That last link comes from the Propville directory. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and work in props, you should check it out. If you don’t, it still has some great articles to read like the one above.
Need a homeless person sign for your show? Michael Zinman has been collecting them since 2001, and this slideshow has plenty of authentic examples for research purposes.
I found I had an aptitude for prop making and polystyrene carving which was just coming into its own for 3D work. This was of course long before the days of vac forming. Pretty well everything was made in house with the exception of everyday furniture which was generally trawled from junk shops and the like. Hector Riddle, the head of props was quite outstanding: I remember the Bofors gun he created for Events While Guarding the Bofors Gun was especially impressive. It was the level of care taken on the details that stood out.
The rest of the posts are equally as enlightening and informative.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the use of the word “property” in the theatrical sense first appeared around 1425 A.D. In the prologue to the play, The Castle of Perseverance, the second flag-bearer announces to the audience:
Grace, if God wyl graunte us, of hys mykyl myth,
þese parcellis in propyrtes we purpose us to playe
þis day seuenenyt
This transcription comes from The Macro Plays, edited by Frederick James Furnivall and Alfred William Pollard, published in 1904. You can see the original manuscript below:
Grace, if God will grant us of his great might,
On scaffolds with costumes the roles we will play
This day sevennight
While certainly clearer in meaning, this translation has the unfortunate side effect of replacing “properties” with “costumes”, thus nullifying the Oxford English Dictionaries assertion of the word’s first appearance. Still, I think we can give the OED a little more scholarly weight in this instance.
According to Wikipedia, The Castle of Perseverance is not only the earliest known full-length vernacular play in existence, it is also important for its inclusion of a set drawing. The drawing is also one of the earliest known surviving examples of its kind. It hints that the play may have been performed in the round.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies