Scope and arrangement
This collection reflects the life and career of Francis Wilson. There is much material on the plays in which he appeared especially Erminie as well as extensive correspondence with publishers on his writings. The large series of speeches illustrates his wide-ranging interests. There is also information on his involvement with the Players Club, but there is very little material documenting his role as the first president of Actors' Equity Association or the pivotal strike he led in 1919. The main political battle documented in these papers is Wilson's efforts to keep child actors out from under the jurisdiction of state labor laws. The collection also sheds some light on Wilson's family and his personal financial transactions.
The Francis Wilson papers are arranged in nine series:
The professional correspondence documents Wilson's career as an actor, theater manager, dramatic author and activist for theater interests.
- 1920-19587 folders
This series is predominately the correspondence of Wilson's second wife, Edna Bruns Wilson. It includes correspondence between husband and wife, personal letters from third parties and letters of condolence she received on the death of her husband. It also contains her correspondence with lawyers, real estate agents and insurance companies on Wilson's property and estate after his death. There is also one folder of correspondence of other Wilson family members, mostly his children Craycroft and Margalo.
The financial papers reflect primarily Wilson's personal affairs rather than his professional relations. They include correspondence, accounts and contracts.
- 1893-193249 folders (1.5 boxes)
This series includes manuscript and typescript drafts for speeches, as well as notes, fragments and partial speeches. It is arranged alphabetically by topic or title. Includes speeches given before the Actors' Equity Association and the Players Club, opening night speeches at the 1893 revival of Erminie and at the opening of the Repertory Theatre of Boston, and his Rip Van Winkle speech made nightly in Boston in 1925. Other topics include the issue of child labor law as it pertains to stage children, various subjects of his research such as Eugene Field and Joseph Jefferson, and liberty bonds and theater's contribution to the war effort during World War I. Wilson also spoke at honorary dinners for fellow actors, at graduations and gave miscellaneous addresses on topics such as laughter.
- 1875-193518 folders
This series documents the various aspects of Wilson's career. It begins with clippings on Wilson's career overall, from "Early scrapbook - Chestnut St. Theatre, Philadelphia, etc." to more general, non-specified clippings. Clippings of reviews of many of the plays in which he appeared especially Erminie and on his writings including his book, John Wilkes Booth and his play, The Bachelor's Baby are arranged alphabetically by title. Also arranged in the alphabetical sequence are clippings on his political work with the Actors' Equity Association and on the issue of child labor as it pertains to stage children. The clippings of writings and speeches by Wilson published in newspapers follow and then his obituaries, a good source of biographical information. Miscellaneous clippings found with the papers are at the end of the series. Some of the clippings were pasted into scrapbooks, but now all of the material has been photocopied onto acid-free paper.
- 1881-19265 folders
Printed material is arranged in the following order. First, a libretto and a sheet music cover for Erminie, then theater programs for shows in which Wilson appeared and usually starred, programs for addresses given by Wilson, cast lists photocopied from programs, and finally, a souvenir program for the Woman's Titanic Memorial at the Century Theatre, December 6, 1912. This last contains a photograph of Wilson as well as of many of the other well-known actors who participated.
- 1910-19282 folders
One folder contains photographs of Francis Wilson, most cut from newspapers and magazines. Also includes photos of one of his homes and some of his family members. The other folder contains drawings of Wilson and some other actors in costume for various roles as well as the drawing of an unidentified country home.
- 1893-19402 folders
One folder contains poems, most written about or in honor of Francis Wilson, some are anonymous. Includes poems by Eugene Field to Francis Wilson and to De Witt Miller and a poem written to honor Field. The other folder contains bookplates, membership cards, an auction catalog  of Rare Books, Autographs, and Manuscripts "comprising the library collected by the late Francis Wilson, Actor - Bibliophile," and a few miscellaneous scraps.
- 1897-19219 folders
The scripts series consists of three typescripts of Erminie, two containing revisions some of which are in the hand of Francis Wilson, the third with annotations in an unknown hand; two handwritten scripts: The Inventor and The Monks of Malabar, in Wilson's hand; two annotated typescripts for plays in which Wilson appeared: The Mountain Climbers and When Knights Were Bold with revisions in an unknown hand; an actor's side with Wilson's handwritten notes for the part of David in Robert Brinsley Sheridan's The Rivals; and a typescript for the play Robert Macaire stamped property of Arthur W. Tams Musical Library. Wilson had extensive dealings with this organization so the script, an early version of the Erminie story, may have come to be in his possession. All the scripts were removed from the papers sometime after their arrival in the Library so provenance is not clear in all cases.