Samuel French was born in Massachusetts shortly after the turn of the 19th Century and began publishing French’s American Drama in the mid 1800’s in New York. It quickly became the most extensive and widely distributed catalogue in the US. French soon acquired a London dramatic publishing company, originally founded by Thomas Hailes Lacey, and continued to expand his business on both sides of the Atlantic - Samuel French managing the London business while his son, Thomas Henry, took control of the New York operations.
In the late 1800’s, Samuel French began publishing contemporary American dramas, and helped the amateur theatre movement by making more plays available to “Little Theatres” – a rewarding concept that had never before been done in the industry. By the turn of the century, amateur interest in acting had increased enormously. As the quality and quantity of available plays improved, so the number of amateur groups increased. The seeds of the Little Theatre movement were sown. By the time of the WW1, such groups along with the High School societies were the firm’s best customers. Although both father and son had long since passed away, the NY and London entities continued under the capable hands of their managing partners.
From the mid 1940’s to the early 90's, the company witnessed much growth in its catalogue and business. During this time, the Stock companies, including the League of Regional Theatres were flourishing; so too were the Little Theatres, and the development of the Dinner Theatre, which was proving increasingly popular. From the mid 90’s to the present, the Samuel French catalogue has grown substantially with a focus on emerging playwrights carefully balanced by additional acquisitions of the most prominent American and British playwrights such as Neil Simon, Tom Stoppard, Edward Albee, August Wilson and David Mamet to name but a few.
To this day we strive to cultivate and expand our catalogue to meet the artistic needs of all of our theatres, mindful of how our history has shaped not only our company, but the theatrical industry as a whole.