When did the theatre industry move from hemp to counterweights? Who invented the sophisticated automatic release system for fire curtains? What did the first computerized rigging control system look like?
These and many other questions are answered in the catalogs of rigging products published by J. R. Clancy, Inc., throughout its 125-year history. Members of USITT soon will be able to see digital files of every page of these catalogs, beginning with the first catalog in 1886.
In celebration of J.R. Clancy's 125th anniversary year, the company has scanned and digitized all the pages and cover of every catalog. J. R. Clancy has provided access to these digital files to USITT in acknowledgement of the company's 45-plus years as a member of this organization. These files are available to educators, students, faculty members and other researchers with a serious interest in the history of rigging equipment or in. J. R. Clancy.
“The catalogs do more than illustrate a slice of history,” said Tom Young, vice president of marketing for J. R. Clancy. “They also mirror the story of the entertainment industry's growth and development against a backdrop of American experience. In good times and bad, live theatre has always continued to thrive—and J. R. Clancy led the industry in technical innovation from John Clancy's first inventions, way back in the 1880s.”
Researchers now can see the progression of stage rigging from the first movable head and loft blocks to the introduction of the first SceneControl motorized rigging system and controller—an innovation that dates back to the 1960s. In between, changes in manufacturing processes and materials gave us many of the hardware items still used in rigging today: steel stage screw eyes, brace hooks and sheaves, for example, which replaced the original cast-iron models John Clancy designed in 1882.
“As we work to preserve the history of theatre production, this gift is just huge,” said David Grindle, USITT executive director. “We never imagined that the 1886 catalog and others from that era actually existed. The J. R. Clancy catalogs are a resource that has never been explored. Now we can see that the history of theatre design goes hand in glove with the development of technology, and we can see what has not changed in 125 years as well. This is very exciting for researchers, faculty members, doctoral candidates and anyone else with an interest in theatre technology.”
The catalog files will be available soon on the USITT member website as a benefit of membership, Grindle said. “Researchers who are not members can contact us, and we will get them access to copies as well,” he said.
“J. R. Clancy is a longtime member of USITT, and this gift shows how the company gives back to the industry,” Grindle added. “They've used USITT as a resource through which to share information, taking our full mission to heart for the good of everyone.”
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