When the Abbey Theatre toured America in the year 1913, they looked upon it as a marketing opportunity to raise the profile of the theatre but also to raise funds for a Municipal Gallery of Modern Art (the Hugh Lane Gallery). Why? Lady Gregory, (Hugh Lane’s aunt) and W.B. Yeats were major supporters of Lane’s quest to find a permanent home for his Municipal Gallery. They were dismayed at the lack of popular support for the Gallery. Yeats went on to address this and other political issues in his seminal poem September 1913.
The linen handkerchief reads:
“Sold by the Irish Players at $1.00 towards a building to save Sir Hugh Lane’s great gift of Pictures for Ireland, April 1913”.
The handkerchief also depicts sketches of the Abbey Theatre company by John Butler Yeats, carried out in New York.
The Abbey Theatre traditionally embraced the ensemble stance, treating all actors equally. However it seems they embraced the American star mentality on this occasion. The handkerchief features the major stars of the day including J.M. Kerrigan, Sara Allgood, Eithne Magee, Sydney J. Morgan, J. A. O’Rourke, Udolphus Wright and Fred O’Donovan.
This particular handkerchief survived the Abbey Theatre fires of 1951 but did not escape unscathed.