Guide to the Edwin T. Booth Papers 1860-1874
Cage 587

Summary Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries
Booth, Edwin T.
Edwin T. Booth Papers
Cage 587
Date [inclusive]
26.0 items.
General Physical Description note
2 linear feet of shelf space.
Records of Booth's Theatre, New York, chiefly financial. Manuscripts of plays and prompt books with handwritten notes; correspondence.

Preferred Citation note

[Item Description]. Cage 587, Edwin T. Booth Papers. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

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Biographical/Historical note

Edwin Thomas Booth (1833-1893) was born to the stage. His father, Junius Brutus Booth, was of a notable English theatre family and well established both in America and Europe. Thus, Edwin Booth not surprisingly became the first American actor to win European acclaim. Edwin Booth toured with his father's company and gained a world-wide reputation as a tragedian actor. He managed the Winter Garden Theatre in New York from 1863 to 1867 where in 1864 he played 100 consecutive performances of Hamlet. In 1864, Edwin Booth and his brothers, John Wilkes (President Lincoln's assassin) and Junius Brutus, performed in Julius Caesar together --- the only combined performances of their careers.

Edwin T. Booth built his own theatre following the destruction by fire of the Winter Garden Theatre in 1867. He established the theatre as a national playhouse for poetic drama, opening in 1869 with Romeo and Juliet. Unfortunately, the theatre was on the very edge of the theatre district; poor location and poor financial management combined to force the theatre into bankruptcy in 1873. Despite the failure of his theatre, Edwin Booth continued to tour as an internationally respected and successful actor. He became the first president of the Players Club after donating his house to the club in 1888. He lived there until his death in 1893.

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Arrangement note

The materials contained in this collection fall into three series: financial records, correspondence, and prompt books.

The financial records are arranged chronologically from 1869-1874, although a volume of cash disbursement records for the period May through December of 1869 is missing. The series includes five volumes of cash disbursement records and one receipts journal. The cash disbursement volumes contain daily entries and show titles written by theatre manager W. H. Magonigle or by Edwin T. Booth's brother Joseph. The receipts journal contains several hundred daily entries by Joseph A. Booth during the last year the theatre was in business.

The correspondence series contains two signed letters by Edwin T. Booth. The first, dated February 9, 1860, was written to Gideon H. Hollister, a well-known lawyer and author. It concerns the writing and staging of Hollister's play, Thomas a Becket, of which Booth owned the acting copyright and once produced on stage. The second letter was written to J.M. Leavitt of New Jersey, dated June 30, 1869. This letter contains Booth's response to Leavitt's request for advice on how to write a successful play.

The third series contains 13 manuscripts of prompt books and play scripts for 11 plays performed by members of the Booth family. Some of the plays were performed in the Booth Theatre. The manuscripts contain numerous scene sketches, blocking notes, stage setting sketches and stage directions as well as character and script changes. Signatures and notes of Agnes Booth, wife of Junius B. Booth Jr., and performer in both La Femme de Feu and Cleopatra, along with those of her son, Sydney, appear on many of the scripts and prompt books.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries © 1992
Terrell Library
P.O. Box 645610
Pullman, WA, 99164-5610

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research use.

Custodial History note

Golden Legend, a rare books dealer in California, had acquired this material from Mr. Franklin Lenthall, a private collector. The prompt books and scripts originally belonged to Elizabeth Barton Booth, granddaughter of Junius Brutus Booth Jr (Edwin T. Booth's brother) before they were purchased by Golden Legend.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

This collection of theatre records, receipt books, handwritten prompt books, scripts, and correspondence of actor Edwin T. Booth, his family and the Booth Theatre in New York, 1860 through 1874, was purchsed by the Washington State University Libraries in 1990 and 1991 (MS90-71 and MS91-35) from Golden Legend.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Booth's Theatre

Family Name(s)

  • Booth family

Personal Name(s)

  • Booth, Edwin, 1833-1893. --Archives
  • Booth, Junius Brutus, 1821-1883


  • Performing Arts
  • Theater--New York (State)--New York--Records and correspondence

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Collection Inventory

Financial Records 


Collection histories and descriptions 

1 / A

Cash Dispersal Record Books, vols.1-4 1869-1873 

1 / 1

Cash Dispersal Record Books, vol. 5 1873 

1 / 2

Cash Receipts Journal, Sept.1, 1873- May 30, 1874 

1 / 3

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Edwin T. Booth Letter to Hollister, Gideon H. 4 p; Feb.9, 1860   1.0 item.

1 / 4

Edwin T. Booth Letter to Leavitt, J.M., Rev. 6 p. June 30, 1869   1.0 item.

1 / 4

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Prompt Books and Scripts 


Manuscript of The Enchantress (another version of  Elena) 

1 / 5

Manuscript of One Hundred Years Old, Acts 1-3 

1 / 6

Manuscript of One Hundred Years Old, Acts 4-5 

1 / 7

Manuscript of La Femme de Feu (a second 4 act version in French) 

2 / 8

Manuscript of Kinght of Arra 

2 / 9

Manuscript of Arra 

2 / 10

Manuscript of Cleopatra 

2 / 11

King Jo n script with handwritten notes 

2 / 12

Manuscript of La Femme de Feu, Acts 1-3 

3 / 13

Manuscript of La Femme de Feu, Acts 4-6 and Music Score. 

3 / 14

Manuscript of Elena, Acts 1-4 and Music Score 

3 / 15

Elene Music Score 

3 / 16

Manuscript of On Earth Peace; Prompt book for part of  Little Ray Armstrong; Prompt book for part of  Lieutenant Woodbury 

3 / 17

Manuscript of The Plebian 

3 / 18

Manuscript of Act 3 of Leah 

3 / 19

Printed Script of Memmon 

3 / 20

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