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MS Thr 945

Tinsel prints, 1816-1841: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: b
Call No.: MS Thr 945
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Title: Tinsel prints,
Date(s): 1816-1841 and undated.
Quantity: 1 collection (5 boxes (1.5 linear ft.)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English, one in French.
Abstract: Early 19th-century tinsel prints of actors dressed as theatrical characters.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

No accession numbers. Gifts of various donors, various dates.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Tinsel Prints, 1816-1841 (MS Thr 945). Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Related Materials

See HOLLIS and OASIS for additional toy theater material held by the Houghton Library, including:

Biographical / Historical

Toy theaters were especially popular as English children's toys in the first half of the 19th-century. They were also called paper theaters and model theaters. By the late 19th-century popularity waned and publishing of these materials declined. Individual character portrait prints known as "penny plains" and "twopence coloureds" were collected and often used in toy theaters, as were engraved prints of multiple characters and scenery. Performing scripts were written especially for children to be used with these materials.
To create these "tinsel prints", tinseling enthusiasts bought plain or colored prints, then added to the costumes with die-cut metal foils (tinsel) as well as bits of fabric, leather, feathers, ink, paint and any other suitable material. Tinseling was considered an adult, rather than a child's hobby.


Arranged alphabetically by last name of actor depicted. Unidentified are at end.

Scope and Contents

Prints have been pasted onto lightweight board (watercolor or mat board) or stiff paper, then enhanced with die-cut metal foils (tinsel) as well as bits of fabric, leather, feathers, ink, paint and other material. Prints have had the image of the character and some background cut-out before pasting onto board. Some images also include additional drawing and painting on board to extend and match original design. A few items have loose pieces.
Most items were published in London. Includes the following publishers: J. Fairburn, J. Foster, J. Hall, O. Hodgson, W. S. Johnson, A. Park, J. Redington, M. Skelt, W. C. Webb, and W. West.

Container List