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Dion Boucicault theatre collection

Identifier: MS-1963-01

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

Contains original, hand-written plays and related materials, including set design sketches, sides, prompt books and photographs. "Ms" and "Mss" used in the record are shorthand for "manuscript(s)".


  • Created: 1843-1887
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/1963


Conditions Governing Access

None.  The contents of this collection may be subject to copyright.  Visit the United States Copyright Office's website at for more information.

Biographical or Historical Information

Noted as one of the most prolific, innovative and influential dramatists of the 19th century stage, Dion Boucicault (1820-1890) transformed American theatre by writing, directing, acting in, and/or producing - by his own account - more than 200 plays. A native of Dublin, Ireland, Boucicault’s career was launched on the London stage when he was barely out of his teens. In 1850, he immigrated to the United States, where he delighted audiences with elaborate stage sets, original musical scores, and such exciting stage theatrics as real burning buildings and horse races. In addition, his works raised a number of important social and cultural issues of historical significance - such as race, slavery and political issue - bringing them to the forefront of the American stage.

Boucicault’s farces and melodramas were wildly popular in the United States, Ireland, England, and Australia. In the U.S., he was known for adapting French popular stories and novels thereby helping to solidify theatre as the main form of entertainment for all classes on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 1800s. Boucicault also founded the first American school of acting, established one of the first touring companies in the United States, successfully lobbied for passage of copyright legislation for dramatists, and counted - among his many inventions - fire-proof scenery. A tireless and true entertainer, Boucicault’s three, scandal-ridden marriages, numerous affairs, lavish spending sprees, family tragedies only added to his own life’s drama and mystique.

Note written by


12.87 Linear Feet

29 boxes

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note


Custodial History

When Dion Boucicault died in New York in 1890, he bequeathed his materials to his widow Louise Thorndyke, later to become Mrs. Cheney or Madame Cheney. Forty years later, Madame Cheney sold these literary and theatrical remains to novelist Fitzhugh Green at a time when "The Poor of New York" - the influence of Depression theatre -  was being revived. Mr. Green's widow then sold them to Jack Clay in 1956. The collection was then acquired by the newly constructed University of South Florida Library.

Source of Acquisition

Mr. Jack Clay

Method of Acquisition

Acquired by the University of South Florida.

Accruals and Additions

Additional items donated by Nancy Cole, 4/17/2006.

Related Materials

Boucicault Collections, University of Kent at Canterbury

Other Descriptive Information


Processing Information


Dion Boucicault theatre collection
KC, 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USF Libraries - Special Collections Repository

4202 East Fowler Ave.
Tampa FL 33620-5400 US