The Era

Researchers in the field of live entertainment during the period covered by Footlight Notes - the 1850s to the 1920s - find at their disposal an almost unlimited number of printed sources upon which to draw. Original Victorian and Edwardian daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines, by virtue of their large numbers and the bulk of their content, contain probably the best accounts available of the busy world of the theatre and music halls at that time. Chief among these in the English speaking world was the London based weekly newspaper, The Era.

The Era, rivalled only by The Stage (1880 to the present), flourished from 1837 until its demise in 1939. For most of that time it was in the hands of just two proprietor/editors: Frederick Ledger (d.1874) and his son, Edward Ledger (d.1921). The latter sold out to W. Hamar Bass early in 1905. Originally published from 3 Catherine Street, Strand, it was moved at the close of the nineteenth century to a purpose built office known as The Era Buildings at 5 Tavistock Street (see advertisement, below).

Only a few complete runs of The Era survive intact, rendering its use by interested readers extremely difficult. Microfilm copies are available, of course, but the large format and the small print of the original paper makes for uncomfortable viewing in this form. Lately, however, a project has been established which aims to bring The Era to a far wider audience in CD ROM format. So far the whole of the 1890s, about 15,000 pages, has been made available. It is truly an extraordinary and exciting development in the history of theatre studies. For further information about the project, and information regarding the scope of The Era itself, click here.

The Era

(photo: Brookman, London, circa 1907)

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John Culme, 2001