The following comes fromÂ the New-York tribune, July 03, 1910.Â Written by Charles Bloomingdale, Jr., it tells the story of Charles Hoffner, props master at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia, PA. Incidentally, the Walnut is the first professional theater I’ve ever worked at, as an apprentice stagehand ninety-one years after this article was written. I’ve cut some of the parts that don’t deal with props to keep this short, but you can read the full article at the above link.
Hats off, gentlemen! Age, in the person of the Past, quavers “Good morrow” to you: the old, musty, dusty proproom of the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia bids you come in from the garish glare of to-day and sink in its shadows of bygone yesterdays, bids you see and touch the things that Forrest, Booth, Macready, Kean, Charlotte Cushman, Dion Boucicault, and other giants of the stage saw and touchedâ€“yes, and usedâ€“in those dear, dead days when the drama was palmy. Hats off, gentlemen and enter!
The Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia is the oldest standing playhouse in America. In February, 1808, it was erected, and for one hundred and two years it has flourished. Once it stood at the outskirts of the town, then the center; now the town has grown many, many miles beyond it. But its proproomâ€“its old proproom; for it has two nowâ€“is the same as when Pepin and Preschard opened the theater with a circus and pantomime one hundred and two years ago.
What is a proproom? A proproom is a room for properties. And what are properties? Anything and everything, costumes excepted, used on the stage during a play. A property room looks like the average junkshop, possibly more so. A chair is a property; so is a clock, a cane, a candle, a chain, a corkscrew. And a bottle is a property too, and the forged will and the mortgage papers, a horseshoe, a feather duster, and a paper of pins. And the property man of the theater has all these hundreds of seemingly inconsequential things under his thumb and gets them when they’re needed. Continue reading The Old Proproom at the Walnut St Theatre, 1910