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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 2023

John Haggott papers on the Margaret Webster-Paul Robeson production of Shakespeare's Othello

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the Theatre Guild production of Othello starring Paul Robeson from its premiere at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts on August 10, 1942 to its return to New York City in 1945 following 296 performances on Broadway and a tour of the United States and Canada. Formed by stage manager and associate producer John Haggott (Harvard Class of 1935), the collection consists of correspondence; administrative and financial records, including contracts and box office statements; programs, publicity material, photographs and clippings; Haggott’s promptbook for the 1944-45 tour; and stage props.


  • Creation: 1942-1958
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1942-1946

Language of Materials

Collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.


2.2 linear feet (10 boxes and 2 oversized folders)

Biographical / Historical

Under the direction of Margaret Webster, singer-actor and political activist Paul Robeson became the first African American to be cast as Othello in a major production in the United States. The production premiered in 1942 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with Uta Hagen as Desdemona and her husband, Puerto Rican actor José Ferrer, as Iago. Webster played Emilia but was replaced by Edith King during the Broadway run after a dispute over star billing status for Ferrer and Hagen.

The Broadway production ran from October 1943 to June 1944 and was produced by the Theatre Guild and designed by Robert Edmond Jones. John Haggott, Harvard Class of 1935, served as stage manager and associate producer. The production broke the record, which it still holds, for the longest-running Shakespeare play on Broadway.


Arranged into the following series: I. Correspondence; II. Production papers; III. Contracts: III.1 Artist agreements with the Theatre Guild III.2 Other agreements; IV. Financial papers: IV.1 Weekly statements IV.2 Box office statements IV.3 Summary statements IV.4 Other financial papers; V. Programs; VI. Publicity; VII. Promptbook; VIII. Photographs; IX. Stage properties; X. Additional material; XI. Original enclosures

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2005MT-1. Gift of Catherine Phinizy in memory of John Haggott and Frances Harison Phinizy Haggott, 2001.

Processing Information

Processed by Diana Myers and Dale Stinchcomb from a checklist by Fredric Woodbridge Wilson, 2019.

Haggott, John. John Haggott papers on the Margaret Webster-Paul Robeson production of Shakespeare's Othello, 1942-1958 (MS Thr 2023): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
January 6, 2020
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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