The Covetous Property Man, 1904

The following first appeared in The New York Times, July 24, 1904:

“There is no more assiduous collector of odds and ends than the average theatrical property man,” said a well-known actor. “Everything is fish for his net, you might say, and the contents of the chest or trunk of one of these individuals after a forage through the country would easily hold its own with Dickens’s famous curiosity shop…

“If you wish to find out the thoroughness with which the average property man accumulates, just ask him for any article, I don’t care what, and see if nine times out of ten he won’t produce it.”

“By accident I was a witness once of the manner in which a property man adds a coveted object to his collection. Our show was playing at Richmond, Va., at the time. Among the ‘props’ furnished by the theatre’s property man was a handsome rifle, which he had borrowed from a local firearms firm for the week.

“On Friday I had occasion to go to the theatre to get something I had forgotten. As I made my way to the dressing rooms I noticed our company’s property man standing to one side of the darkened stage, in a ray of sunlight, examining this rifle with the air of a connoisseur. There was nobody else in the theatre at the time, and he apparently had not seen me. I would probably have passed him by unnoticed but for the fact that he was holding a conversation with himself, which ran thus:

“‘You seem to be a pretty nice gun,’ he said, holding the rifle up to his shoulder and running his eye critically along the sights.

“‘Ever been on the road?‘ he continued, carefully scrutinizing the stock of the weapon.

“‘Why, you have no idea what a lot of fun you can have out on the road,’ he kept on seductively. ‘A great deal better than being stuck in a little town like this.

“‘How would you like to go on the road?‘ he queried, as if he had a sudden inspiration.

“‘You would? All right. I think I can fix it for you.’

“And he made for his trunk to see if he could lay in the rifle crosswise. He was just able to get it in, and the last words I heard him say to the enraptured weapon were:

“‘I’ll sign you with this company right away.‘”

Originally published in The New York Times, July 24, 1904.