Collection F01661 - Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel collection

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Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel collection

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  • Graphic material

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  • 1925 (Creation)
    Rothafel, Samuel Lionel "Roxy"

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Physical description

64 photographs : sepia, 3 p.

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Name of creator

(9 Jul. 1882-13 Jan. 1936)

Biographical history

Samuel Lionel "Roxy" Rothafel (July 9, 1882 – January 13, 1936) was an American theatrical impresario and entrepreneur. He is noted for developing the lavish presentation of silent films in the deluxe movie palace theaters of the 1910s and 1920s.

Rothafel (originally Rothapfel) was born in Bromberg, Province of Posen, Prussia, Germany (now Bydgoszcz, Poland), the son of Cecelia (née Schwerzens) and Gustav Rothapfel. In 1886, at the age of three, with his mother, he boarded the SS Rugia, sailing from Hamburg, and then arriving at the Port of New York, May 24, 1886, before moving to Stillwater, Minnesota. Best known by his nickname, "Roxy", he was the impresario who brought the great New York City movie palaces that he managed to fame and popular success.

He began his show business career in Forest City, Pennsylvania, where he created the "Family Theater", a combination cinema and skating rink. In 1912 he came to New York City, where he would achieve his greatest successes. In New York at different times he managed and produced shows at the Regent, Strand, Rialto, Rivoli, and Capitol theaters.

His greatest achievement was his eponymous Roxy Theatre at Times Square which opened March 11, 1927. He later opened the Radio City Music Hall and the RKO Roxy (later the Center Theatre) in 1932, his last theatrical project. The Music Hall featured the precision dance troupe the Roxyettes (later renamed The Rockettes), which Rothafel brought with him from the Roxy Theatre.

Rothafel also made a name for himself on network radio, where he began broadcasting in mid-November 1922. Through 1925, live broadcasts of his weekly variety show Roxy and His Gang from the Capitol Theatre in New York became increasingly popular. One estimate from 1924 placed his typical radio audience at about five million listeners, and he was said to receive thousands of pieces of fan mail weekly. After Rothafel left the Capitol, his radio show, now known as The Roxy Hour, was broadcast from the new Roxy Theatre on the NBC Blue network from 1927 to 1932

Rothafel has been credited with many movie presentation innovations, including synchronizing orchestral music to movies (in the silent film era) and having multiple projectors to effect seamless reel changes.

Rothafel had health issues in his later life, mainly angina pectoris. He died of a heart attack in his sleep on January 13, 1936 in New York City aged 53. He is buried in Linden Hill Jewish cemetery in Queens, New York.

He was married to Rosa (Freedman), with whom he had a son, Arthur Ingram Rothafel, and a daughter, Beta Rothafel.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Collection consists of a visual record of theatre promoter, "Roxy and His Gang's" visit to Ontario. Includes photographs from New York, Toronto, Kawartha Lakes, Lake of Bays, Algonquin Park, Thousand Islands, Temagami, Nipigon, and Northern Ontario.

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Purchased from Jordan Antiques & Antiquarian Books (Dorset, VT), 2019.


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Public domain.

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Described 2020-12-02 by Jeremy Heil.

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  • Shelf: V163.36 SE