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Thomas Goodwin Collection

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Goodwin Playbill

0.5 linear feet
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PROCESSED BY: Linda Richer, June 1996

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Thomas Goodwin was born in London in 1799, the second son of William Goodwin. Thomas's father, a well-known music copyist and publisher, was active in theater circles and was music librarian to Covent Garden Theatre. As a child, Thomas had access to his father's library and office, knew every part of the Covent Garden Theatre, and knew many of the actors and actresses. At age eight he performed in Harlequin and Mother Goose by Thomas Dibdin at Covent Garden Theatre (1806-1807 season).

Thomas's older brother, William (d. 1876), continued his father's business in London leaving no place for Thomas in the business. Thomas arrived in New York City on June 28, 1826 after departing from Liverpool sixty-eight days earlier. In New York, Thomas became a well-established music copyist and librarian and worked closely with Park Theatre as their librarian. When he arrived in 1827, Park Theatre was under the same management as Drury Lane Theatre in London.

Goodwin was a charter member of the Philharmonic Society in New York (New York Philharmonic) which was founded in 1842. He served as librarian for the organization.

Goodwin was surrounded by persons involved in theater and the performing arts in both London and New York for his whole life. His knowledge about the theater and music was deep and is shown in his Sketches and Impressions by R. Osgood Mason (New York: Putnams's, 1887). The book is filled with Goodwin's anecdotes about the London theater, his emigration to New York, and his involvement in New York theater and musical life and provides most of the biographical information presented here.

Goodwin died in New York in 1886. His great-granddaughter Phoebe Eaton lives in Old Chatham, New York.


Researchers wishing to document aspects of the theater business in nineteeth-century London and New York would find Thomas Goodwin's collection useful. The in-depth coverage from 1824 to 1835 provides information about theater programming and about the careers of actors, actresses, and other performers. The collection also speaks to the dynamic relationship between theater in London and in New York City. Because of his occupation of music librarian and copyist, issues such as the music trade, musical repertoire, and theater programming can be examined. The collection is divided into the following series: Series I. Thomas Goodwin papers; Series II. Playbills, subseries A-C as follows: A. London playbills; B. Other English playbills; C. New York City playbills.

Goodwin's papers (Series I) primarily include business correspondence to Goodwin in New York requesting scores and parts, some itemized bills, and legal agreements. Scattered correspondence (1820-1832) from numerous business contacts to his brother William in London is also represented. Thomas Goodwin's catalogue of music and scores lists about 200 titles that he held in his own library. The collection includes only one short score in Goodwin's hand (penciled date of 1818?). Records relating to the Philharmonic Society in New York, miscellaneous clippings and programs, five short manuscripts of poetry and concert tickets complete his collection.

Playbills (Series II) in the collection include 238 English playbills representing 27 theaters. Years represented are 1824 to 1841 with the bulk from 1824 to 1835. The majority of the playbills are from four theaters in London: Theatre Royal Drury Lane (97), Theatre Royal, Covent-Garden (50), Theatre Royal, Hay-Market (17), and English Opera House (16). Other London theaters represented include Madame Vestris' Royal Olympic Theatre, Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, Garrick Theatre, Surrey Theatre, King's Theatre, Theatre Tottenham Street Queen's Theatre, Theatre Royal-Olympic and others. Other scattered English playbills include those from theaters in Dover, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Bath, Shrewsbury, Edinburg, Liverpool, Manchester, and Wolverhampton. Because Goodwin moved to New York in 1827, many of these playbills were likely collected by his brother William in London.

The only New York City playbills include a special bound set for the 1830-1831 season of Park Theatre. A single playbill for one performance at Niblo's Garden is also included.

Related classified books in the Special Collections area include the following that came with the Thomas Goodwin collection:

  • Goodwin, Thomas. Sketches and Impressions: Musical, Theatrical and Social (1799-1885) Including a Sketch of the Philharmonic Society of New York From the After-Dinner Talk of Thomas Goodwin. Collected by R. Osgood Mason. New York: Putnam's, 1887. (PN2185.G6)
  • Fairburn, John. Fairburn's Description of the Popular and Comic New Pantomime, Called Harlequin and Mother Goose, or The Golden Egg [by Thomas Dibdin]. London: J. Fairburn, 1807? (PR4549.D5 Z64 1807)
  • Philharmonic Society of London. Concert Programs. 1828-1829. (ML42.L7 C66)


Series I. Thomas Goodwin papers, 1818-1884

Consists of one box of correspondence and related miscellaneous materials. The correspondence is mostly addressed to Thomas Goodwin in New York with a smaller number of letters being addressed to his bother Willliam in London. The only letter not addressed to Goodwin or his brother is a letter of recommendation (July 1828) written for Goodwin and his services. His catalogue of music, a one-page manuscript, records relating to the Philharmonic Society, clippings and programs, and "a peice of the net that was burnt on the stage of Park Theatre on the second night of the representation of the 'Israelites in Egypt'" are also included.

Series II. Playbills, 1824-1841

Consists of 239 playbills and the 1830-1831 season of the Park Theatre in New York.


The Thomas Goodwin Collection was given to Oberlin College in June of 1990 by Phoebe K. Eaton, a 1937 graduate of Oberlin College. Thomas Goodwin was a great-grandfather of Ms. Eaton. Ms. Eaton resides in Old Chatham, New York.


Series I.  Thomas Goodwin papers (1818-1884)


		Box 1   T. Goodwins' correspondence 1829-1880 (New York)

			W. Goodwin's (?) correspondence 1820-1832 (London)

			Correspondence n.d. and no address

			Correspondence — letter of recommendation for Goodwin, 1928

			Goodwin's catalogue of music [n.d.]

			Manuscript of Goodwin [1818]

			Records relating to Philharmonic Society [ca. 1842]

			Clippings and programs 1856-1884

			Miscellany 1828-1869


		Series II.  Playbills (1824-1841)


		    Subseries  A.  London Playbills (1824-1835)


		Box 2   Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, 1829-1833

			English Opera House, 1827-1832

			French Theatre du Petit Lazary, n.d. ; Garrick Theatre, 1832 ; King's Theatre, n.d.

			Madame Vestris' Royal Olympic Theatre, 1831-1832

			New City Theatre, Milton St. Fore St., n.d. 

			Queen's Theatre, 1831-1832

			Royal Clarence Theatre, 1827 ; Royal Coburg Theatre, n.d.

			Society of British Musicians, 1835 ; Surrey Theatre, n.d.

			Theatre Royal, Covent-Garden, 1824-1828, 1829-1835 (2f)

			Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1824, 1825-1830, 1831-1832, 1835 (4f)	

			Theatre Royal, Hay-Market, 1827-1835

			Theatre Royal, Olympic, 1833

			Theatre Tottenham-Street, 1830


		    Subseries B.  Other English Playbills (1827-1831)


		Box 2 (cont.)

			Royal Clarence Theatre, Dover, 1827

			Theatre, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, 1829

			Theatre, Bridge Place, Shrewsbury, 1829

			Theatre Royal, Bath, 1829

			Theatre-Royal, Edinburgh, 1831

			Theatre-Royal, Liverpool, 1829 ; Theatre-Royal, Manchester, 1829

			Theatre, Wolverhampton, 1829


		    Subseries C.  New York City Playbills (1830-1841)


		Box 2 (cont.)

			Niblo's Garden, 1841

			Park Theatre, New York Playbills Sept. 1, 1830-July 29, 1831 (adjacent to Box 2)
Last updated:
June 13, 2016