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Boston Theatre (Federal Street) Records

 Collection — Container: MS Th. 1
Call Number: MS Th. 1

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the administrative, financial and performance history of the Federal Street Theater, the first public theater in Boston, from its beginning in 1793 to 1852. Records include agreements, contracts, deeds, financial accounts, inventories, meeting minutes and receipts.


  • 1793-1852
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/1902


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Items in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. In most cases, the Boston Public Library does not hold the copyright to the items in our collections. It is the sole responsibility of the user to make their own determination about what types of usage might be permissible under U.S. and international copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

In spite of the anti-theater sentiment that began in Boston in 1687 and an official ban that was put on theater by the Massachusetts General Court in 1750, The Federal Street Theatre (Boston Theatre) was established in 1793 and was the first permanent theater in Boston. Located on the corner of Federal and Franklin streets it was designed by Charles Bulfinch (1763–1844) and was the first American theater designed by an American architect. The first manager of the theater was John Steele Tyler (1796-1876). The opening performance took place on February 3, 1794. Four years later, the building was destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt in the same year. From 1835-1846, it was used as a lecture hall called the Odeon. In 1846, theatrical productions were resumed under its old name, the Boston Theatre. The building was torn down in 1854.


4.00 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged into 12 series:

Contracts                     C1-C34

Miscellaneous              D1-D266

Miscellaneous              E 1-E202

Miscellaneous              EE1-EE278

Miscellaneous              F1-F248

Stock certificates        FF1-FF173

Inventories                  Inv. 1-Inv. 9

Correspondence          L1-L106

Managers’ accounts    M1-M21

Treasurers’ accounts    T1-T44

Trustees                       Tru1-Tru61

Appendix                    Printed material

Method of Acquisition

Purchased from the estate of Gardner Brewer in 1902.

Related Materials

Boston Theatre and Opera House (Washington Street)  Collection, MS Th. 2

National Theatre Collection, MS Th. 11

Tremont Theatre Collection, MS Th. 4

Playbills,  f T.10.6

Processing Information

Finding aid written by Rare Books and Manuscripts staff.

Processing Information

This electronic finding aid is transcribed from legacy data. In many cases, transcriptions were not verified against collection materials at the time of transcription. As a result, this finding aid could be incomplete and might only reflect a partial understanding of the material.

Statement on harmful description

Archival description reflects the biases of time periods and cultures in which it was created and may include direct quotations or descriptions that use inappropriate or harmful language. Creator provided descriptions may be maintained in order to preserve the context in which the collection was created and/or used. Legacy description and potentially offensive content may be made available online until a collection can be reprocessed because the access that they provide to primary source materials is uniquely valuable to the research community at large. Our efforts to repair outdated descriptions and to describe our collections more equitably are iterative and ongoing.

Boston Theatre (Federal Street) Records
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020-06: Updated by Kimberly Reynolds, June 2020.

About this library

Part of the Boston Public Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

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Boston MA 02116 United States