The following is taken from an article which first appeared in The Daily Evening Telegraph in 1871:
We have left ourselves little room to speak of the “hand props.” They are literally almost infinite. Whatever is used in life is needed to show the “very body of the age” upon the mimic scene. The depository of these cheap wonders is always on the prompt side, and as near the first entrance as possible. It is called the property-room, and while in it the subject of our sketch owes no allegiance, or at least pays none, to the stage manager himself. There are other rooms for the storage of larger articles, and such things as are not continually in demand.
Unless the Property Man is a person of great method, the “props” are apt to become scattered all over the theatre. There are such numbers of them, and almost every fresh piece so adds to the numbers, that unless they are ruthlessly weeded out at short intervals, they fill every available corner of stage room. Some property men are like certain housekeepers—they hate to destroy anything, thinking that some time it may turn to be of use. In that case the man keeps on filling up the place until he can’t find anything or can’t turn around. He then leaves in disgust, and another official coming in has a grand house-cleaning.
As regards “hand props” our man has a nightly list of articles, on what scene they are to be used, and by whom. The call-boy furnishes these articles to the proper parties, and collects them afterwards and returns them to the property-room. The rule is that calls shall be made in the green-room, and that the boy shall hand the “props” required to the individual at the time of calling him. In fact, however, the actor prefers to personally look up his props, so as to have a little more margin of time than the call would give him. But green-room matters, although important, scarcely belong to the subject under consideration.
Originally published in The Daily Evening Telegraph, Philadelphia, May 12, 1871, pg 5.