Samuel French, our namesake and founder, was born in Massachusetts in the early 19th Century. He began publishing French’s American Drama in the mid 1800’s in New York, which quickly became the most extensive and widely distributed catalogue in the US. Soon after, French acquired a London dramatic publishing company that was originally founded by Thomas Hailes Lacey. The business continued to flourish on both sides of the Atlantic with 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, Inc. began publishing contemporary American dramas which encouraged the growth of the amateur theatre movement by making more plays available to “Little Theatres”. As the quality and quantity of available plays improved, the number of amateur groups increased. The seeds of the “Little Theatre” movement were sown, and Samuel French, Inc. was a proud contributor. By WW1, these “Little Theatre” 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 massive growth in its catalogue and business. During this time, the Stock companies, including the League of Regional Theatres, were flourishing in the theatre community. The “Little Theatres” continued their growth alongside the developing “Dinner Theatre” which proved to be increasingly more popular. From the mid 90’s to the present, the Samuel French catalogue grew with an increased focus on emerging playwrights carefully balanced with additional acquisitions of the most prominent American and British playwrights such as Neil Simon, Tom Stoppard, Edward Albee, August Wilson and David Mamet.
To this day, we strive to cultivate and expand our catalogue in ways that meet the artistic needs of all of our theatres. We continue to be ever mindful of how our history has shaped not only our company, but the theatrical industry as a whole.