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Silent Films Research at the Library for the Performing Arts: Archival Collections

A guide to the films and Special Collections held at the Library for the Performing Arts that document the Silent Film era.


The New York Public Library holds many archival collections that document the people, companies and productions associated with silent film in the United States.  We encourage researchers to contact the holding divisions for more reference assistance and to access the materials.

List of Collections

Billy Rose Theatre Division:

Adele Theatre records, 1919-1922. *T-Mss 1996-017
Correspondence and contracts of the Adele Theatre concerning the booking of films, and the advertising it received from various film companies on their offerings.

Mrs. Owen Bronson scrapbook, 1914-1927. *T-Mss 1995-030
Scriptwriter for silent films, Nell B. Bronson published under the name Mrs. Owen Bronson. Scrapbook consists mostly of clippings but also contains photographs and a few letters, including two from Norma Talmadge.

Beatrice Burton papers, 1909-1921. *T-Mss 2003-027  
Beatrice Burton papers consist mostly of contracts with the B. F. Keith vaudeville circuit. There is also an undated, eight-page scenario, written by Beatrice Morgan, for a short film to be called East is East and West is West.

James Neill and Edythe Chapman papers, 1900-1923 and undated, (bulk 1911-1912). *T-Mss 2021-001
Documents related to actor, director and producer James Neill and his actor wife Edythe Chapman. Correspondence documents professional activities of Neill in booking and directing stage productions, as well as film appearances, also personal correspondence. Photographs document many silent films in which Neill and/or Chapman appeared.

Jack Cunningham papers, 1922-1939. *T-Mss 1942-003
Hollywood screenwriter and producer who worked primarily for Paramount Pictures and developed material for many prominent stars. Papers consist primarily of correspondence pertaining to The Covered Wagon (1923) and Union Pacific (1939).

Marie Doro collection, circa 1910-1957. MWEZ+ n.c. 19085
Collection primarily includes photographs and reproduced images depicting Marie Doro (1882-1956) in various acting roles, in portraiture, and in candid photographs. Film titles include Castles for Two (1917), Common Ground (1916), Diplomacy (1910), The Lash (1916) and The Stronger Passion (1921). 

Max Eastman papers, 1916-1968 [bulk 1916-1921]. *T-Mss 1994-008
The collection is primarily photographs of Eastman's silent film star friends, Charlie Chaplin and Florence Deshon. It contains drawings  by Chaplin, personal and family photographs, and negatives and prints from his The Kid (1921). The Deshon material consists primarily of photographs and clippings, particularly relating to her film Jaffery (1916) with C. Aubrey Smith, and includes a letter from Smith and one (1919) from Samuel Goldwyn concerning her employment in his studio. The collection also contains photographs of Paulette Goddard and other film personalities.

Warren Boroson collection of Renée Falconetti material, 1962. *T-Mss 1991-004
Collection consists of articles and correspondence collected by Warren Boroson on the career and identity of stage and silent film actor Renée Falconetti. 

Lillian Gish papers: 1909-1992. *T-Mss 1996-011
Lillian Gish papers include correspondence including letters from friends, family, fans and business associates, personal papers, business, legal and financial documents, scripts, writings, photographs including early D.W. Griffith silent film photographs--both candid shots taken during shooting and film stills--portraits by famous photographers, personal and family photographs, publicity and production photographs and snapshots, scrapbooks on the careers of both Dorothy and Lillian Gish, programs for early silent films and theatrical productions, clippings and ephemera that document the life and career of Lillian and Dorothy Gish from the early 1900s until Lillian's death in 1993.

Dorothy Green photographs and clippings, 1916-1923, undated. MWEZ+ n.c. 19682
Photographs, press sheets, clippings and lobby cards documenting the career of silent film actress Dorothy Green (1892-1963).

Benjamin Laba papers, 1970-1995. *T-Mss 1995-024
A scholar of early film history, Laba's papers include a manuscript on comedic silent film actor John Bunny and research materials on Bunny and director Albert Parker.

Tully Marshall photograph album of silent and early sound film, 1916-1941. MWEZ+ n.c. 5442A-5442B
Photograph album annotated by film actor Tully Marshall with film titles, dates, and the names of production companies and actors.

Patsy Ruth Miller papers, 1922-1986. *T-Mss 1989-010
From 1920 to 1933 Patsy Ruth Miller appeared in over eighty silent films. The Patsy Ruth Miller papers include correspondence, a diary, a draft of her autobiography and photographs that document her career as a writer. 

Gertrude Selby photographs and ephemera, 1910s-1978. *T-Vim 2018-014
The collection is primarily comprised of many black and white portrait photographs of Selby during her film acting career in the 1910s. Additionally there are stills from several L-KO films and photographs of Mabel Normand.

A scrapbook of early moving pictures [graphic], [1928]. MFL+ [RBS] 95-
Mounted photographs with identifying typescript labels, including 5 motion studies by Eadweard Muybridge (1887) and 15 stills from Ivanhoe, The Roman, The Medallion, The Code of Honor, Monte Cristo, Jackanapes, The Other Fellow, The Regeneration of Bob, and Carmen.

Richard Sisson research materials, 1921-2002. *T-Mss 2006-027
This collection concerns actors Evelyn Brent and Dwight Marfield. The bulk of the collection relates to Brent and her work in silent film. Materials about Brent include Sisson's research notes, his correspondence about Brent and her career, incomplete draft manuscripts for a biography of Brent, clippings, and publicity material.

Fannie Ward scrapbooks, 1875-1954. *T-Mss 1998-033
Collection consists of five scrapbooks of clippings and photographs of silent film actor Fannie Ward, arranged chronologically, and one scrapbook of typed research notes by Glendon R. Good on her career.

George Wotherspoon papers, 1887-1990. *T-Mss 1990-024
George Wotherspoon was a theatrical and motion picture publicist, theatrical manager, stage critic, and journalist.  Papers consist of a scrapbook of clippings and other items, documents such as letters, caricatures, and photographs.


Manuscripts and Archives, Steven A. Schwarzman Building:

Triangle/Reliance Film Corporation records, 1912-1923. MssCol 3030
Organizational records of the Triangle Film Corporation, the Reliance Motion Picture Company, and other film studios.

National Board of Review of Motion Pictures records, 1907-1971. MssColl 2100
Records reflecting the National Board's opposition to censorship and its efforts to improve the quality of motion pictures. 

Related Images

Publicity photo of Lillian Gish directing Remodeling Her Husband, 1920. Lillian Gish papers, *T-Mss 1996-011. Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Digital Collections ID: ps_the_cd74_1131

Related Images

Dorothy Gish and Lillian Gish in Orphans of the Storm, 1921. Lillian Gish papers, *T-Mss 1996-011. Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Digital Collections ID: ps_the_cd80_1214