Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America

Archives related to: Oenslager, Donald Mitchell

titleDonald Oenslager collection of Edward Gordon Craig, 1898-1967 (*T-Mss 1996-015)
repositoryBilly Rose Theatre Division
descriptionThe Donald Oenslager Collection of Edward Gordon Craig is an artificial collection containing correspondence and artwork created by the noted theatrical designer and graphic artist, Edward Gordon Craig. Although born and raised in England, Craig moved to the continent in 1904 where he continued to work; the impact of his radical innovations in stage design were international in scope. Craig’s colleague, Donald Oenslager, an American stage designer and longtime faculty member of the Yale School of Drama, whose own work had been profoundly influenced by Craig, amassed the selection of letters and prints that form this collection.
extent4.5 linear feet
formatsCorrespondence Auction Catalogs
accessCollection is open to the public. Photocopying prohibited. Advance notice may be required.
record link
record source
finding aidCollection guide available in repository and on internet:,1,1,B/l856~b7793253&FF=tdonald+oenslager+collection+of+edward+gordon+craig&1,1,,1,0/startreferer//search/tDonald+Oenslager+Collection+of+Edward+Gordon+Craig/tdonald+oenslager+collection+of+edward+gordon+craig/1,1,1,B/frameset&FF=tdonald+oenslager+collection+of+edward+gordon+craig&1,1,/endreferer/
acquisition informationThe Donald Oenslager Collection of Edward Gordon Craig was donated to the Billy Rose Theatre Division in 1996 by the family of Donald Oenslager.
updated03/16/2023 10:29:59

titleDonald Oenslager papers and designs, 1922-1982 (Mss 1996-015 *T-Mss 1996-015)
repositoryBilly Rose Theatre Division
descriptionThe Donald Oenslager Papers and Designs span the years 1922-1982 and reflect his long and varied career as a stage designer, professor, consultant, writer, and lecturer.

The collection consists of set and costume designs, technical drawings, elevations, manuscripts, and correspondence with other prominent theater designers.The largest parts of the collection are the production and technical designs, which include extensive amounts of elevations, rough sketches, renderings, materials samples, notes, and correspondence. Almost every play, musical, ballet, opera or other project on which Oenslager worked is represented in the collection. Oenslager corresponded with notable theater people of his time; many of them not only were colleagues but friends. Five boxes of correspondence include letters from Edmond Appia, Boris Aronson, Robert Edmond Jones, and Jo Mielziner. The remainder of the collection consists of research material, financial papers and family papers.

Oenslager's writings are represented by manuscripts, including drafts of the exhibit catalog, Four centuries of scenic invention (1974), published articles, and other notes. The photograph series is largely production related but does include some portraits and snapshots of Oenslager, including photographs from his time in the military. Clippings in the scrapbook series were organized by Oenslager himself and continued by Mrs. Oenslager after his death.

Biographical and Historical Note
Donald Mitchell Oenslager, an American stage designer and professor, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on 7 March 1902. Oenslager began his career in the theater as an actor, working at the Greenwich Village Theatre and the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Playhouse during the early 1920s. He became interested in theater design after studying in Europe and his first project as a designer was in 1925 for a ballet, Sooner or Later. Oenslager was active as a designer from the 1930's to the 1960s, working on many notable Broadway productions, including Of Mice and Men (1937) and A Majority of One (1959), for which he received a Tony Award.

He also served as a faculty member of the Yale School of Drama, teaching design from 1925 until his death in 1975, publishing many works, including Scenery Then and Now (1936) and Notes on Scene Painting (1952). Profoundly influenced by the European stage designers, Edward Gordon Craig and Adolphe Appia, Oenslager brought a new emphasis on symbolism over realism to American theater design.

Throughout his life, Oenslager built up an extensive collection of materials on both Craig and Appia. Following his death on 11 June 1975, Oenslager's widow, Mary, gave portions of the Craig material to the New York Public Library's Billy Rose Theatre Division, while other parts of the collection went to Yale University.
extent71 linear feet (103 boxes)
formatsClippings Correspondence Financial Records Photographs Scrapbooks
accessCollection is open to the public. Photocopying prohibited. Advance notice required
record link
record source
finding aidCollection guide available in repository and on internet:,1,1,B/l856~b8082365&FF=tdonald+oenslager+papers+and+designs&1,1,,1,0/startreferer//search/tDonald+Oenslager+papers+and+designs/tdonald+oenslager+papers+and+designs/1,1,1,B/frameset&FF=tdonald+oenslager+papers+and+designs&1,1,/endreferer/
acquisition informationMary Oenslager
updated11/12/2014 11:30:00

titleDonald Oenslager papers, 1925-1975 (inclusive).
repositoryYale University Library
descriptionThe papers include clippings, albums, photographs, glass slides, and set designs documenting the career of Donald Oenslager as educator and set designer.

Biographical Overview:
Donald Mitchell Oenslager was born on March 7, 1902, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Following graduation from Harvard University in 1923, he was an instructor in scenic design at Middlebury College, Vermont. In 1925, his former Harvard instructor, George Pierce Baker, appointed him to the faculty of the Department of Drama of the Yale School of Fine Arts. Oenslager taught design at Yale until his retirement in 1970. While at Yale, he designed sets for over 250 plays, operas, ballets, and musicals in New Haven, New York, and Europe. Oenslager served as a consultant on theater architecture and design and authored several books on the subject. He was a member of the Art Commission of the City of New York, the board of directors of the American Foundation of the Arts, and the Museum of the City of NewYork. Oenslager died on June 21, 1975, in Bedford, New York.

Location: LSF-Request for Use at Manuscripts and Archives
Call Number: MS 1416
extent40.03 linear ft.
formatsClippings Photographs Slides
accessBoxes 19-22, set designs, are closed until processed.
record link
record source
finding aidFinding aid is available in the repository and on the Internet.
acquisition informationGlass teaching slides (14 linear ft.) were transferred 1991 Feb from Accession 86-A-26, Drama School Records, YRG 22-A. Transferred from the Drama Library, 2007.
updated11/12/2014 11:30:00

titleDonald Oenslager Set Designs, 1934-1967 (pfMS Thr 332-332.1).
repositoryHarvard Theatre Collection
descriptionSet designs by American set designer Donald Oenslager. Set designs rendered in ink, watercolor, gouache, pencil, and chalk for productions of Prometheus bound, Pygmalion, and Antigone among other plays. Also includes a costume design for L'Histoire du soldat.

Historical Note
Oenslager was an American set designer.

extent1 box (.1 linear ft.)
accessContact repository for restrictions and policies.
record link
record source
finding aidUnpublished printed finding aid available in the Houghton Accessions Records, 1977-1978, under *77M-57. Electronic finding aid available
acquisition informationGift of Donald Oenslager, 825 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10021; received: 1959 (three drawings), 1963, 1969, and 1970.
updated11/12/2014 11:30:00