Scope and arrangement
The William Appleton collection consists of letters, handwritten manuscripts, penny-plains and two-pence coloured toy theater materials. The collection encompasses the late 17th century up through the 20th century. The oldest item in the collection is a letter from the actress, Elizabeth Barry to a Lady Lisbourn dated October 25, 1697. The most recent item is a letter from the playwright, George Bernard Shaw to a J.T. Grein dated November 28, 1930. The bulk of the letters fall between the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century.
The collection contains many interesting letters from theatrical personages, primarily of the English stage. Some notables include Ira Aldridge, Mrs. Ann Barry, Dion Boucicault, George Colman, T. P. Cooke, Edward Gordon Craig, Maria Foote, David Garrick, Joseph Grimaldi, Sir Henry Irving, Charles Kean, Edmund Kean, Ellen Kean, Charles Kemble, John Philip Kemble, Charles Macklin, William Charles Macready, Lord North, Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, Jane Pope, Bernard Shaw, Sarah Siddons, Dame Ellen Terry and Madame Vestris, among others.
Also included are black and white and color portraits, known as "penny plains" and "two-pence coloured" showing the actors and actresses of the day in their well-known roles. Most of these images date from the early to mid 1800s though there are some as early as 1799.
The Collection of theatrical correspondence and ephemera is arranged in two series:
- 1697-19301.5 linear feet (5 boxes)
This series contains letters and other manuscripts documenting the theater from the late 17th century to the mid 20th century. Included as well are transcriptions of all the letters and most of the other documents. Correspondents include Mrs. Abington, Ira Aldridge, John Astley, Dion Boucicault, David Garrick, members of the Kemble and Kean families, Charles Macklin, William Charles Macready, Lord North, Jane Pope, Henry and Sarah Siddons, Bernard Shaw, Dame Ellen Terry and Madame Vestris. Included as well are other types of manuscripts such as an epilogue, contracts, some biographical notes, regulations for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, a commentary by William Farren, a ballad called Jack Harding as well as a copy of a Folger manuscript on the same topic, some ephemera belonging to Edmund Kean, notes and scenic directions by John Philip Kemble, notes by Charles Macklin on the trial for the "Macbeth" riots, a theater notice by Charles Reed and a Drury Lane tailor voucher.
This series consists of black and white and color theatrical sheets, known as penny plains and two-pence coloured, documenting the actors and plays of the early to mid 19th century. Some of the imprints on the toy theater sheets include the printers West, Hodgson, B. M. DeBurson, J. Fairburn, J. Redington and B. Pollock. Almost all of the images are portraits of actors in various roles, although there are a few sheets of production sets and prop pieces.