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Federal Theatre Project photograph collection, 1936-1939

Overview of the Collection

Federal Theatre Project photograph collection
1936-1939 (inclusive)
104 black and white photographic prints (1 box) ; various sizes
Collection Number
Photographs from the Seattle productions of the Federal Theatre Project of the WPA
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

Funded under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Federal Theatre Project (FTP) was created by Congress in 1935 to provide work for theater professionals during the Great Depression. Seattle initially sponsored three Units: the Federal Players (a white unit), the Negro Repertory Company (an African-American unit), and Variety/Vaudeville. University of Washington Drama professor Glenn Hughes (1894-1964) was instrumental in establishing the Seattle program. Hughes had come to UW as a teaching fellow in 1919 as stayed on to become founder of the Drama program and head of the division. Burton James (1888-1951) and Florence James (1892-1988) of the Seattle Repertory Playhouse volunteered to spearhead the FTP Negro Repertory Company. Hughes and the Jameses had been associates as producers and directors for a number of years. The Jameses resigned from the Federal Theatre Project in 1937 amid criticism of their social realist production Power , which was denounced by both local newspapers as inflammatory. Hughes also left in 1937 because the National FTP Director Hallie Flanagan found him too preoccupied by his duties at UW to give needed attention to his FTP productions.

The WPA in general and the FTP in particular were targeted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, with accusations of communist infiltration coming from both inside and outside the organization. Congress disbanded the Federal Theatre Project on June 30, 1939, claiming that the average American was not in favor of public funding of performers and the arts.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Photographs of stage productions from University of Washington and the Seattle Federal Theatre Project (including the Negro Repertory Company). Fifteen productions are identified; the collection also contains photographs of unidentified productions.

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Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection in digital format.

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact the repository for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


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

Container(s) Description Dates
Folder item
1 1-8 "Androcles and the Lion"  
Federal Theatre Project
2 9-13 "Ah, Wilderness"  
Federal Theatre Project
3 14 "Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby"  
Federal Theatre Project
4 15-21 "Clown Prince"  
Federal Theatre Project
5 22-23 "An Evening With Dunbar"  
Federal Theatre Project
6 24 "Flight" 1938
7 25-26 "Is Zat So?"
Federal Theatre Project
8 27-30 "Leading Man"   1936
9 31 "Men at Work"
"Tacoma Federal Theatre Project"
10 32-33 "Mikado" undated
11 34-37 "Mississippi Rainbow"  
Federal Theatre Project
12 38-42 "Mother Goose"  
Federal Theatre Project
13 43-51 "One Third of a Nation"  
Federal Theatre Project
14 52-59 "Pursuit of Happiness"  
Federal Theatre Project
15 60-68 "See How They Run"  
Federal Theatre Project
16 69-78 "Spirochette"  
Federal Theatre Project
17 79-81 "Tomorrow's A Holiday"   1938
18 82-98 Unidentified Performances   undated
19 99-103 Unidentified Play   undated
20 104 Variety Show undated