George Brinton Beal papers, circus collection, and other theatrical collections
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.
13 linear feet (31 boxes and 28 oversize folders)
The great majority of the collected circus material is from the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Combined Shows from the 1930s, but many, many other circuses and shows are represented, and some earlier and later time periods. Circuses include: Adam Forepaugh & Sells Bros. Circus, Al G. Barnes and Sells-Floto Combined Circus, Barnett Bros. Circus, Barnum and Bailey, Bertram W. Mills Circus at Olympia, Billy Rose’s Jumbo, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Company Circus, Cirkus Schumann, Cole Bros. Circus, Downie Bro’s. Circus, Federal Theatre Project (Boston, Mass.). Federal Theatre of Massachusetts Circus, The Great Moscow Circus, Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, Hamid-Morton Indoor Circus, Lewis Bros. Big 3 Ring Circus, Otis Turner’s Big Shows, Consolidated Pagel’s New Circus, Rentz Brothers, Ringling Brothers, Robbins Bros. Circus, Russell Bros. Circus, Schubert Indoor Circus, Sparks World Famous Shows, Tayleure’s Great American Circus, Tom Mix Circus, Walter L. Main Circus, and others. Circus stars, circus animals, backstage cast and most other circus subjects are represented with photographs, clippings, a few manuscripts, and extensive writings by Beal.
Beal's collected rodeo materials include: letters to Beal, blank letterheads, leaflets and pamphlets, rosters (lists) of contestants, manuscripts, newsletters, photographic postcards, photographs, playbills, press passes, programs, tickets, and other material. Materials concern both male and female rodeo stars and many are from rodeos held at the Boston Garden and Suffolk Downs in the 1930s. Includes the following shows and stars: 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show, George A. Hamids Annual World's Championship Rodeo, Texas Rangers Rodeo, Tim McCoy Wild West Circus, Tom Mix Circus, Colonel W. T. Johnson's Annual World Championship Rodeos, Texas Convict Rodeo, Foghorn Clancy, Milt Hinkle, Colonel William T. Johnson, Tad Lucas, Lucyle Roberts, Claire Belcher Thompson, and many others.
Beal collected in other theatrical areas and also included here are collections of: theatrical photographs; scripts for stage plays; and theatrical programs, playbills, and pamphlets. There are a great many snapshots of famous stage actors and actresses, photographed primarily in Boston and New York City, many signed and inscribed by those depicted.
Beal's personal papers include his correspondence, compositions, advertising materials and photographs for the publication of his 1938 book, Through the back door of the circus. Also included in his personal papers are: correspondence with others such as circus and rodeo stars and friends and colleagues; his literary compositions; portrait photographs and drawings of Beal; and collected miscellany from his life. Photographs of Beal with others and his writings for the Boston Sunday Post are scattered throughout the collection, sorted under various subjects.
Biographical / Historical
Beal often traveled with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Combined Circus, gathering data for his writing and lectures, and taking photographs and motion pictures. In 1938 he published Through the back door of the circus with George Brinton Beal (Springfield, Mass.: McLoughlin Bros. Inc.). Along with the publication of this book, Beal delivered lectures about the circus, accompanied with his motion pictures.
- I. Beal collection of circus photographs and other material
- ___A. Aerial acts and stars
- ___B. Animals: other
- ___C. Backstage views: miscellaneous circus people and non-performers
- ___D. Cats: cat acts and trainers
- ___E. Circus passes and tickets
- ___F. Circuses and shows: general photographs and clippings
- ___G. Clowns
- ___H. Elephants: elephant acts and trainers
- ___I. Film stills from circus and jungle movies and shows
- ___J. Horses: baggage stock
- ___K. Horses: equestrian acts and trainers
- ___L. Owners and executives
- ___M. Physical circus: parades, views, wagons, etc...
- ___N. Press agents
- ___O. Side show acts and entertainers
- ___P. Small circus acts
- II. Beal collection of printed circus material
- III. Beal collection of photographs (non-circus and non-rodeo)
- IV. Beal collection of rodeo and wild west show materials
- ___A. Rodeo manuscripts and ephemera
- ___B. Rodeo photographs
- ___C. Rodeo programs and other printed materials
- V. Beal collection of scripts for stage plays
- VI. Beal collection of theatrical programs, playbills, and pamphlets (non-circus and non-rodeo)
- VII. George Brinton Beal personal papers
- ___A. Papers concerning the publishing of Through the back door of the circus
- ______1. Correspondence concerning book
- ______2. Compositions concerning book
- ______3. Advertising materials for the book
- VIII. Oversized photographs, playbills, and newspaper clippings
- ___B. Correspondence
- ___C. Compositions and miscellaneous manuscripts
- ___D. Photographs and drawings of George Brinton Beal
- ___E. Miscellany concerning George Brinton Beal
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Various old text references to the Beal Circus Collection suggested that Beal's circus movies would be part of Harvard's Beal holdings, but as of the date of full cataloging of this collection (June 2011), no movies have been located, and none were listed in the first paper finding aid made at time of receipt of the bequest.
Books and photographs were also given by Beal to the Harvard Theatre Collection beginning in 1935 and a bookplate for his Harvard College Library collection was established in 1944.
Most of Beal's photographs are included in this collection, though a few were distributed and cataloged throughout the Harvard Theater Collection's various series.
Printed copies of The Billboard magazine were transferred for cataloging to the Houghton Dept. of Printed Books, as was a copy of Warrior the untamed. The story of an imaginative press agent by Will Irwin.
The Beal collection was organized and described (with a paper finding aid) after receipt in the repository in 1957. In 2011 the collection was fully cataloged and the arrangement somewhat altered. The box numbers of the former arrangement have been tracked in the items below. See the curatorial file for a paper copy of the original finding aid.
The oversized materials were processed and added as Series VIII by Betts Coup, 2018 July.
- Beal, George Brinton. George Brinton Beal papers, circus collection, and other theatrical collections, 1831-1969: Guide.
- Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
- Description rules
- EAD ID
Part of the Houghton Library Repository
Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.
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