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COLLECTION Identifier: TCS 28

Harvard Theatre Collection of theatrical portrait photographs


This series includes portrait and group portrait photographs of theatrical and occasionally film performers, primarly eight by ten inches and up to portfolio sizes.


  • circa 1860-2010
  • Majority of material found within circa 1880-1930

Language of Materials

Collection is in English and French.

Conditions Governing Access

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


128 linear feet (474 boxes and 796 oversize folders)

Includes portrait photographs, mainly black and white, of theatrical performers, as well as a few portraits of film actors, playwrights, theatrical and film directors, and designers. The portraits range from approximately 1860 through the 1970s, with the bulk of the oversize photographs dating from about 1880-1930, and include multiple photographic processes. A few have been hand-colored or otherwise physically altered. Many include annotations on the back describing the productions, or inscriptions and autographs on the front. A few are accompanied by written or typed biographies or reviews of performances or productions. Most of the performers appear to have been in productions in the United States, primarily in New York and Boston. A considerable number of portraits of Julia Arthur, an actress working around the turn of the twentieth century, are included, as are actors from a number of productions from the Tremont and Hollis Street Theatres in Boston in the 1920s.

The oversize materials have been processed, while additional boxed materials (which include further performers and figures from theatrical and film history) have not been processed, and are not included in the existing list of contents.

Biographical / Historical

The theatrical portrait photographs were grouped together due to similar format and content, and include photographs of performers from throughout the last two centuries of theatrical performance. The photographs were likely used for promoting or commemorating performances or productions, or the performers themselves, often serving as souvenirs, complete with autographed inscriptions.


Arranged in alphabetical order by name of main subject of portrait or group portrait. Boxed items are arranged in this manner more loosely, as they have not been processed fully.

Physical Location

b, pfd (P1.C1.01.01 - P1.C1.02.07 [Folders 1-784]) and ppf (P1.C1.02.08 [Folders 785-795])

Immediate Source of Acquisition

No accession number. Donated by and acquired from various sources at various dates prior to 2010.

Related Materials

This series was "closed" (not to be added to) in 2010. For portraits acquired after this date, see HTC Photographs 4.

For theatrical portraits in other formats (such as cabinet photographs, postcards, cartes-de-visite, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes) see other "HTC Photographs" and "TCS" series, and other individual photographic collections.

Processing Information

Oversized items processed by Betts Coup, 2018 April. Boxes 1-49 have been processed by students Sophie Webster and Richard Chen, 2018-2019. Remaining boxes will be processed in the future.

Harvard Theatre Collection of theatrical portrait photographs, circa 1860-2010 (TCS 28): Guide
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
2018 April 26
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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