Nelson Waldron, Master Stage Machinist of the Nineteenth-Century Theatre Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Always on the margin of the nineteenth-century theatre is the stagehand. Nameless to history, they follow orders of influential producers like Lester Wallack; they follow theatre dreams of artists like Steele MacKaye. Yet researching this last artist, one stagehand name repeatedly appears. Doing so he takes on a personality and a history. The man was Nelson Waldron (1839–1917). At times he was noted as stage machinist, later on a master machinist, then a recipient of a theatrical benefit night – something reserved for actors who had achieved peer recognition. This peer of the New York theatre community during the last quarter of the nineteenth century begins to take shape. He was savvy enough to hold the patent for the Madison Square Theatre’s double stage in the heady days of feuding between the Mallory Brothers and Steele MacKaye. In the days that first brought Buffalo Bill’s rodeo inside to become an actual horse drama, there was Nelson Waldron again, building visual sensations that filled the Madison Square Gardens, literally. Waldron’s life in the theatre was evidently full and rewarding. His was a life not chronicled, but certainly one deserving. The paper brings forward an initial accounting of Nelson Waldron’s theatre.

publication date

  • November 2017