A Guide to the William J. Thomas Papers, 1933-1958, 1968 Thomas, William J., Papers, 1933-1958, 1968 41227

A Guide to the William J. Thomas Papers, 1933-1958, 1968

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Accession Number 41227


Library of Virginia

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© 2006 By The Library of Virginia. All Rights Reserved.

Processed by: Jessica Tyree

The Library of Virginia
Accession Number
William J. Thomas Papers, 1933-1958, 1968
Physical Characteristics
0.35 cu. ft.
Thomas, William J., 1906-1982

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

William J. Thomas. Papers, 1933-1958, 1968. Accession 41227. Personal papers collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

Acquisition Information

Gift of William C. Thomas, Newport Beach, California, 11 May 2004.

Biographical Information

William J. Thomas, Jr., was born on 1 April 1906 in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of William J. and Tennessee Calhoun Thomas. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina in 1927, then entered the Columbia School of Journalism. In 1928, he left Columbia to become a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune. Subsequently, Thomas worked in the publicity department of the National Broadcasting Company, 1929-1936; as an advertising executive with Young and Rubicam, Inc., 1937-1945, and the William Esty Company, 1949-1959; as a loan officer and assistant vice president of savings and loan businesses in Beaufort and Los Angeles; and again in advertising with Ball/Morgan Associates. He married Catherine "Kitty" Vaughan in 1934, but was widowed the day after the birth of their son, William Calhoun Thomas, in October 1936. On 20 April 1960, he married Anne Roof Kerr in Los Angeles.

In the late 1940's while working as a freelance writer and producer, Thomas agreed to help friend Robert Porterfield (1905-1971) with publicity for the Barter Theatre, located in Abingdon, Virginia. Barter was opened by Porterfield in 1933 with the goal of providing work for actors and entertainment for Southwest Virginians struggling through the Depression. Initially, tickets could be purchased for 35 cents or the equivalent in food. Named the State Theatre of Virginia in 1946, Barter is now one of the oldest professional theatres in the country. Its best known alumni include: Gregory Peck, Patricia Neal, Ernest Borgnine, Hume Cronyn, Ned Beatty, Gary Collins and Larry Linville.

William J. Thomas, Jr., died in July 1982 in Los Angeles.

Scope and Content

Papers, 1933-1958 and 1968, chiefly relating to the work of William J. Thomas, Jr. (1906-1982), in heading up publicity and advertising for the Barter Theatre of Abingdon, Virginia. The bulk of the papers are promotional materials for the Theatre, including information packets, schedules and cast lists, brochures, press releases and prepared articles, and an appeal, ca. 1948, to the General Assembly for increased appropriations. Several items reflect Thomas's attempts to obtain sponsorship for a planned radio and television program entitled "Barter Theatre on the Air." Other papers include correspondence, clippings, programs, resumes and other biographical materials on Thomas, and two year-in-review letters sent by Theatre founder Robert Porterfield (1905-1971) to his general acquaintance on Groundhog's Day, 1958 and 1968.


Arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Contents List

Papers, 1933-1958, 1968
Box: 1
Physical Location:
  • Box 1
    Folder 1
    Actor and production lists, 1933-1942
  • Box 1
    Folder 2
    Appeal for increase in state appropriations, ca. 1948
  • Box 1
    Folder 3
    Barter Theatre information packet, ca. 1950
  • Box 1
    Folder 4
    "Barter Theatre in Virginia, the First State-Sponsored Theatre in America," by Virginia Waller Davis, 1946
  • Box 1
    Folder 5
    "Barter Theatre of Virginia Started on a Stringbean," by William J. Thomas, 1946
  • Box 1
    Folder 6
  • Box 1
    Folder 7
    Correspondence, 1947-1955
  • Box 1
    Folder 8
  • Box 1
    Folder 9
  • Box 1
    Folder 10
    Performance schedules, 1946-ca. 1949, and n.d.
  • Box 1
    Folder 11-12
    Pitch materials for potential sponsors of "Barter Theatre on the Air,"
  • Box 1
    Folder 13
    Press releases and fact sheets, 1947-1948
  • Box 1
    Folder 14
    Programs and brochures, 1946-1949
  • Box 1
    Folder 15
    Robert Porterfield Groundhog's Day letters, 1958, 1968
  • Box 1
    Folder 16
    Script, "Barter Theatre on the Air," featuring The Petrified Forest, ca. 1948
  • Box 1
    Folder 17
    "Virginia Ham," Chapter 2
  • Box 1
    Folder 18
    William J. Thomas biographical materials