1 Janet King Lyle ( ) Papers, Doc 437, MSA 197 and MSA 321 Introduction Janet King Lyle ( ) was a New York City stage and radio actress, a playwright, and a poet. She used the name Janet Merle on the stage and in her writing. Between 1918 and 1926, Lyle and her husband, John Geddes Lyle, spent their summers touring Vermont with the Nellie Gill Players, a Rutland based stock company. In 1959, Janet Lyle joined her friend Nellie Gill in Montpelier where she lived until her death in The Janet Lyle papers consist of her writing, both published and unpublished works, theater programs, and photographs. The papers were given to the Vermont Historical Society in 1997 by James Facos (ms.acc.no. 97.9). Additional gifts were made in 2001 and 2002 by Facos, Charlotte Gibson (ms.acc.no ), and Naomi Paganelli (2004.1). The collection occupies 2 linear feet of shelf space. Provenance Janet Lyle gave her papers to Robert Jackman of Montpelier who shared her interest in the theater. After Jackman s death in 1997, his widow gave the papers to James Facos, also of Montpelier. Facos, a retired teacher, poet and novelist, became acquainted with Lyle in 1959 and both shared an interest in drama and poetry. Facos gave the papers to the VHS in Biographical Sketch Janet King Lyle was born in San Francisco on May 29, She documents her vivid recollection of the San Francisco earthquake in her essay, As a child saw the earthquake and fire, April 18, In 1918 she married (John) Geddes Lyle, a musician and actor, and they moved to New York City to pursue theatrical careers. In addition to writing for vaudeville, they also acted and studied acting. John Lyle wrote and acted under the name of Jack or Geddes Lyle. The Lyles only child, Janet, died at age 7. John Lyle died April 10, In her correspondence, donor Naomi Paganelli writes that her uncle, Percy Scammon, a Nellie Gill player, had a long-time relationship with Janet Lyle following her permanent separation from her husband Jack Lyle. She adds that Scammon died in 1941 at about 63. The Lyles joined William Henry and his wife, Nellie Gill, whose stock company, the Nellie Gill Players, toured Vermont in the summers between 1914 and Henry
2 Janet King Lyle Papers 2 and Gill bought a house in Plainfield where they retired in After Henry s death in 1954, Gill moved to Montpelier. Janet Lyle joined Gill in Montpelier in Gill died in During her last years, when she was legally blind, Lyle lived at the Berlin (Vt.) Convalescent Center. In 1986 (?), Robert Jackman, a Montpelier friend and amateur theatrical producer, used Lyle s sketch, As It Was, in a Montpelier production of the revue Two on the Aisle. Jackman recorded an interview with Lyle and a reading of her poetry in On a second cassette, he recorded himself reading Lyle s poem Christmas Eve Callers. Janet Lyle died July 24, Lyle s life is well-documented; the collection includes her personal reminiscences and interviews as well as newspaper articles about her (Doc 437, Folders 0 and 1). Her history of the Nellie Gill Players was published in the Rural Vermonter (MSA 185:7). Scope and Content The Janet Lyle Papers is a collection of letters, notebooks, miscellaneous manuscripts, playbills and photographs, which reflect Lyle s life as an actress and writer in New York City and in Vermont. The papers consist in large part of Lyle s manuscripts: radio and stage dramas, short stories and poetry. The collection includes as well a handwritten manuscript of her autobiographical recollection of the San Francisco earthquake, As a child saw the earthquake and fire, April 18, The history of the Nellie Gill Players, a Vermont based summer stock company with whom Lyle was associated from 1920 to 1926, is documented in the collection. The latter is comprised of Lyle s Saga of the Nellie Gill Players which was published in the Rural Vermonter in 1964, as well as playbills for the seasons, and photographs of Nellie Gill Players productions ca The collection reflects Lyle s professional life not only in the newspaper articles by and about her, but also in the collection of 1920s playbills when she was regularly appearing on the stage in New York City area. Lyle s personal interests in poetry, dogs and earthquakes are reflected in the newspaper clippings she collected on those subjects. Photographs in the collection include: Janet Lyle both as a young woman and in her later years; her husband, Geddes Lyle; her close friend, Percy Scammon; Nellie Gill and her husband, William Henry; and the Lyles friends and colleagues in Nellie Gill Players productions.
3 Janet King Lyle Papers 3 Related Collections A typescript of Janet Lyle s essay, As a child saw the earthquake and fire, April 18, 1906, is in the VHS s manuscript collection (MS M547). Lyle s history of the Nellie Gill Players, Saga of the Nellie Gill Players, Vermont s first stock company, was published in the Rural Vermonter 2 (1964), pp (VHS X R88 v.2). Playbills for the Nellie Gill Players can be found in the VHS broadside collection under Small Broadsides Theater - Plainfield. Green Mountain Chronicles Oral History Transcriptions (MSA 200:35) includes an interview with Marjorie Townsend that mentions the Nellie Gill Players. Organization Inventory The Janet Lyle Papers are organized in four series: I. Janet Lyle, her life and work II. Nellie Gill Players ( ) III. Nellie Gill (d. 1962) and William Henry (d. 1954) IV. Other friends I. Janet Lyle: life and writing Doc 437:1 Biographical 1A Letters, Letters to, ca Notebooks 4 Essay: As a child saw the earthquake, manuscript and typescript, date? 5 Drama: As it was, date? 6, Children of ours, written by John G. Lyle and Janet Merle, date? 7, 8, 9, 9A, Home rule or Children of ours, a playlet by John G. Lyle, date? 10 Radio serial: Paying ghosts, manuscript of, synopsis, etc., date? 11,, Episode 1 12,, 13,, 14,, 15,, Episode 2 16,, 17,, Doc 437:18,, Episodes 3 & 4
4 Janet King Lyle Papers 4 19,, Episodes 5 & 6 20,, Episode 7 21,, Misc. pages 21A,, transcription from disintegrating paper 21B,, 22 Drama: She wanted a liar, , The truth of it, date? 24 Short story, Best laid schemes or A good sport, manuscript, date? 25, My psychotic Scottie, date? 26, One night in October, manuscript, date? 27, Perfume and Blood, published in Breezy Stories, June 1923, pp , Skeleton s bracelet, date?, (two versions in typescript) 29, Who told Nora Shannon?, date? 30 Poetry, unpublished, ca s, and undated 31 Poetry, published, Playbills, , Silver Theater, Waterville, Maine, Dec , Fulton Theater (Brooklyn, NY.), July 18, Nov. 26, , Rialto Theater, Hoboken, N.J., Oct March , Lyceum Theater, Patterson, N.J., Oct April , Rivera Theater, Brooklyn, N.Y.(?), Dec April , Mineola Theater, Mineola, L.I., June - August , Al Fresco, Long Beach, L.I., Summer, , Old Rialto Theatre Guild, Hoboken, N.J., February and March Playbills, Plainfield (Vt.), Little Theater, August , Nellie Gill one-act play festival, Woodstock, Vt., July 9, , Hudson Theatre, Union, N.J., undated 43A, miscellaneous MSA 321:1 Reviews, telegrams Doc 437:44 Janet Merle and Jack Lyle, stationery 45 San Francisco, miscellaneous, , earthquake, clippings, ,,,, 65th anniversary, California earthquake, clippings, Feb Vermont earthquake, clippings, April 1962 MSA 197:1 Poetry (collected by Janet Lyle), undated 2 Clippings (collected by Janet Lyle), MSA 321:2 Photographs, Janet Lyle, MSA 197:3,, , dogs, undated 5, miscellaneous, ca , unidentified MSA 321:3 Postcards, undated
5 Janet King Lyle Papers 5 MSA 197:6A Two audiocassette tapes, Robert Jackman interviewing Lyle and Jackman reading her poetry, Miscellaneous II. Nellie Gill Players ( ) MSA 197:8 History, Playbills, 1920, Photographs, (John) Geddes Lyle, undated 10A, Percival (Percy) (Perce) R. Scammon, undated 11, William Henry, undated 12, Adam and Eva, undated 13, Her husband s wife, ca , Nothing but lies and The Copperhead, undated 15, Smiling Thru, ca , Wedding bells, undated 16A, The Nellie Gill Players, Stowe, Vt., , unidentified, undated 18,, 19 Black and white slides, unidentified and undated Lantern slide, She Came Back, undated MSA 321:4 Nellie Gill Players, scrapbook ca s 5, Tea for Three, script , or Three is a Crowd, parts (handwritten), date? III. Nellie Gill (d. 1962) and William Henry (d. 1954) 20 Nellie Gill estate, probate notice, July 16, , writing case 22 Nellie Gill and William Henry, letters, 1939 IV. Other friends of Janet Lyle 23 Ruth Woodbury Camp, poetry, James Facos, poetry, undated Priscilla Page December 1997 Revised May 2003 Revised April 2004