Tag Archives: Edwin Booth

US Presidents and the Theatre

President Obama and his daughters attended the July 18, 2015, performance of Hamilton on Broadway. His wife, Michelle, had seen it off-Broadway at the Public Theatre. Former president Bill Clinton and his wife, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, also caught an off-Broadway performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s celebrated show about the Founding Fathers. Miranda first performed songs from the show way back in 2009 to Obama, and he sat next to the President during last week’s performance at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

Many of my friends worked on the show (Jay Duckworth even has an article on how the props shop made 160 turned candlesticks). It made me wonder about the theatre habits of other Presidents. Turns out, the American Presidency has long had a rich involvement with the theatre. Thanks to the book American Presidents Attend the Theatre by Thomas Bogar and a few hours of Googling, I’ve dug up a few interesting stories. Continue reading US Presidents and the Theatre

Backstage at Booth’s Theatre in 1870

The following illustrations are taken from an 1870 book about the backstage areas of Edwin Booth’s theatre in New York City.

Property Room
Property Room

The book has this to say about the property room and adjoining armory:

The “property room” gathers within its fold a marvellous curiosity-shop; helmets and tiaras, mitres and swords, crowns and masks, gyves and chains; furniture of the past and of to-day, “cheek by jowl;” griffins and globes, biers and beer-cups, coffins and thrones; decorations for the garden, the boudoir, the palace; furniture for the salon or the hovel—a multitude of things, in fact, more numerous than can readily be catalogued. The “armory”, if not a collection of such strange things, is interesting, and looks as if we were wandering through some ancient tower or castle rather than “behind the scenes” at a theatre.


Because the illustrations are so charming, I thought I would show a few more.

Scene-Painters' Room
Scene-Painters’ Room

The book also does the great service of giving the names of all the backstage workers at that time:

We must give large credit for all the complete features of this theatre to Mr. J. L. Peake whose inventive talent constructed the machinery; to Mr. Withan, whose skilful pencil gives us pictures of such rare beauty; to Mr. Deuel, whose tase and research provide all those many accessories of furniture and properties, so often necessary to give illusion to the scene; to Mr. Joyce, who reproduces with historical accuracy the costumes of bygone periods; to Mr. Dunn, the carpenter, without whom the play were naught; and to Mr. Kelsey, engineer, whose care and watchfulness contribute to our safety and comfort.

The stage - setting the scenes
The stage – setting the scenes

The property man’s full name is James P. Deuel.

Originally published in Booth’s Theatre. Behind the Scenes. Illustrated, by OB Bunce. Reproduced from Appletons’ Journal. New York: Henry L. Hinton, 1870.