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Merle Clayton Papers, 1951-1976

Collection Overview

Title: Merle Clayton Papers, 1951-1976

Predominant Dates:1970-1973

Creator: Clayton, Merle

Extent: 0.63 Linear Feet


Series I: San Diego Theatre History

Series II: Other Writing

Date Acquired: 00/00/1980

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This small collection consists primarily of research materials used by Merle Clayton, author of several local history pieces for San Diego Magazine. The materials consist of paper records, photographs, and several copies of San Diego Magazine. Clayton did a series of pieces on topics in the history of theatre and performing arts in San Diego, and most of this material pertains to that work.

Series I, San Diego Theatre History, consists of research materials on San Diego theatre and performing arts history. Of special note in Series I is the six-year correspondence between Clayton and actress Virginia Brissac, who he interviewed several times in person for a series of articles on her life. Brissac was famous in San Diego during the most active period in its performing arts theater; first with the Savoy Players and World's Fair Stock Company, then founding and managing the Virginia Brissac Company, a stock company which put on a play a week from about 1915 to 1921. She was a star actress there, and went on to star in dozens of films, including Rebel Without A Cause. After work in Hollywood, she appeared again on the San Diego stage beginning in 1935 as an actress with the Savoy Players.

In this series there is one folder of ephemera (including correspondence, performance attendance figures, financial figures, playbills) pertaining to the Strand and Savoy Theatres; and one folder of disparate issues from 1918 and 1919 of The Strand Weekly, a publication put out by Virginia Brissac about the company's work.

Also of special note in Series I are the photographs (circa 1920-1935), of the Savoy Players, which include images of Virginia Brissac, Hayward Nugent, Louise Larabee, Scott Palmer, Jim Palmer, Beula Fair, Hub Wheeler, Isaac McCay, John G. Wray, and many unidentified others. Perhaps the most interesting materials in Series I are the publicity stills and photographs of Julian Eltinge, a local entertainer who was called "the best female impersonator of the twentieth century." Eltinge played various female characters in vaudeville acts, on Broadway, and on screen from about 1910 until about 1935. Clayton wrote an article about Eltinge, who was of local interest for the ranch he kept near Alpine.

Series II, Other Writing, consists of speech drafts, a writing journal, and copies of other articles on topics in early San Diego history.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: The copyright interests in these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of historical archival and manuscript collections is such that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine.  Requests for permission to publish must be submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access. When granted, permission is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder(s), which must also be obtained in order to publish. Materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials.

Acquisition Source: David Williams

Related Materials:

For San Diego theater of this era, see:

Old Globe Theatre Photographs Collection

San Diego Vertical File

San Diego Memorabilia Collection

Louise Patterson Scrapbook

Hortense and Howard Nugent Papers

Preferred Citation: Identification of item, folder title, box number, Merle Clayton Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University.

Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: San Diego Theatre HistoryAdd to your cart.
Box 1Add to your cart.
Folder 1: ArticlesAdd to your cart.

San Diego Magazine, November 1969: "Just Plain Bill: Julian Eltinge Female Impersonator"

San Diego Magazine, December 1970: "The Fisher Opera House"

San Diego Magazine, January 1971: "The Coast Defender: Virginia Brissac, San Diego's Sweetheart"

Folder 2: ArticlesAdd to your cart.

San Diego Magazine, June 1973: "The Sugar Days of the Spreckels Theater"

San Diego Magazine, February 1975: "Lillie Langtry's Westward Tilt"

Folder 3: Correspondence with Virginia Brissac, 1969-1971Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Correspondence with Virginia Brissac, 1971-1975Add to your cart.
Folder 5: Strand and Savoy Theatre ephemeraAdd to your cart.
Folder 6: The Strand WeeklyAdd to your cart.

v.1, no.1, June 16, 1918

v.1, no.3, June 30, 1918 (2)

v. 1, no.4, July 7, 1918

v. 1, no. 5, July 14, 1918

v. 1, no.26, February 2, 1919

v. 1, no. 30, March 2, 1919 (2)

v.1, no. 36, April 6, 1919

Folder 7: The Savoy Players, a Stock Company, by William Quiett; research paper for Ralph Freud, 1960Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Photographs, Virginia Brissac Company, Savoy PlayersAdd to your cart.
Folder 9: Research material on EltingeAdd to your cart.
Folder 10: Photographs, Julian EltingeAdd to your cart.
Series 2: Other WritingAdd to your cart.
Box 2Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Speech on early San Diego history, "Let Us Soar"Add to your cart.
Folder 2: ArticlesAdd to your cart.

San Diego Magazine, May 1969: "The Bandinis: Grandess in an Era of Grandeur"

San Diego Magazine, June 1969: "The Bandinis: Beautiful Heiress"

San Diego Magazine, Nov 1975: "The Union Station Massacre"

Folder 3: Writing Journal, 1951Add to your cart.