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Francis Wilson papers, 1875-1958.
Wilson, Francis, 1854-1935.
- 3.25 lin. ft. (8 boxes).
Collection is open to the public. Library policy on photography and photocopying will apply. Advance notice may be required.
The collection contains correspondence, speeches, accounts,clippings, scripts and other papers reflecting the personal and professional life of Francis Wilson. Wilson carried on an active correspondence with many contemporaries prominent in the theatrical or literary field. The large series of speeches illustrates his wide-ranging interests. There is material on the plays in which he appeared, especially ERMINIE, and information on his involvement with the Players Club, but very little documenting his role as first president of the Actors' Equity Association or on the pivotal strike he led in 1919. The main political battle documented in these papers is Wilson's efforts to keep child actors out from under the jurisdiction of state labor laws. There is alsosome information on Wilson's family and his personal financial transactions.
Comic actor, dramatic author and manager, Francis Wilson was an active spokesperson for theatrical interests. Bornin Philadelphia, he began his theatrical career as a childin minstrel shows. He made his debut on the legitimate stage at the Chestnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia in the 1878-79 season. For thirty-five years he was one of the best known and best loved of American comedians. His greatest success was as Cadeaux in ERMINIE. This operettaopened at the Casino Theatre in New York City in 1886, ranfor 1256 performances, had a long run on the road and was revived in 1921 with Wilson and his co-star, De Wolf Hopper, assuming again their famous roles.
In 1889 Wilson established his own production company, Francis Wilson and Company and ran up against the Theatrical Syndicate, a trust trying to control theater bookings. Allied with other actor-managers, Wilson foughtthe Syndicate but ultimately surrendered. This experienceled the founders of the Actors' Equity Association to ask him to serve as the first president of the organization, apost he assumed in 1913. In 1919 Wilson led the successful strike against the Producing Managers' Association in which Equity won recognition as the bargaining agent for actors. The next year Wilson retiredfrom the presidency.
Wilson was also a writer and a lecturer, writing books on Eugene Field, Joseph Jefferson, John Wilkes Booth and Edwin Booth as well as plays including THE BACHELOR'S BABYand his own reminiscences. Except for roles in Players Club productions, Wilson made his last professional appearances in the title role of RIP VAN WINKLE and in THERIVALS, both at the opening of the new Boston Repertory Theatre in 1925. His final appearance was in the Players Club revival of THE LITTLE FATHER OF THE WILDERNESS in 1930.
Controlled Access Terms
- Wilson, Francis, 1854-1935.
- Bruns, Edna, d. 1960.
- Canby, Albert H.
- Field, Eugene, 1850-1895.
- Frohman, Charles, 1860-1915.
- Frohman, Daniel, 1851-1940.
- Garrett, Edmund H. (Edmund Henry), 1853-1929.
- Gillmore, Frank, 1867-1943.
- Goodrich, Arthur Frederick, 1878-1941.
- Goodwin, J. Cheever (John Cheever), 1850-1912.
- Greenslet, Ferris, 1875-1959.
- Hampden, Walter, 1879-1955.
- Hopkins, Frank Easton, 1863-1933.
- Hopper, De Wolf, 1858-1935.
- Jakobowski, Edward, 1858- Erminie.
- Kemble, E. W. (Edward Windsor), 1861-1933.
- Seymour, William Gorman, 1855-1933.
- Shipman, Louis Evan, 1869-1933.
- Skinner, Otis, 1858-1942.
- Vincent, Leon H. (Leon Henry), 1859-1941.
- Actors' Equity Association.
- Actors' Equity Association -- History.
- Players (Club)
- Child actors.
- Child labor -- Law and legislation.
- Theater -- New York (State) -- New York.