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MS Thr 675

Beal, George Brinton. George Brinton Beal papers, circus collection, and other theatrical collections, 1862-1969: 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 675
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Beal, George Brinton.
Title: George Brinton Beal papers, circus collection, and other theatrical collections
Date(s): 1862-1969
Quantity: 12 linear feet (31 boxes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are primarily in English, with a few in German, Danish, and French.
Abstract: Personal papers of and materials collected by American critic, editor, lecturer, and writer George Brinton Beal. Especially concerns the circus, rodeo, theater, and other forms of popular entertainment.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

No accession number. Bequest of George Brinton Beal; received: 1957. Some materials added at later dates and from other sources.
Various old text references to the Beal Circus Collection suggested that Beal's circus movies would be part of Harvard's Beal holdings, but as of the date of full cataloging of this collection (June 2011), no movies have been located, and none were listed in the first paper finding aid made at time of receipt of the bequest.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt
The Beal collection was organized and described (with a paper finding aid) after receipt in the repository in 1957. In 2011 the collection was fully cataloged and the arrangement somewhat altered. The box numbers of the former arrangement have been tracked in the items below. See the curatorial file for a paper copy of the original finding aid.

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.
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:

George Brinton Beal Papers, Circus Collection, and Other Theatrical Collections, 1862-1969 (MS Thr 675). Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Related Materials

Also held by the Harvard Theatre Collection:

Separated Materials

Former box 19 included The White Tops, a publication of the Circus Fans Association of America, December 1936- December 1955. Now cataloged as: Harvard Theatre Collection HTC-LC GV1800 .W47x
Books and photographs were also given by Beal to the Harvard Theatre Collection beginning in 1935 and a bookplate for his Harvard College Library collection was established in 1944.
Most of Beal's photographs are included in this collection, though a few were distributed and cataloged throughout the Harvard Theater Collection's various series.
Printed copies of The Billboard magazine were transferred for cataloging to the Houghton Dept. of Printed Books, as was a copy of Warrior the untamed. The story of an imaginative press agent by Will Irwin.

Biographical / Historical

George Brinton Beal (born 1888 in Lawrence, Massachusetts) was an editor with the Boston Post daily newspaper, a drama critic for the Emerson Quarterly and Boston Post, instructor at Emerson College in dramatic criticism, a writer, artist, photographer, lecturer, movie maker, and an authority on the circus and collector of circus, rodeo, and other theatrical materials.
Beal often traveled with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Combined Circus, gathering data for his writing and lectures, and taking photographs and motion pictures. In 1938 he published Through the back door of the circus with George Brinton Beal (Springfield, Mass.: McLoughlin Bros. Inc.). Along with the publication of this book, Beal delivered lectures about the circus, accompanied with his motion pictures.


Arranged into the following series:

Scope and Contents

The circus portion of this collection, by far the largest group, includes: advertising material, book jackets, circus programs, circus route books and cards, clippings, contracts, correspondence, drawings, film stills, galley proofs, interviews, blank letterheads, licenses, manuscripts, negatives, photographs, photographic postcards, playbills, posters, press passes and tickets, printer's plates, programs, radio show transcripts, souvenir programs, visiting cards, and other materials. Since the collection was organized by subject, there is a bit of overlap in topics. All general or unidentified items are at end of each grouping.
The great majority of the collected circus material is from the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Combined Shows from the 1930s, but many, many other circuses and shows are represented, and some earlier and later time periods. Circuses include: Adam Forepaugh & Sells Bros. Circus, Al G. Barnes and Sells-Floto Combined Circus, Barnett Bros. Circus, Barnum and Bailey, Bertram W. Mills Circus at Olympia, Billy Rose's Jumbo, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Company Circus, Cirkus Schumann, Cole Bros. Circus, Downie Bro's. Circus, Federal Theatre Project (Boston, Mass.). Federal Theatre of Massachusetts Circus, The Great Moscow Circus, Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, Hamid-Morton Indoor Circus, Lewis Bros. Big 3 Ring Circus, Otis Turner's Big Shows, Consolidated Pagel's New Circus, Rentz Brothers, Ringling Brothers, Robbins Bros. Circus, Russell Bros. Circus, Schubert Indoor Circus, Sparks World Famous Shows, Tayleure's Great American Circus, Tom Mix Circus, Walter L. Main Circus, and others. Circus stars, circus animals, backstage cast and most other circus subjects are represented with photographs, clippings, a few manuscripts, and extensive writings by Beal.
Beal's collected rodeo materials include: letters to Beal, blank letterheads, leaflets and pamphlets, rosters (lists) of contestants, manuscripts, newsletters, photographic postcards, photographs, playbills, press passes, programs, tickets, and other material. Materials concern both male and female rodeo stars and many are from rodeos held at the Boston Garden and Suffolk Downs in the 1930s. Includes the following shows and stars: 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show, George A. Hamids Annual World's Championship Rodeo, Texas Rangers Rodeo, Tim McCoy Wild West Circus, Tom Mix Circus, Colonel W. T. Johnson's Annual World Championship Rodeos, Texas Convict Rodeo, Foghorn Clancy, Milt Hinkle, Colonel William T. Johnson, Tad Lucas, Lucyle Roberts, Claire Belcher Thompson, and many others.
Beal collected in other theatrical areas and also included here are collections of: theatrical photographs; scripts for stage plays; and theatrical programs, playbills, and pamphlets. There are a great many snapshots of famous stage actors and actresses, photographed primarily in Boston and New York City, many signed and inscribed by those depicted.
Beal's personal papers include his correspondence, compositions, advertising materials and photographs for the publication of his 1938 book, Through the back door of the circus. Also included in his personal papers are: correspondence with others such as circus and rodeo stars and friends and colleagues; his literary compositions; portrait photographs and drawings of Beal; and collected miscellany from his life. Photographs of Beal with others and his writings for the Boston Sunday Post are scattered throughout the collection, sorted under various subjects.


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

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