Collection MSS 017 - Variety Protected Materials Department Collection

Identity elements

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Name and location of repository

Level of description



Variety Protected Materials Department Collection


  • Bulk (1916-1924) (Creation)
  • 1912 - 1938 (Creation)


7.5 linear feet

Name of creator

Biographical history

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This collection contains materials submitted in sealed envelopes for copyright protection by the Variety Protected Materials Department between 1912 and 1938. The bulk of the material consists of scripts for Vaudeville, radio, and other creative productions, and photographs and drawings of set designs and costumes. The materials also often include illustrations or photographs of a skit concept, trick, or performance props and apparatuses. Also included are musical scores and lyrics. Some submissions consist simply of an outline of an idea for a joke or performance, while others are more detailed, such as a cardboard diorama of a stage design, or photographs of an act in progress. There are also small amounts of correspondence and contract materials included, as well as return notices from Variety. Many of the acts were written for performance by a pair or group, and but were submitted by a single representative for that group. On some of the materials, the copyright holder is indicated as a different individual than the original author. There are a handful of individuals who mailed in materials on many different occasions. In most cases, the original envelopes are still intact and dated.

Series 2 consists of limited Financial Documents. Only companies/people beginning with the letter ‘B’ are present in this series. All records appear to be accounts that are overdue or “Bad Debt”. In several cases there are notes when a person is deceased or bankrupt. In some cases there are additional notes attached to de ledger, and in the case of Nan Blakstone, several pages of correspondence.

System of arrangement

This collection is arranged in two series. Series 1, which consists of creative works submitted for copyright, is the bulk of the collection. Series 2 consists of only 2 folders of financial documents. The first series is arranged by the original copyright number assigned to each envelope upon receipt by the Variety Protected Materials Department. The system for assigning each copyright number is not clear. Each folder contains a single numbered envelope and its contents. Some of the materials do not have a copyright number; these are listed at the end of the collection with any available information. There are a number of empty envelopes as well, which are housed together in a single folder. Oversized materials have been removed and housed in separate boxes, but are in order by copyright number as well. The name of the copyright holder(s) and the date of submission or creation are included in the box list as available.

Since many of the accounts span multiple years, Series 2 Financial Documents are arranged alphabetically and housed in 2 folders at the end of Box 8. When additional notes or receipts are attached to the account, they are housed together with the original ledger page in a white paper insert.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

This collection is open to researchers.

Physical access

Technical access

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.

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Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

These materials were found in two file cabinets at the Variety offices in Los Angeles, California, by an archivist at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Custody of the materials was granted to the Academy, with the understanding that they would assume the responsibility for seeking out a more appropriate permanent repository. The materials were transferred to Emerson College by the Academy in June 2011.


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