Scope and arrangement
The collection contains correspondence, production materials, clippings, programs, scrapbooks, photographs, scripts, contracts, plans, and notebooks documenting the careers of Richard and Edith Barstow, both as dancers, and later as directors and choreographers. There are virtually no personal materials in the papers. Much of the material relates primarily to Richard; however, because of Richard and Edith’s lifelong professional collaboration, the papers also reflect Edith’s work.
Of particular note is the large amount of material on the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus and the General Motors’ industrial shows, Motorama (1953-1955) and Powerama(1955). There are also a number of items relating to the 1954 Judy Garland film A Star Is Born, for which Richard Barstow staged the musical numbers. A number of oversized scrapbooks of clippings and programs contain additional materials documenting the Barstows’ professional activities.
The Richard and Edith Barstow papers are arranged in six series:
- 1916 - 19801 box
This series contains correspondence, programs, publicity materials, and clippings relating to Richard and Edith Barstow. The correspondence concerns professional activities and includes letters to and from the Barstows, both together and individually. There are notes from Fred Allen, Vivian Blaine, Dave Garroway, Arthur Godfrey, Phyllis McGuire, Eileen and Ole Olsen, and Harry Ruby.
The programs and clippings span the Barstows’ careers: from their earliest days in the family vaudeville act, The Five Barstows, then as a dance team touring the U.S., Europe, and Australia, to directing and choreographing in the 1960s. (Specific productions in which Richard and Edith Barstow appeared are filed in the Productions series.) Of particular note is the two-part profile of Richard Barstow in The New Yorker (April 20 and April 27, 1957).
Included in this series are a number of papers on Richard Barstow, such as writings, drawings and sketches by and of Richard Barstow, awards, a list of music copyrights, a transcript of a radio interview with Ruth Moss in 1937, and papers from Barstow’s U.S. Army tour of duty at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. At Camp McCoy, Barstow co-authored a newspaper column, as well as a radio program, It’s the McCoy, that helped raise money during World War II.
- 1951 - 19774.5 boxes
This series includes mostly production materials, programs, and clippings for the Red and Blue Units of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which Richard Barstow staged with Edith’s assistance. Richard Barstow’s production notes often include diagrams and written notes on the various circus routines, such as the Opening, “Spec,” “Menage,” “Web,” and Finale. There are several notebooks with copies of costume designs, including some by Miles White, published sheet music with songs by John Ringling North and Henry Sullivan, and a folder of memorabilia, including a publicity brochure autographed by aerialist Philippe Petit. Additional circus materials may be found in the Photographs, Oversized, and Scrapbooks series.
- undated4.5 boxes
This series consists of scripts, programs, clippings, production, and publicity materials for stage, screen, nightclubs, and industrial shows on which the Barstows worked. Most of the productions in this series are those they staged and choreographed, but several specific productions in which they appeared are also included.
- Sub-series 1: Nightclubs
- Sub-series 2: Summer Theater
- Sub-series 3: Automobile Shows
- Sub-series 4: General
- 1907 - 19801.5 boxes
This series includes early portraits and publicity photographs of Richard and Edith Barstow, including their tours of the U.S. and abroad, and several photographs of The Five Barstows. Circus photos include photos of animals, clowns, performers, and personnel. Of particular interest are two benefit performances: one for the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation (March 1955), and UNICEF Night at the Greatest Show on Earth (March 23, 1970). A few of the celebrities photographed include Louis Armstrong, Sid Caesar, Marlene Dietrich, Henry Fonda, Gypsy Rose Lee, Danny Kaye, and Ed Sullivan.
There are also photos of nightclub shows, automobile shows, stage and film productions such as Symphony of Fashion, St. Louis, Missouri (1950), Panama Hattie by Cole Porter for television’s The Best of Broadway(1954), and the film A Star Is Born (1954). Additional photographs can be found in the Oversized and Scrapbooks series.
- 1917 - 197810 boxes
This series contains photographs, papers, floor plans, and designs. There are early portraits of Richard and Edith Barstow, including several photos from their tours. The circus is especially well-documented with a number of photos, programs from the 1970s, notebooks, plans, and copies of designs. There are floor plans for Song of Norway at Jones Beach Marine Theater (1958), of the Coliseum, New York City, Motorama (1954, 1955), and Powerama (1955). There are also a number of photographs and some papers for the 1954 film A Star Is Born.
- 1922 - 19566 boxes
The scrapbooks contain programs, clippings, some photos, greeting cards, telegrams, productions relating to the Barstows’ careers. Loose scrapbook materials have been filed In the appropriate series by topic. Oversized loose clippings have been filed with the scrapbook