Scope and arrangement
The collection predominantly documents Golden's career as a theatrical manager and producer, with particular focus on the late 1920s until his death. There is little material documenting his earlier productions or his songwriting career, and there is very little material relating to his private life. That said, Golden's personal life and professional career were often inextricably bound, and information regarding his life outside the theatre can often be found or inferred from his correspondence with his colleagues, many of whom were also close friends.
Correspondence comprises a considerable portion of the collection, and is present in nearly every series. Golden's correspondents represent many of the most important and influential theatrical, political, and social figures of the day. Most prominent correspondents are actors, playwrights and authors, theatre owners, theatrical trade organizations, and members of the press. Subject files contain thematic correspondence on issues pertinent to Golden's work. Show files, another key series within the collection, document much of Golden's work as a playwright, theatrical manager, and producer, with an emphasis on the developmental stages of production, as well as other material generated over the life cycle of a production. Golden's participation in patriotic and humanitarian relief endeavors during World War II is also given considerable attention. A small quantity of material relates to his participation with the Lambs Club, mainly from his term as Shepherd. Some office files are present, as is a small quantity of personal miscellany. Photographs in the collection are mainly of actors, playwrights, and productions, but a few family photographs are also present. Scrapbooks contain considerable coverage of Golden's work, and in some cases provide the only documentation of Golden's songwriting career and early productions within the collection.
The John Golden papers are arranged in nine series:
- 1903-195838 boxes
John Golden's correspondence covers a significant portion of his professional career and documents many of his humanitarian efforts. There is very little correspondence from the early years of his career, including his stints as an actor and songwriter; the bulk of the correspondence dates from the 1930s until his death. Outgoing letters from Golden are generally unsigned carbon copies, with many written by or dictated to Golden's personal secretaries, Clarence Van Sappe and Jean Dalrymple. Very little strictly personal correspondence is extant, though references to his life beyond the theatre are present in his communications with long-time friends, colleagues, and employees.
Correspondence is arranged alphabetically.
- 1900-195419 boxes
The Show Files document much of Golden's work as a playwright, theatrical manager, and producer. Material predominantly consists of correspondence, with an emphasis on the developmental stages of production, such as discussions regarding scripts in progress and casting, and is rich in correspondence between Golden and the playwrights, actors, and directors with whom he worked, including Rachel Crothers, Samson Raphaelson, Austin Strong, Winchell Smith, and Gertrude Lawrence. Researchers interested in specific individuals should also consult Series I: Correspondence. Some show files also include dispatches from his touring companies illuminating the complicated logistics of a national tour. This is particularly evident in the files for Claudia and Susan and God, where the normal trials and tribulations of a road show were compounded by war-related restrictions and rationing.
In addition to correspondence, some files contain other material generated over the life cycle of a production, including contracts, box office and royalty statements, budgets and inventories of props and costumes, press releases, and ephemera. The productions are unevenly documented; in some cases, a show may only be represented by a single program. Almost no material is present to represent Golden's early work as a songwriter, save for some correspondence relating to his popular 1916 song Poor Butterfly. No material, or a negligible amount of material, is present to represent the following productions: Thunder, The Midnight Rounders of 1921, Caught Wet, Savage Rhythm, and Riddle Me This. Most extensively documented are The Army Play by Play, Claudia, Lightnin', Skylark, Susan and God, Theatre, and Three's a Family.
In addition to produced works, this series also includes files on productions that were under consideration or in early stages of development which were ultimately not produced for financial, artistic, or other reasons.
Golden's shows often had extended runs, many had national tours, and some were revived decades after the original Broadway production; the files do not always reflect these circumstances. Lightnin', for instance, opened on Broadway in 1918, but the earliest related material in the collection dates from 1920, at which point the show had run for one thousand performances.
The show files are arranged alphabetically by title. Some of Golden's plays had previews or out-of-town tryouts under one title, only to have the name tweaked or changed entirely either during its Broadway run or in subsequent productions; working and alternate titles have been noted when available.
Additional coverage of Golden's productions, including underrepresented early works, can be found in Series IX: Scrapbooks, and in the Billy Rose Theatre Division's collection of visual materials documenting the career of John Golden, 1903-1954 (*T-Vim 2011-233).
- 1940-19544 boxes
Golden's participation in patriotic and humanitarian relief endeavors during World War II is documented almost exclusively through correspondence with and on behalf of numerous local, national, and international civilian and military organizations. His work with the American Theatre Wing War Service, the United Seamen's Service, and the U.S.O. is more thoroughly documented, and includes minutes, reports, and collateral material.
War work, for Golden, was inextricably bound to his work in theatre. He arranged two playwriting contests for armed services members. His Army playwriting contest resulted in the production of The Army Play by Play, extensively documented in Series II: Show Files, which netted the Army Relief Fund over $200,000. His Naval playwriting contest, as evidenced by the limited correspondence presented here, was less fruitful.
Golden served as chairman of the entertainment committee for the New York Defense Recreation Committee, which distributed over 12 million free tickets to servicemen over the course of the war. Some of the material presented here predates the formal creation of the committee; just as he had in World War I, Golden independently spearheaded campaigns to provide free entertainment for the troops, including tickets to his Broadway shows, in the earliest days of the war. Correspondence with Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and President Franklin D. Roosevelt occurs frequently within the Defense Recreation Committee correspondence, as well as in Subseries I. A. General Correspondence.
Evidence of Golden's efforts during the first World War, specifically his Liberty Bond drives and tickets-for-soldiers promotions, is limited to a small quantity of letters, clippings, and ephemera located in Series IX: Scrapbooks, Volume 1: 1911-1930.
- 1923-19542 boxes
Lambs Club material represents Golden's participation in the club from 1923 until his death in 1954. His early activity with the club, including his ten-year tenure as committee chair for the Lambs Gambol, is not documented here. Programs and ephemera from many Gambols are present. Financial reports, general files, and a significant amount of correspondence date from Golden's term as "Shepherd" (president), 1944-1945. Material is arranged alphabetically by subject.
- 1917-19543 boxes
These are administrative files maintained by Golden in the course of his work as a producer, theatrical manager, and theatre owner, as well as those pertaining to his humanitarian efforts both within and outside of the theatrical community. Material includes a 1925 circular from Golden proposing the creation of a producing managers' trade association (separate from his Managers' Protective Association); a 1932 journal detailing the management of the Majestic, Royal, and Masque theaters; material relating to the activities of the Stage Relief Fund; material relating to the activities of the Advisory Committee on Entertainment for the 1939 New York World's Fair; snapshots and resumes submitted for the 1943-1944 John Golden Auditions, including a submission by a young Jean Stapleton; and drafts of writings and speeches by or about John Golden. Of particular note are the play submissions, which include synopses and frank appraisals by Golden or his staff of plays under consideration or written on spec for production. Among the plays critiqued are early and unproduced works by Claire Boothe Luce (then Claire Boothe Brokaw). This series is arranged alphabetically.
- 1874-19552 boxes
This collection focuses on Golden's extensive theatrical career rather than his private life; as such, very little personal material is available. Present in this series are awards, certificates and recommendations; invitations to various parties and events; posthumous memorials; and souvenir programs for events and productions. Material is arranged alphabetically by subject or genre.
- 1922-195419 boxes
The Financial Material series contains box office receipts for productions running between 1925 and 1927; touring company grosses for national companies from 1941 to 1952; production accounts for numerous shows; and check registers for related accounts. Also included are stock certificates for J. G. Theatre, inc., and one ledger for a personal account. Production accounts are arranged alphabetically by show title; not all shows are represented. Check registers and other ledgers are arranged chronologically. In some cases, dates are overlapping.
- 1925-19545 boxes
This series contains photographs of individuals, generally actors and playwrights, associated with Golden and his productions, and production stills. Also found here are photographs of John Golden, including formal portraits, staged publicity shots, and images documenting his attendance at various events and meetings. One folder of miscellaneous images contains unidentified subjects, and group photographs inscribed to Golden. One personal album contains informal and candid photographs of family and friends, though a small quantity of production photos are present here as well. Photographs are arranged alphabetically by subject or show.
Additional images can be found in the collection of visual materials documenting the career of John Golden, 1903-1954 (*T-Vim 2011-233); and John Golden : photographs (*T Pho B Golden, John), both of which are held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division. Some production stills for But Not Goodbye and Counsellor at Law were collected previously by the Theatre Division, and have been cataloged separately.
- 1893-197119 boxes 11 volumes
Scrapbooks and clippings document Golden's theatrical and philanthropic works, and record his activities as a popular public figure. General scrapbooks follow multiple productions, and contain articles on, and interviews with, Golden himself. One box of material covering the years 1893 to 1926 provides the most thorough representation within this collection of his early work as a songwriter and producer. The volume dated 1911-1930 documents his efforts on behalf of the Liberty Bond drive during World War I, includes several Lucky Strike Cigarette advertisements featuring Golden as their spokesman, and many clippings pertaining to the issues of decadence and censorship in theatre-- issues of considerable significance to Golden, whose professional mission was to provide "wholesome" entertainment for audiences of all ages. Later material consists of posthumous articles and memorials. Publicity for many of Golden's productions, both in New York and on tour, is captured in individual scrapbooks, though not all of his shows are represented; coverage for early productions through the 1920s is limited.