Scope and arrangement
The Townsend Walsh Papers cover the dates 1763-1935 with the bulk of the material falling between 1890 and 1935. The papers document the personal and professional life of Townsend Walsh (1872-1941) who was involved in many aspects of American theatre and circus life. The Townsend Walsh Papers are organized in ten series: Correspondence, Press Releases, Circus Manuscripts, Circus Writings and Notes, Writings and Notes on Theatrical and Miscellaneous Subjects, Walsh Family Correspondence and Documents, Business Papers, Collected Material, Clippings, and Printed Material. Because Walsh worked with many of the most prominent American actors, producers, and managers of his day, the collection is rich in information about this period of American theatrical history. The collection is particularly important because it contains valuable information about the working conditions, responsibilities, and salaries of theatrical press agents.
The correspondence (1890-1935) included in this collection is the best source of information about Walsh's work as a press agent. The correspondence, consisting almost entirely of letters written to Walsh, includes various types of information such as Walsh's itinerary on the road, financial details of advertising, casts lists, transportation arrangements, and financial figures for advertising costs. In addition the press releases written by Walsh for the theatre and circus complement the correspondence in any study of his career as a press agent. These press releases not only reveal the quality and range of Walsh's writing, but can also be used to research the publicity for particular plays. Researchers interested in Mrs. Fiske's work as an actress, for instance, will find Walsh's press releases on Becky Sharpe, Tess of the D'Ubervillesand Ghostsan important aid in studying these productions. Business documents such as cast lists, instructions too press agents, and route books are also part of Walsh's papers and add to the value of the collection in a study of the theatrical business world.
The correspondence is also the most valuable source of information about Walsh's personal life. Unfortunately, the letters do not contain much information about Walsh's family. There appears to be only one letter from a family member, Walsh's sister Esther, in the correspondence. However, the letters do reveal the strength of Walsh's many friendships and suggest much about his reputation as a lively, but loyal, friend. Walsh's enjoyment of socializing and drinking is also clear in the letters. Walsh seemed to cope with the tedium of the road by enjoying evenings with other press agents as well as various actors and actresses in different cities. The letters also reveal his lifelong interest in collecting material related to the circus and theatre. Letters from book and autograph dealers such as H. S. Renton indicate that he purchased theatrical material throughout his life. An examination of the list of prominent correspondents will suggest the wide range of friends and professional colleagues with whom Walsh corresponded.
Walsh's interest in theatre and circus history is evident in his own writings on these subjects as well as his collected materials. Walsh's two manuscripts on the circus King Clownand Love of the Circusappear to rely, in part, on Walsh's interviews with circus performers, and consequently, may be of value to scholars despite the fact that Walsh does not often cite sources. His notes on the circus and theatre should be examined in conjunction with his writings because sources are sometimes cited in the notes but not in the finished manuscripts. Several brief essays on nineteenth century American performers are among the most valuable of his writings on the theatre.
Other material collected by Walsh includes correspondence of theatrical and circus personalities. A list of correspondents from this group of letters will allow researchers to identify potentially interesting letters. Although less valuable to researchers, there is also a group of autograph signatures acquired by Walsh. This latter group is probably most valuable in revealing Walsh's collecting interests. In addition a group of letters of playwright Dion Boucicault and other Boucicault family members were collected by Walsh. These letters have been separated from the Townsend Walsh Papers and may be examined as part of the Boucicault Family Papers.
Because of the lack of information about Walsh's family in the correspondence, the few items included among the Walsh Family documents and correspondence are especially valuable. Of particular note is the horoscope done for Walsh in 1913 which appears to be the only place that his birth date is documented in this collection. In addition, family letters suggest some of the history of the Walsh family.
Although the newspaper clippings in this collection are not identified directly with Walsh, it is possible that some of these may be articles that he wrote; a good number of the articles concern the performers for whom Walsh did press work. A close examination of the press releases with some of the articles might reveal whether or not Walsh was the author of any of the articles. In any case, the clippings, like Walsh's other collected material, reveals his interest in particular performers and theatrical subjects.
Researchers interested in Townsend Walsh will want to consider two other sources of material in addition to the Townsend Walsh Papers. Correspondence between Walsh and John Quinn is included in John Quinn Memorial collection at New York Public Library. These letters are particularly important because they include approximately 30 letters written by Walsh. In addition, Quinn and Walsh appear to have been relatively close friends and, consequently, Walsh's letters are more revealing than they might be to a mere acquaintance. The letters in the Quinn collection are most informative about Walsh's interest in Irish literature and his struggles with writing and publishing his biography of Boucicault. In addition, the New York Public Library's Billy Rose Theatre Collection at Lincoln Center has the prompt book (with manuscript notes and corrections) of Walsh's play, The Boys of Kilkenny(1897) and a copy of another play by Walsh, The Adventures of Adam(n.d.).
The Townsend Walsh papers are arranged in ten series:
The correspondence consists of both professional and personal letters written to Walsh. These letters are the principal source of information about both his career and his personal life. Correspondents include actors, managers, producers, agents, editors, writers, and circus performers. In many cases, the envelopes that are with particular letters (as well as the separate group of envelopes which are included) provide the only means for verifying Walsh's professional position at various points in his life. Letters from Mrs. Fiske and Otis Skinner are particularly valuable for understanding the working relationship between performers and their press agents. Letters from John Quinn reveal Walsh's interest in Irish theatre and literature and also document Walsh's struggle to get his book, The Career of Dion Boucicault, published. The letters do not seem to provide any direct information about Walsh's work on his two unpublished circus manuscripts. Neither do the letters provide much information about Walsh's family. Four letters written by Walsh are included in the correspondence and are interfiled with the other correspondence by date: 10/5/09, 2/21/13, 10/16/26, 5/26/33.
The press releases cover work done by Walsh in both the theatre and the circus. They provide an excellent view of Walsh's work as a press agent and also offer insight into the publicity for particular plays. There are press releases for several productions: Becky Sharpe, Ghosts, Tess(starring Mrs. Fiske) and Merry Wives of Windsor (starring Fiske and Otis Skinner), Everywoman and Witness for the Defense(starring Blanche Bates). When examined along with the correspondence, the press releases are a particularly rich source of information about attempts to market particular plays. In particular, Mrs. Fiske, in her letters to Walsh, frequently expressed her views about the plays she was in and the ideas that she wanted communicated in press work. By examining the press releases in light of her concerns, it is possible to see how well her desires were carried out by Walsh.
This series consists of Walsh's two full-length studies on the circus, Love of the Circus and King Clown. Typewritten and manuscripts copies of the two works are included. Walsh based these works on research, interviews with circus performers and his collection of circus material. The manuscripts are particularly valuable for the first hand accounts by circus performers which Walsh relates in the books. The presence of these manuscripts further documents Walsh's strong interest in the circus which is also apparent in the correspondence from circus performers and workers. Neither work seems to have been published.
In addition to the manuscripts of King Clown and Love of the Circus, Walsh appears to have begun work on at least one other book on the circus. Chapters and parts of chapters for this uncompleted work include “The Circus Afloat”, “The Rise of the Ringlings”, and “Wagon Shows, Boat Shows, Railroad Shows.” In addition the notes which were apparently used as the basis for his two full-length studies and these additional writings are included here. Combined with King Clown and Love of the Circus, these materials reveal Walsh's tremendous knowledge of the circus and suggest some of the sources of his information.
Three essays Pierrot Terrible, Le Voyage en Suisse and The Duel, apparently unpublished, are included in this group of writings by Walsh. There are also manuscript copies of plays and parts of plays that appear to have been written by Walsh. In addition, there are six notebooks which consists of notes on various subjects--principally the origins of the circus, history of pantomime and circus and theatrical performers (including Walter Ringham, Henry Bartholomew, Leotard and Grimaldi). Some of these notes appear to have been recorded during Walsh's trips abroad. These notes and writings suggest Walsh's wide-ranging interest in circus and theatre history.
Three Walsh family letters are included here although the relationship of the correspondents to Townsend Walsh is not clear. There is one letter from Dudley Walsh to his son John Walsh (who was apparently in school at Yale) in 1814. In addition there is a letter to Dudley Walsh from Alice Walsh (sister?) in Ireland (1815) and a second letter to him from his brother in Dublin (1815). A horoscope done for Walsh in 1913 by Albert Jay Snowof Los Angeles is particularly valuable because it is the only document in which Walsh's birth date is recorded. A class list of students in the Albany Academy is also of value because it documents Walsh's enrollment in that institution. A card listing Walsh's classes at Harvard for one term is also of interest.
These papers include box office statements, route lists and route books, bills, receipts, account books, contracts, and complaint and salary lists for various productions with which Walsh was involved. The contracts (1906, 1912, 1913) are for the Wizard of Oz Company, Everywoman Company, Balanche Bates and Co., Otis Skinner and Co. and a blank contract for Mrs. Fiske and Co. In addition, Henry Savage's General Instructions for Advance Representatives for the 1911-1912 season gives detailed information about the work and concerns of his advance representatives. Personal business papers such as bills for club memberships are also in this series.
Walsh's collection of letters of theatrical and circus personalities as well as his collection of signatures are included in this material. The autograph letters (1835-1928) contain a large group of letters to John Palgrave-Simpson, the British playwright. In addition, a manuscript entitled Account of the New Pantomime Entertainment... (1763), apparently the the oldest document in the Townsend Walsh collection is among the items in his series. Other manuscripts include First Treatment of Popular Pantomime Themes by W. J. Lawrence (n.d.) and Charles Dickens by Ernest d'Hevilly(1868). A clipping from a 1930 Billboard article by Walsh entitled Dickens and the Circus as well as other special newspaper clippings are also included. Programs, playbills and other theatrical memorabilia in this series are indicative of Walsh's collecting interests.
Clippings have been arranged by the following topics or performers: Chauncey Olcott, Blanche Bates, Mark Twain, Irish Theatre, Tyrone Power, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Joseph Murphy, E.H. Sothern, Julia Marlowe. Non-Western Drama, Oscar Wilde, Andrew Mack, “Hitchy Koo”, Francis Wilson, Rip Van Winkle, Joseph Jefferson, Benjamin C. Porter, the Barrymores, John Drew, Minnie Maddern Fiske, Circus during Omaha flood 1923
Includes cards, tickets, travel information, sketches, announcements, menus, and notices.