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B. J. Simmons & Co. Costume Design Records, 1878-1969

Author: Percy AndersonJohn ArmstrongLéon BakstCecil BeatonG E CalthropAll authors
Edition/Format:   Archival material : English
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
The bulk of the B. J. Simmons & Co. Costume Design Records (the Costume Design Portfolios series) comprises 34,000 costume designs, dress plots, and related materials produced or collected by the firm between 1878 and 1969 (bulk 1910-1960). Over 1,100 theatrical productions and 116 films are represented, including works by Shakespeare, Shaw, and Gilbert and Sullivan; performances by John Gielgud (Hamlet, 1944) and
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Genre/Form: Business records
Clippings
Costume design drawings
Costume plots
Costume prints
Correspondence
Film stills
Photographs
Scrapbooks
Souvenir programs
Theater programs
Named Person: Tom Arnold; Oscar Asche; Dion G Boucicault; Arthur Collins; John Gielgud, Sir; W S Gilbert; Oscar Hammerstein, II; Alexander Korda, Sir; Matheson Lang; J A E Malone; William Cameron Menzies; Ivor Novello; Laurence Olivier; Louis Napoleon Parker; Michael Powell; Emeric Pressburger; Victor Saville; William Shakespeare; Arthur Sullivan; Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Sir
Document Type: Archival Material
All Authors / Contributors: Percy Anderson; John Armstrong; Léon Bakst; Cecil Beaton; G E Calthrop; Attilio Comelli; Gordon Conway; Frederick Dawson; Roger Furse; Elizabeth Haffenden; Aubrey Hammond; George W Harris; Tom Heslewood; Anthony Holland; Rene Hubert; Percy Macquoid; Oliver Messel; F C Milner; Herbert Norris; William J C Pitcher; Charles S Ricketts; Hugo Rumbold; Howell Russell; Irene Segalla; Sers.; Paul Shelving; Ernst Stern; Joe Strassner; Dolly Tree; Georges Wakhevitch; Doris Zinkeisen; B. J. Simmons & Co.; Motley (Organization)
OCLC Number: 79415228
Language Note: Some materials in French.
Description: 224 document boxes, 331 oversize boxes, 227 portfolios, 35 flat file drawers (400 linear feet).

Abstract:

The bulk of the B. J. Simmons & Co. Costume Design Records (the Costume Design Portfolios series) comprises 34,000 costume designs, dress plots, and related materials produced or collected by the firm between 1878 and 1969 (bulk 1910-1960). Over 1,100 theatrical productions and 116 films are represented, including works by Shakespeare, Shaw, and Gilbert and Sullivan; performances by John Gielgud (Hamlet, 1944) and Laurence Olivier (as Romeo, 1935); numerous Ivor Novello musicals; Oscar Asche's blockbuster production of the musical Chu Chin Chow (1916); original designs for Peter Pan (1904) and Ben-Hur (1902); and British films such as Olivier's Henry V and Things to Come. The costume designers Percy Anderson, Attilio Comelli, and Sers are particularly well represented.

The Production Portfolios comprise 227 folio scrapbooks of souvenir programs, clipped reviews and articles from entertainment periodicals, and photographs showing illustrations of stage and film costumes, often with accompanying textual descriptions or reviews. Over 8,000 productions between 1880 and 1959 are represented, most from London or Paris. Although many productions were dressed by Simmons, other stagings are also documented, allowing researchers to compare several presentations of the same play.

When published sources were not sufficient to meet the requirements of a particular theatrical production or commission, designers conducted research at libraries and museums. Over time, Simmons compiled a vast visual archive of tracings, clippings, photographs, postcards, and other ephemeral materials. The Geographic Costume Portfolios contain more than 10,000 items arranged in meticulous order by country (from Abyssinia to Yugoslavia) and time period. England and France are especially well represented.

After the initial production and sale of costumes, Simmons often leased their garments to amateur dramatic societies and subsequent professional productions. The records for this part of their enterprise are found in the Business Records series, as are other documents concerning the management of a costume house.

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