Curtis Theatre Collection
363 Hillman Library
3960 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
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Enright Theatre in East Liberty, Inaugural program, December 28th, 1928
Books, Acting Editions, and Periodicals
Books and Acting Editions
The Curtis Theatre Collection houses some 1300 volumes on theatre, including works on history and theory as well as practical treaties on stagecraft and makeup. Many of the books are rare or early editions, such as the 1919 edition of David Belasco's Theatre Through its Stage Door, a copy of the Rose Tattoo inscribed by Tennessee WIlliams "to the Curtis Theatre Collection, with my thanks", or specialized titles like Sarah Bernhardt Vue par Les Nadar, a French book of portraits of Bernhardt by Nadar, the era's eminent photographer. There are over 7000 acting editions in the colleciton.
There is a small collection of journals in Curtis. Most of the titles are valuable and/or unique. We have a near complete run of Theatre Magazine, which was the preeminent theatre journal of the early twentieth century. We also have current subscriptions to the London journal Theatre Record, Playbill, and Marquee.
All books and journals in the Curtis Collection are indexed in PITTCAT+ and have standard Library of Congress call numbers. The only exception to this is that the first half of the acting editions collection is not in PITTCAT+. There is an index (by both title and author) to the first 5000 available in the Reading Room and at the Hillman Reference Desk. Curtis books, like all materials in Special Collections, do not circulate, and must be used in the Special Collections Reading Room.
The majority of visual material in the Curtis Collection is divided into two major categories : photos and posters. There are nearly 20,000 photographs and over 450 posters available. Researchers in costuming and set design, theatre historians, and film buffs will all find the Curtis visual collections a valuable tool.
The photgraphs of the Curtis Collection are a wide-ranging and diverse group. Early theatre legends such as Elanora Duse and Ellen Terry can be found, as well as modern local performers from the Pittsburgh Public Theatre, University of Pittsburgh, and Gargaro Productions. The theatrical history of Pittsburgh is represented with photos of Pittsburgh's classic theatres; the Alvin, the Nixon, and others in their heyday. Television and film stars are also present in the collection; from Ralph Fiennes to an autographed portrait of Mary Pickford and a negligee-clad Ava Gardner.
Many photos in the collection were donated by area newspapers. The defunct Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph in particular contributed many old publicity stills. As such, some photographs still have their original accompanying press-releases attached, or may still have copy-editors marks on them. The remainder were gifts from indivduals, or other institutions, such as the New York Public Library.
Many of the posters in the Curtis Collection are of local origin, with nearly 200 from University of Pittsburgh productions, and dozens from area groups such as the Pittsburgh Savoyards and Pittsburgh Public Theatre. There are also posters from festivals such as Canada's annual Shaw Festival, touring companies, films, and entertainers.
Visual materials are not indexed on Pittcat+, or in the Curtis Inventory. They are indexed in a card catalog in the Special Collections Department. To inquire about photos, come to the Special Collections Reading Room and the staff will be happy to help you find what you need. Or contact the Curtis curator by email or phone. Photos may not be taken out of the Special Collections Reading Room. Reproduction services are available here via the Archives Service Center and the Digital Resource Library.
The scrapooks in the Curtis Collection are excellent resources, not only for theatrical facts, but also for providing wonderful snapshots of life at the time of their composition. Although a few of our scrapbook sets were compiled by serious theatre buffs with an eye towards future research, the majority were simply created as a hobby. In addition to theatre programs and star photos, the scrapbooks may contain ticket stubs, ads, newspaper clippings, autographs, postcards, and other paraphenalia. No two scrapbooks are alike, and each is a unique reflection of its creator.
Because of the unorganized nature of most of our scrapbooks, it is generally recommended to call or email the Curtis curator before your visit to give an idea of the scrapbooks/topics you are interested in. This will allow us to locate and pull scrapbooks in advance and makes for a much more efficient trip. Most of the scrapbooks are in very poor physical condition. We ask that you take extra care when working with scrapbooks. Book cradles and gloves are available from the Reading Room staff. Also, all photocopying must be done by our staff.
Little is known of the compilers and/or donors of the scrapbooks and nearly all the scrapbooks are not cataloged or indexed. The unindexed scrapbook groups are arranged in categories as indicated below:
Name of Compiler (when known)
Scrapbooks in this category generally date from the late 1800's and can contain materials from as recent as 1960. Most contain chiefly programs and clippings from shows in various cities.
These are scrapbooks of material exclusively from one city or theatre. The majority cover New York, Pittsburgh, and Boston. There are several sets of volumes devoted to Pittsburgh's Nixon, Alvin, and Harris theatres.
Scrapbooks chronicling the careers of favorite performers make up a smaller portion of the collection. The most valuable of these is a single scrapbook devoted to turn-of-the-century stage star and celebrated beauty, Lillian Russell. Also present are scrapbooks on Katherine Cornell, the Barrymores, and Chester Morris, among others.
Indexed Scrapbook Collections
The scrapbook collections of Oliver P. Merriman and Harold B. Barth are the only indexed sets of scrapbooks in the Curtis Collections and, as such, are invaluable research tools. Much of the material contained in these books can be found no where else. Most of the organization and indexing of these collections was carried out by Mrs. Merriman and Barth themselves, and we have tried to maintain their original organizational schemes wherever possible. The inventories for these collections can be found in the Curtis Inventory binder, housed in the Special Collections Reading Room. Also, there is the cross-referenced, exhaustive Comprehensive Index to the Merriman Scrapbook Collection of Materials on Pittsburgh and New York Theatre.
Consists of chiefly programs and related clippings. Covers the period from 1905-1967. 41 total volumes. Most programs are from Pittsburgh or various Ohio theatres. Mr. Barth organized his scrapbooks by subject. Some major subjects represented are: Drama, Musicals, Vaudeville, Motion Pictures, Magic, Minstrels, and Shakespeare.
Consists of programs, photos, and clippings. Covers the period from 1865-1942. 140 volumes, currently unbound and housed in document cases. Scrapbooks are organized alphabetically and then divided into various subject headings, chiefly Performers and Plays. About 90% of the material is devoted to Pittsburgh theatre, with most of the rest to New York. However, the scrapbooks contain much valuable information ( photos, obits, ads,etc.) for many of the nationally popular performers of the time.
The Program collection is the single largest material group in the Curtis Collection, with over 500,000 programs. None of the programs are indexed on Pittcat+ and must be used in the Reading Room. Programs are divided into the following major categories:
The New York programs are chiefly from Broadway shows, although there is a section of Off-Broadway programs as well. Programs date from 1857 to the present. In recent years, the Curtis Collection has had a subscription with Playbill, the program publishing company of the Broadway stage; opening night programs for new Broadway shows are sent directly to us.
NY Broadway programs are arranged by the opening night date of the play. When requesting a NY program for a specific play, you will need to have at least a general idea of when the play ran. If you do not know the date, the Curtis curator or the Hillman Reference Dept.can help you, or go to the Internet Broadway Database, and search by production title. Off-Broadway programs are arranged by date and theatre name. Again, we will be able to locate programs much more quickly if you know this information beforehand. Off-Broadway production information can be located at the Internet Off-Boradway Database.
The collection of Pittsburgh programs in Curtis is unsurpassed, with programs dating from the 1850s to the present day. Below is a list of the theatres or production groups from which we have sizeable numbers of programs:
Academy of Music
Apple Hill Playhouse
Carnegie Mellon U.
Carnegie Music Hall
Civic Light Opera
City Theatre Co.
Fine Line Productions
Grand Opera House
Harris' Mammoth Museum
Harry Williams Academy
Indiana University of PA
Jewish Community Center
Laurel Highlands Regional Theatre
Little Lake Theatre Co.
McKeesport Little Theatre
Mercantile Library Hall
New Group Theatre
Old City Hall
Performing Arts for Children
Pittsburgh International Children's Festival
Pittsburgh Laboratory Theatre
Pittsburgh Metro Stage Company
Pittsburgh Musical Theatre
Pittsburgh New Works Festival
Pittsburgh Opera House
Pittsburgh Public Theatre
Red Barn Theatre
Robert Morris College
Sherwood Forest Theatre
South Park Conservatory Theatre
White Barn Theatre
William Penn Playhouse
The above are our major groups, but we also have smaller quantities of programs from many other local theatres. Pittsburgh Programs are NOT indexed on PITTCAT+ or in the Curtis Card Catalog. Pittsburgh Programs are arranged by theatre name, and date. If you are interested in a program from a specific play, you will need to have a general idea of when or where it played.
Other Program Collections
These are programs from places other than New York and Pittsburgh. Included are various U.S. cities and states, and a small number of programs from other countries. Of the U.S. locations, Boston is best represented while England is the best represented foreign country. Also included in this category are programs from various colleges and universities. The program collections from these areas are not nearly as thorough as the New York and Pittsburgh collections.
The Curtis Collection also maintains a small group of programs from theatre festivals, both American and international. Shakespeare festivals are especially well represented. Festival holdings are strongest for the annual Shakespeare festival in Stratford, Ontario and the Shaw Festival, also in Canada.
Souvenir programs are the large, collectible programs, often filled with glossy pictures and star biographies, that one could purchase at plays or films (as opposed to the small, standard programs that were given out for free). Curtis has an excellent collection of these treasures from plays, musicals, dance, and film. There are souvenir programs from both the Sarah Bernhardt and Maude Adams performances of L'Aglion, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, Gone With the Wind, Cats, and a keepsake program saluting the career of Boris Karloff, to name a few.
Souvenir Programs are not indexed in PITTCAT+, but are in the Curtis Card Catalog. Souvenir Programs are arranged by the title of the play or film, and some are also accessible via the names of the star performers. Souvenir Programs do not circulate, and must be used in the Special Collections Reading Room.
Archival Record Groups
The following are the archival collections of the Curtis Theatre Collection. They come from production companies, individuals, families, and scholars. Each collection has its own detailed inventory which can be accessed in the Special Collections Reading Room.
Ralph G. Allen Burlesque Collection, ca. 1905-1962.
George M. P. Baird Papers, ca. 1915-1960.
Barbara Bogart and Anthony LoCicero Papers, 1946-1970.
Don Brockett Papers, 1930-1998.
Harvey J. Burgess Papers, 1903-1934.
Cap and Gown Club Papers, 1908-1978.
City Theatre Company Records, 1973-1991.
Adrienne Keriotis Dickos Papers, 1986-1989.
Carol Doherty Papers, 1983-1992.
Philip Hart Dunning Papers, 1915-1968.
Michael Ellis Papers, 1937-1985.
"Four Evans" Family Papers, 1908-1989.
Federal Theatre Project Records, 1935-1939.
Fulton Theater Records, 1934-1963.
Peter Gregg Papers, 1937-1995.
Ironclad Agreement Records, 1975-1985.
Kenyon Family Papers, 1909-1972.
Abe Laufe Papers, 1937-1980.
Lovelace Marionette Theatre Records, 1952-1984.
McHugh Family Papers, 1909-1930.
99cent Floating Theatre Company Records, 1971-1981.
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Records, 1975-2000.
Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival Records, 1980-1994.
Pitt Players Records, 1914-1961.
Pittsburgh Playhouse School of the Theater Records, 1934-1973.
Pittsburgh Savoyards Records, 1939-1975.
Mildred Miller Posvar Papers, 1939-2008.
Radovic Collection of Pittsburgh Programs, 1927-1931
G. Norman Reis Papers, 1909-1946.
Joseph Riggs Collection relating to Kaspar Monahan, 1927-1988
Arthur Row Collection relating to Sarah Bernhardt, 1913-1921.
J. Paul Sheetz Papers, 1953-1973.
Sherwood Forest Theatre Records, 1950-1995.
Edith Warman Skinner Papers, 1902-1981.
South Park Conservatory Theatre Records, 1974-1995.
Steel/City Production Records, 1974-1977.
Records of the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania's Pilot Survey of
Performing Arts Facilities in Pennsylvania Records, 1970-1972.
Theatre Survey Records, 1963-1979.
Records of the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival, 1979-1995.
Records of the University of Pittsburgh, Dept. of Theatre Arts, 1960-1999.
Burton White Papers, 1983-1994.
All of the above collections have detailed inventories of their contents collected in the Curtis Inventory binder. To view the inventory for a particular Curtis record group, come to the Special Collections Reading Room, and ask at the desk. Also, nearly all of the collections have electronic finding aids available. Use the search box at the bottom of the sidebar or use the advanced search here.