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Hanlon Theatrical Collection

Call Number: MS Th. 3

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the performances of the Hanlon brothers during the 1870s and 1880s in both the United States and Europe. In addition, the lives of the Hanlons after their theatrical careers are also documented. Included are scrapbooks, costume sketches, photographs, and scripts.


  • 1875-1932


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.

The Hanlon Brothers

The Hanlon brothers, Thomas (1833–68), George (1840–1926), William (1842–1923), Alfred (1844–86), Edward (1846–1931), and Frederick (1848-1931), were British performers and theatrical producers who specialized in pantomime, acrobatics, and trapeze acts, who performed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries. Thomas, George, William, Alfred, and Edward were born in Manchester, England to actors Thomas Hanlon, Sr. and Ellen Hughes. Frederick was adopted into the family after having been apprenticed to Thomas Hanlon, Sr. for theatrical training. The brothers were originally trained and directed by acrobatic instructor John Lees and performed under the name Hanlon-Lees until 1882. They completed multiple world tours, performing in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and North and South America. The next generation of sons continued to perform under the family name, touring as a vaudeville act. Hanlon sons clowned with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus through the 1950s.


96.00 Items

Language of Materials



Arranged into 6 groups: Documents, Correspondence, Scripts, synopses, etc., Photographs, Sketches, and Miscellaneous materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from May Hanlon Manheimer in 1940.

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.

Hanlon Theatrical Collection
Rare Books & Manuscripts Department Staff
2013 April
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2013-04: Updated by Kimberly Reynolds.
  • 2021-04: Arrangement and notes updated by Eve Neiger.

About this library

Part of the Boston Public Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

700 Boylston Street
Boston MA 02116 United States