#ArchiveWeek: Anniversary Archives – celebrating Sam…

#ArchiveWeek: Anniversary Archives – celebrating Sam Wanamaker.

As part of Archive Week we have been thinking about ‘big moments’ and in particular the 100th anniversary of the birth of our founder, Sam Wanamaker which will be celebrating on 14 June 2019.

Sam was born in Chicago, Illinois in the United States. His love affair with the idea of the Globe began in 1933 when as a 14-year-old he attended the Chicago World Fair, an international celebration in which Britain’s contribution was a mock reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

By 1936, Sam, now a drama student was performing in Shakespeare’s plays having joined the Blackfriars Company who were playing in another fair at Cleveland, Ohio in which another replica of the Globe had been built for staging Shakespeare’s plays. We are lucky enough to hold the programme for this production in our Archive.


Sam came to the UK in 1949, narrowly escaping being blacklisted by the US Government in the McCarthy Trials. Being such a fan of Shakespeare he went to look for the original site of the Globe theatre. To his disappointment, all he found was a plaque on a brewery wall early that was not even correctly positioned. In a statement in an affidavit, he says

I was shocked to find that the site was in fact a rundown redundant riverside industrial area. I was particularly saddened, as by this time, the concept of Globe reconstructions had taken a stronghold in the US, and this was part of and contributed to a great revival and interest in Shakespeare and America’s English language heritage…

Fuelled by his disappointing discovery and a love of Shakespeare Sam set out to build a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre on Bankside. Sadly he did not live to see it completed in 1997, as he died on 18 December 1993.


We all have much to thank Sam and his determination for and we are very excited to be working towards an exhibition celebrating his life and vision next year.  


Top: Sam Wanamaker and model by Brian Rybolt 

Middle: Sam Wanamaker in front of a replica of the Globe donated by the British Government at the Great Lake festival in Cleveland, Ohio, 1936-37, photographer unknown

Bottom: Sam Wanamaker celebrating the successful settlement of the 1986 High Court case against Southwark Council and Derno Estates by Alan Butland