Scope and arrangement
In his efforts to write a biography of Lillian and Dorothy Russell, Robert J. Gibson came into possession of some manuscript letters by Lillian Russell mainly to her sister Susan or her daughter Dorothy, letters to Dorothy primarily from her stepfather Alex Moore, and letters from James F. Gibson, who may have been one of Dorothy's husbands, to his wife. Some of the letters are stamped "Orphans Court of Allegheny Co. March 5, 1931" and were probably purchased by Gibson years later. The collection includes these as well as ephemera he collected and the typescript biography in various drafts that he wrote. This unpublished biography, The Shadow of a Star includes Part I. The Star (on Lillian as told to Gibson by her daughter, Dorothy) and Part II. The Shadow (on Dorothy).
The collection also includes a series of photographs, many inscribed to J. Vandervoort Sloan. Jack Sloan (1881-1930) was a theatrical manager for the actor William Faversham, as well as a reviewer for Drama Magazine, and a Chicago theater manager. The pictures include many noted actors and opera singers of the time including the two Russells. Gibson received these and the autographs from Sloan's nephew, James McCrea, in response to his inquiry in the New York Times Book Review in 1984 seeking photographs, letters or personal recollections for a biography on Dorothy Russell.
The Robert J. Gibson collection of Lillian Russell materials are arranged in three series:
- ca. 1930-19842 folders
The Gibson correspondence reflects his efforts to collect material on Lillian and Dorothy Russell in order to write a biography. Included as well are two personal items: a certificate of church membership and a pamphlet of poems by Gibson.
- Undated8 folders
Consists of typescript drafts of his unpublished book, The Shadow of a Star: Part. I. The Star (Lillian) and Part II. The Shadow (Dorothy), some with handwritten revisions, typescript drafts of an article he wrote on Lillian Russell, and related notes.
- 32 folders
This series is made up of the materials collected by Robert J. Gibson about Lilliam and Dorothy Russell. Included is correspondence, photographs, clippings and programs.