Love Letter to Theater-Obsessed Robinson Locke

I’ve spent much of the last week at Lincoln Center doing research for my next book, knee-deep in scrapbooks and clippings folders from c1908-1935 (my idea of bliss–I am such a geek). Lincoln Center finally has a flat-bed scanner, so I was able to have copies made of three Robinson Locke scrapbooks.

From an online bio of Locke (1856-1920):

“Although competent as a journalist and businessman, Robinson Locke devoted an ever-increasing amount of time to his interest in the theater. He spent lengthy periods in New York attending performances and meeting critics, actors, and producers . . . Locke’s passion for the theater also found expression in collecting. His archives of American theatrical material eventually grew to include more than two million clippings and several thousand photographs. After Robinson Locke’s death in 1920, the New York Public Library acquired Locke’s unique and extensive collection of theater materials.”

This doesn’t begin to cover it: there are several hundred scrapbooks, obsessively containing every newspaper and magazine article, press release and photo, of everyone who set foot onstage between 1880 and 1920. Priceless, and kept in excellent condition (unlike many of the other scrapbooks, which are falling to shreds–I had to read those into a tape recorder, to be transcribed later).

I wonder if any of Robinson Locke’s staff, pasting contemporary clippings about Julian Eltinge and Maude Adams and John Drew ever thought anyone would ever look at them again, let alone be lusting over them in 100 years?

Bra-VO! That’s great news!

Let’s all raise a glass to the obsessives of the past.

Cost me sixty cents a page, for three scrapbooks, about 100 pages each . . . Remind me again why I write books about people no one has ever heard of?

By the way, the bottom of each copied page has the perfect photocopy of the two-inch-long, wildly decorated fingernail of the copy girl.