Joseph Arthur Collection
2 reels

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Processed by: Jennifer Duplaga, April 2005

Biographical Note:

 Joseph Arthur was born Arthur Hill Smith in Centerville, Indiana in 1848.  He was the third child of John C and Margaret Hill Smith.  His family moved to Indianapolis in the 1850s.  He wrote his first play “Colorado” in 1875, after failing as a circus performer and leaving college.  He spent most of his life living in New York, where he wrote and produced his works, most of which were set in Indiana.  Arthur married Charlotte Cobbe around 1875.  He died in 1906 in New York.  Some of Arthur’s plays include:

 “The Still Alarm (1887). Although dismissed by reviewers, Arthur's melodrama is a crowd-pleaser, with a sensational climax in which New York firemen, in a horse-drawn fire engine, rush to a burning building. The Indiana former reporter and foreign correspondent would become one of the era's most successful melodramatists.

 Blue Jeans (1890). Arthur's play, in which the hero and heroine are lured in to a sawmill by the villain, features one of the most sensational and imitated scenes in American melodrama: the unconscious hero on a conveyor belt, slowly moving toward a huge spinning buzz saw.

 The Cherry Pickers (1896). Arthur's popular melodrama is set during the Anglo-Afghan War and concerns the rivalry between two officers for a young woman's hand. It is typical of the highly charged, spectacular melodramas of the day.”

Source:  Play synopsis:;jsessionid=br4pbpj413gg3?tname=joseph-arthur&hl=blue&hl=jeans&sbid=lc01b Biographical information:  Arthur W. Shumaker, A History of Indiana Literature (Indianapolis:  Indiana Historical Bureau, 1962), 498-500.

 Scope and Content Note:

 This microfilm collection contains copies of four Joseph Arthur plays.  Reel one includes “Blue Jeans,” written in 1890.  The second reel contains “Cherry Pickers” (1896), “Lost River“(1900), and “Still Alarm” (1887).

Reel Listing:




Play- “Blue Jeans”


Plays, “Cherry Pickers” and “Still Alarm”

Collection Information:

Size of Collection:

2 reels

Collection Dates:






Reproduction Rights:

Permission to reproduce, exhibit, or publish material in this collection must be obtained from the Manuscript Section, Indiana State Library.

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Related Holdings:




Photocopying Policy:

Manuscript materials CANNOT be photocopied or digitized in their entirety. Photocopies and/or digital images cannot exceed 25% of a collection or a folder within a collection. In some cases, photocopying may not be permitted due to the condition of the item. Check with a Manuscript Librarian for other options.