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]

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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.

 

 

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Scrapbooks from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra documenting the Civil Rights Era are now available online

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra scrapbook 23, 1975-1976, page 10

In partnership with the Georgia State University Special Collections and Archives (Music and Broadcasting Collections) the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) has digitized 24 scrapbooks from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) Collection dating from 1945-1985 that are now available online as part of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Collection

This work was done as part of a competitive digitization grant intended to broaden partner participation in the DLG and provide digitization services costing up to $7500 for historic collections from non-profit Georgia cultural heritage institutions. 

In 2017, the ASO donated its institutional records to GSU Special Collections and Archives. Among these records were the scrapbooks, which include newspaper clippings of concert previews, reviews, and highlights of guest performers, composers, and conductors, as well as photographs, advertising materials, and organizational records such as memos and correspondence. 

Kevin Fleming, the popular music and culture archivist at Georgia State Libraries Special Collections describes the significance of this material that documents the arrival of the ASO’s Music Director Robert Shaw in the late 1960s, and the effects of the Civil Rights movement on the orchestra: 

“The few scrapbooks from this time period show similar changes as it relates to the orchestra. Nick Jones, ASO’s former program annotator, indicates that ‘under Shaw’s leadership, the ASO worked to improve its connections with minority communities, including actively seeking African American instrumentalists to fill vacancies in the orchestra. There are few Black soloists, instrumental or vocal, who did not perform with the ASO during Shaw’s tenure, and the Spelman and Morehouse College Glee Clubs have frequently been heard. In connection with Morehouse, the orchestra in 1972 gave the world-premiere staging of the first surviving opera by a black composer, Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha. Additionally, T. J. Anderson was the ASO’s Composer-in-Residence for the 1969-1970 season and works by African American composers including Anderson, Ulysses Kay, and George Walker were performed.’”

Kerry Brunson, a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, describes the importance of having these materials freely available online to her students: 

“My students have created award-winning projects that pull from the ASO Archive’s digitized collection of photographs and concert programs. The addition of the scrapbooks would help provide context–not only would students have access to the rare ephemera within the scrapbooks themselves, but they would also be privy to what was deemed important by the people who compiled them.”

[View the entire collection online]

 

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About the Georgia State University Special Collections and Archives (Music and Broadcasting Collections)

The Georgia State University Archives Music and Radio Broadcasting Collections began as the Johnny Mercer Collection and grew to include related materials that include: other musicians’ and artists’ papers, early country, bluegrass and Southern gospel music, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra archives, and records of WSB Radio and other Georgia stations. The collection contains more than 20,000 pieces of published sheet music, Tune-Dex cards and arrangements by American songwriters, as well as 50,000 recordings from a variety of genres. For more information, visit the Music and Radio Broadcasting Collections research guides at research.library.gsu.edu/musicradio 

 

About the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra continues to affirm its position as one of America’s leading orchestras with excellent live performances, renowned guest artist features, and engaging education initiatives. As a cornerstone for artistic development in the Southeast, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs a full schedule of more than 150 concerts, including educational and community concerts, each year for a combined audience of more than a quarter-million people. Visit www.aso.org

 

About the Digital Library of Georgia

Based at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia is a GALILEO initiative that collaborates with Georgia’s libraries, archives, museums, and other institutions of education and culture to provide access to key information resources on Georgia history, culture, and life. This primary mission is accomplished by developing, maintaining, and preserving digital collections and online digital library resources. DLG also serves as Georgia’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America and as the home of the Georgia Newspaper Project, the state’s historic newspaper microfilming project. 

Visit the DLG at dlg.usg.edu.

Facebook: http://facebook.com/DigitalLibraryofGeorgia/ 

Twitter: @DigLibGA

 

Selected images from the collection:

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra scrapbook 23, 1975-1976, page 10
Title : Atlanta Symphony Orchestra scrapbook 23, 1975-1976, page 10
Description: Page of scrapbook containing news clippings, photographs, and ephemera detailing the concert performances and activities of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra from 1975-1976.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra scrapbook 14, 1961-1964, page 7
Image courtesy of Georgia State University. Special Collections Title : Atlanta Symphony Orchestra scrapbook 14, 1961-1964, page 7 Description: Page of scrapbook containing news clippings, photographs, and ephemera detailing the concert performances and activities of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra from 1961-1964.
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