Seiffert family collection, circa 1900-1994  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Seiffert family
Seiffert family collection
circa 1900-1994 (inclusive)
2 cubic feet, (3 document cases, 2 flat boxes)
Collection Number
Coll 70
Papers of John and Olive (Southcott) Seiffert of San Francisco, California, and Portland Oregon. John Seiffert was active in theater groups in Portland and San Francisco in the 1920s and 1930s, and ran dancing schools in later years. The collection contains photographs, scrapbooks, personal documents, play scripts, original poetry, and ephemera.
Oregon Historical Society, Davies Family Research Library
Davies Family Research Library
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

John Theodore Seiffert was born on September 11, 1900 (although some documents say 1903), in St. Paul, Minnesota. His parents were Joseph and Mary Seiffert. Joseph Seiffert was born in Germany and was brought to the United States by his father, Theodore, in 1879. Joseph’s wife, Mary Auvley, was born in Confluence, Pennsylvania, to native born parents. Sometime before 1910 the Joseph Seiffert family, including John and his older sister Marie, moved to Portland, Oregon. They are shown on the 1910 census residing in North Portland on N. Minnesota Ave. The family, however, did not own that home until 1917.

In 1919 the then nineteen year old John T. Seiffert attended Portland’s School of Drama and Expression. Invitations show the school holding three recitals in 1919 and 1920. On September 19, 1920, the press took note of Seiffert’s stage debut in a review of the play “at 9:45”, a murder melodrama performed at Portland’s 3rd Avenue Baker Theater : “The murdered boy is a newcomer, John Seiffert”. A scrapbook in the Seiffert collection contains a number of notices, reviews and notes of Seiffert’s career. Seiffert played a number of roles at the Baker Theater before he joined road theater companies that took him from theaters in Vancouver and Seattle, Washington, to Utica, New York, and St. Paul, Minnesota. He is noted as an actor and director in numerous plays.

Around 1933 Seiffert moved to San Francisco and was noted as performing and directing in small theaters. One July 1933 notice shows a theater company bearing his name, the John Seiffert Players, performing in a basement theater on Geary Street. He aslo conducted acting classes and led a group of actors performing drama on San Francisco radio station KJBS. At some point Seiffert converted the Geary basement theater into a ballroom dancing school, the Irene Studio. In 1941 he was certified as a teacher of "Absolute Science," possibly related to the Christian Science church.

In April, 1938, Seiffert married Olive (Southcott) Simmons of San Francisco. She was the daughter of W.H. Southcott, once the mayor of Grass Valley, California, and his wife Jessie (Buckett) Southcott. Olive's Oregonian obituary notes that she was a dance instructor and worked together with John Seiffert in San Francisco for about 20 years. This corresponds to evidence that the Seifferts left San Francisco in 1958 and moved to Portland that year. Portland City Directories begin listing John Seiffert’s residence at his parent’s Minnesota Avenue home in 1958. His occupation was noted as a salesman at Meier & Frank department store ithat year and 1960. The directories did not list John’s occupation in 1961, and by 1964 he is shown as retired. In 1960 the State of Oregon bought the Seiffert’s home, and the family purchased a new home at 6607 Borthwick.

John T. Seiffert died in Portland on August 19, 1972. The death certificate notes that he died of congestive heart failure and that he was a diabetic. He was buried in Portland’s Memorial Cemetery. His widow Olive continued to live in the Borthwick home and died in Portland in on May 16, 1994. There is no evidence that the Seifferts had any children.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection contains family photographs and albums; ephemera; some personal correspondence and records; and a scrapbook containing newspaper reviews, notices, publicity material for various stage productions in which John Seiffert was involved; and poems by Seiffert and others. Also included in the collection are a number of scripts to one act plays or short skits, some with authors noted, many anonymous.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library prior to any use of reproductions. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use of reproductions may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright holders.

Preferred Citation

Seiffert family collection, Coll 70, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series A:  Personal papers and documents, 1904-1994Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Death certificates, funeral notices, obituaries, for John and Olive Seiffert
Marriage and birth certificates, affidavits
Property documents and records
Includes deeds, correspondence, and documents for properties in Portland at 4217 N. Minnesota; and 6607 N. Bothwick.
Correspondence of John and Olive Seiffert
Personal documents of John T. Seiffert
Includes transcripts of 1900 and 1910 census records for Seiffert family.
Insurance papers, policies, and bills
Appliance manuals, home improvement records
circa 1960-1983
Health insurance records and policies, Olive Seiffert
Life insurance papers for John and Olive Seiffert
Income tax and other documents for Olive Seiffert
Pacific Gas and Electric Company investments and stock certificate
Joseph and Esther (Auvley) Seiffert documents
Includes immigration and genealogy information, and deed for plot in Rose City Cemetery (1920).
Legal documents relating to Muriel Woodruff (Olive Seiffert's sister) and Marie Bjork

Series B:  Photographs, circa 1900-1980Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Portraits of John Seiffert
circa 1910-1960
John Seiffert photo album
On cover is written "Dear John / Family and friends"
circa 1920-1940
Olive Seiffert photo album
Includes members of the Southcott family and Grass Valley, California
circa 1910-1930
General family photographs
Includes school class groups, circa 1900-1910
circa 1900-1980
Family photograph album
Due to the fragility and deterioration of this album, it can only be used with the assistance of a reference librarian.
circa 1900-1990
Irene Studio parties
circa 1952-1960
Color transparencies and slides of Irene Studio parties
circa 1952
Bill fold and photographs
circa 1970

Series C:  Poetry, theatrical and dancing school materials, 1922-1955Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Poetry of John Seiffert and Esther A. Auvley (John's aunt) published in the Oregonian
Poems and scripts, anonymous
circa 1930
Collection of scripts, with index
circa 1930
Theatrical newsletters and related papers
Includes 2 issues of the Southold Theatrical News and one issue of the George Players' Review, probably from the early 1930s.
circa 1930
Poems and short scripts, authors noted
Actors studio materials, ads, lessons, practice drills, and other materials
Scrapbook relating the theatrical career of John Seiffert
circa 1920-1935
Irene Studio dancing school materials

Series D:  General materials, circa 1930-1994Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
"Absolute Science" course and teaching materials, San Francisco
circa 1939-1941
Olive Seiffert address books
circa 1975-1994
Bible of W.H. Southcott
Contains the obituary of W.H. Southcott, former mayor of Grass Valley and father of Olive Seiffert.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Actors--California--San Francisco
  • Actors--Oregon--Portland
  • Christian Science--Study and teaching
  • Dance--Study and teaching--California--San Francisco
  • Theater--California--San Francisco--History
  • Theater--Oregon--Portland--History
  • Personal Names :
  • Seiffert, John T., 1900-1972--Archives
  • Seiffert, Olive.
  • Corporate Names :
  • Irene Studio (San Francisco, Calif.)
  • John Seiffert Players
  • Family Names :
  • Seiffert family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Grass Valley (Calif.)--History
  • Portland (Or.)--History
  • San Francisco (Calif.)--History
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photograph albums
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Other Creators :
    • Family Names :
    • Southcott family (creator)