Brown, Chamberlain.

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Theatrical casting agents, producers, and writers, brothers Chamberlain and Lyman Brown were born in Hartford, Connecticut in the 1890s of a prominent New England family. Chamberlain, the elder of the two brothers, was educated at Harvard and while there he began a career as an actor. He formed his own stock company and became an owner and manager of a theater in Lowell, Massachusetts while still in his teens. Chamberlain also had begun collecting posters as a young child and this collecting habit escalated to include autographs, photographs, and programs. He also subscribed to many theatrical periodicals, thus forming the basis of what became an extensive collection. By 1913, Chamberlain had come to New York and performed in The Yellow Jacket at the Fulton Theatre, as well as in vaudeville. He also had begun working as a press representative and soon opened his own company, which his brother Lyman also joined. Chamberlain, who died in 1955, discovered and represented many stars of theater, radio, and film during his career. Among those performers he claimed to have discovered were: Clark Gable, Helen Hayes, Alfred Lunt, and Rudolph Valentino. Brown agency clients included Ruth Chatterton, Miriam Hopkins, Fritzi Scheff, and Spencer Tracy. Lyman Brown became a co-owner of the Chamberlain Brown Agency and worked primarily casting summer stock productions throughout the United States and Canada. He died in 1961.

In addition to their agency activity, the Brown brothers made numerous and financially disastrous attempts at producing.

Kept (1926), at the Comedy Theatre, was Chamberlain Brown's initial Broadway production. The Brown brothers' first stock company in the metropolitan area was at the Greenwich Theatre in Connecticut. Under the auspices of the Chamberlain Brown Players (also known as the L. Chamberlain Brown Players), between 1929 and 1930 they presented over thirty plays. The company would hold subsequent summer seasons at other locations with varying degrees of success through the mid-1930s. Beginning in 1926, Chamberlain also hosted radio programs discussing the theater or presenting talent on various New York stations. He also embarked upon a number of professional activities that dovetailed with the agency business, including founding membership clubs, as well as initiating several unsuccessful publications. Perhaps because of an inability to evolve professionally with the changing times, or owing to Chamberlain Brown's lifestyle, the Brown agency floundered, despite family financial support for the brothers. Chamberlain declared bankruptcy in 1934 and was the defendant in numerous lawsuits for collection of funds spanning several decades.

From the description of Chamberlain and Lyman Brown papers, 1849-1961. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 166295003

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Sylva, Marguerita. Letters to Chamberlain Brown and other papers, 1921-1939. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Chamberlain and Lyman Brown theater diaries, 1909-1914. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Brown, Chamberlain. Chamberlain and Lyman Brown papers, 1849-1961. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Skinner, Neil McFee. Neil McFee Skinner papers, 1929-1944. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Actors' Equity Association corporateBody
associatedWith Barrymore, Ethel, 1879-1959. person
associatedWith Brown, Lyman. person
correspondedWith Carter, Leslie, Mrs., 1862-1937 person
associatedWith Chamberlain, Samuel E. (Samuel Emery), 1829-1908. person
associatedWith Cohan, George M. (George Michael), 1878-1942. person
associatedWith Cukor, George, 1899-1983. person
associatedWith Gable, Clark, 1901-1960. person
correspondedWith Horton, Edward Everett person
associatedWith Luce, Clare Boothe, 1903-1987. person
associatedWith Russell, Rosalind. person
associatedWith Scheff, Fritzi, 1879-1954. person
associatedWith Shawn, Ted, 1891-1972. person
associatedWith Shubert, Lee, 1873?-1953. person
associatedWith Skinner, Neil McFee. person
associatedWith Stanwyck, Barbara, 1907-1990. person
associatedWith St. Denis, Ruth, 1880-1968. person
associatedWith Sylva, Marguerita. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)--New York
United States
Theatrical producers and directors
Press agents
World War, 1939-1945--Correspondence
Theater 19th century
Theatrical agents
Theater--20th century
Summer theater
Theatrical producers and directors
Theatrical agents
Press agents


Active 1929

Active 1944

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Ark ID: w6f48rxg

SNAC ID: 7066885