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Tony Pastor:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Pastor, Tony, 1837-1908
Title: Tony Pastor Collection
Dates: 1861-1908
Extent: 25 document boxes, 12 oversize boxes, 2 oversize folders (16.6 linear feet)
Abstract: Scripts and actors' sides make up the bulk of this collection, which documents much of Pastor's career as a theater manager and, to a lesser extent, as a performer.
RLIN Record ID: TXRC99-A26
Language English.
Access

Open for research, except for the scrapbooks in boxes 35 and 36 which are not available due to their fragile condition.




Acquisition

Purchase, 1984

Processed by

Helen Baer, 1999

Repository:

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin


"The Father of Vaudeville," Antonio Pastor was born in Brooklyn in 1837 and spent his life as an entertainer and theater manager. He made his first public appearance at the age of six singing at a temperance meeting. As a child he produced his own plays at home, and his first professional engagement was in 1846 at P. T. Barnum's Museum. The following year he began performing as a blackface minstrel with the Raymond and Waring Menagerie and then joined Welch, Delevan and Nathan's Circus as a clown, staying with the troupe until 1853. He was ringmaster at age fifteen and subsequently he joined Mabie's circus as a singing clown.

Pastor made his debut in variety in 1860 as a comic singer. He achieved acclaim when he appeared at the American Concert Hall at "444" Broadway (known as the 444) in April 1861, just as the Civil War was breaking out, and closed his act with "The Star Spangled Banner." Subsequently he became famous for his topical songs, the subjects of which were often derived from newspaper articles. In 1865 Pastor entered management when he opened Tony Pastor's Opera House in partnership with the minstrel show performer Sam Sharpley. The same year he formed Tony Pastor's Variety Show, the first of his traveling minstrel troupes which would tour the United States throughout the 1890s. In 1866 Sharpley quit the partnership but Pastor continued to manage the Opera House, appearing at every performance, until 1875 when he took over the Metropolitan Theatre at 585 Broadway. It was here that he worked to perfect the form of entertainment known as legitimate vaudeville, variety which was suitable for women and children as well as the traditional male audience.

In 1881 Pastor leased the Germania Theatre and renamed it Tony Pastor's New Fourteenth Street Theatre, announcing that it would be "catering to the ladies, and presenting for the amusement of the cultivated and aesthetic Pure Music and Comedy, Burlesque, and Farce." Tony Pastor's, as it came to be known, played variety shows until 1908. It was the most popular New York theatre of the 1880s, paving the way for the theatrical ventures of the impresarios B. F. Keith and Oscar Hammerstein, but by the first years of the twentieth century theatergoers had gone northward to venues in Times Square. In 1908 the Fourteenth Street Theatre became a motion picture theater; the same year, Pastor decided not to renew the lease. He died that year in Elmhurst, Long Island, survived by his wife Josephine Foley. They had no children.

Pastor's legacy extended beyond "cleaning up" variety entertainment. He recognized the talents of many performers who would later become famous, including Weber and Fields, Lillian Russell, Maggie Cline, and Nat C. Goodwin. It was noted at his death that his estate was valued at a mere $72,500 because he gave away more than $1 million in his lifetime. After he entered theater management, the multitalented Pastor continued to perform on the stage; the resulting rapport with his players doubtless contributed to the success of his shows. Though in many respects he could be considered a nineteenth century figure unable to adjust to twentieth century business, his astute widening of the theater audience to include women and children allowed future theater entrepreneurs to reap great profits.


"Antonio Pastor" in Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958-1964.

Slide, Anthony. "Tony Pastor" in The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.

Zellers, Parker. Tony Pastor: Dean of the Vaudeville Stage. Ypsilanti, Mich.: Eastern Michigan University Press, 1971.


Scripts and actors' sides make up the bulk of the Tony Pastor Collection which documents much of Pastor's career as a theater manager and, to a lesser extent, as a performer, 1861-1908 (bulk 1866-1890). The collection is organized into eight series: I. Scripts and Actors' Sides, 1866-1883 (18.5 boxes), II. Instrumental and Vocal Parts, nd (3.5 boxes), III. Song Lyrics, ca. 1880s (2.5 boxes), IV. Financial Journals, 1882-1894 (1.5 boxes), V. Programs, 1890-1894 (2 boxes, 1 oversize folder), VI. Scrapbooks, 1885-1908 (6.5 boxes, 1 oversize folder), VII. Sheet Music, 1878-1897 (0.5 box), and VIII. Miscellaneous, 1861-1902 (2 boxes). Within each series, material is arranged alphabetically by title of work or chronologically where appropriate.

Series I contains autograph scripts and actors' sides (a script with the dialogue for one actor) for more than one hundred sketches, burlesques, and pantomimes dating from Pastor's earliest days as the manager of Tony Pastor's Opera House in 1866 on up to his heyday at the Fourteenth Street Theatre in the 1880s. The range of topics is narrow, with rags to riches stories and abductions being common. Many scripts include African-American, Irish, and German characters. Almost every item in the series contains the notation "Property of Tony Pastor," suggesting that Pastor commissioned or bought many of the works for exclusive use in his shows. Many of the unsigned sketches may have been written by Pastor himself. Identified authors include John F. Poole, Charles F. Seabert, James Coleman Glynn, and J. C. Stewart. Commonly, the names of the actors are noted in the dramatis personae or on the actor's sides. The occasional clipping or playbill affixed or tipped into the scripts provides further evidence that the work was actually performed. In addition to the actors' lines, the scripts may also include stage managers' notations, an indication of when music was to be played (including song lyrics), a property list, or a synopsis. Many scripts are written in dialect, and many, but not all, instances of dialect are indicated in the following Folder List. Researchers will note that idiosyncratic spellings in the titles of scripts resulted from transcription from the original.

Many of the sketches that were performed in Tony Pastor's theaters included songs, overtures, and finales, and Pastor himself sang his topical songs regularly. The Instrumental and Vocal Parts Series contains autograph instrumental and vocal parts for six sketches and over two hundred songs. Some of the songs may have been interpolated into sketches, while others, like the topical songs, were performed as a single "turn" on a vaudeville bill. Like the scripts, the majority of the parts bear Pastor's name on the title page, possibly indicating authorship but more likely pointing to proprietary performance rights. Much of the music contains performance annotations. Parts for Sketches (Subseries A) precede parts for Songs (Subseries B).

Supplementing the scripts and music parts, the Song Lyrics Series comprises autograph, typed, and printed lyrics for about sixty songs, most from later in Pastor's career. Parodies of popular songs are common. A scrapbook, ca. 1889, contains lyrics for about forty-five songs written by Tony Pastor, Charles Osborne, Felix McGlennon, and others. They are frequently annotated by Pastor. The series also contains two boxes of printed lyrics in the form of song sheets that were meant to be sold to theater patrons.

The Financial Journals Series is divided into Subseries A. Touring Companies, 1882-1887, and Subseries B. Fourteenth Street Theatre, 1886-1894, arranged chronologically within the subseries. The season for Pastor's traveling troupe ran from April to October and included stops in small towns and large metropolitan areas in the American Northeast and Midwest. The journals contain detailed daily entries on receipts and the amount spent on advertising, properties, salaries, carriages, and the like. Also given is non-financial information such as the name of the hall, the agent, the "opposition" (competing performances), and the weather. Frequently the journal keeper commented on the success of the show; for example, in 1882 it was written of Dubuque, Iowa, "Town no good" and "Price 1 00 is too high." In contrast to the rich detail of the touring journals, the journals for the Fourteenth Street Theatre contain weekly summaries of receipts and expenses. At the back of these journals are separate sections for performers' salaries and advertising costs.

The Programs Series comprises over one hundred weekly programs for the Fourteenth Street Theatre, 1890-1894, and two copies of an undated playbill.

The Scrapbooks Series, 1885-1908, contains publicity materials: advertisements for upcoming shows, reviews, and promotional articles about Pastor or the acts appearing at his theater. The series is subdivided into two subseries, Touring Companies and Fourteenth Street Theatre. In two of the New York scrapbooks, the clippings are organized by newspaper. A special anniversary scrapbook contains clippings regarding Pastor's twenty-fifth anniversary in theater in March 1890. Clippings were taken from the New York Recorder, New York Herald, New York Journal, World, New York Daily Tribune, Mail and Express, New York Press, Telegram, New York Clipper, Telegraph, New York Daily News, Sun, New York Dramatic Mirror, New York Dramatic News, and other newspapers.

Series VII contains sheet music for music hall songs published between 1878 and 1897. Much of the sheet music was given to Pastor as a complimentary copy by the lyricist, composer, or singer who popularized the song; hence, nearly half of the songs bear an inscription by variety performer Lillie Western. The songs were written by E. Jonghmans, Frederick Bowyer, Harry Adams, T. S. Lonsdale, Felix McGlennon, Harry Randall, Joseph Tabrar, and others. The series is arranged by song title; dates in brackets in the folder list indicate date of inscription, not publication.

The Miscellaneous Series contains a managers' report book with typed evaluations of vaudeville acts that appeared in 1902 in New York, the Midwest, and Washington, D.C. The often candid appraisals were written by theater managers judging the success of their own acts. The series also contains two notebooks, one from 1861 with a partial script in Pastor's hand, and the other containing undated lyrics for speaker and chorus in another hand.

For a fuller description of the collection, see:

Kattwinkel, Susan. "Tony Pastor's Vaudeville: Serving the New York Community." Library Chronicle of the University of Texas at Austin 25, no. 3 (1995): 50-75.

For an analysis of selected scripts in the collection, see also:

Kattwinkel, Susan. Tony Pastor Presents: Afterpieces from the Vaudeville State. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Information regarding the scripts in Series I, including plot synopses, is available in an earlier finding aid in the Reading Room.

    Abbreviations in the Folder List

  • b=box
  • ff=flat file
  • ob=oversize box


Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are photographs, articles, programs, songs, posters, correspondence, and other materials relating to Tony Pastor, which can be found in the Variety Performers Collection. Researchers may also wish to consult playbill and scrapbook holdings in the Performing Arts Collection. Other Pastor papers are located at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Collection.


Correspondence

Bowyer, Frederick

Jonghmans, E.

McGlennon, Felix

Osborne, Charles, fl. 1885-1900

Poole, John F., 1835-1893

Subjects

Tony Pastor's New Fourteenth Street Theartre

Music-halls--New York (N.Y.)--1866-1890

Vaudeville--New York (N.Y.)--1866-1890

Traveling Theatre--United States--1866-1890

New York--Social life and customs

Document Types

Financial records

Programs

Scores

Scrapbooks

Scripts

Sheet music

Songs