Henderson Stock Company records Edit


MSS 289 large


  • 1900-1951 (Creation)


  • 10.3 Linear Feet (Whole)
    11 boxes



  • Conditions Governing Access

    The collection is open for research.

  • Conditions Governing Access

    The material is stored offsite in Remote Storage. Please contact Special Collections 3 working days in advance if you wish to use it.

  • Conditions Governing Use

    Copyright is retained by the author of the items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

  • Preferred Citation

    Item, Folder number and/or title, Box number, Henderson Stock Company records, MSS 289, Special Collections, MSU Libraries, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.

  • Immediate Source of Acquisition

    After Harold Rosier’s death, his widow Waunetta Rosier Oleferchik donated to Michigan State University a large collection, comprising not only the Henderson Stock Company materials, but also a trove of scrap books on the Henderson Stock Company, The Rosier Players and other theatre troupes as well as videotapes of productions, a theatre curtain, and her husband’s musical saw and his “chalk talk” boxes. These additional items are available for viewing and research through the MSU Museum’s Michigan Traditional Arts Program.

    A copy of Waunetta’s memoirs of her life in a traveling troupe, entitled I Always Said Goodnight, can be found in both collections, as can copies of the large collection of typed scripts.

    Received in 1985

  • Processing Information

    Collection was processed by Anne-Marie Rachman, MSU Special Collections, Spring 2007.

  • Biographical / Historical

    Richard Henderson (1876 – 1935) of Mason, Michigan, was the founder of the longest running traveling repertory theatre company. His father, Wade J. Henderson, owned a photography studio, had served as an advance man for touring companies, and encouraged his son in acting. According to a playbill in this collection, at age six Richard Henderson was touted as “the most wonderful child in the world . . . who recites Shakespeare and other difficult selections with all the embellishments of a polished elocutionist.” In 1898 he founded the Henderson Stock Company in Otsego, Michigan and toured theatres and opera houses throughout the mid-west and the east coast. He was highly regarded as a performer. As historian Dawn Nicely writes, “The Henderson company maintained a high level of professionalism, preferring to present only legitimate theatre, not Toby or parody of melodrama, a then popular art form.” Henderson was particularly admired by other actors for playing Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde: “ . . .when Jekyll began the transformation into Hyde, Henderson would turn away from the audience, put in fake teeth and muss his hair . . . he wore two little dots of black grease paint near the inside corners of his eyes that, while turned away, he would smear under his eyes to give his eyes a sinister, sunken look. According to Harold’s story, when Henderson quietly turned and gazed out into the house, the effect was so frightening that people would nearly faint.” (quoted from Dawn Nicely, citation below).

    Henderson was married twice, both times to actresses in the company, but had no children with either wife. Details of his first marriage to actress Edith Prettyman are scant but a note in the collection (Box 2, Folder 2) indicates she left him sometime between 1901 and her death in 1908. His marriage to Fannie Henderson lasted from 1912 or 1914 (sources differ) until his own death from a heart attack in 1935. His wife continued to run the show until 1937, when she sold it to Harold Rosier and Waunetta Rosier Oleferchik, two young actors in the company, also from Michigan. Fannie Henderson continued acting with the troupe until 1940. The Rosiers, who renamed the company The Rosier Players, directed the rep company through the war years and into the 1950’s. In 1966 they bought the Collier Show, a tent show complete with trucks, chairs, scenery, props, scripts and a tent trailer, and began to travel sometimes with the tent, keeping The Rosier Players as their name and featuring “Toby shows”. Eventually they donated the show to Jackson Community College after collaborating with them on summer productions throughout the 1970’s. Even after Harold Rosier’s death in 1980, in the middle of a show, Waunetta worked with the college troupe until JCC discontinued the program in 1991 and put the show’s equipment in storage. The show was later bought by theatre historian and director, Dawn Larsen Nicely, who has continued the tent tradition with her company, The Hard Corn Players, in Tennessee.

  • Scope and Contents

    The Henderson Stock Company was the longest running traveling repertory theatre company in Michigan. Founded in Otsego, Michigan in 1898 by Richard Henderson, the company toured theatres and opera houses throughout the mid-west and the east coast until 1991. Spanning the late 1890's to the 1950's, the collection consists of over 200 photographs, theatre business papers, account books, some personal correspondence, a memoir, some original handwritten scripts and over 230 copies of typed scripts (circa 1920's). It also includes Henderson's personal address book and a type-block for printing show tickets. The collection provides an informed sense of the vanished art form that was the small-town traveling acting troupe.

  • Bibliography

    References: Henderson Stock Company collection materials, Michigan State University Special Collections.

    Ingham County Democrat (MI newspaper), July 15, 1908 (death notice for Edith Prettyman).

    Nicely, Dawn Larsen, “Corn Under Canvas: Reconstructing Toby Shows in Tennessee.” (1999) As viewed at: http://www2.volstate.edu/tobyshow/diss%201hist.htm on 5/2/07.

    Oleferchik, Waunetta Rosier. I Always Said Goodnight. Edited by William L. Slout (1988).

  • Arrangement

    The collection is arranged in Collection is in four series: Series One: Photographs; Series Two: Account books, correspondence and other writings; Series Three: Dramatic Scripts; and Series Four: Oversized/Fragile Items

  • Separated Materials

    3-dimensional and audiovisual materials are housed in MSU Museum. Please contact them for more information.

  • General

    MSU: Gift of Russel B. Nye (1971).

  • Variant Title

    Henderson Stock Company archives