forgotten era of the traveling exhibition, 1880-1920. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Scope and Content Note

The American Academy of Music Papers provide an incomplete but useful glimpse of the institutional structure and entertainment programing of this Philadelphia hall in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although the collection spans almost a hundred years between 1852 and circa 1940, it primarily consists of correspondence and a limited number of printed items from the years 1896-1897 and 1901-1919. Only scattered materials are preserved from before 1896, and no information from the period 1898-1900 is available in this collection. In this respect the collection is an incomplete record of the years it covers.

The majority of correspondence contained here is associated with Ferdinand V. Bonnafon (circa 1844-1920), who was appointed secretary in 1884 and treasurer in 1893, two posts which he held until his death in 1920. A limited amount of material is associated with other staff at the Academy--President George F. Baker, and G.D. Young, the Academy's treasurer after Bonnafon. Material from before 1910 consists solely of incoming correspondence, but afterwards the Academy's replies in the form of carbon copies are also preserved.

The collection has been divided into two separate series of papers. The first series includes material related to the Academy of Music as a corporation. This series presents a wide range of information, including a series of pamphlets from between 1852 and 1862 recording the act of incorporation and by-laws of the organization. Correspondence related to the stockholders as well as the board of directors of the Academy is included. The collection also preserves financial correspondence related to taxes, securities, licenses, and insurance.

This series also includes a large body of correspondence concerning maintenance and structural improvement to the building from 1896 and 1901 to 1925. This body of material not only demonstrates the daily expenses of maintaining a facility like the Academy, but further shows how a well-planned program of architectural improvements was considered vital to the Academy's continued existence.

A body of professional and non-Academy related correspondence is preserved from 1896-1926. Included is correspondence from other opera houses, various printers of programs, tickets and advertising, and personal correspondence of F.V. Bonnafon and G.F. Baker received at the Academy.

The second series of papers of the American Academy of Music contains material related to performances held at the Academy. A small body of programs and promotional flyers from 1873 to c. 1940, and a few property plots are preserved. These property plots record what the stage hands were responsible for during each performance and the specific properties required for each scene.

Also included in this series is a large body of leasing correspondence related to scheduling and booking of the events held at the Academy. Correspondence relating to leases of the Academy are preserved from 1895 to 1897 and 1901 to 1926. This collection indirectly documents the events held at the Academy. Much of the correspondence is from booking agents that do not explicitly state the nature of the attraction they are planning to show at the Academy. Correspondence with individuals who were, for some reason, unable to rent the Academy because of finances, scheduling, or subject restrictions is also contained within this series. These documents do, however, clearly represent the wide range of activities that took place at the Academy. This body of documents preserves correspondence with opera companies, several orchestras and choruses, and a variety of lecturers, comedians, charitable organizations, clubs, fraternal organizations, religious groups, and political parties.

Letters from patrons of the Academy are also included from 1896 to 1897 and 1901 to 1920. This correspondence includes inquiries concerning lost articles, requests for performance dates, and patron complaints.

Related collections:

Ms 311 Baker - Fales - Rush Family Papers

Ms 359 Collins and Autenrieth Architectural Works

Series Outline

I.  Institutional material
     1.  Acts of incorporation
     2.  Stockholders and the board of directors correspondence
     3.  Insurance correspondence
     4.  Financial correspondence
     5.  Employee correspondence
     6.  Facility maintenance and improvement
     7.  Personal and professional correspondence

II.  Performance related material
     1.  Performance programs and promotional sheets
     2.  Property plots
     3.  Events at the Academy, leasing correspondence
     4.  Patron correspondence

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1         Series I.  Institutional material  
               This collection preserves the corporate
               correspondence and publications of the Academy of
               Music.  Included are the original acts of
               incorporation and by-laws of the corporation,
               annual reports, correspondence with stockholders,
               the Board of Directors, insurance companies, and a
               large body of correspondence detailing upkeep and
               maintenance of the Academy building. 

          Series I.1.  Acts of incorporation  

     F1   Charter and prospectus of the Opera House or American
               Academy of Music.  Philadelphia: Crissy & Markley,
               1852. (Cataloged with printed material in Special

          Act of incorporation of the American Academy of Music,
               and the supplements thereto; with the by-laws of
               the corporation.  Philadelphia: Crissy & Markley,
               1857. (One copy is preserved here and a duplicate
               copy was cataloged with printed material in
               Special Collections).

          Act of incorporation of the American Academy of Music,
               and the supplements thereto; with the by-laws of
               the corporation.  Philadelphia: Maas & Vogdes,
               1862.  (Cataloged with printed material in Special

          Series I.2.  Stockholders and the Board of Directors correspondence

     F2   1882-1884, 1896, 1902-1915
          Material related to the 1884 Pennsylvania Supreme court
          case of Alfred G. Baker et al. vs. the American Academy
          of Music et al.  Included as well is an annual report
          from 1905.  

     F3   1916-1928, n.d. 
          Includes a statement read by the president to the Board
          of Directors commemorating the death of Ferdinand V.
          Bonnafon, November 11, 1920.  Annual reports are
          preserved from 1923 and 1928.  

1         Series I.  Institutional correspondence (cont'd)

          Series I.3.  Insurance correspondence 
               Primarily with the Franklin Fire Insurance Co., 
               Philadelphia, and insurance agent J. Craig Shields

     F4   1903, 1907-1920

          Series I.4.  Financial correspondence 
               Correspondence related to taxes, licenses,
               securities and other financial matters.  

     F5   1896, 1901, 1904, 1908-1919

     F6   1920-1923

          Series I.5.  Employee correspondence 
               Recommendations to and from other institutions,
               illnesses, and injuries.  
     F7   1895, 1903-1915
          A large group of payroll stubs from March 31, 1914 are

     F8   1916-1928.  
          A large collection of payroll sheets from September
          1916, and sheets documenting employee duties at
          individual performances from 1928 are preserved.  

          Series I.6.  Facility maintenance and improvement

     F9   1896, 1901-1906.
          Contains material concerning the purchase of new seats,
          ornamental iron work, and letters from the Philadelphia
          department of Public Safety concerning fire escapes.

     F10  1907
          Includes a letter accompanying a "new portrait of Mr.
          Holmes" to be placed in the Art Gallery.

     F11  1908
          Includes proposals from Strawbridge & Clothier, 
          Karcherand and Rehn, and other companies for the 
          renovation of the foyer.  

1         Series I.  Institutional correspondence (cont'd)
          Series I.6.  Facility maintenance (cont'd)

     F12  1909-1913
          Includes a letter from the Philadelphia Fire
          Underwriters' Association recommending fire safety

     F13  1914
          Includes proposals for new curtains in the boxes and
          for the cleaning and repair of chandeliers in the

     F14  1915
          Includes a proposal for a new chandelier with an
          architectural sketch (removed to oversize).  Preserved
          as well is a proposal and drawing for a "moving picture

     F15  1916 Jan-Aug
          Includes proposals for replacing the steps at the main
          entrance on Broad and Locust Streets.  

     F16  1916 Sep-Dec, and 1917 Jan-Apr
          Preserved is a solicitation to install a score board
          that was to carry the World Series scores.  

     F17  1917 May-Dec
          Included is correspondence with the Universal Electric
          Stage Lighting Co., manufacturers of special effects. 
          Preserved as well are several proposals to replace the
          steps on Broad street.

     F18  1918 Jan-Jun
          Includes correspondence relative to a property dispute,
          which contains an architectural sketch produced by the
          F.T. Mercer Company.  

     F19  1918 Jul-Dec
          Includes a draft of a long letter to Mr. Blumberg
          complaining about a property dispute.  

     F20  1919
          Includes correspondence related to the repair of an
          awning pole after someone drove into it.  

     F21  1920-1921, 1923, 1925, n.d.
          Includes correspondence relative to the sale of
          property at 246 W. Walnut Lane, the Art Alliance's plan
          to replace the paintings in the "corridor" with "modern
          works of art," and documents concerning the erection of
          the Fritz Scheel Memorial Tablet designed by the
          architect Edgar V. Seeler.

1         Series I.  Institutional correspondence (cont'd)
          Series I.7.  Personal and professional correspondence 

     F22  1896, 1902-1908
          Includes correspondence with the Hibernian Publishing
          Co., and personal correspondence with Fred R. Comee of
          the Boston Symphony Hall.  

     F23  1909-1917
          Includes correspondence from the Carnegie Music Hall in
          Pittsburgh, and several publishing companies.  

     F24  1918, 1919 Jan-May
          Includes correspondence relating Liberty Loans, and the
          ordering of new stage sets from Lee Lash Studios, New

     F25  1919 Jul-Dec, 1920-1926, and n.d.
          Included is correspondence with Geo. W. H. Moore,
          publisher of theater programs, and correspondence
          addressed to George F. Baker from  G. D. Young. 

1         Series II. Performance related material, mid 1800s-circa 1940
               This series describes events that took place at
               the Academy.  Included are programs of
               performances, property plots, material related to
               leasing the Academy for events, and the reaction
               of the patrons who attended those events.  

          Series II.1.  Performance programs and promotional

     F26  1873-1893
          Il Trovatore,  November 10, 11, 1873
          Philadelphia Chorus, May 10, 11, 1886
          Philadelphia Chorus, April 26, 1888
          Philadelphia Chorus, January 16, 1890
          Paderewski's Third Piano Recital, 
               February 4, 1893

     F27  1908-circa 1940.
          German-American Charity Ball, February 3, 1908
          Philadelphia Orchestra, March 20, 21, 1908
          Burton Holmes Travelogues, November 18, 19, 1910
          G. E. Marchand lecture, September 16, 17 n.y.
          Metropolitan Opera Company, March 19, 1929
          Metropolitan Opera Company, January 29, 1929
          Marion Anderson, October 17, [circa 1940]

          Series II.2.  Property plots

     F28  "Magic Pills"
          "Game of Speculation"
          "The Garroters Farce" by William Dean Howells.
          "Bandanna Land" produced by the Williams and Walker Co.
               (see associated correspondence May 4, 1908, F34)
          And other unidentified titles

          Series II.3.  Events at the Academy, leasing

     F29  1895-1897
          Included is correspondence related to the Democratic
          City Executive Committee, the University of
          Pennsylvania commencement, and the vocalist Yvette

     F30  1901-1903
          Includes correspondence related to the violinist Jan
          Kubelik, Burton Holmes, and a complaint about the
          Academy from the vocalist Lillian Nordica.  

     F31  1904-1906, 1907 Jan-Sep
          Includes correspondence from the Belasco theater, the
          Mendelssohn Club of the Academy of Fine Arts, the
          Garrick Theater, and Mme. Schumann-Heink.  

     F32  1907 Oct-Dec
          Includes correspondence regarding the Elmendorf
          Lectures, the Philadelphia Car Show, and Burton Holmes

     F33  1908 Jan-Apr
          Includes correspondence related to Lyman H. Howe's
          Moving Pictures, S. H. Chapman's travel lectures, the
          Elmendorf Lectures, and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

     F34  1908 May-Dec
          Includes correspondence related to the Philadelphia
          Orchestra, Burton Holmes Travelogues, S. H. Chapman's
          travel lectures, George Nox McCain's lectures, and L.
          Frank Baum's Fairylogue and Radio Plays.  

     F35  1909-1911
          Includes correspondence related to the Pennsylvania
          Anti-Saloon League, ballet dancers Anna Pavlova and
          Michael Mordkin, and the Philharmonic Society of New

     F36  1912, 1914
          Includes correspondence regarding Jules Layolle's
          French Grand Opera Company of New Orleans, the
          Elmendorf Lectures, and the Woman Suffrage Parade

     F37  1915 Jan-Nov
          Includes correspondence regarding the Newman
          Traveltalks, the Elmendorf Lectures, the Woman Suffrage
          Parade Committee, and the Whitney Fashion Show.  

1         Series II.  Performance Related Material (cont'd)
          Series II.3.  Leasing correspondence  (cont'd)

     F38  1915 Dec, 1916
          Includes correspondence related to the Chicago Opera
          Company, Temple University, and the concert director
          Helen Pulaski Innes.  

     F39  1917 Jan-Jul
          Includes material regarding the Newman Traveltalks, the
          lecture tour of Sir Ernest Shackleton, and the Symphony
          Society of New York.  

2    F40  1917 Aug-Oct
          Includes correspondence regarding the Newman
          Traveltalks, the Girard Phonograph Company, the
          comedian Harry Lauder, and the Pennsylvania Anti-Saloon

     F41  1917 Nov-Dec
          Includes correspondence regarding the National League
          for Woman's Service, the Newman Traveltalks, and
          William Howard Taft's League to Enforce Peace.  

     F42  1918 Jan-Mar
          Includes correspondence regarding the University of
          Pennsylvania commencement, the Philadelphia Orchestra,
          Newman Traveltalks, and the San Carlo Grand Opera

     F43  1918 Apr-Jul
          Includes correspondence related to William H. Taft's
          League to Enforce Peace, The Metropolitan Music Bureau,
          and the Newman Traveltalks.

     F44  1918 Aug-Dec
          Included is correspondence related to the Newman 
          Traveltalks, and the Pennsylvania Council of National
          Defense and committee of Public Safety.

3    F45  1919 Jan-Apr
          Included is correspondence related to the Newman
          Traveltalks, and the National War Savings Committee.  

     F46  1919 May-Aug
          Includes correspondence related to the Newman
          Traveltalks, the J. B. Pond Lyceum Bureau, and the
          Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.  

     F47  1919 Sept-Dec
          Includes correspondence related to the Colored Masonic
          Hall Association, the Solo Harpist Francis J. Lapitina,
          and the Newman Traveltalks.

     F48  1920, 1925-1926, n.d.
          Includes correspondence related to the World Conference
          on Christian Fundamentals, the Boy Scouts, and the
          World Conference on Narcotic Education.

          Series II.4.  Patron correspondence
               This correspondence preserves inquiries concerning
               lost articles, requests for performance dates and

     F49  1896-1897, 1901-1907

     F50  1908-1910

     F51  1911-1920, n.d.

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