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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 1781

David Hilberman "The Mother of Us All" designs

Includes set, properties, and lighting designs by David Hilberman for the May 1965 production of "The Mother of Us All," an opera written by Virgil Thomson with a libretto by Gertrude Stein about Susan B. Anthony, at the UCLA Opera Workshop, along with a design and inscription by Frederick Kiesler from the 1856 off-Broadway production, likely used for reference.


  • 1947-1965

Language of Materials

Collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.


.4 linear feet (34 oversize folders)

Includes set, properties, and lighting designs from the May 1965 production of "The Mother of Us All" at the University of California, Los Angeles Opera workshop. The designs are by David Hilberman, then a student in the Theater Arts master's program, and are accompanied by an earlier set design and an inscription to writer Virgil Thomson, both by Frederick Kiesler from the 1956 off-Broadway production, possibly used as references in the design process. Included are details of the set design on the main stage and wings, as well as plans regarding sight lines, elevations, platforms and fronts, as well as designs for properties and the layout for lighting instruments. Many designs are created with layers of painted laminate mounted together, while others include pencil and pastel sketches, and pencil on paper plans.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Ohio, David Hilberman, 1911-2007, was an animator for Disney and Hanna-Barbera, and the co-founder of United Productions of America. In the early 1960s, he shifted his career to theatrical set design, and created the designs for "The Mother Of Us All" as a student of the University of Califonia, Los Angeles Theater Arts master's program.

"The Mother of Us All" is an opera by Virgil Thomson to a libretto by Gertrude Stein about the life of Susan B. Anthony, first produced in 1947 at Columbia University. It was produced off-Broadway in 1956, with sets designed by Frederick Kiesler (1890-1965), and then revived again for the UCLA Opera Workshop in May 1965.


Arranged mainly as found prior to processing, with some groupings created by the archivist to bring designs related to elements of the set design and scenes together.

Physical Location

pfd (P1.C1.06.02 [Folders 1-21]) and ppf (P1.C1.06.02 [Folders 22-34])

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2018MT- 115. Gift of the Virgil Thomson Foundation, 1986 December.

Processing Information

Processed by Betts Coup, 2018.
Link to catalog
Hilberman, David, 1911-2007. David Hilberman "The Mother Of Us All" designs, 1947-1965 (MS Thr 1781): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
2018 April 05
Description rules
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

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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