Finding aid for the Vivian Tobin papers 6106

Diann Benti
USC Libraries Special Collections
2022 May
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles, California 90089-0189

Contributing Institution: USC Libraries Special Collections
Title: Vivian Tobin papers
Creator: Tobin, Vivian, 1902-2002
Creator: Gerstenberg, Alice
Creator: Georg, Victor
Identifier/Call Number: 6106
Physical Description: 2.29 Linear Feet 2 boxes
Date (inclusive): 1915-1971
Abstract: This collection contains photographs, correspondence, and ephemera related to Vivian Tobin's performance as Alice in the first American theatrical production of "Alice in Wonderland" in 1915.
Language of Material: English.

Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice required for access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Vivian Thompson, 2014.

Biographical note on Vivian Tobin

Vivian Tobin (1902-2002) was an American actress who starred as the first Alice in an American theatrical production of Alice in Wonderland in 1915. Tobin continued to perform in theater, vaudeville, and films through the 1930s. In 1935, Tobin married Karl von Hagen, later chair of the University of Southern California Department of Neurology, and they had one daughter, Vivian Thompson (USC Class of 1962), and a son.

Historical note on "Alice in Wonderland"

In 1915, "Alice in Wonderland" by Alice Gerstenberg (1885-1972) was published as the first American dramatization of Lewis Carroll's novels "Alice in Wonderland" (1865) and "Through the Looking-Glass" (1871). Gerstenberg's play premiered on February 10, 1915, at the Fine Arts Theatre in Chicago, IL, before traveling to Broadway, to the Booth Theatre, on March 23, 1915. Vivian Tobin (1902-2002) became the first actress to perform the role of Alice in the United States.

Preferred Citation

[Box/folder no. or item name], Vivian Tobin papers, Cassady Lewis Carroll Collection, Collection no. 6106, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California.

Related Materials

Scope and Contents

This collection contains photographs, correspondence, and ephemera related to Vivian Tobin's performance as Alice in the first American theatrical production of "Alice in Wonderland" in 1915. The correspondence includes two letters from "Alice" playwright Alice Gerstenberg to Tobin and cards from fans. There is also a permission release for a 1952 amateur performance of the play. There are ten photographs including two photographs by photographer Victor Georg and a set by White, N.Y. from the 1915 production. Ephemera includes an advertisement for the play at the Fine Arts Theatre in 1915. There are also clippings from newspapers with reviews of the play.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

Finding aid description and metadata are licensed under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Department of Special Collections at Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Alice (Fictitious character: Carroll) -- Archival resources
Stage adaptations -- Archival resources
Theater -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Archival resources
Theater programs
Tobin, Vivian, 1902-2002 -- Archives
Tobin, Vivian, 1902-2002 -- Photographs
Alice, (Fictitious character from Carroll) -- Photographs
Carroll, Lewis, 1832-1898 -- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland -- Drama
Carroll, Lewis, 1832-1898 -- Through the looking-glass -- Drama


Correspondence and release document

Box 1, Folder 1

[Letter to from K.O. Kesessig (?) to Vivian Tobin] 1915-04-09

Scope and Contents

Letter to "Alice" from K.O. Kesessig (?), a friend of Charles Dodgson. Letter transcription: "Lafayette College, Easton, P.A. April 9, 1915 My dear 'Alice': You will not take is amiss, I am sure, that an old teacher takes the liberty to intrude upon you, to express, in a poor way, the pleasure he had in your production of 'Alice.' I assure you, it was one of the happiest moments of my life to see, personally, the heroine of my childhood favorite, step forth 'large as life and twice as natural.' I have but one regret, namely that our old friend, Lewis Carroll, who would have been made exceedingly happy, to see you impersonate his dream-fancy, was no longer with us; ever so long I knew the learned teacher of mathematics of Oxford, and the gentle friend of children, the writer of children stories, without knowing that they were one and the same. Accept once more the gratitude for this keen pleasure, the resurrection of childhood dreams; and pardon for this intrusion. Your humble servant, K.O [Kesessig?]."
Box 1, Folder 2

[Letter from Dick Overton to Vivian Tobin] circa 1915

Scope and Contents

Letter torn out of scrapbook. Letter reads: "Dear Alice, I loved your play. And I love you and you are a lot nicer than the play. I thought you were the best actor of all that were on the stage. Lots of love from Dick Overton 27 Madison Ave Montclair, N.J."
Box 1, Folder 3

[Gift and calling cards to Vivian Tobin] circa 1915

Scope and Contents

Three calling cards and a gift tag once attached to flowers or gifts for Vivian Tobin from performances of Alice in Wonderland. Three of the cards were housed in a small envelope pasted to scrapbook paper along with the gift tag. The gift card has a gold chord attached to it with a pink ribbon of tulle. The gift tag has the handwritten note: "This Audience is grateful to 'Alice,'- not only for her delicate and graceful Art, but almost as much so, simply for being so sweet a Child." The three calling cards consist of a blank card with the handwritten note: "To 'Alice' with love and best wishes from The Red Queen, The March Hare, & the Gryphon for a big success. Fine Arts Theatre Chicago. 11. 2. 15"; a card from Mrs. Edmund R. Wade, Miss Wetmore, Mrs. Hiss, Mrs. Michael, Mrs. F.C. Test that reads: "My Dear Miss Tobin: May a few members of the Woman's City Club meet you after the performance and thank you for your [?] in making a pleasant evening. -- Mrs. F. C. Test"; and a card from Mrs. Julius M. Tannen: "Dear Mrs. Tobin and Vivian: Be a good little "Alice,' we are sitting in the second row center, Bill and Mrs. Tannen."
Box 1, Folder 4

[Letter from Alice Gerstenberg to Vivian Tobin] 1952-06-24

Scope and Contents

Typescript letter and envelope from Alice Gerstenberg to Mrs. Karl O. Van Hagen [married name of Vivian Tobin], 1201 Tower Grove Drive, Beverly Hills, California. No return address. Letter transcription: "1120 Lake Shore Drive Chicago Il, Illinois June 24th, 1952 My very dear Vivian: It was a great joy to see you again, and with your delightful family!! And not to feel sad in the loss of the adorable little 'Alice' who now graces the world with your exquisite grown-up self. No 'Alice" will ever equal you. You had the wonder of 'Wonderland' in your eyes. I am sending you the production photographs to keep. They should belong to you, for your children to cherish. In the same package is the music. You will probably be able to work out something to match the conditions there. As to a short version, do not use the Dum and Dee scene at all. (We never used it) And then cut all scenes throughout to shorten each, according to your time allowance. Sequence of action is important, but lines can be cut here and there without confusing the ideas. This I will have to leave to your best judgment. It is exciting to know you are going to produce it. October 15th is too long ahead for me to know what my pattern will be but I shall live in hope. The Bessens enjoyed meeting you and send their warmest greetings. And I, my love to you. Alice Gerstenberg [signed]."
Box 1, Folder 5

[Letter from Alice Gerstenberg to Vivian Tobin] 1971-01-12

Scope and Contents

Letter and envelope from Alice Gerstenberg [playwright of Alice in Wonderland on stage] to Mrs. Karl O. Van Hagen [married name of Vivian Tobin] post marked Jan 13th 1971. Address: 875 Comstock Ave Los Angeles, California 90024. Return address on envelope: Alice Gerstenberg 289 Stonybook Way Minneapolis, Minnesota 55432. Letter typed on Alice Gerstenberg's personal stationary. Letter transcription: Jan. 12, 1971 Dearest Vivian:
Last year I was grateful for your Christmas card and expected to write to you, but it was not an easy time for me; my heart sent me to the hospital and again this year. Now I have adjusted to being house bound on a routine of drugs, and am lucky enough to have the companionship and concern of loving relatives. It is a quiet and countrified suburb on the bank of the Mississippi river. At 85 I must be cheerful with the blessings I possess! You are just in my memories of exciting events; I can recall distinctly, your voice, your appearance; and how also, the critics all loved you as "Alice." By the way, the acting version is still being played here and there, and the publication is sold by the publisher (now merged) and called – David McKay Co. 750 Third Ave. New York, N.Y. 10017 It contains my preface and original cast. Theatre to-day is not the kind we knew! I suppose you've been interested in your local performances. But your family happiness is the most important matter! Blessings for you and your husband, dear Vivian, and thank you eternally! Alice
Box 1, Folder 6

[New Year's card from Alice Gerstenberg to Vivian Tobin] undated

Language of Material: English.

Scope and Contents

Undated printed card from Alice Gerstenberg. Transcription: [Printed text] A Happy New Year: May every moment of the New Year be filled with happiness [Handwritten text]: "Alice Gerstenberg (recovering from grip)"
Box 1, Folder 7

[Release to perform "Alice in Wonderland" by the Nine O'Clock Players] [1952]

Scope and Contents

Release of the rights from publisher Longmans, Green & Co., Inc., to the Nine O'Clock Players of the Assistance League of Southern California to produce eight amateur performances of "Alice in Wonderland" in October-November, 1952.


Box 1, Folder 8



[Photocopy of "Alice and Wonderland" program, Booth Theatre's] 1915

Scope and Contents

Photocopy of the cover of the program from The Booth Theatre's production of "Alice in Wonderland," which opened March 23, 1915, with Tobin playing Alice.

Alice in Wonderland will be produced at The Fine Arts Theatre Beginning Wednesday, February 10 ... [advertisement] [1915]

Scope and Contents

A flyer advertising the play "Alice in Wonderland" at The Fine Arts Theatre, with Alice played by Vivian Tobin. Removed from a scrapbook, with three snapshots of unidentified women and girls (circa 1910s) pasted on the verso.

Alice in Wonderland, Fine Arts Theatre [program] 1915

Scope and Contents

"Alice in Wonderland" program from the Fine Arts Theatre. Premiered February 10th, 1915. Removed from a scrapbook.
Box 1, Folder 9

[Vivian Tobin calling card]

Box 1, Folder 10-11


Scope and Contents

Newspaper clippings chiefly of reviews of the 1915 Alice in Wonderland production and articles about Vivian Tobin in the role of Alice.



Alice in Wonderland production photographs

Scope and Contents

This series consists of eight black-and-white performance photographs from the play "Alice in Wonderland" depicting Vivian Tobin with other cast. There is one framed photograph by Victor Georg (16 1/2 x 20" without frame); all of the other photographs are credited to "White, N.Y." and have the handwritten note on verso: "Return to Alice Gerstenberg." Photograph dimensions chiefly about 10 x 13 inches.
Box 2, Folder 1

[Photograph of the trial scene, with the King and Queen seated by White, N.Y.] 1915

Scope and Contents

Handwritten title on verso: "Act III, Scene 2. The trial scene in the Court of Hearts."
Box 2, Folder 2

[Photograph of Alice in the room with doors by White, N.Y.] 1915

Scope and Contents

Handwritten title on verso: "Act I, Scene 3. The room with doors."
Box 2, Folder 3

[Photograph of caterpillar scene by White, N.Y.] 1915

Scope and Contents

Handwritten title on verso: "Act III, Scene 1. The Garden of Flowers."
Box 2, Folder 4

[Photograph of Alice, Gryphon, and Mock Turtle by White, N.Y.] 1915

Scope and Contents

Handwritten title on verso: "Act I, Scene 4. The sea-shore in a weird green light."
Box 2, Folder 5

[Photograph of Alice stepping through the looking-glass by White, N.Y.] 1915

Scope and Contents

Handwritten title on verso: "The room in the Looking Glass, Alice: 'I'm going through'!!"
Box 2, Folder 6

[Photograph of Alice approaching the Duchess' house by White N.Y.] 1915

Scope and Contents

Handwritten title on verso: "Act II The March Hare's Garden. The Duchess' house in the March Hare's garden."
Box 2, Folder 7

[Photograph of the Mad Tea Party by White, N.Y.] 1915

Scope and Contents

Handwritten note on verso: "Act II. The famous tea-party in the March Hare's Garden."
Box 2, Folder 8

[Framed photograph of the White Rabbit and Alice by Victor Georg] 1915

Box 1, Box 14

Proof copies of photographs


Portraits of Vivian Tobin

Box 1, Folder 12

[Photograph of Vivian Tobin reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland] approximately 1915

Scope and Contents

Date and photographer unknown.
Box 1, Folder 13

[Portrait of Vivian Tobin by Victor Georg] 1915