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Samuel French Company Theater Collection

 Collection
Identifier: MA.01009

Abstract

The Samuel French Company Theater Collection is more than four hundred and fifty linear feet of material including thousands of plays and publications, photographs, costume design illustrations, theatrical ephemera, and documentation of the Samuel French Corporation’s business transactions dating back to the mid 1800’s.

Dates

  • 1794-2012
  • Majority of material found within 1840-2012

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to materials created before 2012 in the Samuel French Company Theater Collection for research use. Materials created after 2012 are largely restricted and permission must be sought for research use. Throughout the collection, particularly fragile items might be restricted for preservation purposes.

All requests for materials from this collection must be made in advance. Contact archives@amherst.edu to arrange access.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the Samuel French Company Theater Collection should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

The History of Samuel French as Publisher

After working with various publishing concerns in New York, Samuel French set out on his own and began to produce “French’s American Drama” in 1854. The ensuing popularity of French’s catalog spurred an expansion of business--including the acquisition of Thomas Hailes Lacy’s London-based dramatic publishing company--that helped establish the Samuel French Company as one of the most prominent international theatrical publishing houses in existence. The publication of thousands of different plays, particularly those in the widely-available French's Standard Drama and French's Minor Drama series, made theatre accessible to individuals and communities all over the world. The French Company’s involvement with the development of international copyright law, their widespread marketing of scripts, and their encouragement of amateur theatrical productions all contributed to a well-respected and longstanding presence in the publishing field. Over one hundred and fifty years after being founded, the Samuel French Company continues to make thousands of plays and musicals available to performers, directors, scholars, and theatrical enthusiasts.

Extent

463 Linear feet

Language of Materials

English

Arrangement

Each series is arranged in its own way related to issues of provenance, original order, prior archival work, and logic. Refer to series level arrangement notes for more information.

This collection is organized into fourteen series:
  1. Series 1: Business Records
  2. Series 2: 18th-21st Century Mass-Market Published Plays
  3. Series 3: Augustin Daly Publications
  4. Series 4: Manuscripts, Playscripts, Galley Proofs, and Related Notes
  5. Series 5: Bound Volumes
  6. Series 6: Theatrical Sides
  7. Series 7: Theatrical Programs
  8. Series 8: Theatre Scrapbooks
  9. Series 9: Scores and Orchestral Parts
  10. Series 10: Sheet Music, Instruction Books, and Related Materials
  11. Series 11: Magazines, Periodicals, Journals, and Newsletters
  12. Series 12: Catalogs
  13. Series 13: Visual Materials
  14. Series 14: Media

Custodial History

M. Abbott Van Nostrand Brings Samuel French Materials to Amherst College
Shortly after graduating from Amherst College in 1934, M. Abbott Van Nostrand (1911-1995) started working in the mailroom at the Samuel French company. He quickly rose through the ranks and eventually presided as the company’s president from 1952 until his retirement in 1990. Knowing the immense value of his corporation’s history and output, Van Nostrand approached his alma mater in 1964, offering an initial gift of Samuel French records and publications to the Amherst College Library. Over the next fifty years, the library accepted more than four hundred and fifty linear feet of unprocessed material including thousands of plays and publications, photographs, costume design illustrations, theatrical ephemera, and documentation of the Samuel French Corporation’s business transactions dating back to the mid 1800’s.

Physical Condition

Materials in this collection are in varying states of stability with a great deal of highly acidic and crumbling paper, loose papers, broken spines/fragile bindings, and the like. Delicacy and care are required to handle these materials. Access should be granted cautiously and researchers thoroughly advised about how best to work with fragile items.

Processing Information

Processed by Rosemary K. J. Davis (Samuel French Collection Processing Archivist); Flavia Martinez (Assistant); Omotara Oluwafemi (Assistant)

The processing of the Samuel French Company Theater Collection is on going. Contact the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections for the most current status of the processing.

Creator

Source

Status
In Progress
Author
Rosemary K. J. Davis
Date
July 2014-August 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299