Scope and Contents
The Tunis F. Dean Papers consist of Dean's correspondence files, some of his business and financial papers, some printed ephemera, fourteen scrapbooks, and a small group of photographs. Series I holds correspondence, both personal and professional, including letters from a number of actors and theater managers, particularly those in the Belasco theater organization. Series II holds a small group of personal papers, including a scrapbook devoted to the death of Dean's mother Catherine. Series III holds financial and other records of productions with which Dean was involved, starring actresses Blanche Bates, Frances Starr, and Leonore Ulric, among others. Also here are thirteen scrapbooks containing clippings and ephemera from Dean's career and the theatre world in general. While the collection is strong in theatre management, particularly regarding the trials and finances surrounding theatrical tours, it is perhaps equally important for the wealth of personal correspondence that reveals Dean's extensive network of friends and male lovers, and on-going relationship with the Catholic church. The preservation of this documentation, particularly that surrounding his homosexual world, is remarkable especially considering that Dean was necessarily peripatetic for much of his adult life.
- 1886 - 1930
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
The Tunis F. Dean Papers 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
Purchased from Carmen D. Valentino on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, August 2006.
The collection is organized into three series: I. Correspondence, 1886-1930; II. Personal Papers, 1896-1929; and III. Theatre Records and Ephemera, 1887-1927.
17.25 Linear Feet (27 boxes)
Language of Materials
The Tunis F. Dean Papers consist of Dean's correspondence files, some of his business and financial papers, some printed ephemera, fourteen scrapbooks, and a small group of photographs. Series I holds correspondence, both personal and professional, including letters from a number of actors and theater managers, particularly those in the Belasco theater organization. Series II holds a small group of personal papers, including a scrapbook devoted to the death of Dean's mother Catherine. Series III holds financial and other records of productions with which Dean was involved, starring actresses Blanche Bates, Frances Starr, and Leonore Ulric, among others. Also here are thirteen scrapbooks containing clippings and ephemera from Dean's career and the theatre world in general. While the collection is strong in theatre management, particularly regarding the trials and finances surrounding theatrical tours, it is perhaps equally important for the wealth of personal correspondence that reveals Dean's extensive network of friends and male lovers, and on-going relationship with the Catholic church.
Tunis F. Dean
Tunis Ferdinand Anthony Dean was the first of ten children of Irish immigrants William Henry Dean (died circa 1892) and Catherine Whalen Dean (circa 1848-1914), and was born either in Columbus or Indianapolis, Indiana. The date of his birth appears to have been March 3rd, 1865, as supported by his 1896 passport application and in the 1910 and 1930 federal census reports. However, the year variously appears as 1867 (in the 1900 federal census), 1869 (on his 1912 life insurance application), 1870 (on the 1915 dance program from his 45th birthday fete), and 1871 (in his 1939 obituaries in the New York and Baltimore papers).
Raised in Indianapolis, Dean entered the theatre business as an employee of William Hayden English (1822-1896), a noted politician who owned the English Opera House on the city’s Monument Circle. He was hired away in 1885 by visiting impresario Patrick Harris, who took him to Baltimore to manage his theaters including the Academy of Music there. In 1890 Dean partnered with Harris and Harris’s brother-in-law Richard Britton to form Harris, Britton and Dean, proprietors of a chain of theaters between Minneapolis and Baltimore featuring popular-priced entertainments. The firm continued on for only a few years following Harris’s death in 1890, and Dean remained as manager of the Academy of Music when it was taken over by the Philadelphia firm of Nixon and Zimmerman in 1895. Aside from his affiliation with Samuel F. Nixon (1848-1918), Dean worked in Pittsburgh with Harry Davis (1861-1940), and, for a large part of his career, as a road manager, press agent, and personal representative with New York's great impresario David Belasco (1853-1931), his organization, and his company of actors: Dean handled Mrs. Leslie Carter, Frances Starr, Sarah Truax, and David Warfield, among others, as well as Blanche Bates, who became a personal friend. Perhaps the Belasco actress with whom he was most closely associated was Lenore Ulric (1892-1970), as he managed her tours of Tiger Rose, The Son-Daughter, The Gold Diggers, Kiki, and Lulu Belle between 1918 and 1926, and arranged her endorsements of products including perfume and jewelry. Toward the end of his career Dean worked with the actors Fanny Brice and Lionel Barrymore. Not just active the in theatre, Dean apparently invented a system to extract gold and silver from sea water, according to an article in the November 9, 1912, issue of Mining World.
After her husband's death, Catherine Dean moved to Baltimore and established a household (supported by Tunis Dean) through which revolved Dean and his siblings, at least four of whom also had careers in theatre management: Walter P. Dean (circa 1868-1909), Rose Dean Reaves (circa 1874-1895), Julia Dean Batten Hyland (circa 1876-1912), Katherine (Kate) Cecilia Dean (circa 1877-1950), Edward J. Dean (circa 1880-1912), and William Francis Dean (circa 1884-1904). Their home was a popular stopping place for the theatre community, as evidenced by the tributes received and national press coverage granted Catherine Dean at her death in 1914.
By all accounts debonair and creatively well-dressed (one obituary headline read "Veteran Theatrical Manager Was Colorful Figure Here Years Ago -- Noted Far And Wide for His Bizarre Clothes"), Tunis Dean was briefly engaged to the actress Anna Boyd in 1895, but never married. While his correspondence files reveal that he left broken hearts (both female and male) in cities and towns across the United States, they also show that he was extremely generous to his friends, colleagues, clients, and lovers, and regularly supported the businesses of florists everywhere. He died in Spring Valley, Rockland County, New York, on April 21, 1939, and was buried in the Dean family lot in Baltimore's New Cathedral Cemetery. In 1914 Dean had commissioned for the lot a granite obelisk twenty feet in height and a set of headstones for his mother and siblings; none of the monuments, including his, display life dates.
Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.
The Tunis F. Dean Papers were previously identified under the call number Uncat MSS 884. Prior to their sale to the library, the collection had been organized for sale by the vendor and that arrangement, which included many folders holding letters from people with the same first name, was reflected in the preliminary finding aid made available to researchers. Partial refinement of the correspondence files was achieved in 2011, which in some cases meant a redistribution of letters in the first-name folders. For instance, folders titled "Willie" and “Bill” held letters from William Smith, William Unruh, and William Wilken, among others; conversely, a "Dorothy Schad" folder held letters signed "Dorothy" and one from Ms. Schad, but the bulk of the letters were actually from the actress Dorothy Jardon. Though an attempt was made to further identify some correspondents ("Uncle Will" in the vendor's list was a friend, the New York interior decorator William L. Otis) and to pull together multiple letters from individuals, there may be additional letters in the chronological files at the end of Series I from people with folders in the alphabetical files at the beginning. Likewise, disassociated letters from the former first-name folders (including Ms. Schad) were moved to the chronological files. A copy of the vendor's collection description is filed in Box 1 to provide leads to some of Dean's personal associates, in particular those in his homosexual community, who are not otherwise pointed out in this finding aid.
- Academy of Music (Baltimore, Md.)
- Bates, Blanche, 1873-1941
- Beegle, May, d. 1943
- Belasco Theatre (New York, N.Y.)
- Belasco, David, 1853-1931
- Biedler, H. H. (Hampson Hubert), 1854-1921
- Bookbinder, Herman R.
- Business records
- Curry, Thomas A. (Thomas Albert)
- Dean, Tunis F. (Tunis Ferdinand), 1865-1939
- Duse, Eleonora, 1858-1924
- Gay men -- United States
- Grand Opera House (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
- Jardon, Dorothy, 1883-1966
- LGBTQ resource
- Leishear, Mary S.
- McCaull, Charles D.
- Moore, Alexander Pollock, 1867-1930
- Nixon-Nirdlinger, Samuel F., 1848-1918
- Pickford, Mary, 1892-1979
- Portrait photographs
- Quinlan, Elizabeth C., 1863-1947
- Roeder, Benjamin F., -1943
- Shook, Harry Dean
- Starr, Frances
- Theater -- United States
- Theatrical managers -- United States
- Truax, Sarah, 1873-1958
- Ulric, Lenore, 1892-1970
- Wilken, William L.
- Guide to the Tunis F. Dean Papers
- by Sandra Markham
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
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