Old Time Opera Poster Show

From the Hoyt Permanent Collection

February 2 - March 18, 2016

Arts & Education at the Hoyt is proud to present the untouched treasures of the Old Time Opera Poster Show, a collection of antique posters first exhibited by James Sotus and George Faddis at the Hoyt Center in 1967.  These historical advertisements for circuses, magicians and vaudeville not only reflected the entertainment of the late 19th century, but chronicled the performing troupes passing through New Castle’s early theaters. 

While the collection was promised to the Hoyt in the 1970s, the Hoyt did not gain full possession of it for nearly 40 years. Until recently, some hung in a second floor classroom, while others lie unframed in a drawer. The unframed posters have since been preserved, albeit in an unrestored fashion, to the time of their initial discovery by Sotus in 1963. 

An avid antique collector, Sotus was drawn to the razing of the Kurtz mansion, an impressive 1840 Victorian that had passed through the family until 1962.  It stood at the corner of Croton and E. Washington Street, a prime spot for redevelopment.  Sotus discovered the posters under cardboard lining the walls of a nearby shed. Because it was late in the day, he decided to come back the following day to remove them with care.  However, when he returned, someone had already torn the posters from the walls and they lay in a heap on the floor.

Sotus decided to salvage as many as he could.  Many were advertisements for productions at the Opera House, a full-time theater formerly on South Mercer Street downtown.  After the days of vaudeville and repertoire companies, the Opera House became the Capitol Theatre- perhaps one of New Castle's first movie houses. The theatre burned in 1932. 

Research from old newspapers and publications dated the posters from roughly 1881 to the turn of the century.  Having no one to guide him, Sotus decided to attempt restoration himself. He experimented with different materials and techniques until finally settling on charcoal paper for backing, which was closest to the tonality of the aged paper. He painstakingly adhered the smaller, torn pieces onto the backing with glue. The poster was then cleaned with wall paper cleaner, and missing areas filled in with dry watercolor pencil. These tedious “repairs”, while not consistent with the conservation methods of today, have been retained within the current conservation framing.  The pieces matted in brown are untouched projects Sotus did not complete.  This is the first they’ve been exhibited framed.


The Hoyt is Pleased to Recognize Exhibition Series Support From: