Helen Elizabeth Tyler

Helen Tyler
Helen Tyler

Time Period

1910-1940

Subject Categories

Arts, Business

Notable Facts

General manager of the American Play Company in New York City. Backed several plays on her own including, "Within the Law" and "Polygamy" and became known as "the wonder girl of the theater."

Personal Information

Date of Birth

11/01/1871

Date of Death

1950

Primary Residence

Enosburg Falls

Ethnicity

Caucasian

Historical Significance

Helen Elizabeth Tyler, nicknamed Terry, was born in Enosburg Falls, Vermont, on November 1, 1871. When she was two, both of her parents died of tuberculosis, and she and her brother were raised by an aunt. Although she left Enosburg Falls as a young woman, she maintained ties to the community and served as president of the Ladies Village Improvement Society in 1896. She learned secretarial skills at Albany Business College and landed a job as a stenographer and assistant at Mead, Dodd & Company, a publishing house in New York City. Through her work, she met a number of authors and playwrights. She became familiar with the theater business while working for Alice Knauser, a play broker, and was later hired as general manager of the American Play Company, one of the largest play-backing firms in the country. Tyler became known as "the cold-blooded business brain" of the company for completing contracts with no loopholes and for her prowess as general manager. She began to invest in plays herself, even after the company dissolved. Her successful production of "Within the Law," a play that had been rejected by several other producers, earned her the nickname, "the wonder girl of the theater." Earning hugh profits, she bought a townhouse in New York and traveled to Europe frequently. She adopted butterflies as a trademark and decorated her clothes and home with them. Tyler's production of "Polygamy," which explored the Mormon philosophy of marriage, shocked audiences and caused the theater owner to cancel it after only one week. But Tyler leased the play to another theater and eventually made it a success. Tyler's career ended abruptly in 1920 after she returned from an extended vacation in Europe and discontinued productions. Subsequently, she organized the Oasis Club in the Hotel Commodore, which provided contracts, shopping services, chaperonage and a meeting place for women. Tyler soon retired from business and civic activities but remained in New York. When her health failed and her finances were depleted, she returned to Enosburg Falls to live with her brother until her death in 1950.

Occupations

  • Stenographer for Mead, Dodd and Company in New York City
  • Play broker
  • General manager of the American Play Company
  • Producer of the plays Within the Law and Polygamy
  • Organizer of the Oasis Club in the Hotel Commodore

Education

  • Albany Business College

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Helen Tyler Link

  • Village Improvement Society Link

  • Enosburg Falls, Franklin County Driving Tour Link

  • Those Indomitable Vermont Women