Louisville Theaters Broadsides, 1858-1951

Held by The Filson Historical Society

Creator:  Louisville Theaters

Title:  Broadsides, 1858-1951

Rights: For information regarding literary and copyright interest for these papers, contact the Curator of Collections.

Size of Collection:  0.33 cubic feet and 1 ovsz. folder

Location Number:  Mss. BP L888

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of theater broadsides from the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries, which document the performing arts scene in Louisville, Kentucky. The broadsides advertise performances at Louisville theaters, including productions of plays, concerts, comedic routines, dance performances, variety shows, and other entertainment events. Several of the theatrical productions had historical themes, primarily relating to American or Western history. Other broadsides document the popularity of vaudeville entertainment through acrobatic, comedy, and minstrel shows.

Broadsides have been organized by theater venue.

Separation Note:
Broadsides in this collection were separated from the Filson Historical Society’s Theater Program Collection.

Related collections:
Theater Program Collection, The Filson Historical Society

Biographical Note

Louisville’s theatrical scene owes its beginnings to stage activity west of the Appalachian Mountains. Between 1790 and 1820 Louisville, along with Lexington and Frankfort, developed into the principal centers of drama in the region. About the year 1808, according to Louisville’s 1832 city directory, a company of citizens formed a “dramatic institution” and erected the town’s first theater building on Jefferson Street. This building would be the first of many. A few of Louisville’s leading theaters – especially those whose broadsides comprise a portion of this collection – are highlighted in the following paragraphs. (For more information on theaters in Louisville, see John Spalding Gatton’s article “Theater” in the Encyclopedia of Louisville.)

One of Louisville’s noteworthy entertainment venues was the Louisville Theater. The Louisville Theater opened in February 1846 on the southeast corner of Fourth and Green (now Liberty). Illuminated by gas and seating twelve hundred, this was the city’s leading playhouse during its time. It burned in 1866, but was rebuilt in 1867 and renamed the Louisville Opera House. Surpassed by Macauley’s Theatre, the building was demolished to make way for the Courier-Journal building in 1876.

The Masonic Temple Theater stood nearby at the southwest corner of Fourth and Jefferson streets. In the 1850s, it was simply a hall featuring magicians, minstrels, and exhibits, but in 1870 its second floor was converted into a proper theater.

Eclipsing the fame and prestige of all other Louisville theaters was Macauley’s, one of America’s premier playhouses for over fifty years. Macauley’s opened in 1873 on Walnut Street and welcomed virtually all of the era’s famous performers. The building was demolished in 1925 to make way for the Starks Building.

The “moving pictures” originally shown as novelties at theaters in the late 1890s doomed many such venues. Stage plays and vaudeville succumbed to films, and much subsequent theater construction reflected shifting public taste. However, Louisville continued to have a dedicated performing arts scene. The Brown Theatre, seating some fifteen hundred, opened in 1925. Visiting artists could also been seen at the Iroquois Amphitheater, opened in 1938 for summer musicals and later, the occasional play. More than two centuries on, theater continues to thrive in Louisville.

Gatton, John Spalding. “Theater” in The Encyclopedia of Louisville ed. by John Kleber, 2001.

Folder List

Box 1
Folder 1: Arts Club broadsides, 1934, 1950-1951
Folder 2: Avenue Theatre broadsides, 1898-1902
Folder 3: Bijou Theater broadside, 1897
Folder 4: Brown Theatre broadsides, 1925
Folder 5: Buckingham Theatre broadsides, 1881
Folder 6: Hopkins Theater broadside, 1905
Folder 7: Iroquois Amphitheater broadsides, 1940
Folder 8: Jockey Club broadside, 1904
Folder 9: Macauley’s Theatre broadsides, 1899-1900
Folder 10: Masonic Temple Theater, 1880-1900
Folder 11: Wheatley Elementary School broadside, 1927
Folder 12: Unidentified venue broadside, n.d.

Folder 13: Drury Lane Theatre broadside, n.d.
Louisville Theater broadsides, 1858-1865, n.d.
Macauley’s Theatre broadside, 1900
Masonic Temple Theater broadsides, 1862-1864
The Playhouse (University of Louisville) broadside, 1937

Subject Headings

African Americans – Songs and music.
Arts Club (Louisville, Ky.)
Arts facilities.
Avenue Theatre (Louisville, Ky.)
Bijou Theater (Louisville, Ky.)
Brown Theatre (Louisville, Ky.)
Buckingham Theatre (Louisville, Ky.)
Centers for the performing arts.
Drury Lane Theatre (Louisville, Ky.)
Hopkins’ Theater (Louisville, Ky.)
Indians of North America – Music.
Iroquois Amphitheater (Louisville, Ky.)
Jockey Club (Louisville, Ky.)
Louisville (Ky.) – Social life and customs.
Louisville (Ky.) – Songs and music.
Louisville Park Theatrical Association.
Louisville Theatre (Louisville, Ky.)
Macauley’s Theater (Louisville, Ky.)
Masonic Temple Theater (Louisville, Ky.)
Music-halls – Kentucky – Louisville.
Opera – Kentucky – Louisville.
Pioneers – Kentucky – Drama.
Playrights’ Company.
Spirituals (Songs)
Temperance – Drama.
Theater – Kentucky – Louisville.
United States – History – Civil War, 1861-1865 – Theater and the war.
United States – History – Revolution, 1775-1783 – Drama.
University of Louisville. Belknap Playhouse.
Wheatley Elementary School (Louisville, Ky.)

Venue Rental

Spaces Available for Rent Beginning 2022

The Filson Historical Society is a unique venue that blends the historic with the modern and provides a stunning background for any event. Several areas of the campus are available to be rented for dinners, retreats, meetings, receptions, parties, or weddings. The venues have access to 74 free parking spaces and wifi, as well as small catering areas. All of the Filson’s facilities have accessible parking.

View a virtual tour of our spaces!

Visit the Filson

1310 S. 3rd St., Louisville, KY 40208
(502) 635-5083

The Filson is temporarily closed to the public to protect our staff, volunteers, and patrons during the coronavirus pandemic. All events are currently being held virtually; to register for our live virtual events, please visit our Events Page; for information on recorded lectures and other activities, please visit us online at Bringing History Home.

We continue to provide remote research services; please email gro.l1618615835aciro1618615835tsihn1618615835oslif1618615835@hcra1618615835eser1618615835.


Brown Forman Logo
Fund for the Arts Logo
Blue Grass Motorsport Logo
PNC Logo
Cave Hill Cemetery Logo
Kentucky Select Properties Logo
JBS Logo
Stock Yards Bank and Trust Logo
The Eye Care Institute Logo