The following comes from The Theatre, Vol 4, by Deshler Welch. Theatre Pub. Co., 1889,Â pg 4.
Scenery and “Properties.”
Their Influence upon Dramatic Literature.
By scenery is meant the paintings in perspective and movable with the change of place represented in the play.
The word “properties” we find technically applied to the appurtenances of the stage in England as early as 1511. In an account of the furniture used for the play of St. George during the Revels at Court in that year, “properties” and “property making” are both used. The person in charge of them was called the “tire-man,” and the one in charge of the “apparel” was called the “garment-man.”
In the estimates of the Revels in 1563 the “properties” for five plays at Windsor are mentioned several times. The “tireman,” as well as the “book-holder” (the prompter), is also spoken of by Ben Jonson in the induction to his play, “Cynthia’s Revels,” and both are mentioned by many other dramatic writers of that time.
As long ago as 1561 the public theatres only had, instead of scenery, besides the curtain in front, other curtains at the back of the stage. These were called “traverses,” and served to indicate another inner apartment, when one was needed. These were also afterward called “arras.” In “Hamlet” we find Polonius places himself behind the “arras.” Beds, chairs, and other “properties” needed on the stage, were thrust on through these hangings.