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MS Thr 571

W. Clarkson (Firm). W. Clarkson (Firm) costume designs and scrapbooks, 1883-1926: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository
Call No.: MS Thr 571
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: W. Clarkson (Firm).
Title: W. Clarkson (Firm) costume designs,
Date(s): 1883-1926 and undated.
Quantity: 1 collection (2.5 linear feet (10 boxes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: Costume designs for various productions by various artists working for W. Clarkson (Firm), with scrapbooks belonging to Willy Clarkson.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

2009MT-85r. Source information given with items where known.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Monique Duhaime, Melanie Wisner, and Bonnie B. Salt

Conditions Governing Access:

This collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. 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:

W. Clarkson (Firm) Costume Designs, , 1883-1926 (MS Thr 571). Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Biographical / Historical

William Berry Clarkson was born in 1861 into a family of perruquiers (wig-makers) and by the age of twelve was working in the business. Clarkson became best known as a wig-maker (already famous by the 1890s as London's theatrical wigmaker) but expanded his business into make-up and costumes. Clarkson's eminence was evident in his clientele: in the 1890s he supplied wardrobes for entertainments for Queen Victoria at Windsor and Balmoral; Edward VII appointed him "Royal Perruquier and Costumier." For half a century he provided the wigs and costumes for most of the West End theaters. At the peak of his career in the 1920s he may have had 50,000 costumes on hand and employed a staff of close to a hundred; he knew everyone on the London stage. By the late 1920s Clarkson had competition in wig-making; with the rise of the cinema and decline of the music hall, Clarkson's business deteriorated. He died in 1934.


Arranged in boxes and scrapbooks as found in July-September 2010 and February 2013.

Scope and Contents

Drawings for costumes in ink, watercolor, and other media on board, most with one or more variations of the W. Clarkson stamp on recto or verso. Some drawings are signed by known artists working for W. Clarkson such as Robert L. Bööcke, Attilio Comelli, and R. E. Ellett, but many are unidentified except by numbers assigned at acquisition. Artists, titles of items or productions, dates, and acquisition numbers are provided where known. Most drawings are of single costumed figures, some with additional sketches. Some drawings carry manuscript annotations that may aid in identification; these have been noted where legible.
Scrapbooks contain sketches, paintings, and sayings signed by acquaintances of Clarkson.


This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

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