Skip to main content

Crawford Theater collection

Call Number: MS 1387
Scope and Contents

In December 1918, Jack Crawford, professor of English at Yale University, donated to the Yale University Library his collection of theater-related programs, playbills and printed and pictorial material. Until his retirement in 1946, Jack Crawford developed, maintained and publicized the collection. His involvement in the theater community of New Haven (he and his wife founded the first Little Theater in New Haven in 1921) and in the academic community provided him with opportunitites to advertise his collection and solicit donations of performing arts memorabilia. Originally housed in a small room in the old University Library, the collection was moved in 1930 to a specially designed room in the new Sterling Memorial Library. The collection expanded rapidly over the years, and was moved several times within the Library to accommodate its growth. In 1984, the collection was moved to Manuscripts and Archives.

The Crawford Theater Collection consists of playbills and programs, photographs in a variety of formats, engravings, posters, clippings and other printed material which document the performing arts in the United States and throughout the world from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries. Material relating to dramatic performance forms the nucleus of the collection, but dance, opera, motion picture, circus, radio and television performances are also represented.

The Crawford Theater Collection consists of approximately 500 linear feet of material and is arranged in the following six series:

  2. II. PICTORIAL MATERIAL, 1800-1980
  3. III. POSTERS, 1850-1980
  4. IV. CLIPPINGS, 1800-1980
  5. V. MISCELLANEA, 1850-1980
  6. VI. PRINTED MATERIAL, 1900-1980

SERIES I, PLAYBILLS AND PROGRAMS, 1663-1989, consists of programs and playbills documenting theater, musical theater, variety, vaudeville, dance, motion picture, circus, and opera productions. While material from the British Isles (England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland) and the United States is most prominant, the series contains programs and playbills from throughout the world. Dominating the series are programs which document performances in the major theaters of London, Boston, New Haven, New York and Philadelphia. Amateur, avant-garde, and college and university productions are represented to a lesser degree. The majority of programs are complete; however, many productions are represented by clipped cast lists only. Fewer then twenty early playbills are in the form of reproductions. Theater and music performances at Yale University are documented in the series. Additional programs for the Yale Dramatic Association productions may be found in the Association's records within the Yale University Archives record group 40-A-33. Programs mounted in scrapbooks are listed under Series IV, Clippings.

Due to their age, size, and type, the playbills and programs have been arranged in seven subseries, A through G. Subseries descriptions immediately precede the box listing for each subseries, and must be read to fully understand the distinctions between subseries. Basically, the division of subseries A through D is based on size, and the division of subseries E through G is based on type. One may need to review several subseries in order to find playbills and programs for any one production or for all holdings from a particular city or theater. The general descriptions of the subseries are as follows:

  1. Subseries A:
  2. Inclusive dates: 1795-1969
  3. Largest dimension: between 18" and 36"
  4. Type of container: "bully" box
  5. Number of boxes: 19
  1. Subseries B:
  2. Inclusive dates: 1663-1860
  3. Largest dimension: 17"
  4. Type of container: flat grey box
  5. Number of boxes: 11
  1. Subseries C:
  2. Inclusive dates: 1861-1971
  3. Largest dimension: between 13" and 17"
  4. Type of container: flat grey box
  5. Number of boxes: 27
  1. Subseries D:
  2. Inclusive dates: 1861-1989
  3. Largest dimension: 12"
  4. Type of container: document case
  5. Number of boxes: 461
  1. Subseries E:
  2. Bound playbills and programs
  3. Inclusive dates: 1790-1950
  4. Largest dimension: 19"
  5. Type of container: variety
  6. Number of boxes: 30
  1. Subseries F:
  2. Fabric playbills and programs
  3. Inclusive dates: 1872-1923
  4. Largest dimension: 20"
  5. Type of container: flat grey box
  6. Number of boxes: 1
  1. Subseries G:
  2. Film programs
  3. Inclusive dates: 1913-1974
  4. Largest dimension: 12"
  5. Type of containers: document case
  6. Number of boxes: 5

SERIES II, PICTORIAL MATERIAL, 1800-1980, consists of pictographic material, including tintypes, cartes-des-visites, cabinet photographs, glossy prints, lantern slides, newspaper and journal clippings, and engravings. The series is arranged in three sections: Actors and actresses,Motion picture stills, and Other materials.

Actors and actresses consists of photographic material arranged in several sub-sections. Pictorial images and photographs of many major theatrical figures are contained in this section, which includes select files on such nineteenth century American theater performers as Sarah Bernhardt, Jane Cowl, Eleanor Duse, and Edwin Booth.

Additional pictorial materials are arranged in topical sub-sections such as: Musical comedy, Burlesque, and Circus stars. Other sub-sections contain specific types of material including: Portraits, Actors: large prints, and items identified as part of the Greishaber Collection.

Motion picture stills consists of glossy prints of scenes and from motion pictures made from ca. 1930-1960.

Other materials includes a variety of pictorial forms, including cartes-des-visites, cabinet photographs, lantern slides, and engravings which portray many famous and lesser-known theatrical performers and entertainers in other fields.

SERIES III, POSTERS, 1850-1980, consists of several hundred American posters depicting theatrical productions, announcing theatrical performances, or promoting theatrical performers.

SERIES IV, CLIPPINGS, 1800-1980, consists of newspaper and journal clippings relating to performers, productions, and other aspects of the performing arts. This series is arranged in fourteen sections:

  1. Actors and actresses
  2. Actors: foreign
  3. Actors: Shakespearean
  4. Actors: Musical comedy
  5. Actors: Motion pictures
  6. Dancers
  7. Circus performers
  8. Dramatists
  9. Theaters
  10. Stock Companies, autographs, miscellanea
  11. Critiques
  12. Miscellanea
  13. Scrapbooks

Actors and actresses consists of an alphabetical arrangement of clippings for theatrical and other performers (ca. 1800-1980). Clippings include pictorial views and informational items on many performers.

Critiques contains newspaper clippings of commentaries on theatrical and motion picture productions and related topics (ca. 1930-1960). These files are arranged alphabetically by subject.

Scrapbooks contains several volumes of clippings, programs, and related materials collected by individuals active or interested in the world of professional theater.

SERIES V, MISCELLANEA, 1850-1980, contains printed material, clippings, pictorial material, paraphernalia, and miscellanea relating to several general topics on the theater and performing arts, as well as material acquired through individual accessions, or relating to specific individuals or theatrical organizations. Partial indices to portions of the Crawford Collection, including Boston theater programs from 1838-1929, are arranged in this series.

SERIES VI, THEATER PRINTED MATERIAL, 1900-1980, contains a variety of journals, magazines, and other publications devoted to the history and development of the performing arts.

Conditions Governing Access

While this collection as a whole is available for research, Series III boxes 301 to 304 and 306A to 306F (Posters, 1850-1980) are restricted due to their very fragile condition.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Jack Randall Crawford, 1930, and others, 1930-1995, 1997. Separated from the Underhill Moore Papers, 2006; and transfer from the Historical Sound Collection, 1996.


Arranged in six series and two additions: I. Playbills and Programs, 1663-1989. II. Pictorial Material, 1800-1980. III. Posters, 1850-1980. IV. Clippings, 1800-1980. V. Miscellanea, 1850-1980. VI. Printed Material, 1900-1980.

Related Material

Related material: Jack Randall Crawford Papers, MS 153, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Related material: Theater Manuscripts Collection, MS 667, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Related material: Crawford Theater Collection, Yale Drama Library, Yale University.

468.52 Linear Feet (828 boxes, 3 folios)
Related Names
Crawford, Jack Randall, 1878-
Language of Materials