by Gary Thomas Musante

I recently gave a Powerpoint presentation at our club meeting of an overview of the covers from my Theatre Topical Collection.
I first worked on plays in High School and then choose theatre as a major and then a career when I went to college.
A few years after I was done with grad school I revisited my stamp collection and started working on it again.
For a long time I was a general collector, US and Canada, but I soon found that I liked covers the most, postal history rather then first day covers, although I have plenty of them.

But about twenty years ago I found a cover from 1888 at a stamp show that changed my collecting focus forever.
I came across a cover sent by an actor to his hometown asking for his mail to be forwarded to the next stop on his tour.
The cover is in fair shape, it has a few tears, ragged around the edges, the stamp is common and damaged and you can barely see the cancel, but I love it.
The cover has a caricature of the actor Arthur Sidman and it advertises his current play, Uncle Rube.
Inside was a letter that further describes high quality of the production.
The letter is simple and has a clean and clear signature of Mr. Sidman.

I tried to do some research on the internet a few years ago but I was spelling the name wrong and did not get too much.
When I realized it was “Sidman” and not “Sideman” I got better results.
From about only six sources, mostly from old copies of the New York Times and other newspapers, I have only been able to piece together only a basic biography of Mr. Sidman.
From my research Sidman was born about 1863 and was 25 or 26 at the time my letter was mailed to his hometown.
I have read a few other newspaper reports that mention that he was performing with his company in town.
One article recounts that he had his company stay over to play a benefit to raise money for the family of a woman who had died in a fire.
The New York Times of August 13, 1901 states that Arthur Sidman died the day before at his summer home while preparing for another tour.
In 1905 one of his plays New York Folks was produced on Broadway.

As I have found and added other Theatre covers and postcards from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to my collection I have done research on the people and/or places noted on the item.
My research into the “Sidman” and other covers in my collection have given them a greater significance and value to me.


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