Historical Collections

Popular Entertainment

Theater poster Theater poster. Poster for "The Gambler of the West", lithographed by Strobridge Litho Co., Cincinnati and New York, 1907.

The popular entertainment collections consist of circus, theatre, vaudeville, burlesque, musical comedy, movies, and band material. Although these collections are largely two dimensional, they also consist of personal memorabilia, costumes, and props.

The circus collection contains over 1000 posters spanning the period 1820 to 1990, and ranging in size from window cards to bill board size. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1920 to 1950 period. A large collection of circus photographs taken by Edward Kelty of New York City are also included. These photographs of various circuses and circus acts were taken around the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Souvenir programs, tickets and other circus ephemera are included.

The Museum also has the personal memorabilia of "DeMarlo and Lady" an act with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus during the early 1900s. They were contortionists and trapeze artists. A 1/4 inch scale animated model circus made in the 1940s shows the layout of a traveling circus. The Museum owns the last remaining Beechnut Circus Bus. Six of these buses, sponsored by Beechnut Foods of Canajoharie, New York, traveled across the United States in the 1930s. Several were exhibited at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Theater poster Theater poster. Poster for "Rollicking Shannon", lithographed by Strobridge Litho Co., Cincinatti and New York, 1912.

The theatre collection comprises about 500 posters spanning the period 1850 to 1980, and ranging in size from window cards to 3 sheet size. Many of these posters are lithographed by Strobridge Litho. Co. of Cincinnati and New York, and depict turn of the century melodramas. Souvenir programs, mementos, and scrapbooks are included. There is also some personal memorabilia relating to actress Maude Adams.

The vaudeville collection consists of nineteenth and twentieth century posters and programs. There are also sub collections of memorabilia relating to several vaudeville stars, including Joe Cook, popular between 1910 and 1940, who was at one time billed as "the one man vaudeville show."

Burlesque material contains several scrapbooks and photographs belonging to 1890s burlesque queens, Agnes and Alice Evans. There is also some material relating to Florenz Ziegfeld, Anna Held and the Ziegfeld Follies. There are some early movie posters from the silent era, and some from the early 1950s.

The band collection consists of musical instruments, and memorabilia from a local band prominent in the Albany area from 1895 to 1950. This includes band uniforms, instruments, record books, and photographs. The Museum also has prints and posters featuring well known bands and performers. Circus bandmaster Merrel Evans is represented by his band uniform and cornet.

The collection also contains a full-sized carousel made in the early twentieth century. As part of the Museum's new plan for exhibitions, this carousel will be re-assembled and made open to the public.

The carousel Carousel. This full-sized carousel was made between 1912 and 1916 by the Herschell-Spillman Company of North Tonawanda, New York.

Another part of the musical instrument collection contains keyboard instruments. Pianos manufactured in New York State between 1820 and 1920, parlor organs and melodeons made in New York State between 1820 and 1910, a Steinway reproducing piano, c. 1925, and a Wurlitzer theatre organ, c. 1925 complete this collection.

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Lithograph Lithograph. "Saw Mill at the Village of Glens" by Jacques Milbert, 1825.

The Museum has a collection of nineteenth century engravings and lithographs depicting places, events and daily life in New York State. Themes represented include agriculture, architecture, industry, transportation, and recreation. A large collection of panoramic and bird's eye views illustrates New York State's cities, towns and villages. A rather large collection of lithographs depicts New York City architecture, bridges, theatre, street scenes and immigration.

A collection of over 2000 art prints done during the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s is now preserved by the Museum.

Lithograph Lithograph. "View on the Hudson" by Currier & Ives, c. 1860.

Advertising posters and broadsides are another collection area in which the Museum has holdings. This collection is divided thematically by transportation, agriculture, goods and services, and entertainment.

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History Collections
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