Scope and arrangement
The American Play Company records contain administrative files, contracts, literary department correspondence, and scripts relating to the theatrical rights management business.
The American Play Company records are arranged in four series:
- 1908-196511 boxes
The Administrative Files hold the company's by-laws and a limited selection of financial documents, as well as administrative correspondence relating to various properties and individual representatives. The correspondence mostly concerns payment agreements and pre-contract negotiations. The American Play Company listed properties by their title rather than by author or rights holder due to often complicated rights situations. Alphabetical by subject.
- 1892-196673 boxes
Series II holds contracts between the American Play Company or related individuals (Elisabeth Marbury, John Rumsey) and various properties and rights holders. The American Play Company often filed properties by their title rather than by author or rights holder due to complicated rights situations. For example, an individual property may have a book writer, lyricist, and composer who would all receive royalty payments, as well as an initially involved producer, such as the Shubert family, who would receive compensation as well. In some cases, the rights holder has inherited the rights (such as the child of an author) and the property is also listed by title to avoid confusion. When individual rights holders are listed, it is often because they have an individual multi-play agreement with the American Play Company. Files contain contracts, correspondence related to contract issues, and receipts of payment. In some cases, the contract itself is missing and files note that it was returned to a rights holder. Some contracts were originally ordered by contract number, and these numbers are retained on the folder where available.
Items of interest include Frances Hodgson Burnette's contract for Pretty Sister of Jose, which was sold to the Famous Players Motion Picture company, and then sold again to Universal. American Play Company acted as the middle man in both these transactions. These files also hold Guy Bolton and Cole Porter's agreements for Anything Goes licensing and P.G. Wodehouse's contracts to write the Century Theatre Musical Attraction. Alphabetical by title or rights-holder.
- 1921-19372 boxes
The Literary Department files hold correspondence concerning rights and royalties disputes. Unauthorized productions, under-payment, illegal changes to properties and other issues were handled by this separate department within the company. Chronological by date.
- 1900-195134 boxes
Series IV contains draft scripts sent to the American Play Company for consideration. Scripts are often undated and contain handwritten edits and changes. Many of these scripts never received a production, and some do not list an author. Alphabetical by title.