Skip to main content

Adele Gutman Nathan Theatrical Collection

Call Number: YCAL MSS 58

Scope and Contents

The Adele Gutman Nathan Theatrical Collection consists of manuscripts, working notes, letters, photographs, printed materials, and scripts which document the life and works of Adele Nathan as well as her sister, Elizabeth Gutman Kaye. The papers span the years 1834-1989, but are concentrated in the period 1889-1986, the years of Nathan's life.

The collection is housed in 32 boxes and consists of six series: Writings, Projects, Correspondence, Personal Papers, Photographs, and Elizabeth Gutman Kaye Papers. Boxes 27-31 contain Oversize material. Box 32 contains Restricted Fragile Papers .

In accordance with Nathan's will, her archives was divided into two segments: theater material and railroadiana. Non-theater papers concerning railroads (including notes and manuscripts for her books The Building of the First Intercontinental Railroad, Famous Railroad Stations of the World and The Iron Horse) are housed at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Series I, Writings , consists of several types of works which Adele Nathan created during her most productive years as author, producer, and director. The first and most extensive subseries, Books, is made up of her working notes and drafts of many of her historical books for children and young adults. Her earliest books, The Farmer Sows His Wheat, and Let's Play Garden are represented only by clippings and publishers' contracts (Box 1, folder 3, and Box 2, folder 41).

Nathan's successful entry into the children's historical non-fiction marketplace, The Building of the First Transcontinental Railroad, paved the way for a string of equally well-received titles. Wheat Won't Wait, the story of Cyrus McCormick and his invention of the automatic reaper is extant in the archives in several drafts (Box 6, folder 156-62). The files for this title begin with research materials, many from commercial farm equipment companies which retell the story of the movement into the modern farm machine age. The drafts (1, 2 and 4) reflect the various changes in the text over approximately two years.

Drafts of a work titled Father Marquette, written ca. 1951 may be the original pages for a book published in 1953 about the explorations of Marquette and Joliet along the Mississippi, Seven Brave Companions (Box 1, folder 12-18). Though no manuscript survives for a subsequent book, The Fort and the Song, extensive background material concerning The First Transatlantic Cable, exists, which was written over a four year period from 1955-59.

Nathan made a turn toward historical figures in the 1960s. Clippings and correspondence concerning her companion books, Lincoln's America (1961) and Churchill's England (1963) can be found in Box 2, folder 42, and Box 1, folders 1-2, respectively. A more complete history of her 1969 work, Major John André, Gentleman Spy can be traced through research notes, chapter and character outlines, and several drafts which reflect nearly monthly revisions of some chapters between 1966 and 1967. Adele Nathan's final book, How to Plan and Conduct a Bicentennial Celebration [1972] is extant in a draft page and postpublication response (Box 2, folders 39-40).

Included in the Books subseries are drafts of two unpublished works. The novel What is a Man Profited, written between 1946 and 1948 exists in several drafts. This story concerning the fortunes of inventors during the early years of the steam age began as a more comprehensive family saga before being edited in a final version to a trilogy of sections, "Steam," "Steel," and "Salvage." Victorian in Bohemia, written in the 1960s and 1970s, concerns Nathan's memoir of her "Aunt" Etta Cone and her experiences visiting the Cone sisters in Paris.

Immediately following the Books subseries is Proposed Book Projects (Box 7, folders 172-92) containing outlines of many different non-fiction subjects that Adele Nathan had intended to develop into books with the backing of publishers. Her interest in communications and transportation can be seen in her proposals for books such as Operation Big Bounce (about satellite transmission), and Whirly-Birds (helicopters).

The next subseries, Columns, (Box 8, folders 193-98) consists of columns written by Adele Nathan for three very different sources. Her "Post Impressions" for the Baltimore Daily Gazette focused on her travels around Europe and interviews with artists and musicians, 1924-26. A short series published in Vogue in 1926 is exclusively about "Antique Hunting in France". In 1952, Nathan began contributing to the Cripple Creek Gold Rush (Colorado), a newspaper owned by her longtime collaborator, Blevins Davis. Her "Gold Dust from Gotham" offered reviews of New York City cultural events as well as a healthy sprinkling of tame gossip.

Adele Nathan's brief career in the film industry is documented in the following subseries, Motion Pictures (Box 8, folders 199-221). Her collaboration with Bertram Bloch and Peter Arno on the scenario for Fourteen Uncles is extant in a series of outlines. During the early 1940s, Nathan worked on a number of short instructive documentaries. Included in the archives from a series on states of the union are shooting scripts for Delaware, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, all scripted with Blevins Davis; from Pedigreed Pictures, scripts for Collies, Greyhounds, and Poodles.

The next subseries, Pageants, (Box 8, folder 222 - Box 10, folder 310) contains materials tracing the development and production of many of Adele Nathan's historical and thematic celebrations. In 1929-30, Nathan staged a series of themed fashion shows at L. Bamberger's department store in New York. Outlines and stage sketches survive, showing Nathan's technique for staging varied productions. Among the more completely covered of Nathan's earliest pageants is the Rochester Pageant of Progress, celebrating that city's centennial. Extant are a number of clippings highlighting the pageant's success in 1934.

During the early 1940s, Nathan joined with Blevins Davis to organize patriotic Labor Day Celebrations for the Weirton Steel Company in West Virginia. The three shows from which material survives focused on the U.S. fighting efforts around the world, as shown in contemporary clippings and newsletter reports. Scripts from two of the pageants, "Attack" in 1942 and "We Hold These Truths" from 1943 are included here.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, Nathan returned to more historical productions, such as the 150th anniversary of the community of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, called the "Forsythorama" for which she directed the play Lantern in the Pines. Between 1954 and 1955, Ms. Nathan developed production ideas for the American Jewish Tercentenary organization. Her specific project was a celebration in Trenton, New Jersey, entitled "Unto This Day."

The first of Nathan's two great shows commemorating Lincoln's speech at Gettyburg occurred in 1952. Relatively few production materials survive for "Mr. Lincoln Goes to Gettysburg,". The second celebration, the Gettysburg Centennial in 1962, is better documented by souvenirs and clippings.

The focus of Nathan's pageants changed in the early 1960s. Her "Niagarama", chronicalling the history of the region surrounding Niagara Falls was installed as a permanent exhibit. The festivities she conducted for the Paradise Hills housing development in Albuquerque, New Mexico reflected a rare commercial production, as seen in the souvenirs and productions materials in Box 9, folders 275-83.

Included in the next subseries, Radio Scripts, (Box 10, folder 311 - Box 11, folder 334) are copies of scripts for many of Adele Nathan's productions from the 1930s and 1940s, including interviews done for the Catholic Charities Fund Appeal, the panel discussion program, Opinion Requested, the instructional series The Story of All of Us, and Today's News For Tomorrow's Citizens.

The Shorter Works subseries, (Box 11, folder 335 - Box 12, folder 411) consists principally of articles Nathan wrote for various magazines throughout her life. Included here are three on H. L. Mencken, "Mencken and the Little Theatre Movement," "A Mencken Memento," and "Mr. Mencken Hoists His Own Petard." Reflections on various theater topics are included in "Cellar Theatre," "Little Theatres Are Big Business," "The Little Theatre That Grew," "Success Story," "The Vagabonds Come to Town," and "Vag. Theatre." Among various short stories are several tales about Nathan's family and early life in Baltimore, including "Grandfather Stories - Politics," "My Grandmother's Funeral," "One Price Silk and Lace House," and "The White Steps of Baltimore."

Among the Stage Plays extant in the next subseries is material concerning Knights of Song, Box 12, folders 413-15, the dramatized story of Gilbert and Sullivan Mrs. Nathan cowrote with Glendon Allvine, which later became the musical Melody Makers. Also included are several versions of her adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, produced in the 1920s and 1930s.

The final subseries contains Writings of Others. Along with a translation of a play by Nicholas Evreinov, A Merry Death, and two short works by Fannie Hurst, is a typescript copy of Bound East For Cardiff, the short play Nathan was given by Eugene O'Neill in 1917 to produce for the Vagabond Players.

Series II, Projects (Boxes 14-15), contains materials à propos work Adele Nathan performed in consultative, directorial, and participative roles. Her involvement with several little theater groups is documented principally by clippings and scrapbooks. Nathan's work with the Cellar Theatre of the Hudson Guild in New York City is chronicled in numerous playbills and a scrapbook of notices about the group. The Little Lyric Theatre is documented principally through playbills and advertisements. Materials about the Vagabond Players (Baltimore) contain clippings on the history of the group as well as production notes and programs.

Adele Nathan's participation in several civic and professional groups is also documented in Series II. These include material from the Overseas Press Club of America and The Woman Pays Club. Nathan's directorial efforts are indicated by productions presented by the Lenox Hill Players, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Another type of project is chronicled in materials relating to the motion picture, Reds. Correspondence with the production company, a copy of interview questions, and a number of clippings on different subjects tell the story of Nathan's appearance in the film as a "witness" to the events of the 1910s, (Box 14, folders 472-80).

Series III, Correspondence (Boxes 16-17), contains letters to and from Adele Nathan related to personal matters. Included here are missives from friends such as Fannie Hurst, Nannine Joseph, and Eleanor Levy. Artist and writer acquaintances of Nathan's are represented by such names as Padraic Colum, Jerome Kern, Leon Kroll, and Eugene O'Neill, all of whom composed polite, short letters to her.

Letters from family members are filed in this series, as well. Several informative ones were written by Adele's parents, Ida and Louis Gutman, Adolph Hochstadter, Betty Newberger, Gerri Patton, and Bessie Rothschild. Information about projects Nathan worked on can be found in letters from her associates Glendon Allvine and Blevins Davis.

Series IV, Personal Papers (Boxes 18-22), contains a wide variety of documents relating to a range of activities in Adele Nathan's life. Among the first folders is information detailing awards she was presented. The Barondess Award (Box 18, folders 576-77) was given in recognition of her book, Lincoln's America, in 1963. Nathan was later presented the Alumna Award from her alma mater, Goucher College. Materials contained here include several drafts of biographical sketches and speech notes Nathan prepared for the ceremony in October 1981.

The next large subsection of this series deals with biographical information. Published material such as clippings and magazine profiles, provide an overview of Nathan's life between 1921 and 1984. Additional information about her professional life can be found in the numerous résumés and submissions to Who's Who publications.

Information about Adele Nathan's friends and family is found in additional clippings and documents. The clippings subsection contains profiles of many of Nathan's acquaintances (Box 19, folder 621). The Gutman Family subsection chronicles several generations of Nathan's family through a variety of documents. Additionally, Box 19, folders 637-41, provide information on Joel Gutman & Co., the Baltimore department store founded by Nathan's grandfather.

The largest section within Series IV is a collection of printed materials which came with the archives. Many items herein concern theatrical issues, including copies of magazines such as The Festival Theatre Review, Theatre Arts, and Theatre Arts Monthly. Several playbills from the 1920s-40s are also filed here (Box 21, folders 697-98). Besides materials from Goucher College, other ephemera include a copy of The Irish World and American Industrial Liberator from 1926, and a single copy of The Masses from 1917.

Two scrapbooks containing a wide range of information on many of Adele Nathan's activities are found in the Personal Papers series. Scrapbook 1, disbound and foldered in Box 22, folders 718-36 includes clippings and documents about the following subjects in approximate page order: Cellar Players, Vagabond Players, The Iron Horse, Lenox Hill Players, Vogue magazine articles, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Pageant Centenary Pageant, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Centennial, Rochester Pageant of Progress, L. Bamberger & Co., "Famous Folk" Radio Interview (1930), Museum of the City of New York, Syrian Junior League, and the Town Club Players. Scrapbook 2, housed in Oversize (Box 28, folder 859), contains clippings on the following matters: Forsythorama, and the Independence Savings Bond Campaign.

The final folder in this series yields some of the only information extant in the archives about Nathan's husband, James Nathan. A parody wedding newspaper, The Daily N.G. Tornado, includes jokes and poems about the couple on their wedding day, February 20, 1912.

Series V, Photographs , consists of snapshots and photographic portraits taken principally during the early and late days of Adele Nathan's life. The Gutman family is portrayed between 1850 and 1930 in six albums containing albumen portraits and gelatin print snapshots. Housed in Oversize (Boxes 29 and 30), these photographs show Adele at various ages, from birth to approximately age 25, at school, on excursions with friends, with Etta Cone, and playing tennis. Album 3 concentrates more on her sister, Elizabeth Gutman Kaye. Loose photographs from this same period are housed under specific subjects in Boxes 23 and 24. Later photographs include informal shots of Adele with friends (Box 23, folder 758), and Adele at the Golden Spike Centennial in 1969 (Box 23, folder 760). Photographs relating specifically to, or documenting a particular pageant, stage production or other activities, such as awards presentations, are filed with other documents under the specific subject in the appropriate series.

The final series, Elizabeth Gutman Kaye Papers (Boxes 25-26), contains the documentary effects of Nathan's sister. This series mirrors the collection as a whole, consisting of many identical subseries. Biographical information about Elizabeth Kaye can be found in many of the clippings folders, specifically in Box 25, folders 793-96 and in the first folder of the Personal Papers section, Biographical sketches, Box 23, folder 813. The Correspondence section includes letters from the composer, Vincent D'Indy. Advertisements and publicity materials for Kaye's painting exhibitions and singing performances are found in Box 23, folders 806-07 and folders 810-12. The photographs included here are travel pictures belonging to Kaye. Portraits of Elizabeth Kaye, of her as a child with her family, and of her husband, Walter Kaye, are filed in Series V, Photographs.

Kaye's other creative works can be seen in the final sections of this series. Several scripts for radio programs on art history, such as Adventures in Art, are extant in the collection. Her writings include several printed columns concerning art exhibitions around Europe principally in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as her published book of poems, Patches of Light, and several individual poems. Kaye's venture into writing children's books survives in her manuscripts for The Magic Pussycat and Susie's Big Day, which is complete with watercolor illustrations.


  • 1834-1989


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Restricted Fragile Papers in box 32 may only be consulted with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Conditions Governing Use

The Adele Gutman Nathan Theatrical Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were bequeathed to the Beinecke Library in accordance with terms of Nathan's will following her death in 1986.

Associated Materials

Adele Gutman Nathan Theatrical Collection - Addition, YCAL MSS 82


20.25 Linear Feet (32 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Adele Gutman Nathan Theatrical Collection Addition consists of letters, manuscripts, printed material, and photographs documenting the life and career of Nathan's life and achievement in the theater, as an author, as a journalist, and as a pageant producer. Included in Series I are drafts of a children's book about Major John Andre, drafts of a novel, "What is a Man Profited," printed copies f newspaper columns by Nathan, motion picture scenarios programs for the Cellar Players and the Little Lyric Theatre, production materials for a number of pageants in such locales as Rochester, New York, Niagara Falls, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Included in Projects in Series II are notes chronicling Nathan's participation in the motion picture, Reds. Among the correspondents in Series III are Fannie Hurst, Padraic Colum, Leon Kroll, and Eugene O'Neill. Series IV. and V. contain various personal papers, such as scrapbooks, and photographs.
Series VI comprises items from Nathan's sister, Elizabeth Gutman Kaye, a painter and singer of folk songs.
Materials in this collection also document the history of the Gutman family, Jewish merchants in Baltimore during the turn of the 20th century.


Adele C. Newberger Gutman was born September 15, 1889, in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of Ida Newberger and Louis K. Gutman. Her father ran a successful department store which had been established by and named after her paternal grandfather, Joel Gutman. The family lived on Eutaw Place in the middle of the Jewish section of town and enjoyed the affluence that went with being prosperous merchants. Adele and her younger siblings, Elizabeth and Joel, were surrounded by a comfortable coterie of friends and relatives while growing up. The Cone sisters, Etta and Claribel, were companions of Ida, often looking after the Gutman children when contagious disease struck the family. While living in Baltimore, Gertrude Stein was a family acquaintance, as well.

Adele attended high school at the Girls Latin School, then matriculated Goucher College, where she developed an interest in tennis as well as drama. When she was graduated in the class of 1910, she had already been engaged in the staging of plays. The earliest evidence of her professional involvement with dramatic productions is her work with the Children's Playground Association in Baltimore, where she began to coordinate participative entertainments for young underprivileged children. The amateur productions of this group eventually grew into the Little Lyric Theatre which produced plays for children and "grown-up children" in the early 1920s. It was here that she began her writing career, adapting A Midsummer Night's Dream for child actors. While this project was germinating, however, Adele Nathan started what would be her longest project. One summer day in 1916, she and two friends were seized with the idea of renting a hotel basement for the purpose of establishing an amateur theater group. As soon as they had paid the rent, the Vagabond Players were born. Among their first productions were H. L. Mencken's The Artist and Theodore Dreiser's The Girl in the Coffin. In 1917, Adele Nathan went to Provincetown, Massachusetts in search of suitable new plays. She met an unknown playwright named Eugene O'Neill and brought back his one-act play, Bound East for Cardiff. Though the Vagabond Players survived over 60 years, Nathan's involvement with the group ended when she increased her commitments to the Little Lyric Theatre.

During the 1910s and 1920s, Nathan was involved with a number of personal projects as well. She joined her mother in working for the suffrage movement, participating in marches and rallies in her hometown and in Washington, D. C. In February 1912, Adele was married to James Nathan, a real estate agent. They were divorced sometime around 1920. During her travels in Europe in the mid-1920s, she acted as a correspondent for the Baltimore Daily Gazette, writing about her encounters with artists and musicians.

Nathan moved to New York in the mid-1920s, principally to continue her work with little theaters. Though she participated in several theaters in the Northeast, her principal work in the 1920s was with the Cellar Players of the Hudson Guild in Manhattan. She began working with the resident director, Alene Erlanger, and directing plays in 1924. During her tenure with the group, Nathan directed such works as Anna Christie by Eugene O'Neill, Trifles by Susan Glaspel, and The Betrayal by Padraic Colum. She continued her involvement with this group well into the early 1940s.

In 1927, Nathan was contracted to create the first production of what would be her trademark medium, the historical pageant. Pageantry, a celebration of an event or anniversary, usually consisting of tableaux, entertainers in period costumes, and a historical drama highlighting the celebration, was popular in the early 20th century. Nathan, when presented the opportunity to arrange a pageant to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, began a lifelong career that combined her many interests and talents. This same celebration galvanized her fascination with and love for trains and railroadiana, a passion that she would write about the rest of her life. The pageant itself, entitled, "The Iron Horse," was a success that was reported on in newspapers and wire-stories throughout the United States.

The B & O centennial led to a secondary career for Nathan. Using the information compiled during her production of the pageant, Nathan collaborated with Margaret Ernst to write a children's history of train travel in 1931. The Iron Horse was selected as a best book for children by the Child Study Association of America. Nathan followed this success with two more children's books, Thus the Farmer Sows His Wheat in 1932, and Let's Play Garden in 1936. As her success in writing grew, she expanded her repertoire, collaborating on a musical version of the story of Gilbert and Sullivan titled Knights of Song with Glendon Allvine in 1935 and a screenplay, The Fourteen Uncles with Bertram Bloch and Peter Arno in 1939.

Nathan's reputation as a producer of pageants increased in the decades following her first triumph. She produced "Wings of a Century" for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, and "Century on Parade" celebrating the town of Rochester, New York in 1934. A series of Labor Day Pageants for the Weirton Steel Company in Weirton, West Virginia during the early 1940s teamed her up with a man who would become a principal collaborator, Blevins Davis. She also consulted on "Railroads on Parade" for the 1939 New York World's Fair.

The years of World War II saw Nathan expand into a greater number of creative outlets. She became active in radio programming, writing or directing a number of broadcasts such as "The Story of All of Us" for WEAF-NBC, "Beyond the Call of Duty" for the Young Men's Christian Association, and "Opinion Requested" for Army-Air Force WOR. She became more involved with motion pictures, serving as a story editor for Grand National Pictures, and scripting series of short educational films, namely "States of the Nation" for MGM and "Pedigreed Pictures" (about breeds of dogs) for Paramount.

After the war, Nathan continued to write occasional articles for the likes of Vogue and the New York Times, but concentrated her energies on pageant production and writing children's books. Her "Forsythorama" presentation for the Winston-Salem (North Carolina) centennial (1949) was a highlight of her résumé, as were her well-received pageants celebrating the Lincoln's Speech at Gettysburg (which won her a Valley Forge Freedoms Foundation Medal in 1954) and the American Jewish Tercentenary in 1955.

Her career as an author continued to flourish with the publication of her works: The Building of the First Transcontinental Railroad (which was translated in several languages and issued in at least 14 printings) (1950), Wheat Won't Wait (about Cyrus McCormick's reaper) (1952), Famous Railroad Stations of the World (1953) and Seven Brave Companions (about the explorations of Joliet and Marquette along the Mississippi River) (1953).

In the 1960s, Nathan continued her output of notable children's books, branching off into more historical realms. Her Churchill's England was published in 1963 and Major John André, Gentleman Spy in 1969. She wrote Lincoln's America in 1961 and returned to Gettysburg to produce a centennial of Lincoln's visit in November 1963. She became a pageant consultant to the Howard Lanin Productions and participated in a commercial production with the company in 1960 to promote a real estate development in New Mexico. Long involved in professional organizations, Nathan began to devote more time to her many clubs and organizations, including The Woman Pays Club (of which she was president 1967-68, The Overseas Press Club of America, and the American Theatre Wing.

Her final book, How to Plan and Conduct a Bicentennial Celebration (1974) was written in anticipation of the United States' celebration of 1976. After this, Nathan retired from pageant production and concentrated on writing shorter articles and biographical reminiscences about herself and her forbears. In 1979, she was contacted by J.R.S. Productions on behalf of Warren Beatty to sit for an interview for his film-in-progress, Reds. Nathan's reminiscences about John Reed and Louise Bryant, both of whom she had met during her visit to Provincetown in 1917, were recorded on film and became a part of the finished Academy Award winning motion picture. More offers followed for film roles, though she made only brief cameos, and she became a favorite interviewee on subjects ranging from women's suffrage to theater history.

Her boundless energy carried her into the 1980's. She was awarded the Alumna of the Year Prize from Goucher College in 1981 and continued to attend to organizations that served her interests in history and railroad lore. She only lapsed into relative inactivity during her final two years. She died in New York on July 24, 1986 at the age of 96, leaving no immediate heirs.


Elizabeth Gutman Kaye, younger sister of Adele Gutman Nathan, grew up in the same atmosphere of artistic edification as her siblings. Whereas Adele became a director and writer, Elizabeth matured into an artist and performer. She began a career as a soprano, specializing in folk songs. Her concert performances took place around the East Coast of the United States and in several major capitols of Europe, including Paris and Vienna. In the late 1930s, she developed an interest in painting and slowly this career became paramount in her life. A series of exhibitions of her watercolors brought her attention in Europe and North America. She set up residence in Italy and after her husband Walter Kaye died, she returned to live near Adele in New York City. She died while on vacation in Jamaica on April 15, 1971.

Guide to the Adele Gutman Nathan Theatrical Collection
Under Revision
by Timothy Young
November 1992
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977


121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.