Florence Bean James papers, 1916-1988  PDF

Overview of the Collection

James, Florence Bean, 1892-1988
Florence Bean James papers
1916-1988 (inclusive)
2.31 cubic feet plus 1 vertical file and 2 microfilm reels
Collection Number
Papers of Florence Bean James, a Seattle theater director and consultant
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

Open to all users.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Florence Bean James, along with her husband Burton W. James, were founders of the Seattle Repertory Playhouse and played a central role in the city’s theatrical life for nearly 30 years. They arrived in 1923, coaxed west from New York to teach drama and produce plays at the Cornish School. They established the Repertory Playhouse (not to be confused with the Seattle Repertory Theatre) five years later. Their reputation was tarnished and their theatre forced out of business after they became targets of the Washington State Legislative Committee on Un-American Activities, headed by Representative Albert Canwell, in 1948. After Burton’s death in 1951, Florence James accepted a position as a drama instructor at the Saskatchewan School of the Arts. In 1953, she joined the Saskatchewan Arts Board as drama consultant, holding that position until 1968. She was instrumental in the founding of the acclaimed Globe Theatre in Regina, Saskatchewan. She was much honored for her work in Canada, receiving, among other awards, the Legion of Honor Medal, the Queen’s Silver Medal, and the Diplôme d’Honneur from the Canadian Conference of the Arts. She died in Regina on January 18, 1988, at age 95.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Florence Bean James papers contain correspondence, programs, photos, clippings, and other papers, relating to James's career as director of theater, Cornish School of Allied Arts, Seattle, Washington (1923-1928); co-founder (with her husband, Burton W. James) and director, Seattle Repertory Playhouse (1928-1950); director, Washington State Theatre (1936-1939); director, Federal Theatre Project, Seattle (1936-1938); and director, instructor, or consultant with various drama groups in Canada from 1937. Includes manuscript of James's unpublished memoir, "Fists Upon a Star," and anonymous manuscript (44 pages) documenting defense preparation and appearance before Washington State Legislature Joint Legislative Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities (1948) of James and her husband and four co-defendants (the Seattle Six). Also included is a program, clipping, obituaries, tributes from a memorial celebration for Florence James held in Seattle in 1988.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Creator's literary rights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Accession No. 2117-001: Florence Bean James papers, 1916-1972Return to Top

2.31 cubic feet (6 boxes)

Scope and Content: Correspondence, autobiography and other writings, interview transcript, programs, newsletters, ephemera, reports, clippings, 1914-51. Includes drafts of James' autobiography and biography, records relating to her theater companies, Seattle Repertory Playhouse and Washington State Theatre and to the Federal Theatre Project. Also includes papers of her husband, Burton W. James.

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use: Creator's literary rights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info: Donated by Florence James and others, 4/20/0197.

Container(s) Description Dates
Series 1: Personal Papers
Box/Folder Accession
1/1 2117-001
Biographical Features
1944-1988, undated
Incoming Letters
Box/Folder Accession
1/2 2117-001
Hellman, Jerome
1/3 2117-001
Ottenheimer, Albert M.
General Correspondence
Box/Folder Accession
1/4 2117-001
Bennington College
1/5-6 2117-001
B-W Miscellaneous
1/7 2117-001
Re: "Fists Upon A Star"
1969-1972, undated
Speeches and Writings
Box/Folder Accession
1/8-14 2117-001
1940-1970, undated
"Fists Upon A Star" (Autobiography)
Box/Folder Accession
1/15-4/2 2117-001
4/3 2117-001
Oral Interview Transcripts - Johnson, Robert
Speeches and Other Writings
Box/Folder Accession
4/4-8 2117-001
Johnson, Robert S., An Unpublished Biography of Florence and Burton James, "Fists Upon A Star"
Box/Folder Accession
4/9 2117-001
Financial Records - Estates of A.B. and Mary Bean
4/10-11 2117-001
4/12-14, 5/1 2117-001
1916-1967, undated
5/2 2117-001
5/3-4 2117-001
Reports - Saskatchewan Arts Board
Canwell Committee Hearings
Box/Folder Accession
5/5-6 2117-001
5/7-8 2117-001
Series 2: Burton W. James
Box/Folder Accession
5/9-10 2117-001
General Correspondence
5/11-12 2117-001
Speeches and Writings
1938-1947, undated
5/13 2117-001
Legal Documents - Passport
5/14 2117-001
1933, 1951
Series 3: Seattle Repertory Playhouse
Box/Folder Accession
5/15 2117-001
Historical Features: Anniversary Publications
5/16 2117-001
Historical Features: Repertoires
5/17-19 2117-001
Historical Features: "A 20 Year History of the Playhouse" by Albert M. Ottenheimer and Walter F. Gyger
5/20 2117-001
1929-1947, undated
5/21 2117-001
6/1 2117-001
1934-1946, undated
Series 4: Cornish School of Allied Arts, Cornish Theatre
Box/Folder Accession
6/2 2117-001
Incoming Letters and Related Papers
Series 5: Washington State Theatre
Box/Folder Accession
6/3-6 2117-001
circa 1938
6/7 2117-001
Speeches and Writings: Burton W. James
6/8-9 2117-001
Speeches and Writings: Ralph H. Gundlach
1938-1950, undated
6/10 2117-001
Related papers
Series 6: U.S. Federal Theatre Project
Box/Folder Accession
6/11 2117-001
Programs and Related Papers
1936, undated
6/12 2117-001
circa 1936

Accession No. 2117-003: Drafts of manuscript "Fists upon a star", before 1978Return to Top

1 microfilm reel : positive

Scope and Content: Microfilm copy of "Fists Upon a Star" drafts.

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use: Creator's literary rights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info: Filmed from originals at UW, 4/1/1977.

Accession No. 2117-004: Florence Bean James papers, 1988Return to Top

1 vertical file

Scope and Content: Program, clipping, obituaries, tributes.

All items concern memorial celebration for Florence James in Seattle on 26 Sep 1988.

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use: Creator's literary rights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info: Donated by Joan Freeman, 5/5/1988.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Theatrical companies--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Personal Names :
  • James, Florence Bean, 1892-1988--Archives
  • Corporate Names :
  • Seattle Repertory Playhouse
  • Washington (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Gundlach, Ralph H. (Ralph Harrelson), 1902-1978 (creator)
    • James, Burton W (creator)
    • Ottenheimer, Albert M (creator)
    • Corporate Names :
    • Cornish School of Allied Arts (Seattle, Wash.) (creator)
    • Seattle Repertory Theatre (creator)
    • Washington State Theater (creator)

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Personal Papers/Corporate Records (University of Washington)