University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Philadelphia Theatrical
Papers

1877 - 1943

(bulk dates 1890s - 1920s)

Manuscript Collection Number: 205
Accessioned: Gift of the Moyerman Family, 1972
Extent: 1 linear ft.
Content: Correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, advertisements, programs, playbills,
financial documents, ledgers, obituaries, contracts, broadsides, postcards, scrapbooks, autographs, and telegrams
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Lori Bridgers, 1989; revised by Sally W. Donatello, January 2002

for reference assistance email Special Collections
or contact:

Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229


Table of Contents


Historical and Biographical Note

The Philadelphia Theatrical Papers cover an expansive period in the history of the theater in America—the end of the nineteenth century and into the early decades of the twentieth century. Throughout the nineteenth century, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was the home of numerous playhouses, opera houses, and other performing arts spaces. As touring companies increased, so did the accessibility of popular entertainment. By the turn of the twentieth century, musical comedy, operetta, and revue became the focus of theatrical performances.

In 1896 the creation of the Theatrical Syndicate catapulted the business of theatrical management into a new level of monopoly and profit. The six founders of this group were Charles Frohman (1860-1915), Samuel F. Nixon (1877?-1931, born Nirdlinger), J. Fred Zimmerman (1843-1925), Alf Hayman (1866-1921), Marc Klaw (1858-1936), and Abraham L. Erlanger (1860-1930). The goal of the Syndicate was to book the best theaters throughout the country and charge fees to contract the productions. It centralized the industry to accommodate the flourish of road companies at the time. By the 1900s they managed nearly seven hundred first-class theaters. In Philadelphia the Shubert brothers—Lee (1875?-1953), Sam S. (1877?-1905), and Jacob J. (1879-1963)—became the Syndicate’s rival. Even though the Shubert Theatre Corporation in the early 1920s became more powerful than the Syndicate, the development of the film industry and the reduction of touring companies precipitated the demise of these monopolistic agencies.

Many of the productions and theaters named in the collection are part of a rich American theatrical history. Philadelphia’s Broad Street Theatre, The Forrest, Chestnut Street Opera House, and the Academy of Music are a few of the theaters that were part of the growth of the popular entertainment industry.

Businessmen associated with this period are exemplified by the management team of Nixon & Zimmerman, who were involved with many of the major performing arts houses in the United States, including Apollo Theatre in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Ford’s Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland; Columbia Theatre in Washington, D.C. Lyceum Theatre in New York, New York; Broad Street Theatre, Chestnut Street Theatre, Garrick Theatre, the Lyric, Grand Opera House, and Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thomas M. Love, who worked with Nixon & Zimmerman at the Forrest Theatre, was a well-known business manager and was also involved in the escalation of popular entertainment.

Samuel F. (Nirdlinger) Nixon was a major figure in the development of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American theatrical history. Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father and uncle were clothiers, Sammy Nirdlinger began working in show business at an early age. He later became known as Samuel F. Nixon. His business partner was J. Fred Zimmerman.

J. Fred Zimmerman, who had been the treasurer of the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., and the Olympic Theatre in New York, was a well-known advance agent in the business. He and Samuel F. Nixon created a thriving theatrical business in the nineteenth century. After the demise of the Theatrical Syndicate, Zimmerman organized and managed the Orpheum Players. By 1922 when it was clear that they could not compete with their rival the Mae Desmond Players, they folded. During this time Zimmerman also owned Philadelphia’s Keystone, Liberty, and Fairmount Theatres. In 1924 he retired from the theatrical business.

Sources:

Sources: Durham, Weldon B. American Theatre Companies, 1888-1930. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1987.

Hornblow, Arthur. A History of the Theatre in America, Vol. II, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1919.

Londré, Felicia Hardison and Daniel J. Watermeier. The History of North American Theater. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998.

Wilson, Garff B. Three Hundred Years of American Drama and Theatre from Ye Bear and Ye Cubb to Hair. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1973.


Scope and Content Note

The Philadelphia Theatrical Papers, spanning the dates of 1877–1943 (bulk dates 1890s–1920s), contains correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, advertisements, programs, playbills, financial documents, ledgers, obituaries, postcards, contracts, broadsides, scrapbooks, and telegrams. The papers cover a particularly important period in the theatrical history of America. During this time the rise and fall of monopolistic management and production agencies as well as the expansion of touring companies were impetuses for the success of theatrical businesses such as Nixon & Zimmerman. A majority of the papers in the collection are about their company, which was a successful innovator in Philadelphia, the region, and the country in the decades around the turn of the twentieth century. Although the focus is Philadelphia, the papers include numerous documents and printed material about the business of theater throughout the United States. It is not known who collected or compiled this material.

The collection, which is housed in three boxes, is arranged in three series. Series I is Theatrical Management and Theaters, 1877-1920, which includes documents about the Forrest Theatre, the theatrical manager Thomas M. Love, the partnership of Nixon and Zimmerman, expenses from various theatrical companies that are listed in a Record Book, and the Walnut Street Theatre. Series II is Programs, which covers the years 1877-1943, and includes memorabilia about the Broad Street Theatre (from 1907-1921), the Metropolitan Opera House (from 1913-1916), and a Miscellaneous file. Series III is Scrapbooks, two volumes that cover the years 1897-1914.

Philadelphia Theatrical Papers is filled with correspondence on stationery with striking letterheads and logos of the various theatrical agencies, companies, and performing arts houses. For example, Nixon & Zimmerman had numerous letterheads for different theatres that they managed. Examples can be found in Box 1, Folder 7 where Nixon & Zimmerman’s names appeared on a variety of stationery. Several kinds of letterhead—from simple to fancy—represent a hotel, theatrical agencies, a touring company, and an opera company (Box 1, Folder 2-3). Box 1, folder 17 contains letterhead with the large and colorful logo for the famous cartoon characters known as the Katzenjammer Kids.

The collection has the correspondence and financial papers of some of the major businessmen in theatrical management during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Beside Nixon & Zimmerman, familiar names in this business arena were the Nirdlingers, the Frohmans, and the Shuberts. Numerous actors and actresses as well behind-the- scenes personalities are found too: Otis Skinner, Sarah Bernhardt, Robert Downing, Ethel Barrymore, Eddie Foy, George M. Cohan, F. Ziegfeld, Jr., Enrico Caruso, and Boris Karloff are but a few mentioned in the papers.

The advertisements and programs for musicals, operas, plays, and revues are a rich part of the collection too. The following productions exemplify the diversity of entertainment at the time: “Trial by Jury,” “The Mikado,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Aida,” Ziegfeld Follies,” “The Talk of New York,” “The American Idea,” “Rigoletto,” and “The Merry Widow.” Many of these productions began in New York City, and then traveled throughout the country with Philadelphia as a key location along the road.

The scrapbooks are filled with clippings from theatrical programs. They represent the increase in popular theater and the wealth of entertainment that was found in Center City Philadelphia at the turn of the twentieth century.

Related Collection:

Ms 431 Frederick G. Nixon-Nirdlinger Scrapbook


Series List

I.   Theatrical Management and Theaters, 1877-1920

     A.   Forrest Theatre, 1908

     B.   Thomas M. Love, 1892-1928
     
     C.   Nixon and Zimmerman, 1877-1915

     D.   Record Book, 1894-1899
     
     E.   Walnut Street Theatre, 1982-1920
	

II.  Programs, 1877-1943

     A.   Broad Street Theatre, 1907-1921
     
     B.   Metropolitan Opera House, 1913-1916
 
     C.   Miscellaneous Broadsides, and Other Printed Materials,
          1877-1943


III. Scrapbooks, 1897-1914
    
    
          

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents


          I.  Theatrical Management and Theaters, 1877-1920
          
          I.  A.  Forrest Theatre, 1908
1    F1   Forrest Theatre, 1908 (some with n.d.)
          Contains correspondence and a postcard, which
          opens up into an announcement for the musical
          “Have a Heart” with music by Jerome Kern

          I.  B.  Thomas M. Love, 1892-1928
     F2   Documents, 1898-1928
          Contains correspondence, announcements, an
          invitation, and postcards. Content includes a
          memorandum from Lyman H. Howe’s Moving Pictures; a
          letter from The American Musician and Art Journal;
          a letter from the Committee on Public
          Information’s Division of Films; and a letter from
          the Publicity Department of Mr. Oscar
          Hammerstein’s “Naughty Marietta,” Apollo Theatre
          in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
          
          I.  C.  Nixon & Zimmerman, 1877-1915
     F3   Correspondence, 1892-1893
          Contains letters between J.C. Duff, manager of the
          Duff Opera Company, Chicago, Illinois, and those
          associated with the Nixon & Zimmerman management
          team.

     F4   Correspondence, 1896
          Contains letters between James F. Dean, Harris
          Academy, Baltimore, Maryland, and Nixon &
          Zimmerman; dated from January 5-April 16, 1896.

     F5   Correspondence, 1894-1897

     F6   Documents, 1897-1899
          Contains correspondence, blank checks, and a
          program

     F7   Financial Documents, 1901-1903
          Contains contracts for productions at different
          theatres in Philadelphia; also includes a bill of
          sale

     F8   Correspondence, 1906-1907
          Content includes two letters from “The Great
          Herrman,” who was billed as the “World’s Greatest
          Hypnotic Expert,” with an elaborate letterhead,
          which includes a photograph of Herrman with the
          devil on his shoulder, dated October 20, 1906,
          Wilmington, Delaware; and a letter about the
          “Great German Dialect Comedian, Al. H. (Metz)
          Wilson, dated February 14, 1907, with a photograph
          of the entertainer.

1    F9   Documents, 1907
          Contains correspondence and a photograph; content
          includes several
          large letterheads, some in more than one color.

     F10  Correspondence, 1908

     F11  Correspondence, 1909-ca. 1920s
          Contains letters, a photograph, and a ledger; the
          black-and-white photograph shows the front of
          “Nixon’s Apollo” Theatre with advertisement for
          “Ziegfeld Follies” with F. Ziegfeld, Jr. and
          Joseph Urban of Vienna (scenic artist for the
          follies) standing by a large poster about the
          Follies.  Also included is a ledger for the
          Orpheum Players (Orpheum Theatre), Chestnut Street
          Opera House, Empire Theatre, Walnut Street
          Theatre, and American Theatre.

     F12  Correspondence, 1877-ca. 1910
          Contains letters, a broadside, business card, a
          photograph; a printed card.  A black-and-white
          photograph shows eight men and a woman standing in
          front of Nixon’s Apollo Theatre in Atlantic City,
          New Jersey.

          I.  D.  Record Book, 1894-1899
     F13  Financial records for various theatrical companies
     
          I. E. Walnut Street Theatre, 1892-1920
     F14  Broadsides and Correspondence, 1892-1919

     F15  Financial Documents, 1903-1914
          Contains contracts, ledgers, and other financial
          documents

     F16  Contracts, 1918-1920

     F17  Documents, 1919-1920
          Contains correspondence, advertisements, photocopy
          of magazine article, and a mock-up for an
          advertisement; contains correspondence with
          letterhead that advertises Robert Downing in a
          revival of “Ten Nights in a Bar”; and a letterhead
          advertising “the World’s Famous Minstrel
          Organization, Gus Hill’s Minstrels.”  Also
          contains a letter with a large letterhead that
          advertises “The Original Katzenjammer Kids” along
          with a mock-up of an advertisement for a 3:00 p.m.
          children’s matinee for their “big fun show.”


2         II.  Programs, 1907-1921
          Contains a small variety of broadsides, leaflets,
          and playbills from productions.

          II. A.  Broad Street Theatre, 1907-1921
     F18  Plays and Players, 1918
          Contains two copies of playbills from the week of
          January 7 and January 14, 1918, with Samuel F.
          Nixon as managing director and Frank Nirdlinger as
          business manager of the Broad Street Theatre.

     F19  Various Programs, ca. 1921
          Contains one copy of the December 5, 1921, issue
          of Plays and Players about “Blood and Sand,” a
          play with Otis Skinner, as well as a broadside
          about this play and actor; the same broadside
          announces the play “Declassée” with Ethel
          Barrymore.  There is a small leaflet about
          Barrymore and the play.  Other leaflets included
          are about Ruth Chatterton in “Come Out of the
          Kitchen,’ and two copies of the play “Hamilton”
          with George Arliss.

     F20  Two Programs, 1907-1918
          Contains Plays and Players from February 11, 1918,
          and a copy of The Savoy, dated May 16, 17, and 18,
          1907.

     F21  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1912-1913
          Season
          Includes “Manon” and “Lohengrin”

     F22  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1912-1913
          Season
          Includes “La Traviata” and “Tosca”

     F23  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1912-1913
          Season
          Includes “Die Walkuere” and “La Boheme”

     F24  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1912-1913
          Season
          Includes “The Jewels of the Madonna” and “Le Ranz
          des Vaches”
          
     F25  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1912-1913
          Season
          Includes “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” and “The
          Huguenots”

     F26  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1913-1914
          Season
          Includes “Manon” and “Aida”

     F27  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1913-1914
          Season
          Includes “Faust” and “Don Giovanni”

     F28  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1913-1914
          Season
          Includes “Hamlet” and “Rigoletto”

          II. A.  Broad Street Theatre, 1907-1921 (cont’d)

2    F29  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1913-1914
          Season
          Includes “Madeleine, “Pagliacci,” and “Andrea
          Chenier”

     F30  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1913-1914
          Season
          Includes “Madame Butterfly” and “Andrea Chenier”

     F31  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1916-1917
          Season
          Includes “Prince Igor” and “Samson et Dalila”

     F32  Metropolitan Opera House, Philadelphia, 1916-1917
          Season
          Includes “Lohengrin” and “Il Trovatore”

         Series II.  C. Miscellaneous Broadsides, Programs,
          and Other Printed Material, 1877-1943

3    F33  Printed Material, 1881-1921
          Includes a small brochure about the by-laws of the
          Theatrical Managers Association, Philadelphia; a
          program for the American Theatre, dated September
          18, 1911; a program from the Arch St. Opera House
          about a production of “Patience”; a program from
          the Astor Theatre; two Smileage book coupons,
          which gave soldiers free admittance to theatrical
          productions that came to National Army and
          National Guard camps; a program from the Forrest
          Theatre advertising “The Broadway Whirl of 1921”;
          a program from the George Theatre; and four
          broadsides from the Girard Avenue Theatre.

     F34  Printed Material, 1877-1943
          Includes a program about the comedy “Arsenic and
          Old Lace,” with Boris Karloff, which ran at the
          Locust Street Theatre on September 20, 1943; a
          program from The Grand Opera House, dated October
          17, 1910; a broadside from the Imperial Theatre,
          dated July 8, 1915; a small envelope from the
          Lyric Theatre, which listed Sam S. and Lee Shubert
          as managers; a program from the Mammoth Theatre;
          an advertisement about picture shows held at the
          Mammoth Theatre; a broadside advertising “Hamlet”
          at the Museum Theatre;  a card advertising Audrey
          Munson in “Purity,” which was held at the Poplar
          Theatre; and two programs about concerts, which
          were held at the Philadelphia Musical Academy and
          Willow Grove Park.

3         III.  Scrapbooks, 1897-1914
          There are two scrapbooks, which are filled with
          program clippings about theater at the end of the
          nineteenth and into the second decades of the
          twentieth century.  One is an unbound scrapbook,
          which includes clippings from theatrical programs
          in Philadelphia and other locations in the United
          States, dated 1904-1910.  The other one is a green-
          bound scrapbook that also contains clippings from
          theatrical programs; most are from center-city
          Philadelphia, but some are from other locations.
          There are occasional handwritten comments on the
          clippings, and there are some loose items.  The
          programs cover opera, plays, musicals, concerts,
          and revues.  For example, the green-bound
          scrapbook has a clipping from a  production of
          George M. Cohan’s musical play, “The Yankee
          Prince,” which was held at the Mason Opera House
          in Los Angeles, California between November 22 and
          November 27, 1909. Also Enrico Caruso sang in “La
          Boheme” on December 3, 1912 at the Metropolitan
          Opera Company of New York City.
       


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