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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Digitization of city directories for Albany, Georgia, dating from 1922-1950

New online records are now available for people researching their families in Albany, Georgia. The Digital Library of Georgia has just added a collection of city directories housed at the Dougherty County Public Library, dating from 1922-1950. The collection, Albany, Georgia City Directories, is available at dlg.usg.edu/collection/zgn_albcd and contains eleven directories covering Albany during intermittent years from 1922 to 1950, and one 1937 directory from Americus.

City directories existed before telephone directories and often listed the names, addresses, occupations, and ethnicities of people in American towns and cities. Because they contain so much detailed information, they are vital resources for researchers, genealogists, and the general public. According to the Library of Congress, city directories “are among the most important sources of information about urban areas and their inhabitants. They provide personal and professional information about a city’s residents as well as information about its business, civic, social, religious, charitable, and literary institutions.”

Christina Shepherd, head of reference for the Dougherty County Public Library describes the relevance of Albany’s city directories to the researchers in her library: 

“Several patrons have asked to use the directories to see who lived in their house, to trace an ancestor’s life, verifying use of land or to see who ran what businesses.  A specific example is in 1940 there was a tornado that came through and destroyed a lot of downtown Albany. While these directories do not show that event, they show the city stayed strong after that event. The directories have the addresses where businesses were before the tornado in 1939 to where they had to relocate in 1941. Just think, those directories were the same books that our relatives, our city leaders, and others used to find an address or phone number!”

J. Douglas Porter, a writer based in Albany Georgia notes: “Much of the material I have been looking at has been digitized and is searchable. This has not only been a useful time-saver, but it has also proven to be more reliable than my visual scans of many pages of materials. The city directories have a high level of historic value and potential for reuse by multiple audiences well into the future. In fact, they will become even more valuable as time passes and the paper copies crumble.”

Link to featured images:

Albany, Georgia city directory 1934-35 containing an alphabetically arranged list of names, a classified business directory, a street directory, and much useful miscellaneous information

dlg.galileo.usg.edu/do:zgn_albcd_dir-albany1934-35 

1934-1935 city directory for Albany, Georgia containing information that identifies Albany residents, their occupations and local businesses.

Albany, Georgia city directory 1934-35 containing an alphabetically arranged list of names, a classified business directory, a street directory, and much useful miscellaneous information, page 12

Albany, Georgia city directory 1934-35 containing an alphabetically arranged list of names, a classified business directory, a street directory, and much useful miscellaneous information, page 213


Albany, Georgia city directory 1934-35 containing an alphabetically arranged list of names, a classified business directory, a street directory, and much useful miscellaneous information, page 222

About Dougherty County Public Library

The Dougherty County Public Library’s mission is “To Strengthen our Community by Inspiring, Encouraging, and Supporting Life-long Learning for all.”  The goals of the library are to select, assemble and administer organized collections of educational and recreational library materials; to serve the community as a center of reliable information and a place where inquiring minds may encounter original, unorthodox, or critical ideas in our society; to provide opportunities and encouragement for individuals to continue their educations; to supplement and help formal education programs; to seek, continually, to identify community needs; to support civic groups, cultural activities, or cooperate with other agencies as they work for community good; to maintain and disseminate public information encouraging to individuals to better use the libraries as well as to contribute to the field of professional librarianship; to enhance interest and research in local history; and to provide opportunity for substantive recreational and constructive use of leisure time through the use of literature, music, films, and other forms. Visit docolib.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 through the ongoing development, maintenance, and preservation of 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.

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