Skip to main content

Burlington Neighbors Club and Shakespeare Club Records

Identifier: mss-337

Scope and Contents

The collection contains documentation of this social group in the form of record books; membership lists; meeting records; custom-printed programs or playbills for readings including play title, date, cast, and location; two constitutions; member booklets showing schedules, members, rules, and history; rosters; one script; a few pieces of correspondence; and a few financial records.

A larger volume of material exists under the heading Neighbors Club than Shakespeare Club simply because the name Neighbors Club was used for a longer period of time. Note that the contemporary spelling of Shakespeare as Shakspeare is used in this collection as appropriate for material from the mid-to-late-19th century.

The collection is arranged chronologically.


  • 1871-1973


Publication Rights

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Historical Note

The Burlington Shakespeare Club was founded in 1869 "to promote social intercourse, and provide intellectual entertainment" in the form of staged readings of abridged versions of Shakespeare's plays. Membership was by family and hosting duties (including providing dinner, choosing the play, assigning roles, and determining what portions would be read or cut) rotated. By 1890, the name had changed to The Neighbors Club, apparently since many members at that time lived close to each other in Burlington's affluent Hill Section. Gatherings were held as often as every two weeks. Members included many people with affiliations to the University of Vermont (as faculty or president), lawyers, judges, doctors, clergy, and people from the business world. Key figures at its founding were UVM President James B, Angell (club president) and the Burlington lawyer Charles E. Allen (secretary).

Reverend Edward H. Griffin was a pastor of the First Congregational Church (1868-1872) and active member of the pioneer Shakspeare Club at the same time. Various club members were also members of this church. According to an account in The Hundredth Anniversary of the Founding of the First Church, Burlington, the pastor was forced out of the club by "two saintly women" who believed that he was setting the wrong example to church goers by being an active member of this recreational club. Reverend Griffin’s response was radical: he left Burlington’s First Church and instead worked as a professor. This account offers one of the few opportunities to understand how the group interacted with "outsiders" beyond the boundaries of their regular meeting places. It should be noted that since its very beginnings as they are documented in this collection, distinguished clergymen were members: in April of 1870, a reverend and theologian hosted one of the readings.

To a lesser degree, the collection shows social links in the community and cultural change over time through the plays selected, members included, and internal regulations. The rich variety of plays read through time reveals a taste for the classics, but a great curiosity for exploration of trends beyond theater written for the English speakers. We see the group reading French surrealist plays, adaptations of novels by Swedish writers, etc. Later, meetings were expanded to include lectures or discussions; some meetings included music or slide shows.

Member Lyman Allen wrote a "History of the Neighbors" which is housed between pages 44 and 45 of the club’s last record book. This copy is dated 1940, was specially written for the group’s celebration of its 50th anniversary. The sketch explains that The Neighbors was an offshoot of the Shakspeare Club which had dissolved because some members could not afford entertaining the reading group with "elaborate suppers." Dr. Allen traces the founding of The Neighbors, back to 1890 and contains information about the club’s early and prestigious membership. It also discussed the club’s motto, its rules, and its various activities including the relationship with area libraries. Since 1914, the club’s growing library was being kept at the Fletcher Free Library where use was strictly reserved to active Neighbors members. However, later documents, also held in this collection, show that The Neighbors gave copies of the plays they read both to the University of Vermont and Champlain College. In Dr. Allen’s text highlights the fact that membership to the club was a family affair. The continuity of the club’s life was to be assured by new generations of the same family. One notes that the last handwritten records added in 1973 were signed by the Club’s secretary then, Elizabeth Allen (1901-1986), who was Lyman Allen’s daughter, and Charles E. Allen granddaughter. The related membership provided clear proof that strong family ties were essential to the healthy continuance of the club’s social identity.

List of members: Miss Abbott; F.D. Abernethy; J.W. Abernethy; Dr. B.D. Adams; Reverend C.C. Adams; Dr. Robert F. Aiken; Robert F. Aiken, Jr.; Professor W.E. Aiken; Charles E. Allen; Elizabeth Allen; Florence L. Allen; Dr. Lyman Allen; Karl A. Andrén; James B. Angell; John A. Arthur; Mary E. Arthur; Reverend G. Glenn Atkins; Edward R. Atwill; Dr. W.L. Aycock; Dr. Robert S. Babcock; President Guy W. Bailey; Professor Betty Bandel; J. Henderson Barr; Professor S.E. Bassett; T.D. Seymour Bassett; Mrs. Barbara P. Bausch; B. Lincoln Benedict; Mrs. Edward Benedict; G. Grenville Benedict; J.D. Benedict; Mary F. Benedict; Mrs. R.D. Benedict; President Guy P. Benton; Miss Bigelow; Elizabeth Bigelow; Professor Samuel N. Bogorad; M.K. Bowers; Mrs. Vail Braine; Mrs. Cyril de Cordova Brower; Duncan F. Brown; Dr. William E. Brown; Matthew Henry Buckham; Miss Buckham; V. Rhodes Bucklin, Jr.; Mrs. J.A. Bullard; Professor George H. Burrows; Mrs. O.A. Burton; Bruce B. Butterfield; The Right Reverend Harvey W. Butterfield; Phillips D. Carleton; Mrs. Daniel B. Carroll; Henry G. Catlin; Mrs. Wright Clark; Professor Francis Colburn; Peter Collier; Misses Converse; William S. Cowles, Jr.; Reverend James A. Dailey; Professor Robert V. Daniels; Judge C.H. Darling; Dr. Phillip H. Davis; Miss Dennison; A.S. Dewey; Henry L. Dodge; Luther C. Dodge; Mrs. Bennett C. Douglass; Albert R. Dow; Professor George Dykhuizen; Professor G.F. Eckhard; Dr. Winston M. Eddy; Leverett B. Englesby; Dr. W.H. Englesby; L.P. Evans, Jr. ; Professor Edward J. Feidner; John H. French; H.G. Fuller; Professor Thomas H. Geno; Professor Brady B. Gilleland; Professor John Ellsworth Goodrich; Frederick E. Gould; Harmon S. Graves; Miss Griffin; Reverend Ernest G. Guthrie; George I. Hagar; Henry H. Hagar; Lucia E. Hagar; Mary L. Hagar; Professor Robert W. Hall; Henry W. Haynes; William C. Henderson; Eleanor Hickok; Frank Hickok; Horatio Hickok; Constance Hickok; Harriet W. Hickok; Kate M. Hickok; Mary W. Hickok; The Honorable Philip H. Hoff; Margit [Mrs. Robert] Holzinger; Theo A. Hopkins; David W. Howe; George E. Howes; Professor Muriel J. Hughes; E.V. Hoyt; Reverend Edward Hungerford; Professor E.C. Jacobs; Professor Hovey Jordan; Miss Keeler; Dean George V. Kidder; Elbert T. Kimball; F.E. Kimball; Miss Lawrence; L.L. Lawrence; May W. Lemon; Mrs. William V. Linde; Dr. John E. Little; William M. Lockwood; Professor Eleanor M. Luse; Edward P. Lyman; Elias Lyman; Miss Lyman; Florence Lyman; Mrs. Frederick C. Marston; James W. Marvin; Spencer Marsh; J. Warren McClure; John H. McDonald; Miss Allan McIlvaine; Dr. R. James Mckay, Jr. ; L. Douglas Meredith; Professor J.T. Metcalf; Mrs. John B. Midworth; Professor C.W. Mixter; John G. Moody; S.C. Moore; Gertrude P. Morris; F.D. Mussey; Professor A.B. Myrick; Robert P. Northrop; Mary F. Norton; Professor M.B. Ogle; Malcolm S. Parker; Frederick S. Pease; Edward S. Peck; Professor George Henry Perkins; Dr. Henry F. Perkins; Mrs. James H. Perkins; Edward H. Phelps; Edward J. Phelps; Mrs. L.B. Platt; Louis Pollens; Professor J.E. Pooley; Professor Willard B. Pope; Colonel E. Henry Powell; Max L. Powell; Gertrude R. Powell; Thomas R. Powell; William S. Preston, Jr.; Dr. David Racusen; Reverend Joseph Reynolds; Louise H. Reynolds; Albert E. Richardson; Reverend G.L. Richardson; Daniel Roberts; Mary Roberts; Caroline M. Roberts; Mary Roberts [and family]; Robert Roberts; Professor Edward Robinson; Philip H. Rogers; Gilman B. Rood; President Lyman Rowell; Dr. G.M. Sabin; Edward Sanderson; Mrs. Carroll Schalk; Mrs. Erica Schalk; Fannie E. Shaw; Judge Henry B. Shaw; Horace B. Shaw, Jr. ; William G. Shaw; Professor Allison W. Slocum; Robert H. Slocum; Bradley B. Smalley; Reverend I.C. Smart; Bessie Smith; C.P. Smith; C.P. Smith, Jr.; Frederick P. Smith; George Dana Smith; Levi P. Smith; Levi P. Smith, Jr.; Dr. A. Bradley Soule; Gardner N. Soule; Miss Spear; Reverend Charles J. Staples; Charles H. Stevens; William Stoddard; Professor Elijah Swift; Harvey H. Talcott; Hayward S. Thompson; Richard B. Thurber; Henry A.P. Torrey; Lucy W. Torrey; Mary C. Torrey; Sarah P. Torrey; Professor Frederick Tupper, Jr.; Dr. M.C. Twitchell; Cornelia Underwood; Levi Underwood; Dr. Frederick William Van Buskirk; C.S. Van Patten; Elizabeth P. Van Patten; William J. Van Patten; Miss Vilas; Professor Josiah William Votey; Richard H. Wadhams; Mrs. George W. Wales; L.G. Ware; Mrs. W.L. Wasson; Philip K. Watson; Derick V. Webb; Dr. George Welsh; Constance R. Wheeler; Dr. John B. Wheeler; Mrs. James R. Wheeler; Rebecca Wheeler; Alfred C. Whiting; A. Lewis Whiting; Margaret Whiting; James G. Wolcott; John H. Worcester, Jr.


0.8 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



Collection consists of meeting minutes, member lists, letters playbills, financial receipts, and a group history documenting this theater group.

Physical Location

Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Guide to the Burlington Neighbors Club and Shakespeare Club Records
2018 July
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)