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									                             Janet King Lyle (1894-1986)
                                  Papers, 1920-1987
                            Doc 437, MSA 197 and MSA 321

Introduction

       Janet King Lyle (1894-1986) 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
1986.

       The Janet Lyle papers consist of her writing, both published and unpublished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. 2002.10), 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 1997.

Biographical Sketch

        Janet King Lyle was born in San Francisco on May 29, 1894. She documents her
vivid recollection of the San Francisco earthquake in her essay, As a child saw the
earthquake and fire, April 18, 1906.

        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, 1969.

       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 1928. Henry


                         Vermont Historical Society • Barre 05641-4209
Janet King Lyle Papers                                                                       2


and Gill bought a house in Plainfield where they retired in 1936. After Henry’s death in
1954, Gill moved to Montpelier.

        Janet Lyle joined Gill in Montpelier in 1959. Gill died in 1962. 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 1981. On a
second cassette, he recorded himself reading Lyle’s poem “Christmas Eve Callers”.
Janet Lyle died July 24, 1986.

        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, 1906.

         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 1920-1926 seasons, and
photographs of Nellie Gill Players’ productions ca. 1925.

       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.




                         Vermont Historical Society • Barre 05641-4209
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 979.46 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. 10-16 (VHS X974.30 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

       The Janet Lyle Papers are organized in four series:

       I. Janet Lyle, her life and work
       II. Nellie Gill Players (1914-1926)
       III. Nellie Gill (d. 1962) and William Henry (d. 1954)
       IV. Other friends

Inventory

I. Janet Lyle: life and writing

    Doc 437:1      Biographical
          1A       Letters, 1982-85
            2      Letters to, ca. 1970-84
            3      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

                         Vermont Historical Society • Barre 05641-4209
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, 1926
           23    _____, 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. 68-75
           28    _____, Skeleton’s bracelet, date?, (two versions in typescript)
           29    _____, Who told Nora Shannon?, date?
           30    Poetry, unpublished, ca. 1966-1980s, and undated
           31    Poetry, published, 1969-70
           32    Playbills, 1885-1932
           33    _____, Silver Theater, Waterville, Maine, Dec. 1926
           34    _____, Fulton Theater (Brooklyn, NY.), July 18, 1927 - Nov. 26, 1928
           35    _____, Rialto Theater, Hoboken, N.J., Oct. 1927 - March 1928
           36    _____, Lyceum Theater, Patterson, N.J., Oct. 1928 - April 1929
           37    _____, Rivera Theater, Brooklyn, N.Y.(?), Dec. 1928 - April 1929
           38    _____, Mineola Theater, Mineola, L.I., June - August 1929
           39    _____, Al Fresco, Long Beach, L.I., Summer, 1929
           40    _____, Old Rialto Theatre Guild, Hoboken, N.J., February and March
                     1930
           41    Playbills, Plainfield (Vt.), Little Theater, August 1949
           42    _____, Nellie Gill one-act play festival, Woodstock, Vt., July 9, 1960
           43    _____, Hudson Theatre, Union, N.J., undated
         43A     _____, miscellaneous 1922-29
   MSA 321:1     Reviews, telegrams 1929-32
   Doc 437:44    Janet Merle and Jack Lyle, stationery
           45    San Francisco, miscellaneous, 1937-76
           46    _____, earthquake, clippings, 1906
           47    _____, _____, _____, _____, 65th anniversary, 1971
           48    California earthquake, clippings, Feb. 1971
           49    Vermont earthquake, clippings, April 1962
   MSA 197:1     Poetry (collected by Janet Lyle), undated
            2    Clippings (collected by Janet Lyle), 1948-82
   MSA 321:2     Photographs, Janet Lyle, 1894-86
   MSA 197:3     _____, _____, 1927-1986
            4    _____, dogs, undated
            5    _____, miscellaneous, ca. 1890-1980
            6    _____, unidentified
   MSA 321:3     Postcards, undated


                         Vermont Historical Society • Barre 05641-4209
Janet King Lyle Papers                                                                    5


 MSA 197:6A       Two audiocassette tapes, Robert Jackman interviewing Lyle and
                     Jackman reading her poetry, 1981
             7    Miscellaneous

II. Nellie Gill Players (1914-1926)

   MSA 197:8      History, 1926-1964
           9      Playbills, 1920, 1924-26
          10      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. 1925
          14      _____, Nothing but lies and The Copperhead, undated
          15      _____, Smiling Thru, ca. 1925
          16      _____, Wedding bells, undated
        16A       _____, The Nellie Gill Players, Stowe, Vt., 1913
          17      _____, 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. 1920’s
           5      _____, Tea for Three, script 1924
           6      _____, _____ 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, 1963
            21    _____, writing case
            22    Nellie Gill and William Henry, letters, 1939

IV. Other friends of Janet Lyle

            23    Ruth Woodbury Camp, poetry, 1978-81
            24    James Facos, poetry, undated

                                                                              Priscilla Page
                                                                            December 1997
                                                                         Revised May 2003
                                                                         Revised April 2004




                         Vermont Historical Society • Barre 05641-4209

								
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