Portsmouth Theater Company, 1903-1945 – MS119

Portsmouth Theater Company, 1903-1945 – MS119

Provenance: Gift of Hartford Estate

Citation: Portsmouth Theater Company Collection (MS119), Manuscript Collections, Portsmouth Athenaeum

Size: 1 Hollinger box (.5 linear feet)

Access: No restrictions

Processed by: Susan Stowe Kindstedt, 2016

Scope and Content

Collection includes records of the Portsmouth Theater Company, later the Portsmouth Music Hall on Chestnut Street. Records date from 1903 to 1945 during the Hartford Family’s involvement with the building and came with the MS118, Hartford Family Papers. The records include Meeting Minutes and Financial Records including Insurance policies, requests to use building, invoices for maintenance, etc. There are two undated oversized drawings of the seating inside the Hall.

Historical Note

The present day Portsmouth Music Hall, was previously known as the Portsmouth Theater Company. The theater building stands on the site of “The Temple,” a Baptist Meeting House which had been built in 1806 on the site of the former Alms House and prison. The present Music Hall building was built after The Temple was destroyed by fire in 1876.

According to the 2003 “The Music Hall, Portsmouth,” by Zhana Morris and Trevor F. Bartlett, “The driving force behind the early years of the Music Hall was a man named Fernando W. Hartford. His first connection to the Music Hall was as manager, initially under the Peirce Family and then under his good friend Frank Jones, the beer mogul who owned the theater in the last few years of his life. Hartford would also become the owner of the Portsmouth Herald and seven-time mayor, in addition to purchasing the building upon Jones’s death.” Justin D. Hartford, the son of F. W. Hartford, also served as the President of the Portsmouth Theater Company.

After a period of declining use, the building was purchased in 1945 at auction by Guy Tott of Kittery, Maine. The Music Hall was used primarily for lectures until the 1960s when the Hall was leased as a movie theater by E. M. Loew, who also operated The Colonial Theater in Market Square. In the 1980s The Music Hall was once again sold at auction and reopened as a non-profit center for the performing arts.


Morris, Zhana and Trevor F. Bartlett, The Music Hall, Portsmouth, Arcadia Publishing, 2003.

History of the Music Hall, http://www.themusichall.org/about_us/history


Folder Listing

Box 1

Folder 1 Portsmouth Theater Company, Mortgage with The Portsmouth Trust and Guarantee Company, 1903

Folder 2 Portsmouth Theater Company, Meeting Minutes Record Book, 1903-1945

Folder 3 Portsmouth Theater Company, Capital Stock Certificate Book, F. W. Hartford is the first share, dated 1903-1939

Folder 4 Portsmouth Theater Company, Cash Book, 1915-1945

Folder 5 Portsmouth Theater Company, Financial Summary, 1916-1933

Folder 6 Portsmouth Theater Company, Check Register, 1916-1949

Folder 7 Portsmouth Theater Company, Return of Capital Stocks, 1918-1933

Folder 8 Portsmouth Theater Company, Return of Capital Stocks, 1934-1944

Folder 9 Portsmouth Theater Company, Financial Materials, 1941

Folder 10 Portsmouth Theater Company, Financial Materials, 1942

Folder 11 Portsmouth Theater Company, Financial Materials, 1943

Folder 12 Portsmouth Theater Company, Financial Materials, 1944

Folder 13 Portsmouth Theater Company, Financial Materials, 1945

Folder 14 Portsmouth Theater Company, Financial Materials and 1943 Lease to The Fairman Players, Misc.

Folder 15 Portsmouth Theater Company, Liquidation Documents, 1945

Oversize Box 4 Folder 14 Tax Returns, 1937-1944

Oversize Box 4 Folder 14 Theater Seating Plan, undated (3 copies of varying size)