Scope and arrangement
The papers of Walter Abel consist primarily of correspondence, contracts, speeches and clippings documenting his work as an actor. The professional correspondence is not extensive: the bulk is single letters received from a wide variety of individuals, much of it letters of thanks. A few outgoing letters discuss proposed productions. Correspondents include John Golden, Robert Edmond Jones and Eugene Ormandy. The contracts file is incomplete. Speeches, the largest series, are for the most part lectures on Shakespeare, theater history, and the psychology of acting, but include some personal anecdotes. They reflect his tireless work promoting the theater to college students and others. The best depiction of his life in the theater can be gleaned from the box of clippings of production reviews and interviews with Abel. Production materials are mostly miscellaneous single items such as call sheets and schedules from films in which Abel appeared. Organizational work consists of minutes and correspondence pertaining to his work with ANTA, the Hollywood Victory Committee and other war service organizations. The collection also contains personal material on his family, awards, and a few scrapbooks of photographs.
The Walter Abel papers are arranged in eleven series:
- 1900-19758 folders
Consists of letters
(1916-1922)from his mother and his sister when Abel was away at school and just starting out in New York, papers of his brother Alfred who died in 1922 from tuberculosis contracted while serving overseas in World War I, a few legal documents, and some letters (1938-1975)from his wife when he was on the road. There is a small amount of correspondence to his wife and of outgoing personal letters by Walter Abel.
- 1918-197527 folders
Correspondence consists of letters concerning productions; agents; arrangements for speaking engagements and concert narrations, particularly with the Philadelphia Orchestra; work with the American National Theatre and Academy and the Hospital Committee of the American Theatre Wing; thank you letters for work in war savings campaigns in the U.S. and Canada and entertaining hospitalized veterans after the war; participation in various radio programs; fan mail, especially after his performance in The Three Musketeers; and telegrams of opening night congratulations. There are a few letters from celebrity colleagues and a small amount of outgoing correspondence mostly pertaining to proposed productions.
- 1921-19744 folders
Consists of Actors' Equity Association and other contracts for some of the productions in which Abel appeared.
- 1935-1958 and n.d9 folders
Production materials are mostly miscellaneous single items such as call sheets and schedules from films in which Abel appeared. There are a few financial records and one actor's side from a play.
- 1942-19683 folders
A small file of minutes, correspondence and other papers from a few of the organizations with which Abel was involved: The American College Theater Festival, ANTA, the Hollywood Victory Committee, and other war service organizations during World War II.
- 1944-197426 folders
A large file of handwritten drafts of speeches Abel gave at colleges and elsewhere, many under the auspices of ANTA, predominately in the 1960s. They are primarily on Shakespeare, theater history, and the psychology of acting, though they do contain some personal anecdotes that illuminate his life in the theater.
- 1929-19652 folders
A very small series consisting of a draft of an Equity survey of the theater, ca. 1965, and miscellaneous writings by others included with the Walter Abel Papers.
- 1924-19761 box
The clippings are predominately reviews of productions Abel was in. There are also general interviews with Abel, and articles about his readings, speeches, radio and theatrical promotion work. There are two Letters to the Editor by Abel and one folder of clippings and programs of his wife, the harpist Marietta Bitter.
- 1941-1958 and n.d1 folder
Consists of one folder of awards, mostly non-theatrical.
- 1917-1967 and n.d1 folder
One folder of miscellany.
- 1917-1955 and n.d4 volumes
Four scrapbooks contain mainly photographs and clippings of Walter Abel.