Theatre Historical Society of America

The archive collections at the Theatre Historical Society of America contain over 100,000 items documenting over 18,000 theatres across America from the 1880s to present day. 

thsa_featured.jpgThe collections are comprised of photographs, negatives and slides (80,000+ items); artist renderings, drawings and blueprints (800-825 items); Architectural artifacts, theatre furnishings and textiles (71-175 items); scrapbooks, periodicals, business records, supplier and trade catalogs (15,000+ items); and numerous uncategorized other items (100-500 items) relating to theatre buildings and their cultural and social history housed in approximately 1,500 cubic ft. of space.

The collection is accessible both in-person (in Elmhurst, IL) and online. 31,423 items in the collection have been cataloged and are available in the PastPerfect database (including the full inventory of books) hosted online at historictheatres.org. Of those records, 1,814 items have associated digital images for viewing online.

Holdings related to the Chicagoland region include:

Chicago Architecture Photographing Company (CAPC) is 1,400 views of 255 theatres, mostly in the Midwest and many are contemporaneous to the opening of the buildings, done mostly for Rapp & Rapp and Paramount Publix Theatres. Mostly 8×10 film negative but some 8×10 glass plate negatives and 4×5 copy negatives. 

Nat Brandt (partially processed) is the research files compiled by Nat Brandt in the course of writing his book "Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre fire of 1903" pub. 2003, Southern Illinois University Press.

Theatre Files Collection is 118 file drawers of reference files organized alphabetically by state-city-theatre name.  Files may include advertising, news clippings, playbills/stage bills, lease documents, historic register nominations, personal reminiscences, theses/dissertations, photos from various sources, legal documents, and other paper materials related to the theatres.  The files include approximately 9,000 photographs of theatres from various sources.  Mostly 4×6 color snapshots, also 3×5 color and black & white snapshots and 8×10 black white photographs. The Chicago portion of this collection contains folders on 607 theatres in Chicago.

Editor's Collection is approximately 6,000 photographs of approximately 2,100 theatres; various sizes 4×5 to 8×10, mostly black & white photos. The Chicago portion of this collection includes folders of prints on 134 Chicago theatres.

Balaban & Katz Collection is the corporate records of the Midwest theatre chain from the 1930s through the 60s including operations ledgers (for the 1930s), board and stockholders meeting minutes for companies operated by B&K, and booking contracts.

Robert Brubaker Collection (partially processed) consists of approximately 6 linear feet of research on live theatre, movie theatres, architects, exhibition, and allied subjects. The materials focus on Chicago, Illinois, but also include a small amount of information on other cities. The files consist of research compiled by Brubaker in support of lectures on the history of theatre in Chicago from the 1830s to the 1980s and a potential book project on the same topic. The book was not published.

Chicago Theatre Trust (unprocessed) Collection is two linear feet of documents from 1978-1986 documenting the efforts to restore and reopen the Chicago Theatre in the loop.

Images and source aterials from the THS collections have previously been used by Thirteen WNET New York; Broadway in Chicago; Chicago Architecture Foundation; Dramatics Magazine; H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, LLC; Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana; Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois; Lion Television, Ltd. & Oregon Public Broadcasting; Lifetime Productions, Inc.; New York City Economic Development Corporation; New York Times; National Geographic; The History Channel / A&E Television Networks; Turner Classic Movies and even Playboy Enterprises, Inc.