Belasco’s Property Room Part 4, 1920

The following is the fourth part of a 1920 article on David Belasco’s property collection. The first partsecond part and third part were published earlier:

Mementoes of Napoleon

by Frank Vreeland

He knows every object in this store-room by heart, and when he discovers that one of them is missing not even the omniscient property man questions his memory. That singularly retentive memory is one quality which Mr. Belasco has in common with Napoleon and may perhaps account for some of his admiration for the great Corsican, for the manager might be said to have acquired the remnants of Bonaparte’s empire. Continue reading Belasco’s Property Room Part 4, 1920

Belasco’s Property Room Part 3, 1920

The following is the third part of a 1920 article on David Belasco’s property collection. The first part and second part were published earlier:

Oddities From the Orient

by Frank Vreeland

Near a Mexican guitar used in “The Rose of the Rancho” and a moon harp played in “The Darling of the Gods” hangs a pair of Chinese torture pliers which were originally intended for use in “The Son-Daughter” and which look like a pair of exaggerated lemon squeezers. Buddhist bronzes and Japanese tea sets of valuable teak wood are mingled with Oriental steel mirrors bought in a New York department store. Beneath a large part of the ceiling spreads the spokes of a large wheel from a loom that is 150 years old and casts its shadow on a set of telephone books from “The Woman,” which Property Chief Purcell remarks drily “are being kept as a souvenir of the day when you could get your call.

“And besides,” he adds with a twinkle, “they’ll be handy if the ghost of one of the men in the cast who died wants to look up a number.”

The room is especially prolific in swords. A bushel of them are rammed into a high vase in one corner, and the room sprouts them elsewhere—Roman swords, old English sabres, heavy five foot blades swung in the Crusades, and an ancient English executioner’s axe, which Mr. Purcell exhibited as a very efficient means of promoting the acquaintance of ancestors with their descendants.

A cabinet with one of the most interesting arrays in the whole exhibition—which is ticketed and catalogued, by the way—is that containing the bed quilts of the epoch when they used the bed warmers on view in one corner and didn’t depend on the janitor for heat. There are comforters and counterpanes with the sort of zigzag designs and chromatic convulsions that would warm a cubist’s heart, let alone his feet. Some of them are beautiful even from a modern standpoint, however, and those that are ugly are none the less valuable, like the Paisley shawls, of which Mr. Belasco has his fair share. Many of these coverlets were bought by Mr. Belasco without any intention of applying them to the A. H. Woods kind of production, simply being purchased as part of the entire contents of Gen. Braddock’s house in Washington, which Mr. Belasco snapped up as part of his unending campaign to equip himself with a full line of antiques.


Original Publication: Vreeland, Frank. “Belasco’s Property Room Houses Antique Gems.” The Sun and New York Herald 1 Feb. 1920, Sunday Magazine Section sec.: 7. Print.

Weekend Prop Reading

What a cool job! Artslandia Kids has this fun infographic with John Ellingson, props master for Northwest Children’s Theater.

Oh no, only one week until Halloween. Quick, make some demon horns out of upholstery foam and paper towels!

Popular Woodworking Magazine has a short tutorial on creating a 3D Sketchup model from a photograph. In this case, it’s a photograph taken at an angle, which is less than ideal for getting measurements.

Make Magazine has a tutorial on making giant inflatable plastic tentacles. They use plastic welding, which is a technique I’ve always wanted to try but have never gotten around to.

Finally, take a look at these twenty or so weird and awesome helmets from throughout history. Look at them!

Shooting at the OK Corral

This past weekend saw another accident with guns used during a performance, this time at a Wild West reenactment during Tombstone’s Helldorado Days.

According to Tucson News Now, “One of the Vigilantes arrived late and did not have his gun properly inspected. He then accidentally shot another member of the Vigilantes.” The show was stopped immediately, and it turns out the shooter’s gun had been loaded with six live rounds, and five of them were fired.


We could talk about all the things that “should have” happened. They should do a gun check before every show. They should have an armorer in charge of all the ammunition. They should cheat their aim away from other actors. They should, they should, they should.

But it sounds like they do that. The Tombstone Vigilantes have been performing reenactments since 1946. They do several shows a month. Collectively, they have probably fired off more blank ammunition than most of us have even seen. And they have done it without an accident for 69 years.

So what happened? I don’t know. We may never know. But the important thing to take away from all this is that weapons safety protocols are important no matter how experienced you are, or how many times you have done a show. No matter how much training you have, or how qualified you become, you can never skip over proper safety procedures.

Learning about proper weapon safety isn’t like a vaccine, where once you learn it, you are protected from future accidents. It only works if you follow it each and every time weapons are used on stage. There is no new procedure or protocol we can invent that will imbue us with perfect safety; we already know all the proper procedures, we just need to follow them.

I recently ran across the following passage from an 1874 issue of Harper’s Monthly Magazine. We’ve had safe weapons procedures for a long, long time; it goes to show that accidents only happen when they are neglected:

“A careful property-man keeps his ramrod attached by a cord to the wall, so that he may not by mistake leave it in a gun-barrel after loading the weapon. Accidents have arisen from a neglect of this precaution, and also from the improper or careless loading of weapons, as was the case a short time since in Washington, where a young man was shot and killed on the stage of a variety theatre by a too-heavy wadding, which entered his head from the gun of a horrified comrade. Paper wads are very dangerous; among the other accidents possible through them is that of their setting fire to the scenery; hence in well-regulated theatres a special wadding is used, made of hair, and which will not communicate fire to surrounding objects.”

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies