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Guide to the Actors' Fund of America Records WAG.036

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Craig Savino, 2006-2008 and Adrien Hilton, 2009; Series XI added by Giana Ricci and Rachel Schimke.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 16, 2018
Finding aid is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Content Note

Series I: Minutes, 1880-1991, consists of the minutes of the Actors' Fund annual meetings from 1880-1991, nearly every year is represented. The minutes provide detailed information on the financials of the Actors' Fund, outlining funds coming from donations, bequests, benefits and other fund raising events. Also provided in the minutes is information about major activities of the fund pertaining to burials and the Actors' Fund Home. This series includes minutes of meetings of the Board of Trustees from 1887-2006, the Executive Committee from 1882-1894, and of the Directors of the Actors' Fund Home from 1957-1985.

Series II: Annual Reports, 1882-2012, consists of annual reports of the Actors' Fund from 1882-2012. The annual reports provide a general overview of activities, providing lists of officers and the Board of Trustees, life members, and physicians who were aiding the fund. Also included is the annual address from the acting President. Each annual report contains reports from standing committees and outlines major donations and sources of income for the year. (The reports from 1882-1975 are in bound volumes.)

Series III: General Files, 1881-2005, the general files are by no means the complete working files of the organization, but do represent the major personnel and activities of the Actors' Fund from its founding. Included are files on the Actors' Fund Home, on AIDS relief work and AIDS benefits, on establishing the monument at Kensico Cemetery, and on the Fund's Blood Banks and Blood Drives. The files contain correspondence on varied topics; of note are a telegram from then President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a note in support of the Fund from Thomas Edison. Also represented in the general files is material on particular individuals of prominence in the theatrical community and in the Fund's history and development, as well as financial material, press releases, clippings, souvenir programs and Playbills, and material on the Western Council, which supports the work of the Western regional office and programs based in Los Angeles.

Series IV: Actors Work Program, 1986-1999. Originally created by the Actors' Equity Association in 1986, the Actors Work Program seeks to establish secondary career work for actors by providing career counseling and skills training. This series consists of documentation of meetings of the project's board of directors, financial records, and materials related to Program's Regional Education Center.

Series V: Fundraising Activities, 1886-2002, consists of files relating to theater performances, fairs, auctions and bazaars, and "Bread Basket Campaigns," plus a number of benefits clippings scrapbooks. This lengthy series documents the planning and presentation of the Annual Benefit shows and Fairs beginning in 1886; in the 1960s the emphasis shifts toward Benefit Shows in the form of special performances of theater productions, with proceeds going to the Fund. Also documented in this series are the Fund's auctions and bazaars of the 1960s-1980s, as well as their summer and winter "Bread Basket Campaigns," whereby participating theaters around the country would make an announcement regarding the Actors' Fund and pass around baskets for donations from the audience.

Series VI: Catholic Actors Guild Records, 1924-1980, consists primarily of the files related to the Guild's annual dinner-dances. Also included in this series are the Guild's constitution and by-laws, Executive Board minutes and financial records. Several issues of  Call Board, the Catholic Actors Guild's bi-monthly periodical, from 1964 to 1980, can also be found in this series.

Series VII: Rathbone Family Papers, 1903-1974, consists primarily of the papers of Basil Rathbone, a prominent theater actor during the first half of the twentieth-century and his wife, Ouida Rathbone nee Bergere, an actress and screenwriter. Included in this series is correspondence between Basil and Ouida and between Basil and their daughter, Cynthia; incoming correspondence from others, and communications between Ouida and her lawyer regarding the estate of her husband after his death in 1967. Also included are published and unpublished manuscript works of both Basil and Ouida, including Ouida's "Happy Weddings," a story about her marriage.

Series VIII: Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers Records, 1959-1980. The Society is an independent labor union for stage directors and choreographers; the records consist of minutes of Executive Board meetings, 1959-1973, information on membership and finances, and newsletters (1974-1980).

Series IX: Oversized Items, 1891-1965, consists of items of graphic interest that were removed from Actors' Fund scrapbooks after microfilming, as well as oversized items from the general collection. These items include clippings from publications around the country on the Actors' Fund Fairs of 1910 and 1917, as well as an edition of the  Friars Epistle, which was published specifically for the 1917 Fair. There are two collages of newspaper clippings that depict the Actors' Fund founding in general and the founding of the Actors' Fund Home; these date from 1900 and 1902. Removed from microfilmed scrapbooks is graphic material related to the Fund's anniversary events, benefits, "Bread Basket Campaigns," and annual softball game. Additionally, there are souvenir programs from theater and Grand Opera productions dating from 1891.

Series X: Scrapbooks and Unprocessed Material, 1900-1973. Subseries A: Hardcopy Scrapbooks, consists of 14 hardcopy scrapbooks documenting a number of activities of the Actors' Fund. There are scrapbooks of clippings on the Fund generally and on benefit and special benefit performances. In addition, there are five volumes of theater programs and playbills unrelated to productions of the Actors' Fund; these scrapbooks are chronologically arranged from 1908-1933. There are four volumes of obituaries, documenting the deaths of members of the theater community from 1913-1933. Of special interest is the Louis Simon scrapbook, which includes original correspondence, programs, press clippings, and production photographs documenting Simon's theatre work, particularly his involvement in Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Theatre projects. Also of note is the scrapbook composer Ray O'Brien compiled of the USO tour of Olie Olsen and Chick Johnson's "Hellz-a-Poppin" Show, which toured army posts across the country during World War II. The cast included Milt Douglas, Jack Leornard, Ben Dova, the Emerald Sisters, the Three Grace Notes, Claire Louise Evans, Harry Hines, Joan Blondell, and Maxine Turner. Subseries B: Microfilmed Scrapbooks, 1900-1961, consists of an additional 15 Actors' Fund scrapbooks that have been microfilmed (on 4 reels, Tamiment microfilm call numbers R-7822/1-4). Through clippings from local publications from around the country, the microfilmed scrapbooks provide a rich source of historical information not only about the Actors' Fund but about the theatrical community at large. Their unique narrative of major events in the Fund's history includes documentation, mostly through newspaper clippings, of fundraising and major donations, the life of the Actors' Fund Home, and Daniel Frohman's long reign as president of the Fund. There are also cartoons, flyers, press releases, and telegrams. Included, and filmed in full, are sumptuously decorated Souvenir Programs of the Fund's annual benefit shows. Most of the material in this subseries was in extremely fragile and deteriorated condition and was discarded after filming. The original Souvenir Programs and other items of exceptional graphic interest or historical value have been preserved in Series III and V of the archival collection. Subseries C: Unprocessed materials include research materials for annual reports and about actor Edwin Forrest; programs for, and invitations to fundraising performances, annual galas, and other benefit events; souvenir programs and playbills; photographs (some from early 20th century), snapshots, hand-drawn cartoons of, and press clippings and scrapbook pages for Joe Smith and Charles Dale, the comedic vaudeville duo who were models for the Neil Simon play,  The Sunshine Boys. DVDs document Actors Fund benefits and events from 2001-2013 that include performances or appearances by Jason Alexander; Alec Baldwin; Harry Belafonte; Annette Bening; Polly Bergen; Jed Bernstein; Matthew Broderick; Betty Buckley; Charles Busch; Liz Callaway; Mario Cantone; Bonnie Comley; John Cullum; Christine Ebersole; Eartha Kitt; Judy Kuhn; Rocco Landesman; Stewart F. Lane; Lorna Luft; Patti LuPone; Terrence Mann; Karen Mason; Kevin McCollum; Audra McDonald; Rebe McEntire; Anne Meara;Randie Levine Miller; Liza Minnelli; Brian Stokes Mitchell; Bebe Neuwirth; Al Pacino; Chita Rivera; Seth Rudetsky; Emily Skinner; David Steiner; Mike Stengel; Jerry Stiller; Elaine Stritch; Jonathan Tisch; and Nia Vardalos.

Series XI: Aldrich Family Papers, circa 1850-1940. This series pertains to Louis Aldrich's acting career and work with the Actors' Fund, though the majority of the material is related to Aldrich family history. The series contains seven scrapbooks of mostly news clippings and programs, two on the topic of Aldrich's acting career and work with the Actors' Fund, and the rest related to Aldrich and his family more generally. There are numerous photographs of Aldrich and his family members, some with annotations on the back identifying the individuals in the photos. The dancing career of Frances Aldrich is particularly well represented in these photographs.


Series are arranged alphabetically, except for Series II and Series V (subseries B and D), which are arranged chronologically, and Boxes 38 and 52, Unprocessed Material.

The Actors' Fund of America Records are organized into 11 series:

Missing Title

  1. I, Minutes, 1880-1991.
  2. II, Annual Reports, 1882-2000.
  3. III, General Files, 1881-2005.
  4. IV, Actors Work Program, 1986-1999.
  5. V, Fundraising Activities, 1886-2002.
  6. VI, Catholic Actors Guild Records, 1924-1980.
  7. VII, Family Papers, 1903-1974.
  8. VIII, Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers Records, 1959-1980.
  9. IX, Oversized Items, 1891-1965.
  10. X, Scrapbooks and Unprocessed Material, 1900-1973, 2000s.
  11. Series XI, Aldrich Family Papers, circa 1850-1940.
  12. Series XII, Archived Website