Scope and arrangement
The Howard Crabtree Papers and Designs contain personal papers, designs, and patterns for the costumes he created for Off-Broadway and cabaret shows. Crabtree kept a record of his personal life through diaries, scrapbooks, and correspondence. These items document what life was like for a struggling actor in the 1980s, and offer an intimate look at living with AIDS. The only information about his childhood is found in diary entries that reflect on experiences he had while growing up. Other parts of his diaries and scrapbooks document his early professional activities, which come to life through photographs, drawings and other designs.
Crabtree's patterns and designs form a significant part of this collection. The materials he used to create costume patterns range from newsprint, to tissue paper, to muslin. Many of his designs are line drawings of characters in either pencil or ink, with some final versions in color. There are no completed costumes in the collection, although some folders of patterns include a fabric mock-up of what the final piece would look like.
The Howard Crabtree papers and designs are arranged in four series:
- 1971 - 19971.25 linear feet (3 boxes
The majority of this series documents Crabtree’s personal life during the 1970s and 1980s. He began keeping a diary in high school and continued to do so until at least 1988. In 1992 he went back to the first book and copied it using a word processor, adding bold-faced comments as he typed. These diaries are significant because they address his insecurities, which range from succeeding in show business to being gay, and they detail what his life was like before and after contracting AIDS. The correspondence found here is sparse, although there are several letters apiece from the significant men in his life. This series also includes photographs, and more notably, three of his high school yearbooks.
- 1970 - 19962.5 linear feet (6 boxes
The Production Files series consists of materials such as correspondence, libretti, notes, and promotional items related to Crabtree’s productions. Most of this series dates from the mid-1980s to 1996, although there are a few folders of his work in ballet – including designs for Peter and the Wolf. Note that the City Ballet of Toronto moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1983, and performed under a new name – the Atlantic Ballet Company. The most extensively documented production is Whatnot, for which there are numerous drafts of the libretto, as well as designs, and notes dealing with auditions and potential theater locations. Other folders of significance are the notebooks for Whoop-Dee-Doo! and When Pigs Fly that contain information about costumes – the materials required, and construction instructions.
- 1979 - 199528.38 linear feet (16 boxes
Crabtree's costume designs and patterns make up this series, from his ballet productions through When Pigs Fly. Many of the patterns are full size and folded in order to fit inside the folders. They often contain the original envelope that Crabtree used, which may include a drawing of the costume, or relevant information about the production. In addition to Crabtree's Off-Broadway productions, this series contains evidence of his work on other shows; the amount of information about these shows varies – many were short-lived cabaret acts. Boxes 15 and 16 contain patterns from unidentified productions.
- 1968 - 19831.34 linear feet (1 box
This series consists of two folders of Crabtree's personal materials, notably a scrapbook that complements much of the material found in Series I. It covers his early career and features correspondence from both friends and boyfriends.