• IdentificationMidwest MS Gerstenberg
  • TitleInventory of the Alice Gerstenberg Papers, 1903-1971 Midwest.MS.Gerstenberg
  • PublisherThe Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts
  • RepositoryThe Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts
  • Physical Description3.5 linear feet (6 boxes and 1 oversize box)
  • Date1903-1971
  • Location1 20 1
  • AbstractCorrespondence, works and miscellaneous material reflecting Gerstenberg's activities in Chicago's social and cultural life in the first half of the 20th century, in particular her involvement with local theater.
  • OriginationGerstenberg, Alice

Gift of Alice Gerstenberg, 1965; additions, gift of Syracuse University. Library, 1971.

The Alice Gerstenberg Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).

The Alice Gerstenberg Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Alice Gerstenberg Papers, The Newberry Library, Chicago.

Amy Nyholm, 1965; Virginia H. Smith, 2001.

This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Chicago actress, playwright, and activist in the Little Theatre movement.

Alice Gerstenberg was born in 1885, the only child of a wealthy Chicago couple, Erich and Julia Weischendorff Gerstenberg. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1907 and then returned to Chicago where she spent many years involved with drama and the theatre.

A pioneer in the world of Little Theatre, Gerstenberg was one of the original members of the Chicago Little Theatre, which was founded by Maurice Browne in 1912, and in 1921 she and Annette Washburne started the Chicago Junior League Theatre for Children. Her most significant contribution to the theatre was in being founder, producer and president of The Playwrights' Theatre of Chicago, 1922-1945. She was active in the Alice Gerstenberg Experimental Theatre Workshop in the 1950's and the Alice Gerstenberg Theatre in the 1960's.

As a playwright, Gerstenberg wrote mostly rather experimental one-act plays, many of which featured women in the lead roles. These plays were modest in scope, appropriate for both amateur and professional staging, and many were popular in local schools, drama workshops and small theaters around the country. Her most enduring play is "Overtones," an early (1915) psychological one-act drama, which was said to have foreshadowed Eugene O'Neill's dual personality device.

Gerstenberg never married; she died in 1972.

Much of the collection consists of correspondence, primarily incoming from friends and associates of the theatre world. There are typescripts of a number of her plays, printed materials ranging in content and subject matter from her Bryn Mawr days to her interest in the Spiritualist movement, many playbills, clippings, a few photographs, and two large scrapbooks commemorating her theatrical career.

Papers are organized in the following series:

Title Box Series 1: Outgoing Correspondence, 1913-1971 Box 1 Series 2: Incoming Correspondence, ca. 1913-1965 Boxes 1-3 Series 3: Works Box 4 Series 4: Miscellaneous Material, 1903-1968 Boxes 5-7

  • Names
    • Browne, Maurice, 1884-1961
    • Bryn Mawr College.
    • Chatfield-Taylor, H. C., (Hobart Chatfield), 1865-1945
    • Donahey, William, b. 1883
    • Dreiser, Theodore, 1871-1945
    • Ferber, Edna, 1887-1968
    • Fisher, Dorothy Canfield, 1879-1958
    • Fuller, Henry Blake, 1857-1929
    • Gale, Zona, 1874-1938
    • Gerstenberg, Alice
    • Hazelton, George Cochrane, 1868-1921
    • Masters, Edgar Lee, 1868-1950
    • Monroe, Harriet, 1860-1936
    • National League of American Pen Women.
    • Rice, Wallace, 1859-1939
    • Sheaffer, Robert Faust
    • Society of Midland Authors.
    • Webster, Henry Kitchell, 1875-1932
  • Subject
    • Autobiography –- Women authors
    • Chicago
    • Little theater movement -- Illinois -- Chicago
    • Manuscripts, American -- Illinois -- Chicago
    • Spiritualists
    • Theater
    • Theater -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
    • Women
  • Geographic Coverage
    • Chicago (Ill.) -- Intellectual life -- 20th century
    • Chicago (Ill.) -- Social life and customs