Historic Materials from the Rylander Theatre, President Jimmy Carter’s Childhood Theatre in Rural Americus, Georgia, Now Available Online

The Friends of the Rylander Theatre, winners of a 2021 Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council (GHRAC) grant, have partnered with the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) to make materials documenting the Americus, Georgia theater’s history from 1921 to 1957 available freely online. 

Rylander Theatre Special Collections was digitized and described as part of the DLG’s competitive digitization subgrant program, broadening partner participation amongst nonprofit cultural heritage institutions across the state. 

The items in this collection show the “first life” (1921- c. 1951) of the Rylander Theatre and the various types of entertainment the establishment hosted, including live musicals, vaudeville shows, and movies (both silent and “talkies”). In addition, a 1929 school club card and a 1930 theater coupon book show a detailed picture of Depression-era Americus, the popular tastes of this South Georgia town, and details of how local businesses sought to incentivize commerce in their communities during dire times. 

Other materials, like photographs, programs, and fliers, provide factual information like names and dates on programs, visual and aesthetic information such as the design of movie advertisement floats in the lobby of the Rylander. The interior design and decoration of the soda shop owned by local businessman George Saliba attached to the Rylander Theatre (and identified in the 1937 Americus city directory as “George’s Place”) are essential to researchers who wish to fill in details related to life in south Georgia. There are also key examples of rural southern movie theater culture within the Jim Crow era, where establishments like the Rylander accommodated segregated audiences and the impact of the Hays Code (the motion picture industry’s self-imposed production code implemented between 1934 and 1968). 

Researchers interested in the early life of young Jimmy Carter (the Rylander Theatre’s most famous local patron) would also find the materials in this collection enlightening. Those researchers can dig even deeper into advertisements for Rylander Theatre programming that appear in issues of the Americus Times-Recorder digitized for presentation in Georgia Historic Newspapers. And Carter researchers will be able to connect his lifelong enthusiasm in movies to his presidential daily diary.

Jacob A. Ross, Park Ranger at the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park in Plains, Georgia, describes the importance of this collection: 

“As a park ranger for the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park, I consider the Rylander Theatre’s history of being part of President Carter’s history, as the young Carter would often attend shows at the Theatre during the same era these items were created. As a historian interested in southern American culture, this collection has been an enlightening and revealing addition to the unique entertainment and racial histories of theater venues in southwest Georgia…These items also appeal to communities looking to perform a similar restoration of their local theater.”

[View the entire collection online]


About the Friends of the Rylander Theatre (Americus, Ga.) 

The Rylander Theater in Americus, Georgia, provides community and area visitors a theater and meeting hall for dramatic and musical stage performances, motion pictures, and lectures, with its unique architecture, artistic legacy, and social history to be interpreted through tours and other educational presentations. Read more at rylander.org

Selected images from the collection:

A black-and-white photo of the facade of the Rylander Theatre in Americus, Georgia. The marquee reads "Mon Tue Bette Davis Edw[ard] G. Robinson in Kid Galahad." A young man sits on top of a motorcycle as he looks back at the theater, and pedestrians walk along the sidewalk in front of the theater.
Title: Mon Tue Bette Davis Rylander Theatre street view. Credit: Image courtesy of the Rylander Theatre. Description: A photo of the front of the Rylander Theatre when it was owned by the Martin Theatre Company, a chain of more than sixty-five theaters owned by R. E. Martin of Columbus, Georgia. The marquee reads “Mon Tue Bette Davis Edw[ard] G. Robinson in Kid Galahad.”
Black-and-white photograph of man standing in front of a theatre placard. The movies on display include The Thin Man (1934), starring William Powell and Myrna Loy; and The Plainsman (1936), starring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur. The display also announces that the "Imperial Hawaiians," a group of male musicians, were scheduled to perform onstage. The "R" at the top of the display as well as the architectural details at the top of the photograph point to the location of this photo as the Rylander Theatre, in Americus Georgia.
Title: Parade of spring attractions. Credit: Image courtesy of the Rylander Theatre. Description: Original photo of movie display in the entryway of the Rylander Theatre when it was under Martin Theatre management. The Martin Theatre chain was comprised of more than sixty-five theaters in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida owned by R. E. Martin of Columbus, Georgia. The movies on display include After The Thin Man (1936), starring William Powell and Myrna Loy; and The Plainsman (1936), starring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur. The display also announces that the “Imperial Hawaiians,” a group of male musicians, were scheduled to perform onstage. The “R” at the top of the display as well as the architectural details at the top of the photograph point to the location of this photo as the Rylander Theatre, as opposed to the Martin Theatre that opened up across town in 1957.




Georgia’s Historic Newspaper Buildings

Newspaper buildings have been an ever-present part of Georgia’s city landscapes large and small for over two centuries. These structures are not only a source of local news but are also an integral part of their communities. Below is a collection of some of the most interesting historical newspaper buildings in the state and a bit about the stories behind them. The newspapers highlighted can all be found on the DLG’s Georgia Historic Newspapers website.


Savannah Morning News Building

From the February 22, 1876 issue of the Savannah Morning News

The Savannah Morning News building on Whitaker Street was completed in January 1876. The eighty-eight-foot tall structure featured a granite face and a cupola for visitors with a view of the harbor. Communication between the floors was handled with sound tubes and dumb waiters. The printing presses were located in the basement of the building, with the editorial rooms and a composing room on the fourth floor. The building is today home to luxury condominiums and the Savannah Morning News is now headquartered on Chatham Parkway.


Cherokee Phoenix Print Shop

Photograph of the print shop where the Phoenix was published, New Echota, Gordon County, Georgia, 1975. Courtesy of the Georgia Archives’ Vanishing Georgia Collection.

The Cherokee Phoenix, the first newspaper published by Native Americans in the United States, was produced at this print shop in the Cherokee capital of New Echota from 1828 to 1834. Editor Elias Boudinot innovatively printed newspaper articles in both English and Cherokee. The type utilized at the shop had to be custom made and was the first of its kind. In 1835, Georgia claimed Cherokee territory and seized the Phoenix printing press at New Echota. The Cherokee people were forcibly removed from the area by the decade’s end. A restored version of the building now stands as part of the New Echota State Historic State near Calhoun, Georgia.


Houston Home Journal Building

Photograph from the July 1, 1976 issue of the Houston Home Journal.

This photograph of the original Houston Home Journal building on Carroll Street and Washington Avenue in Perry, Georgia was taken around 1907. Editor John H. Hodges is seated in front. To his right is printing press operator Bill Harrison and standing behind Hodges are printers Mac Rainey and Dan Bateman. The streets outside of the building were lit by kerosene oil lamps, which are visible in the photograph. The Home Journal ran its office out of the wood frame building for over sixty years before relocating to an adjacent lot in the 1930s.


Augusta Herald Building

Photograph from the June 22, 1919 issue of the Augusta Herald.

The Augusta Herald Building was constructed in 1917 after the destruction of the paper’s previous building in a fire a year earlier. Architect G. Lloyd Preacher designed the four-story structure in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. It was constructed at a cost of $150,000 and was made of concrete to make it fire-proof. The printing plant was located in the rear of the building behind the offices. The structure is still located at 725 Broad Street and today serves as the headquarters for Morris Communications.


Clayton Tribune Building

Photograph from the January 23, 1914 issue of the Clayton Tribune.

In the early twentieth century, the Clayton Tribune published with a hand-operated press out of the second floor of this building on Savannah Street. The first floor housed a restaurant called the City Cafe. The establishment boasted a soda fountain, with magazines, candy, and cigars for sale. Meals ranged in cost from five to fifty cents and included oyster stew. The year after this photograph was taken the building was fitted with electric lighting for the first time.