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Finding Aid for the Marian De Forest Drama Papers, 1910-1961 (bulk 1910-1935)

Mss. B69-5

Buffalo History Museum. Research Library

1 Museum Court
Buffalo, NY 14216
Phone: 716-873-9644 ext. 306
Fax: 716-873-8754
Email: library@buffalohistory.org
URI: http://www.buffalohistory.org

Finding aid prepared by Peter Nelson.
Finding aid encoded in EAD by Kuniko Simon, March 2008.
Finding aid written in English..
Finding aid prepared using local best practices.

Funding for the initial encoding was provided through the Regional Bibliographic Databases Program administered by the Western New York Library Resources Council.

Please use the following URL when citing this document:

© 2010. Buffalo History Museum. All rights reserved.

Collection Overview

Title: Marian De Forest Papers, 1910-1961 (bulk 1910-1935)
Creator: De Forest, Marian, 1864-1935
Extent: 2 boxes (1 linear foot)
Language of Material: Collection material in English.
Repository: Buffalo History Museum. Research Library
Abstract: De Forrest's drama-related personal papers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Description and dates], Box/folder number, B69-5, Marian de Forest Papers, 1910-1961 (bulk 1910-1935), Research Library, Buffalo History Museum.

Acquisition Information

Witt, Clara H., Mrs.; gift; 1961/10/00; 65-74

Terms of Access

Marian De Forest Papers, 1910-1961, are open for research.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Buffalo History Museum before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.

Processing Information

Collection reprocessed by Peter Nelson, November 1992.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Biographical Note

Marian de Forest, a "distinguished dramatist, author, civic personality, music impresario, and pioneer newspaper woman," was born in Buffalo in 1864 and attended Buffalo Seminary, graduating in 1884. She began a career in newspapers, first with the Buffalo Evening News and then the Buffalo Commercial. After the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, in which she was secretary of the Board of Women Managers, she joined the staff of the Buffalo Express, where she was to stay for 23 years. At the Express she was dramatic editor and editor of the Women's department, in which she had a regular column entitled "As I Go to the Play."

Marian de Forest earned notoriety far beyond the local scene, however, in her work as a playwright and author. She is best known as the author of Little Women, a dramatic adaptation of the story of the same name by Louisa May Alcott. Little Women was completed in 1911, had stage productions in Buffalo and elsewhere, and received rave reviews on the New York stage in 1912. Perhaps more significantly, the play served as the vehicle for Katharine Cornell's rise to acting stardom in the London stage production in 1919. With actress Jessie Bonstelle, Marian de Forest edited and published letters found at the Alcott home in Massachusetts, in a book entitled Little Women Letters from the House of Alcott. The de Forest papers contain a published version of Little Women only, but it also has extensive court documents from de Forest's copyright infringement suit brought against William A. Brady and others.

In 1919 Marian de Forest founded and became the first president of the Zonta Club, an organization for women business executives, the first of its kind in the country. In 1924-1925 she served as the fourth president of Zonta International.

Marian de Forest left the Buffalo Express in 1924 to become executive secretary and manager of the Buffalo Musical Foundation. In the winter months she devoted the majority of her time to promoting its concerts, and reserved the summer months for her writing. Marian de Forest died of cancer in Buffalo General Hospital in 1935, shortly before her 71st birthday.

Scope and Content Note

Correspondence, literary contracts and clippings related to de Forest's plays and stage productions of them; complaints and other court papers related to de Forest's lawsuit for copyright infringement of her play Little Women, caused by a motion picture version by William A. Brady and others, 1918-1922; and scripts of many of her plays, including ms. versions of Mister Man and Barnabetta ( Erstwhile Susan) and a published version of Little Women. Includes letter by Clara H. Witt to Buffalo Historical Society, 1961, explaining disposition of de Forest's literary estate.

Container List

Box-folder Contents
1.1 Correspondence concerning the estate of Marian de Forest, 1935-1961
Box-folder Contents
1.2 Literary contracts, 1917-1919, 1921

Includes model contract from Author's League of America.

1.3 Little Women: correspondence and contracts, 1910-1919, 1932
1.4 Marian de Forest v. Elmwood Theatre Co., : court papers, 1919, 1922
1.5 de Forest v. Elmwood (continued): correspondence, 1918-1919
1.6 de Forest v. Elmwood et al. (continued): correspondence, 1919
1.7 de Forest v. Elmwood (continued); comparisons between book, play and motion picture, 1919
1.8 de Forest v. Elmwood (continued): copies of papers used as evidence, 1910-1914
1.9 Barnabetta/Erstwhile Susan: contracts, correspondence, etc., 1913-1926, 1932
1.10 Mister Man: contracts, correspondence, etc., 1918-1927
1.11 Mister Man: contracts, correspondence, etc., 1928-1931
1.12 Mister Man: clippings of reviews of Buffalo stage production, July 1922
1.13 de Forest v. Adams: correspondence, 1922
1.14 Mary 39: correspondence, 1921-1927
1.15 Miscellaneous correspondence, 1928-1935
1.16 Pipes (typed manuscript) undated
Box-folder Contents
1.17 Mister Man - first script
2.1 Mister Man - version dated 7 April 1925
2.2 Mister Man - Prologue, Act I
2.3 Mister Man - Acts II and III
2.4 Mister Man - (entire script)
2.5 Barnabetta - first copy, 1914
2.6 Published scripts of Little Women and Erstwhile Susan
2.7 The Trespasser, undated
2.8 Trespassing, undated
2.9 Mary 39, undated
2.10 Lovers of Yesteryear autographed and dated 18 July 1934
2.11 The Vision of Noah, undated
2.12 The Zonta Zoo or The Vision of Noah, undated
2.13 Mister Man-first script A Centennial Fantasy of Fashion radio broadcast script by Josephine Wilhelm Wickser, 1932

Search Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Library's online catalog.


Brady, William A., 1863-1950
Buffalo History Museum

Subject Terms

Buffalo History Museum--Archives
Dramatists, American--New York (State)--Buffalo
Theater--New York (State)