Scope and arrangement
The Harry Mountford and Lottie Briscoe papers (1887-1950) document the careers and personal lives of performer, writer, and labor rights advocate Harry Mountford and his wife Lottie Briscoe, an early film and stage actress.
The bulk of the collection concerns Mountford’s union activism in England and the United States with the White Rats, Variety Artistes’ Federation, Associated Actors and Artistes of America, and American Artistes Federation. These files hold organizational bylaws, charters, handouts, publications, and meeting minutes; press clippings; legal records and research; and membership cards, flyers, and other ephemera. There is correspondence between Mountford, union officers, the press, and other relevant parties disclosing libel charges, failed initiatives, resignations, and other tensions and allegations amongst the labor and company unions. A 1910 commemorative award presented to the White Rats by Brother Harry Thomson, a 1920-1921 scrapbook of labor dispute headlines, and a “Who’s Who” directory of vaudeville acts are also present.
The scripts files contain drafts, typescripts, and scenario outlines of Mountford’s writing for stage, radio, and film. Interspersed is related correspondence with collaborators and employers, research and production notes, sheet music, booking agreements, and copyright applications. Full-length works written by Mountford present are The Cats and the Kitten, The Death Ray (also known as The Vultures), As the Doughboys Talk, and an adaptation of Tess of the D’Urbervilles as well as a series of “Ms. Schultz & Mr. Meyers” radio sketches, which starred Briscoe. A booking contracts file features annotated client agreements and properties overseen by Mountford in his late career as a booking agent.
The majority of Mountford’s personal correspondence is with daughter Lily Walsh and stepson Sydall Whittaker, both children from prior marriages. Briscoe’s chief correspondent is her sister, actress Olive Helen Rauch. There are further letters between husband and wife, and other family members and friends. The personal correspondence files of Briscoe also contain greeting cards, horoscope readings, health and housekeeping notes, charity work documentation, travel souvenirs, and acting career clippings and keepsakes.
The collection holds several address books and a datebook belonging to Briscoe, as well as manuscripts of her published articles on motion picture and dramatic acting, which originally appeared in national trade and fan magazines.
The photograph files consist of publicity portraits of Briscoe, Mountford, and fellow performers as well as candid shots of the couple, friends, and family members.
The theater ephemera files hold an assortment of programs, flyers, publications, and monologue booklets related to Mountford and Briscoe’s performing careers. Also present are a box of Mountford’s shirt collars, a coat brush, and bookmark.
The financial and legal files contain the couple’s birth, death, and wedding certificates, final wills, a joint passport, receipts, checkbooks, share certificates, and life insurance records. Documentation of the proceedings for the Mountford-Briscoe estate, overseen by executor Charles L. Kahn, is included, as is that of vaudeville star Elmer Ellsworth McFadden (stage name: Edward Esmonde) and wife Mary Louise Esmonde McFadden, for whom Mountford was executor.
This collection is arranged alphabetically by subject or format.