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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 857

Skinner family papers

Includes materials relating to the theatrical careers of the Skinner family, including Otis Skinner, his wife Maud Durbin Skinner, and their daughter, Cornelia Otis Skinner, all of whom were American actors, such as: portrait photographs; family correspondence; manuscripts of plays, articles, speeches, poems, monologues, and books; costume drawings; recordings; playbills and programs; and clippings and miscellaneous printed material.


  • 1874-1979

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

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


31 linear feet (30 boxes and 66 oversize folders)

Contains oversize, black-and-white photographs of Cornelia Otis Skinner and Otis Skinner from their acting careers. The photographs of Cornelia Otis Skinner include photos in multiple costumes and as many characters in her solo performances such as "The Loves of Charles II," "A Mansion on the Hudson," and "Wives of Henry VIII," as well as photographs as Empress Eugenie and at home. Photographs of Otis Skinner include those in costume for productions such as "Blood and Sand" (with Cornelia Otis Skinner), "Francesca di Rimini," "The Harvester," "Kismet," "Merchant of Venice," "Mr. Antonio," "100 Years Old," "Pietro," "The Rivals," "Sancho Panza," "Taming of the Shrew," "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and more, as well as in the role of Falstaff, which he played in both the "Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Henry IV" in the 1920s.

The unprocessed, boxed materials include correspondence between family members and letters from others to them; manuscripts of lectures, articles, and plays by Otis as well as drafts with annotations of his autobiography; manuscripts of plays and speeches by Maud; manuscripts of early poems, articles, monologues, plays, and notes and drafts of books by Cornelia; and annotated scripts, promptbooks, scrapbooks, photo albums, costume drawings, photographs, recordings, programs, playbills, clippings, and miscellaneous printed material from the careers of all the Skinners.

Biographical / Historical

The Skinner family: Otis Skinner, his wife, Maud Durbin Skinner, and their daughter, Cornelia Otis Skinner were American actors. Otis was best known for his role as Hajj in "Kismet," which he created on stage and on film; Cornelia wrote and performed several one-woman shows like "The Loves of Charles II", "A Mansion on the Hudson," and "Wives of Henry VIII." She was also the author of numerous books, including a biography of Sarah Bernhardt, Madame Sarah, and Lindsay and Crouse, and co-author with Emily Kimborough of "Our Hearts Were Young and Gay."


The oversized folders have been processed and arranged in two runs: one of photographs of Cornelia Otis Skinner, alphabetized by production, and one of photographs and a drawing of Otis Skinner, alphabetized by production. The boxed materials have not been processed and are not arranged but contents are roughly described.

Physical Location

pfd (P1.C1.02.18 - P1.C1.02.20 [Folders 1-66]), Harvard Depository, pf

Custodial History

Gifts of Cornelia Otis Skinner, 1942-1972, and Otis Skinner Blodget, 1981-1985.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

No accession numbers. Gifts of Cornelia Otis Skinner, 1942-1972, and Otis Skinner Blodget, 1981-1985.

Processing Information

Processed by Betts Coup, 2018 May.
Link to catalog
Skinner family papers, 1874-1979 (MS Thr 857): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
2018 May 08
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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