The Play’s the Thing…in Buffalo

Sari_Star1914 (2)

“Sari” at the Star Theatre. Buffalo, NY, 1914. [Playbill]

Buffalo theater-buffs had plenty of entertainment options during our illustrious history, and the Grosvenor Room has the playbills and programs to prove it!  Vaudeville, dramatic theater, and musical comedy were all popular, and hundreds of venues have come and gone from Buffalo’s theater scene.  Major stars of the stage graced our city, and some were even from Buffalo.  We won’t go too much into our very extensive theater history, but you can read a fascinating timeline on this Buffalo History website.

Thanks to donations to the library from those theater-goers, largely during the 1940s and 50s, the Grosvenor Room has thousands of programs and playbills from over 90 theatrical venues in Buffalo and Erie County.  The earliest date from the 1850s and 1860s, but most of the programs are from 1900 to 1950.  We continue to add recent productions from local theaters, as well as donations of historic programs.

The programs are a treasure trove of printed design trends; covers reflect the era’s style, from ornate illustrations to minimal typography.  Here are some of our favorite finds from the collection:


The quintessential theatre-going couple adorn “Dishonored Lady” at Shubert-Teck Theatre, 1930.


Julius Caesar at Star Theatre, 1903. Note the ticket stub pasted inside, along with the initials of the people who attended with the owner of this program.


Cat and the Canary at Teck Theatre, 1926. Delightfully spooky.

Shubert Teck blue cover_Oct1928

A mythological dancing faun at the Shubert-Teck, 1928.


A charming illustration on “The Cat on the Oregon Trail” at Studio Theatre, 1961.


Playbills printed on cloth, likely for special events. Left: My Brother’s Sister at Academy of Music, 1889. Right: The Dutch Champion at Lafayette Theatre, 1911.

And last, but not least: One local theatre-goer was so overcome with emotion after seeing Sarah Bernhardt that she wrote on the program below “She’s wonderful—But she tears one to pieces. I wasn’t fit to be seen for a week after.”  According to the program, the “World’s Greatest Artiste” performed the “Death of Cleopatra” and other tragic scenes.


Sarah Bernhardt at Star Theatre, 1916.

For more on our programs and Buffalo theater history, including a list of all the theaters in our collection, see our updated research guide.

Posted in Local History | Tagged ,

Game of Thrones Surnames



Starks and Martells

Knee deep into this season of Game of Thrones, some of our Grosvenor Room staff got to wondering about possible real life Starks, Targaryens, Lannisters, and the many other family names in the fantasy series.  Using the library’s surname dictionaries, this is what we found.

Baelish – A similar surname, Bayliss, means “officer of a court or justice.” This is certainly ironic since most GOT viewers are hoping that Lord Baelish faces justice this season for his numerous conniving misdeeds. (Go Stark girls!)

Clegane – Our limited search did not produce the name Clegane, but we did find Clegg which was the name of a hill.  That certainly fits the Cleganes.  Ser Gregor Clegane is known as “The Mountain,” and towers over his also enormous brother “The Hound.”

Lannister – A close match was, Leinster, found only in the Internet Surname Database.  The site states that the meaning comes from the French “Le Maistre” which means the Master.  Appropriate for anyone aiming for, or to keep, the Iron Throne.

Martell – This is a fairly common surname with the meaning “forceful person.” Nothing is better-suited to Ellaria Sand, Oberyn Martell’s paramour, except perhaps ‘vengeful.’ Another meaning is “hammer,” which reminds us of the state of Oberyn’s face (or lack thereof) after his battle with Ser Gregor Clegane.

Stark – Stark is described as “firm, unyielding, determined” by the Dictionary of American Family Names.  Add ‘just’ to that list and it would be the perfect representation of the Stark family.

Tarth – A similar name, Tartre, means “height.”  Suitable for the Lady Knight, Brienne of Tarth, who is close in height to the Hound.  (Also, who do you think, Jaime or Tormund?)

Tyrell – The name Tyrrell was found to mean “stubborn person…an animal which pulls the reins…” This makes us think of tenacious Lady Olenna Tyrell, who was the last Tyrell standing, and one of the puppet-masters of King Joffrey’s assassination. (R.I.P. Olenna, we’re glad you had the last word.)

We were disappointed that we found no names close to Targaryen in our brief search, but, if there were one, it would probably be ‘dragon’ don’t you think?  By the way, does anyone else want Drogon on the Iron Throne at the end of it all?  (What can we say, we’re animal lovers here.)

If any of you are interested in researching the meaning of surnames (fact or fictional), come visit us in the Grosvenor Room where we have numerous surname dictionaries.

geros ilas!, Game of Thrones fans.  ȳdra daor ivestragī se bantis dārys jiōragon ao.

 [English to Valyrian Translator –]




Bardsley, Charles Wareing.  A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames.  London: Oxford University Press, 1901.

Hanks, Patrick, Ed. Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Internet Surname Database

Posted in Genealogy

Buffalo Kit Homes

You may have heard of Sears houses, the “kit homes” that prospective owners could select from a catalog and build themselves.  But did you know that Western New York was home to another company that designed and sold beautiful house plans and kits?  The Ray H. Bennett Lumber Company, established in North Tonawanda in 1902, manufactured a line of Bennett Homes — “Better-Built & Ready-Cut.”  Their catalogs featured cottages, bungalows, larger 3- and 4-bedroom Colonial and American Foursquare houses, and two-family homes.  The styles will look strikingly familiar to Buffalonians, especially those with homes built in the 1920s and 30s.

A Bennett Homes catalog from 1920 shows not only house plans, but also the interior options, such as styles of doors and bookcases.

Bennett Homes1920 coverBennettHomes1920 ErieBennettHomes1920 Atherton HarrietBennett Homes1920 house 3Bennett Homes1920 house 1Bennett Homes1920 doors and stairwell

Think your house could be a Bennett Home?  The Grosvenor Room has three Bennett Homes catalogs: 1920 (no.18), 1925 (no.35), and an undated catalog from circa 1940, each featuring over 50 house styles.

For more plan books, check out this helpful list: Architecture and Design Books: Listing by Architectural Style.


Posted in Local History | Tagged

More Celebrity Lookalikes Found in Buffalo Yearbooks

Occasionally Grosvenor Room staff come across images in our collections that make us do a double-take.  Here are a few Buffalo yearbook photos that we think look like celebrities.  Who do you think they look like?  Scroll down to see if you agree with us.

View past editions here:


Celebrities batch 2a

Image result for arrow

2b 12b 22b 3

Posted in Genealogy

Discover What Your Family Tree Looks Like – Genealogy Lecture Series

Explore your ancestry this summer with the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library!  A series of free classes is being offered in conjunction with the Autumnwood Senior Center. Join us!  Sign-up for one class or all.

Summer 2017 flyer

Posted in Genealogy

Celebrity Look-a-Likes Found in Buffalo Yearbooks

Occasionally Grosvenor Room staff come across images in our collections that make us do a double-take.  Here are a few Buffalo yearbook photos that we think look like celebrities.  Who do you think they look like?  Scroll down to see if you agree with us.

Celebrities batch 1a



Image result for arrow





Posted in Genealogy

Vinyl Records & You!

turntable record dark purple border

Did you know that the Grosvenor Room has a circulating collection of LP vinyl records?  This music and audio collection, housed in a Closed Stacks storage area, includes thousands of albums of ethnic, folk, classical, opera, jazz, rock and popular music, as well as musical anthologies of all genres.  There are also recordings of poetry, speeches, and sound effects.  The records are roughly from 1950 to 1985, although some are reissues of music from earlier eras.

There are two ways to search for vinyl records in the collection:

1.Use the online catalog and search for a musician or musical group and/or an album title as a keyword.

johnny cash search example

After you click search, the results page provides options on the left side to narrow by Format and/or Material Type.  Select “Music LP” and “Phonograph Record” and click “Include” for each.

johnny cash search example4

In the results list, a vinyl record will be noted by the little record icon and “Music LP” as the format:

johnny cash search example2

Click on the title to view more information on the album, and to see if it is currently available.

johnny cash search example3

If you’d like an overall view of the record collection, leave the search box blank and click search.  On the next page you can choose Format and/or Material Type.  Again, select “Music LP” and “Phonograph Record” and click “Include.”  Over 11,000 records will be listed, and now you can choose a Subject to narrow down by music genre (i.e. Big band music).

Record card catalog2. If you are at the Central Library, you can also search the Record Index Card Catalog located in the Grosvenor Room.  While more recent donations to the collection will not be listed in the cards, you can search for older items in the collection by album title, musician/musical group, and genre.

Once you have identified the LPs you’d like to check-out , just ask a Grosvenor Room Librarian for assistance and the records will be retrieved in minutes.  LP records circulate for 7 days, and may be renewed twice.

Posted in Music | Tagged , ,