Smith, Harry Bache, 1860-1936

Alternative names
Birth 1860-12-28
Death 1936-01-01

Biographical notes:


From the description of Harry Bache Smith correspondence, 1895-1901. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70980474

American writer of short stories, plays, and librettos. A collector of rare books, manuscripts, and autographs, Smith also wrote about his collecting activities.

From the description of Papers, 1773-1935, (bulk 1890-1930). (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122648359

Harry Bache Smith was born in Buffalo, NY, on December 28, 1860, to Elizabeth Bach and Josiah Bailey Smith. The Smith family moved to Chicago in the 1860s where Harry began writing and collecting rare books, manuscripts, and autographs. After starting as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, Smith later became a music critic for that paper. He also worked for the Chicago Tribune as a drama critic. By 1874, Smith had begun writing musical plays and operettas. His first operetta, Rosita, or Cupid and Cupidity, was produced by the Fay Templeton Opera Company. Amaryllis, his second production, was a musical comedy and became popular with amateur dramatic clubs. As a result of this exposure, Smith was engaged to write a series of burlesques for the Chicago Opera House.

In 1887, Smith and Reginald DeKoven collaborated on Begum, a comic operetta that received enough support for the collaboration to continue and to produce one of the most popular American operas, Robin Hood, which played almost continuously for twenty years. The Wizard of the Nile was created for the comedian Frank Daniels in 1895, with Victor Herbert writing the score. Besides Herbert and DeKoven, Smith collaborated with Irving Berlin, Ivan Caryl, Leo Fall, Gustave Kerker, Jerome Kern, Franz Lehar, Sigmund Romberg, John Philip Sousa, and Oscar Strauss. The author of some 300 librettos and over 6000 lyrics, Smith was respected in the theater world for his creative and humorous style of writing. Broadway saw 123 of his shows, which also played in other cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia. Smith was the earliest American lyricist to be honored with a published collection of his lyrics.

Smith wrote articles on literature and music for Scribner's, The Century, Harper's, Atlantic Monthly, American Mercury, and other magazines. He was also known by collectors of rare books, manuscripts, and autographs. Published in 1914, A Sentimental Library (available in the HRC book collection) is a catalogue of books, manuscripts, drawings, and presentation copies collected and described by Smith.

Smith married Lena Reed in October 1887, and had one son, Sydney R. Smith. In November 1906, Harry Smith married actress Irene Bentley. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Smith summarized, critiqued, and evaluated plays and stories that Warner Brothers was considering for theatrical productions or motion pictures. Harry Bache Smith died on January 1, 1936.

From the guide to the Harry Bache Smith Papers TXRC92-A42., 1773-1935, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)


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Ark ID:


  • Book collectors--Correspondence, reminiscenes, etc
  • Manuscripts--Collectors and collecting
  • Dramatists--Correspondence, reminiscenes, etc
  • Auctioneers
  • Operetta--20th century
  • Operetta--United States--20th century
  • Prompt-book
  • Theater--Anecdotes, facetiae, satire, etc
  • Book auctions
  • Books--Collectors and collecting
  • English literature--Bibliography--First editions
  • Rare books
  • Musicals--Librettos
  • Authors, American--20th century
  • Autographs--Collectors and collecting
  • Dramatists, American--20th century
  • Bibliography--Rare books


  • Librettists
  • Composers
  • Lyricists


  • United States (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)