Collection MSS 016 - George McFadden Costume and Set Design Clippings Collection

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George McFadden Costume and Set Design Clippings Collection


  • 1926 - 1970 (Accumulation)


16 linear feet

Name of creator

Biographical history

George A. McFadden showed an early interest in design when, as a teenager, he created a mechanical store display featuring an Eskimo drinking for his parents’ drug store in Maine. Later he attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where he studied design, particularly theater design. There he also met his wife Alyce, a costume designer who worked with him throughout his career.

Throughout his life McFadden pursued varied interests, as a jeweler, a metalsmith, and a creator of mechanical devices used by clowns in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. He was also a faculty member at Emerson College from 1930-1931, during which time he served as the art director for several plays presented by Emerson’s Children’s Theater Company.

His designs included sets for the Boston Stage Society, the Brattle Theater, the Wharf Players in Provincetown, and the Repertory Theater, as well as window displays for such department stores as Filene’s and Jordan Marsh. Some of his store displays are still used in Boston.

After his retirement in the 1970s, McFadden began fixing and making clocks in his Winchester, MA home. While he worked with conventional clocks, he also made whimsical cuckoo clocks with quirky takes on traditional themes, some of which are now on display at local museums such as the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library located in Lexington, MA.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The George McFadden Costume and Set Design Clippings Collection is a collection of materials relating to set and costume design generated by George McFadden throughout his career as a theater designer. Included in the collection are clippings and articles from magazines and newspapers of people, places, designs, objects, artists’ work, advertisements and other inspirations; sketches; greeting cards; magazine covers; newspapers; postcards; and photographs, all of which inspired him in some aspect of design. Also included in the collection are a number of drafted designs for store window displays that McFadden created during and after his theater career, dated through 1970.
One of the original containers was kept as an example of how the collection was originally housed.

System of arrangement

The collection is arranged in the original order organized by McFadden. Items are separated by binder number and folder title, and oversized objects, which were separated out before the collection was received, are boxed separately.

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Conditions governing reproduction

Some materials may be subject to copyright. No part of the materials protected by copyright may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the copyright holder. Researchers are required to seek permission from the copyright holder to reproduce and/or publish materials under copyright.

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: [Container number], [Folder Title], George McFadden Costume and Set Design Clippings Collection, Emerson College Archives, Emerson College, Boston, MA.

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Custodial history

The George McFadden Costume and Set Design Clippings Collection consists of clippings; magazine covers; newspapers; postcards; photographs and other materials which served as inspirations for his design career. Much of the collection dates from his time as a theater set and costume designer in the 1930s and 1940s. The collection also contains material from his work as a store window display designer.


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