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The Collection

The Players Foundation contains the Edwin Booth Collection, the Walter Hampden Collection, the Union Square Collection, and the William Hendersen Collection of English Playbills. A wide variety of other holdings include items ranging from seventeenth century folios of Ben Johnson to an annotated novel of George Bernard Shaw. Contemporary gifts from interested collectors, theatre artists, and families continue to grow the dynamic holdings of The Foundation.

The Booth Room

Edwin Booth was among the most influential actors of his day. Born in 1833, he developed a career that spanned over forty years, during which his was the preeminent name on the American stage. In an effort to elevate the status of members of his profession and encourage social connections among artists and arts patrons, Booth purchased 16 Gramercy Park South in 1888 and subsequently gave it to The Players, the membership club he founded. His gift only required the continuation of the social club and that he should live out the remainder of his days in his third floor apartment. Booth did just that for the final five years of his life, until he died in his bedroom on June 7, 1893 at the age of fifty-nine.

     As a tribute to him, The Players has maintained his room essentially intact since that day. The Booth Room is unique in that it is a profoundly personal space belonging to one of the most notable Americans of the nineteenth century.

The Hampden-Booth Theatre Library

Actor Edwin Booth founded the library in 1888 with his bequest to help legitimize the study of theatre as a scholarly pursuit. It was initially comprised of his personal books, papers, and theatrical belongings.  The desire to open its doors to the wide world of research began with the 1957 incorporation of The Walter Hampden Memorial Library, named to honor the fourth president of The Players, another renowned actor and major contributor to the substance of the library. The Library was permanently chartered under the Education Law of the State of New York in 1963.  The Hampden-Booth Theatre Library serves as a notable tribute to both the American and British stage and the vision of the Players who conceived it and ensured its continuity.

The Library

This beautiful nineteenth century room contains a small portion of the Foundation’s collection which is available for Players visitors to access and enjoy. Interested viewers should note that the bulk of The Foundation’s collection contains rare books, manuscript letters, prompt books, playbills, costumes, props, and memorabilia only available to researchers by appointment.

The nucleus of The Foundation’s fine art collection, living alongside the Club’s collection, are the portraits of nineteenth century actors which Edwin Booth began collecting toward the end of his life. Over the years, the permanent collection has expanded to include images of twentieth and twenty-first century performers from The Players roster by artists such as Players Al Hirschfeld, Michael Shane Neal, and Everett Raymond Kinstler. Funds have been raised in recent years to restore and maintain many of the earliest works. Docent tours of the public rooms that discuss the art collection and the history of The Players may be arranged by contacting The Foundation.

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