Kathryn Beals papers

MS 440
Kathryn Beals and Two Unknown Men

Collection area: Performing Arts

Collection dates: 1927-1928, 1976, 1994

About this collection

This collection contains correspondence, photos, a film, newspaper clippings, and ephemera of Kathryn Beals from the years 1927 to 1928 and two letters to her sister from acquaintances upon Kathryn’s death in 1976. Between the years 1927 to 1928 she toured with the Peters-Wright vaudeville dance troupe. During this time she wrote diligently to her close family members about the cities, theaters, sites, famous people she met, and daily experiences she had away from home. The letters are organized chronologically. There is also a typed version of most of the correspondence.

Historical background

Kathryn Beals was born on August 1907 and raised in San Francisco, California. Between 1927 and 1928 she spent 15 months touring the United States with the Peters-Wright vaudeville dance troupe The Wright Dancers. During this time she exchanged letters and photos with her mother, father, uncle, and sister, Carol. When she was not performing or rehearsing she visited tourist sites like the Niagara Falls, Coney Island, and Washington, D.C. In the collection there are photos of these trips. The collection includes some of the theater programs on which she appears for presentations in Boston, New York, and Houston. She also attended plays, musicals, movies. She attended the opening of musicals like Funny Face with Fred and Adele Astaire to which we have the theater program. The letters were kept by her mother and later entrusted to her sister. Don Langley later wrote the book Vaudeville Days with these letters.

During her vaudeville days she suffered a knee injury that would affect her for the rest of her life. In 1929 she married Rolland Langley. Ten months later she gave birth to the first of her three children. Years later they divorced. In 1943 she contracted an illness similar to polio and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. On October 27, 1976 she passed away.

Access this collection

Visit us in person to access materials from this collection. Our materials are one-of-a-kind and require special care, so they can’t be checked out or taken home.

How to cite

Learn how to cite and use materials from Special Collections in your research.