The Boothbay Theatre Auction

Thanks to the recent offering of books from authors Richard and Kellie Gutman, I purchased the auction catalog from the June 1990 auction of the Boothbay Theatre Museum collection.  The private museum was located in Boothbay, Maine and contained the collection of Franklyn Lenthall, a theatrical producer, director, and teacher.  Here are a couple of excerpts from Lenthall’s introduction in the catalog:

“Since the age of twelve I have had a passion for theatre, and I have always been a scavenger.  When I read Eleanor Ruggles’ “Price of Players,” my acquisitive instinct focused on the collecting of theatre memorabilia and more especially memorabilia relating to the Booth family…

In 1975 [James] Wilmot and I sold the Boothbay Playhouse and moved the collection to the perfect location, a beautiful 18th century house and barn.  When we learned that John K. Corey was born in this house, and that while he was a soldier, was present at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., April 14, 1865, when actor John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln during a performance of “Our American Cousin,” we felt that instinctively we had chosen the right building for the Boothbay Theatre Museum.  Previously we learned Edwin Booth , America’s greatest actor, had sailed into Boothbay Harbor July 27, 1887, on the steam yacht, “Oneida,” as guest of financier E. E. Benedict.  It was on that cruise that the idea of a club for actors was conceived; thus the existence of “The Players” in Gramercy Park in New York City…”

What follows is just a sampling of some of the Booth related items that were sold at the Boothbay auction.

2.  Painting of Edwin Booth, 1833-1893, by N. Clark, ’88.

2 Edwin Booth painting

Pastel on linen.  Signed “N. Clark, ‘88” lower left corner.  Framed, 27-3/4” x 24” s.s., in excellent condition

Provenance: Professional Women’s League, New York City.

($10,000 – 15,000)

4.  Painting of Edwin Booth, American actor, 1833 – 1893, just after 100th performance of “Hamlet” by Hugo Svenson

4 Edwin Booth Painting

Oil (bitumen) on canvas.  Signed “Hugo Svenson” lower right corner (very faint), and marked by label on center bottom of frame “Edwin Booth.” Framed, 24 ½” x 22 ½” s.s., in good condition.

Provenance: Minnesota Historical Society, Blanche DeBar Booth (Ophelia to Hamlet)

($8,000 – 10,000)

Hugo Svenson has a studio in New York City.  Blanche DeBar Booth, niece to Edwin, played Ophelia in the 100th performance of “Hamlet”.  Edwin presented her with the portrait, and she in turn presented it to the Minnesota Historical Society

5.  Painting of Edwin Booth, American actor, 1833 – 1893, performing “Hamlet” at the age of 30, by Gabriel Harrison, along with cabinet photo of him.

Booth painting

Oil on canvas, full length portrait.  Signed “Gabriel Harrison” and dated 1894 in lower left corner.  (Harrison as an actor himself, though not considered greatly good.) Framed, 29 ¾” x 19 ¾” s.s. General crackling of surface, otherwise good condition.

Provenance: Sankey Lemley, New York City, estate of Gabriel Harrison.

($7,000 – 10,000)

308.  John Wilkes Booth, actor, brother of Edwin Booth, and assassin of President Lincoln, 1839 – 1865 case with two canes.

Booth's cane

One cane given to Booth by Laura Keene, 1826 – 1873, marked on a silver band, “John Wilkes Booth from Laura Keen [sic], 1865.” Ivory handle, 3 ½” x 1”, 32 ¾” long overall.

Provenance: Mrs. E. Harrison Eudy and her mother

($5,000 – 10,000)

313. Edwin Booth, 1833 – 1893, original oval oil portrait by John R. Johnston, one of Baltimore’s most famous portrait artists.

Photo May 02, 8 28 46 PM

Mark on back, “Sitting From Life, Baltimore, 1851,” and signed.  This handwriting has been documented as that of Johnston, who also painted Andrew Jackson and Franklin Pierce, to name a few.  This portrait is believed to be a preliminary oil for a later portrait that was never done.  Two letters of provenance accompany work.  Framed in brass and glass, 13 ½” x 12”.

($2,000 – 3,000)

315.  Fireplace bellows from “Tudor Hall” and used in the original homestead of the Booth family in Belair, Maryland.

Tudor Hall Bellows

Wood, leather and metal, with a painted flower design on one side.  17 ½” high, 7 ½” wide, 2 ½” unextended depth.  In good, well used condition.

Provenance: Florence Williams, American actress, from member of family Elijah Rogers.

($1,800 – 2,000)

316. Five cash books from Edwin Booth’s “Booth Theatre,” and one account pad.

Booth's theatre pad

Contains names of plays and dates, net receipts and expenditures (such as the cost of a carriage for Mr. Booth), and net profits for the years 1869, 1871 – 1874, 1876 and 1877.  Every entry is initialed “J.H.M.,” by J. H. Magonigle, a theatre representative, or “J.A.B.,” by Joseph A. Booth, the youngest child.  Conditions of bindings vary, but interiors are excellent.  Minor child’s scribbling on a few blank pages, not affecting business contents.  Pad of forms marked “Booth’s Theatre” contains date, performance, weather and fascinating remarks about actors and plays, such as “’Black Crook’ at Niblo’s good, Grand Opera House bad, opening night Bryant’s Opera House all the critics present.” The dates begin Sept. 4,1873 and end May 30, 1874, with hundreds of entries.  The pad has some loose front pages, and a few of the last back pages are damp stained.

Provenance: J. A. Booth

($1,500 – 2,000)

320. Edwin Booth, John Wilkes Booth, J. B. Booth, Jr., playbill from the Booth benefit for the Shakespeare Statue Fund, Winter Garden Theatre, NYC.JWB playbill 2

This one-performance-only playbill is probably the rarest of all American playbills.  The statue still stands in Central Park.  The dedication program for the statue is also offered in this sale.  Framed and matted under glass, 20 ¾” x 8 ¾”.

($1,000 – 1,500)

325. Sydney Booth make-up box, marked across front in red, “Sydney Booth,” and “Theatre.”

Sydney Booth box

Contains crepe hair, prepared mustaches, beards and sideburns, 5 shoe lifts, face powder, dry and moist rouge, rosin, rabbit’s foot, two pair scissors, collapsible drinking cup in a leather carrier, a brush, a collapsible coat hanger, a curling iron, hair color, corkscrew, and an 11-pocketed apron with additional make-up in compartments.  Make-up box is plain black leather with intact handle, and attached to inside lid are his only child’s pink leather, lace trimmed baby slippers, 3 ½” x 2 ½”.  Case measures 12” x 15 ½” x 7”. Very good condition.

Provenance: Elizabeth Barton Booth, wearer of the baby boots.

($800 – 1,200)

326. John Wilkes Booth playbill from “Macbeth,” Willard’s Howard Atheneum, Oct. 7, 1863.

JWB playbill 1

Framed under glass, 19 ¼” x 7”. Excellent condition.

($750 – 1,000)

330. John Wilkes Booth playbill from “Richard III,” Willard’s Howard Antheneum, Boston, Oct. 10, 1863.

JWB playbill 3

Mounted in two portions and marked “Positively the last appearance of the popular young tragedian.” Above playbill is an 8-sided picture of John Wilkes Booth with his name mounted underneath.  A faded assassination reward poster with Lincoln’s photo is mounted on reverse. Framed, 25 ¾” x 8 ¾”.

($650 – 850)

603. Costume knee length, leather boots worn by Edwin Booth.

Edwin's boot

Very good condition.

Provenance: Sydney Booth

($750 – 1,000)

604.  Portion of velvet braid stole worn by Edwin Booth as “Richelieu,” with a carte de visite of Booth as “Cardinal Richelieu.”

Booth as Richelieu

In a wooden case with glass cover, 11 ½” x 8”. Excellent condition.

Provenance: Conway Barker, Charles Dominge.

($700 – 1,000)

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10 thoughts on “The Boothbay Theatre Auction

  1. Richard Sloan

    Congrats on buying this catalogue from Dick Gutman. (I bought two items from him, as well. It’s a great list!) I wonder who bought some of these Bootbay items, esp. the playbill for the Booth Brothers benefit performance of ” Julius Caesar” Thanx for sharing these poages with all of us! Will you be showing more pages? I hope so! I think there was a figurine or two of characters from “Our American Cousin.”

    • While there are many more lots connected to the Booth family, only a handful are accompanied by pictures. I put these up because they were the ones that had nice images to illustrate them.

  2. Laurie Verge

    It was my understanding at the time that this fabulous collection did not come close to realizing the anticipated value. Among the buyers, I believe, were Michael Kauffman and Louise Taper. I’m not sure, but I would suspect that Dr. Lattimer would have purchased some pieces also. There were many of us who were wishing that the collection would be purchased intact for posterity.

    BTW: Mr. Kauffman lent several of his purchases to Surratt House Museum for a month-long exhibit that we did on the Booth family years ago. The most memorable was a theatrical robe worn by Edwin.

    • Laurie,

      I heard the same thing – that the auction did not bring as much as it should have – from another person. I wish I would have been around to go to it. I would have loved to look through some of their pieces.

  3. Anthony Classick

    Has anyone gone to the Players Club?

  4. Doug Gerbino

    Better get to THE PLAYERS fast…while it is still open!

  5. Richard Sloan

    Hi, Doug Gerbino! Are you indicating that the Players may be sold off? Or just closed to non-members? I kne hig weed ther, bu I ddn’ thik wain jeopardy to that extent!
    (“Another fine mess,” Stanley!)
    Regarding the Boothbay auction. I think Mr. Lenthal had one of the original chairs from either the boxes at Ford’s or one of the replicas created by Lord & Taylor. I also think (it’s a stretch of my old brain cels!) that Louise Taper bought it.

  6. Richard Sloan

    SOmehow my message got messed up in transit. I wrote something to the effect that I knew the Club was having difficulties, but not to that extent!

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