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Alice Gerstenberg Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Gerstenberg

Scope and Content of the Collection

Much of the collection consists of correspondence, primarily incoming from friends and associates of the theatre world. There are typescripts of a number of her plays, printed materials ranging in content and subject matter from her Bryn Mawr days to her interest in the Spiritualist movement, many playbills, clippings, a few photographs, and two large scrapbooks commemorating her theatrical career.


  • Creation: 1903-1971



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Alice Gerstenberg Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Alice Gerstenberg Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Alice Gerstenberg

Chicago actress, playwright, and activist in the Little Theatre movement.

Alice Gerstenberg was born in 1885, the only child of a wealthy Chicago couple, Erich and Julia Weischendorff Gerstenberg. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1907 and then returned to Chicago where she spent many years involved with drama and the theatre.

A pioneer in the world of Little Theatre, Gerstenberg was one of the original members of the Chicago Little Theatre, which was founded by Maurice Browne in 1912, and in 1921 she and Annette Washburne started the Chicago Junior League Theatre for Children. Her most significant contribution to the theatre was in being founder, producer and president of The Playwrights' Theatre of Chicago, 1922-1945. She was active in the Alice Gerstenberg Experimental Theatre Workshop in the 1950's and the Alice Gerstenberg Theatre in the 1960's.

As a playwright, Gerstenberg wrote mostly rather experimental one-act plays, many of which featured women in the lead roles. These plays were modest in scope, appropriate for both amateur and professional staging, and many were popular in local schools, drama workshops and small theaters around the country. Her most enduring play is "Overtones," an early (1915) psychological one-act drama, which was said to have foreshadowed Eugene O'Neill's dual personality device.

Gerstenberg never married; she died in 1972.


3.5 Linear Feet (6 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Correspondence, works and miscellaneous material reflecting Gerstenberg's activities in Chicago's social and cultural life in the first half of the 20th century, in particular her involvement with local theater.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Outgoing Correspondence, 1913-1971
Box 1
Series 2: Incoming Correspondence, 1913-1965
Boxes 1-3
Series 3: Works, approximately 1941-1965
Box 4
Series 4: Miscellaneous Material, 1903-1968
Boxes 5-7

Collection Stack Location

1 20 1


Gift of Alice Gerstenberg, 1965; additions, gift of Syracuse University. Library, 1971.

Processed by

Amy Nyholm, 1965; Virginia H. Smith, 2001.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Alice Gerstenberg Papers, 1903-1971
Virginia H. Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States