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Nashville Theatrics, 1888

October 8, 2016

A scrapbook attributed to a member of the Whalley family provides a rare and unique glimpse into Nashville's theatrical history.

Programs, Plays & Performers

It's not entirely clear who compiled the scrapbook, or why, but we know it was someone with a theatrical flair.

Dating from the late 1880s, the scrapbook contains programs from performances at Nashville's Masonic Theatre and the Grand Opera House. Especially noteworthy are numerous programs from the earliest days of Theatre Vendome. Located on Church Street where today's Nashville Public Library stands, the Vendome opened in 1887. Many of the programs date from 1888.

In addition to providing information about stage performances, the materials also provide the names of headlining actors and singers, such as Edwin Booth, Helena Modjeska, and Emma Abbott, and are sometimes supplemented by biographical profiles or reviews from newspapers.

Lights and Shadows

But the scrapbook contains more than just programs and reviews. It clearly was created by someone who worked in the theatre business. The first third of the volume includes a hand-written script and stage directions for a play entitled Lights and Shadows, written by Louis Davis.


Special Effects, 1888

Perhaps the most unusual item in the scrapbook is a single page containing "recipes" for lighting techniques and effects.

This scrapbook is just one of many items held by the Special Collections Division which documents Nashville's rich theatre and performing arts history. Take a look at some of the items below to learn more.

Historical Documents


Linda is an archivist who works in the Special Collections Division where you can find all kinds of nifty historical stuff about Nashville, like maps, newspapers, manuscripts, photographs, oral histories, and more! Learn more about the Special Collections Division.