Scope and arrangement
The Aaron Hoffman papers (1900s-1926) document the creation of Hoffman's plays, vaudeville acts, and films. The papers also hold a small number of scripts written by other writers. An inventory spreadsheet created by the donor, detailing the contents of the collection and their condition, is available, and is referred to as Hoffman Collection Spreadsheet under Additional Resources. The materials in the collection were previously assigned file numbers, possibly by Hoffman. These numbers are listed in the spreadsheet as well as written on the materials.
Play and vaudeville act files hold scripts, notes, synopses, and clippings that Hoffman used as inspiration for his scripts. The files chiefly date from the 1900s to 1924, though they include a few copies of scripts from 1926, after Hoffman's death. The files contain multiple versions of many of the scripts, including clean copies, annotated drafts, prompt books, and versions created for local performances. Sometimes revised versions of the scripts are filed under different titles. Over 50 plays are represented in the play files, including The Belle of Avenue A (1905), Friendly Enemies (1918), Nothing But Lies (1918), and Welcome Stranger (1920). Vaudeville scripts consist of monologues, sketches, and one-act plays. The scripts were written for vaudeville performers such as Lew Dockstader, Senator Francis Murphy, Sam Mann, Henry Lewis, the Klein Brothers, Joe Welch, and Nora Bayes. Subjects include prohibition, women's suffrage, and World War I. Scripts that have two or more acts are held in the play files, even in cases where they were written for vaudeville or comedy performers. For example, some scripts written for the Behman Show are held in the play files.
Film files date from about 1914 to 1917. Film files contain scenarios, screenplays, and notes.
Miscellaneous records include pages and related material from unidentified and incomplete scripts. Also present are Hoffman's "idea books" for plays, vaudeville acts, and film. The idea books contain scenes, notes, potential titles, and newspaper and magazine clippings that Hoffman used as sources of ideas. Other miscellaneous records consist of Hoffman’s critiques of German plays, published synopses of Hoffman's films and plays, and synopses and play titles from the Samuel French catalog.
The collection also holds plays, sketches, screenplays, and film scenarios by other writers. These writers include George V. Hobart, John B. Hymer, De Witte Kaplan, and Jo Swerling. Some of these scripts have notes and revisions by Hoffman.
The collection is arranged in five categories: films, miscellaneous writings and notes, plays, vaudeville acts, and scripts by other writers. The files are mostly alphabetized by title, though in some instances they are alphabetized by performer or by concept (e.g. "dog story" and "parody medley"). Untitled vaudeville acts are listed at the end of the vaudeville files. A detailed inventory spreadsheet, describing the items and their condition in more detail, is available, and is referred to as Hoffman Collection Spreadsheet under Additional Resources. In a few instances, the inventory incorrectly attributes plays to Hoffman. The misattributed plays are listed individually under "Scripts by Other Writers" in the container list.