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The Ephemera of John Smith
by Adam McNaughton

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Theatre playbill

Nineteenth-century playbill for a production of 'The Mutineers' at the Caledonian Theatre, Glasgow, in 1828.

The playbill is for a production of 'The Mutineers' which was performed at the Caledonian Theatre, Dunlop Street, Glasgow, on the evening of Friday 26 December 1828. It was a melodrama, and also was known as 'The Devil and The Dice'.

The play was written by T. Dibdin, and had been performed at the Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. The performance in Glasgow was followed by another two productions. On the same evening the audience also saw 'Peregrine Pickle', which was described as a laughable Burletta, and a domestic

At the foot of the playbill the entertainments are detailed for Saturday at the theatre. Unfortunately the bottom of the page is missing. It would have had the ticket prices, and possibly the name of the firm that printed the playbill.


Theatre playbill

Nineteenth-century playbill for the New Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow.

The playbill is for performances that took place at the New Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow, on the evening of Saturday 28 March 1840. It announces that the theate had opened for the season, and provides information on the building itself, which was designed by W. Spence the architect.

There were three main productions on the evening: the tragedy 'Jane Shore'; an Interlude called 'State Secrets: or, The Tailor of Tamworth'; and a farce of English, Irish, and Scotch.

In addition to information on the architect of the theatre, the announcement at the top of the playbill also provides details of the different artists, craftsmen, and firms that were involved in the construction and decoration of the building.



A playbill for the York Street Theatre, Glasgow, in its first season, winter 1829-30. The bill has stitching holes along the bottom as if once bound. More than half the bill is used to explain the non-appearance of Mr Kemble at York Street.

This is one of a collection of 200 bills for York Street in Glasgow University Library, covering the whole of the theatre's eighteen-month existence. The theatre's unfashionable location made the contest with the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, an unequal one.

The Royal Elephant, "the Greatest Wonder of the Age", is restricted to a brief announcement and reduced prices, by Frank Seymour's indignation at his rival, John Henry Alexander's snatching of the stars he had promised his public.

As detailed, the contest to see which of the two managers would be granted the Patent for the Theatre Royal was now near its resolution. The betrayal by Kemble therefore bit keenly. Alexander did acquire the patent.


Poster for a circus

Nineteenth-century poster for the Olympic Circus on Ingram Street in Glasgow.

This poster was printed by Bell and Son in Glasgow, to promote a particular performance at the Olympic Circus on Saturday 31 March 1804.

The performance was for the benefit of Mr O'Neil, and the acts included dancing, tight rope walking, and feats on horseback. There were imitations of birds, and the perfomance was to conclude with a new comic pantomime.

Perhaps the event that the audience would have looked forward to most of all was the fireworks display, and the handbill lists each part. One included a wheel with the Arms of Glasgow, and the motto of 'Let Glasgow Flourish'.


Handbill for a balloon ascent

Nineteenth-century handbill advertising the ascent of Mr Green's Balloon in Glasgow.

This handbill was produced to advertise the ascent of a balloon in Glasgow in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The balloonist was Mr Green, and he was to take off in the balloon from the Live Cattle Market which was located on the Gallowgate in Glasgow. It is interesting to note that he had received permission from the Lord Provost and Magistrates of Glasgow, and that the ascent had been postponed in respect of the Barony Parish Fast.

Although the year of this particlular event is not recorded on the handbill, the dates of Mr Green's other balloon ascents are noted at the foot of the page. The Glasgow one may have taken place in or after 1829. The handbill was printed for Atkinson and Company of the Trongate in Glasgow.


Sweepstakes entry form

An entry form for the sweepstakes at the Highland Society Cattle Show, Glasgow, 1828.

In the eighteenth century the term "sweepstakes" began to be used of a contest or competition in which the winner took all the entry money as his prize. It was used first of horse-races but soon extended to other shows and contests.

In the Highland Society's Show, breeders paid one guinea (1.05) to enter a beast to be judged in any class. If it was adjudged winner its owner won two-thirds of the money paid in entry fees for that class; the runner-up took the other third.

The Glasgow live cattle market between Gallowgate and Duke Street, which had opened in 1818, made an ideal site for the professional part of the Cattle Show, though it was possibly less suitable for the social accompaniments.

Use the toolbar below to see more of Smith's ephemera, following the themed links

Introduction Transport Political Church Trade Entertainment Crime Education Medical CityAffairs


Text by Adam McNaughton and web editing by Julie Gardham September 2004

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