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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.

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)
Related Names
Nathan, Adele Gutman
Language of Materials