Margaret Armstrong Binding Artist

During the fall of 2012, Special Collections & Archives mounted an exhibition celebrating the career of American book artist and author Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944) who worked in the medium of publishers’ bindings, designing book covers and “decorating” texts from 1890 through 1926. Armstrong began her thirty-year freelance career by creating covers for the McClurg Publishing Company in about 1890. Later in the 1890s, she began working for a variety of publishers including Scribner, a company for whom she designed half of her total output of more than 300 bindings between1890 and1940. Armstrong’s bindings and illustrations are usually identifiable by her monogram, “MA.”

The George Mason University Libraries contains fifty of Margaret Armstrong’s bindings, novels, and even her guide to western wild flowers.


An example of Armstrong’s illustrations may be found in Paul Leicester "Ford’s Love Finds the Way" (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1904), in which Armstrong decorates the text by surrounding it with flowers that differ in kind from page to page. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.



Armstrong created a number of series of book cover designs such as a series for author Henry Van Dyke, represented here by his book, "Days off, and Other Digressions," (New York : C. Scribner’s Sons, 1908). Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

The Margaret Armstrong books are part of a larger collection of decorated and signed bindings donated to George Mason University by Wendi D. Slagle.

Federal Theatre Project personal papers

A number of personal collections related to the Federal Theatre Project are now processed and finding aids are available online.  The J. Howard Miller papers include custom-made  scrapbooks bound by the Milwaukee Handicraft Project, part of the Works Progress Administration of Wisconsin. Inside the scrapbooks are programs, photographs, posters, flyers, and newspaper clippings. Miller was an actor and stage manager, and he worked with the Federal Theatre Project as an assistant to Hallie Flanagan, as the Regional Director in the west, and later as the Deputy National Director.

Two scrapbooks from the J. Howard Miller papers. The one on the left features photographs and promotional flyers for a production of Alice in Wonderland performed at the Savoy Theatre in San Diego. J. Howard Miller papers C0228, Box 1. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

More recently added collections include:

Arnold Sundgaard papers

Sundgaard worked for the Chicago Federal Theatre Project and is best known as the writer of the Living Newspaper production Spirochete. He worked with the FTP from 1936 to 1938 as an author and play reader, after which he made a living as a writer. This collection is larger than many of the other FTP personal gift collections and includes materials that span Sundgaard’s career as an author. He is the author of plays, articles for the New Yorker and Atlantic magazines, children’s books, and various music and lyrics.

Theodore Browne papers

Originally from Suffolk, Virginia, Browne joined the Federal Theatre Project in Seattle, Washington. In Seattle, he worked with the Civic Repertory Theatre, a community theater group that would become the Seattle Negro Unit of the Works Progress Administration in 1936. The unit produced four plays written by Brown including Lysistrata of Aristophanes, A Black Woman called Moses, Swing, and Natural Man.

Eda Edson papers

Eda Edson directed the Los Angeles Federal Theatre Project variety unit’s productions Follow the Parade and The Black Crook.

Ben Russak papers

The Ben Russak papers is a collection of Federal Theatre Project and Federal Writers’ Project material collected by Ben Russak from 1935 to 1942. The papers include playscripts and publications created by the Federal Theatre Project, as well as pamphlets and collections of folklore material created by the Federal Writers’ Project.

Southwestern folk history (Oklahoma), May 27, 1939 (box 3, folder 7) and Nebraska folklore: Animal legends, August 1, 1937 (box 4, folder 8), Ben Russak papers C0221, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

Kate Lawson papers

The Kate Lawson papers includes newspaper clippings and press releases on Federal Theatre Project productions, FTP administrative correspondence including job descriptions, memorandums on employee reclassification, complaints from employees and audience survey questionnaires, research lists, production records, and personal correspondence.

Louis Simon papers

Louis M. Simon worked for the Federal Theatre Project as New Jersey State Director and later as Production Director in New York State. The Louis Simon papers contains newspaper clippings, photographs, programs, and correspondence relating to Federal Theatre in New Jersey and New York.