Blanche Morgan drawings and watercolors, 1937-1939

Overview of the Collection

Morgan, Blanche, 1912-1981
Blanche Morgan drawings and watercolors
1937-1939 (inclusive)
40 pieces of art work, 1 sketchbook (2 boxes) : Sketches and watercolor on paper
1 placard
Collection Number
Watercolors, sketches of set and costume designs for WPA Seattle Negro Repertory Company by a set and costume designer
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

Open to the public.

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

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Blanche Morgan (1912-1981) was a set and costume designer for the Seattle Negro Repertory Company, a subsidiary of the WPA's Federal Theater Project which put on plays with African-American actors. She was also a watercolor artist and interior designer for Frederick & Nelson. She studied at the University of Washington and was a member of Women Painters of Washington, Northwest Watercolor Society, and the National Association of Women Artists. Her art departed from the traditional attitudes of loose, whimsical images done with watercolor, concentrating more on crisp, precise form and design. She exhibited in New York as well as the Oakland Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum and other regional venues. During her tenure with Seattle's Negro Repertory Company from 1937 to 1939, the company produced "Androcles and the Lion," "Is Zat So," "Black Empire," "Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby" (a Children’s Unit production), "An Evening with Dunbar," "Mississippi Rainbow," "The Dragon Wishbone" (Children’s Unit), and "Taming of the Shrew."

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

The Federal Theater Project (FTP) was established by the WPA to provide employment for theater professionals during the Great Depression. The FTP opened in Seattle in 1935 with the sponsorship of the Seattle Repertory Company and the support of the University of Washington Drama School and drama professor Glenn Hughes. The Negro Repertory Company (NRC) opened as a subsidiary of the FTP in January of 1936 with 73 actors and singers. The NRC was initially intended as a temporary effort, but strong reception led to the continuation of the company.

Florence and Burton James of the Seattle Repertory Playhouse headed the production of the NRC until their departure in the autumn of 1937. Hallie Flanagan, the national director of the FTP, then sent Esther Porter to lead the Seattle NRC. Blanche Morgan had been the principal designer for the FTP until Porter hired her for NRC productions.

The Negro Repertory Company’s effort totaled 15 productions, second only to New York City, with both cities enjoying continuously active Negro units until the abolition of the Federal Theater Project by a Congressional act in June of 1939.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection includes watercolors and sketches of set and costume designs for the Seattle Negro Repertory Company's Third Season (1937-1938) productions; these included "Androcles and the Lion," "Black Empire," and "Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby." The collection also includes a spiral sketchbook of designs and cast roster from Federal Theater Project’s 1939 production of "Spirochete," as well as a placard advertising a Federal Theater Colored Unit show.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection in digital format

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Source: Martin-Zambito Fine Art; received in 1997.

Processing Note

Processed by Sarah Nelson, 2004.


Evamarii Alexandria Johnson, A Production of The Seattle Federal Theatre Project Negro Repertory Company: 1935-1939, Dissertation (Ph.D.), University of Washington, 1981.

Related Materials

The University of Washington Drama School Federal Theater Project Photograph Collection, PH Coll 455, contains photographs of the Federal Theater Project productions. More photographs of Negro Repertory Company productions can also be found in University of Washington Theaters Photograph Collection, PH Coll 236.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Federal Theater Project Productions, 1937-1939Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Androcles and the Lion
Box/Folder item
1/1-1/3 1-3
Coliseum design
1/4 4 1939
1/5 5
Dungeon design
1/6 6 1939
1/7 7 1939
2/1 8
Jungle design
2/1 9
Jungle design on tissue
Black Empire
Box/Folder item
1/8 10 1937
2/2 11
Costume design of long white robe
Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby
Box/Folder item
1/9 12 1938
1/10 13
Forest scene
1/11 14
Forest scene
2/3 15
Path leading over hills to horizon
2/4 16
Fox costume designs
Grandma's Goin' To Town
Box/Folder item
1/12 17 1938
Is Zat So?
Box/Folder item
1/13 18-20 1937
Mother Goose
Box/Folder item
1/14 21
Cow jumping over the moon motif with rainbow background
Pursuit of Happiness
Box/Folder item
1/15 22
Parlor design
Box/Folder item
1/16 23
Costume design
1/17 24
Tomorrow's A Holiday
Box/Folder item
1/18 25
Parlor design

Unknown productionsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Costume Studies
Box/Folder item
1/19 26 undated
1/20 27 undated
Box/Folder item
1/21 28 undated
1/22 29
Rocky coastline
1/23 30 undated
1/24 31
Spanish colonial village
Box/Folder item
1/25 32
Egyptian Palace
1/26 33
Empty room with fancy paneling
1/27 34 undated
1/28 35
Granary study
1/29 36
Meeting room
1/30 37 undated
1/31 38
Office in a sky scraper
1/32 39
Palace exterior
2/5 40
Surreal city

EphemeraReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
box-folder:oversize item
2/6 41
Half a poster for a Federal Theater WPA Colored Unit show

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Black theater--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Theatrical companies--Washington (State)--Seattle

Corporate Names

  • Federal Theater Project (Seattle, Wash.)

Geographical Names

  • Seattle (Wash.)--Photographs

Form or Genre Terms

  • Costume design drawings
  • Set design drawings
  • Sketchbooks
  • Sketches
  • Watercolors

Other Creators

  • Corporate Names
    • Negro Repertory Company (creator)

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)