Skip to main content

Macauley's Theatre collection

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1980_020-PA

Content Description

1527 photographs, and approximately 100 handbills and clippings, various processes and sizes relating to the theatre and depicting many 19th and 20th century theatrical personalities. Many items autographed or annotated. Macauley's Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, was built by Bernard "Barney" Macauley in 1873 and operated after 1879 by his brother John. The lobby of the theater was decorated with hundreds of framed photographs of the actors and actresses who appeared there. When the theater closed in 1929, the photographs were donated to the University of Louisville and for many years hung in the University's Belknap Playhouse. Many of the photographs are autographed and inscribed with personal dedications to John Macauley. The collection includes portraits of Mary Anderson, Maude Adams, Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, Lotta Crabtree, Joseph Jefferson, Lillie Langtry, Lillian Russell, and Helena Modjeska, as well as lesser-known actors. Photographers include Napolean Sarony, Jose Maria Mora, and Abraham Bogardus, as well as local photographers Charlton and W. L. Elrod, Edward Klauber, Stuber and Brothers, and the Royal and Ethel Standiford Studios. Macauley's Theatre opened on October 13, 1873 at 329 W. Walnut (now Muhammad Ali) Street in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. It was owned and operated by Bernard (Barney) Macauley, who, along with his wife, Rachel Johnson Macauley, also performed in the theater's resident stock company. His younger brother, "Colonel" John T. Macauley (1846-1915), managed the box offices of theaters in Cincinnati and Indianapolis before settling in Louisville with his wife, Annie Amelia Kirlin Macauley, and their two daughters, Rachel and Mary Margaret. John took over management of the theater in September 1879, and bought it from his brother when Bernard fell into financial difficulties. In keeping with nationwide trends in theatrical productions, the resident stock company was replaced by traveling artists, who promoted their performances by sending portraits to the theaters they would visit, to be included in advertisements and press releases. Often they would autograph or inscribe their portraits to John Macauley or other theater employees, who would hang them on the walls of the theater's lobby. John ran the theater until his death, of cancer, on November 3, 1915. His wife took over after that, but movies had already begun to displace live entertainment, and Annie Macauley negotiated its sale to the Starks Brothers in 1925. The theater was razed after the final performance on August 29, 1925, and the Starks Building now stands in its place. After the theater was razed, Boyd Martin, drama critic for the Louisville Courier-Journal and director of the University of Louisville's University Players and Little Theatre Company, found a new home for the gallery of photographs at the Belknap Playhouse on the University of Louisville campus. Upon Martin's retirement in 1955, ownership of the photos was transferred to the University, with the approval of the Macauley family through John's daughter, Mary Macauley Smith. In 1966, the photos were removed from the Playhouse due to fears of vandalism, theft, and deterioration. When the Photographic Archives became an official department of the University Libraries in 1967, the Macauley pictures became a part of the Archives' collections. A Committee to Restore the Macauley Collection was formed in 1970, which fundraised to microfilm all of the photographs and produce copy negatives and prints of a select number. The photographs, taken by an international sampling of theatrical and portrait photographers, almost always in a studio setting, primarily feature actors and actresses from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They document the cultural history of Louisville and of theater during this time period, because in the fifty-two years that Macauley's Theatre existed, Louisville was a major theatrical center, and Macauley's its major theatre. Macauley's Theatre Collection, accession number 1980_020 in Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, consists of 1527 photographic prints (mostly albumen and gelatin silver) of various sizes, plus approximately 100 non-photographic items such as handbills and clippings. Related collections in Photographic Archives include theater programs; posters; an albumen print (by Rockwood) of a sketch (by W.W. Scott) of Edwin Booth as Hamlet, November 13, 1870 (Accession Number 1991_013); and copy negatives of portraits of "Colonel" Macauley as a young man and of his wife (Accession Number 1991_019).

Acquisition Type

Gift

Language of Description

English

Script of Description

Latin

Restrictions Apply

No

Dates

  • circa 1873-1925

Extent

1527 photographs (29 boxes, 4 binders, 209 items)