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MS Thr 425

Appell, Nathan, 1869-1928. Nathan Appell papers, 1897-1955: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Support for the processing of the Appell Papers was provided by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository
Location: b
Call No.: MS Thr 425
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Appell, Nathan, 1869-1928.
Title: Nathan Appell papers,
Date(s): 1897-1955 (inclusive),
Date(s): 1911-1920 (bulk).
Quantity: 1 collection (55 boxes (ca. 52 linear ft.)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English and Hebrew.
Abstract: Business records of the American theater owner and manger Nathan Appell.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

2003MT-235. 93-94.076. Gift of Louis J. Appell, Jr., Nathan Appell's grandson, in 1993. One small addition to the collection was made in January of 1994.

Processing Information:

Approximately 75 documents in the Appell Papers arrived at the Theatre Collection damaged by water and mildew. These documents were replaced by photocopies made on acid-free paper; the originals were discarded. Revised 3 March 2004.
At one time, a Box 56 was listed, it is missing as of May 2009, and should be noted that it is not mentioned in the folder listing below.

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.
Boxes 1-46, which form the majority of this collection, are housed offsite at the Harvard Depository. Boxes 47-55 are shelved in the Pusey library. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Nathan Appell Papers, 1897-1955 (MS Thr 425). Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Biographical / Historical

Nathan Appell was perhaps the best known theatrical man in Pennsylvania during his lifetime. Appell was born in 1869, and died at his home in York, Pennsylvania on May 24, 1928. During his career he owned and managed a number of theatres throughout Pennsylvania, put out several touring companies, and established theatrical stock companies in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. In addition to these responsibilities, Appell was the Manager of the Harrisburg Advertising Company and the York Poster Advertising Company, the secretary of the Central Managers Association, a 32nd degree Mason, and member of the Friar's Club and the Elks.
Nathan Appell began his career in Harrisburg, where he was responsible for building and managing both the Lyceum Theatre (later named the Orpheum) and the Majestic Theatre. He was also the manager of the Opera House in that city, giving him something of a monopoly in the town. His interests and involvement with the Wilmer and Vincent Theatre Company eventually led to the management of theatres in Allentown, Shenandoah, Reading, Pottsville, Lebanon, Norristown, Carlisle, Hanover, Red Lion, and Lancaster.
Beginning in 1897 Nathan Appell managed several touring companies, including the King Dramatic Company, and the Cameron Clemens Company. In 1902 he established the Highland Park Stock Company at York, Pennsylvania. Soon after he installed stock companies in Utica, New York: and in Pennsylvania at Williamsport, Altoona, and Harrisburg. Appell also managed tours of the Allen Stock Company, Miss Helen Grayce (Mrs. Nathan Appell), the Grayce-Chatterdon Company, and the Arthur Chatterdon Company. In 1915 Nathan Appell formed stock companies at the Temple Theatre in Malden, Massachusetts, and at the newly built Somerville Theatre in Somerville.
Appell appears to have been involved in theatrical advertising as early as 1902, when he served as advertising agent for the Harrisburg production of J. H. Pain's "The Last Days of Pompeii." Eventually, he became manager of both the York Poster Advertising Company and the Hanover Poster Advertising Company.
Nathan Appell served as treasurer for the Central Managers Association from 1918 to 1920. This organization served as a voice for the interests of the managers of houses across the United States which played one night stands. After two years, the CMA was absorbed into the International Theatrical Association.


Organized into the following series:

Scope and Contents

The Nathan Appell papers consist primarily of his business records, dating from 1897 to 1955, though the bulk of the materials date 1911-1920. Material dating after Nathan Appell's death was likely collected by his son Louis J. Appell.
Correspondence to and from Appell is voluminous and elaborates in great detail his many business interests in the theatrical and bill posting arenas. While much of it is impersonal business correspondence, Appell's letters to his stock company managers, senior employees, and some of the performers he hired show in great detail how personalities and finances shaped each season. The correspondence section is broken into general business correspondence and the correspondence of the Central Managers Association. The former is arranged topically and covers a range of subjects, from booking to Appell's touring companies. The latter is grouped according to Appell's own state and regional designations, with the business of the Executive Committee filed separately. As the Secretary of the Association, Nathan Appell was responsible for recruiting and answering membership inquiries. Correspondence also discusses the political action of the Association. The file marked "Family" (Box 38, Folder 19) contains approximately twenty letters to and from Appell, and while not numerous, the letters are personal and frank and reveal much about Appell family relationships in the mid to late 1910s.
The ledgers and datebooks give a quick picture of the financial status of Appell's interests, as well as of the acts and productions of the time. Financial records consist of box office statements, receipts, deposit slips and checkbooks. These relate primarily to Nathan Appell's theatrical stock companies in Malden and Somerville, Massachusetts, and to a lesser degree, his other various financial interests. These financial records and the contracts in a later series document well the outfitting and use of Appell's theater buildings, and his constantly changing staff of performers and support personnel.
The show reports generated for the Wilmer and Vincent Company and the Central Managers Association provide an evaluation of the various acts on a night's bill. These range in date from 1914 to 1919 and review shows at the York Opera House, the Orpheum at Reading, the Colonial and Majestic at Harrisburg, and the Orpheum at Altoona.
The Appell Collection also includes programs, scripts and sides, acting editions, photographs (generally of New York productions, used for publicity), motion picture heralds, catalogs, and industry directories.


The majority of this collection (but not all) is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

Container List