Mary Aldis Collection 1910-1949

Identity elements

Reference code

US ILfC SC/012

Level of description



Mary Aldis Collection 1910-1949



2 boxes

Name of creator

Biographical history

Mary Reynolds Aldis, wife of Chicago developer Arthur Aldis, wrote one-act plays, poetry, and painted in watercolor. Born in Chicago and educated at St. Mary’s School in Knoxville, IL, she married her husband in 1892. After moving to Lake Forest in 1902, she occupied an estate on the southeast corner of Deerpath Rd and Green Bay Rd. She and her husband added and then converted a cottage on their property into an amateur playhouse which opened on June 11, 1911.

The Aldises were considered pioneers in amateur and community theater in Chicago. Mary’s Lake Forest summer playhouse ran full seasons until 1915 and ended by 1920. The playhouse put on plays by both amateur and professional playwrights and reflected Mary’s tastes as a writer, translator, and dramatist.

Aldis worked to support women's rights and other progressive causes. She, at times, lived independently from her husband and died in 1949 in Milwaukee.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The collection consists of three main series of materials that supplement other cataloged holdings relating to Mary Aldis, her family, her estate, her literary work, and her Lake Forest Players/Playhouse.  The first series consists of a small group of five large format photographs, plus one smaller view, of plays at her playhouse.  The second series is a collection of unpublished translations of French one-act plays, written for production and acting by amateurs.  The third series is a reel of microfilm of two scrapbooks of the Aldis Playhouse, the originals held by the Chicago History Museum.

System of arrangement

The play scripts, in folders with the original binders, are in a standard 5" Hollinger box.  The large photos, with the reel of microfilm, are in a one flat box.

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Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

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    Finding aids

    Acquisition and appraisal elements

    Custodial history

    Immediate source of acquisition

    The Mary Aldis Collection came from three sources during the 1980’s. The photographs were donated after the death of Herman D. Smith. The Lake Forest Library transferred the collection of unpublished play scripts. The microfilm was donated by Babette F. Inglehart.

    Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


    The collection was received at three different times.

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    Existence and location of originals

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    Related archival materials

    The Blanche Mason Tellis papers, donated by the late Phyllis Peter Schrock of Lake Forest and a former College staff member, include periodical issues including one with an article on the Aldis Compound.

    The Trimmed Lamp, a Periodical of Life and Art, v. V (5), June 1915-May 1916, includes two poems by Mary Aldis, "The Park Bench" (July 1916, 22-24) and "My Secret" (September 1916, 53), correspondence  questioning her poetry as such in "The Park Bench," her reply, her appointment with Harriet Monroe to a judging panel for a December 1916 poetry prize, and her lengthy Jan. 1916 (125-27) letter reporting on the contest, her statement on the art of poetry.  She is also defended by Eunice Tietjens in Sept. 1915, 59.

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