Theo von Roth
Photograph Albums, 1924-1967; bulk, 1947-1967


Quantity: 7 boxes (2.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift: Jonathan E. Gradess, Poestenkill, N.Y., January 2016
Processed By: Regina Berry, Student Assistant, State University of New York at Albany, February 2016

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Biographical Note:

Theo von Roth at 21
Theo von Roth, "21 and just 'down' from Oxford."

Theo von Roth was born August 28, 1924, in Austria, most likely in Vienna. His parentage is unknown, though his mother may have been called Gerta, or Gerts.  It is also unclear whether "von Roth" was his actual full surname at birth. He used several variations on the name: Theodor A. de Roth, Theo Roth, Theodor Roth, and Theo Baron Roth before settling on Baron Theo von Roth.  He reportedly was a "member of an old Austrian family" and was educated in Austria, Switzerland, France and England.  He claimed to have been a student at Oxford University and there is evidence of his being there in 1945-1946. 

Toward the end of World War II, Theo began to get involved in charitable social events.  As the Honorable Secretary of the Duke of Gloucester's Red Cross and St. John's Fund Prisoner of War Appeal, he organized a ball at an Oxford hotel on March 2, 1945.  Following the war, he spent time in London and continued his involvement with charitable organizations and worked at planning and hosting events, such as the "Empire Day Ball" at the Dorchester Hotel on May 24, 1946, in aid of the Victor Chetwynd Tuberculosis Fund for Allied Ex-Servicemen.

Theo von Roth in costume
Theo von Roth, "as Imperial Hofmarshall, aged nearly 29."
In 1947, he traveled to South Africa where he lived for the next three-and-a-half years.  While there he traveled extensively around the country, apparently staying often with friends.  It was there that he began to develop his reputation as an expert organizer of parties and events. In 1950 von Roth returned to London, where he soon became known as "The Marshall of Mayfair," hosting his 100th party on May 8, 1953.  This glittering event was a fancy dress ball recreating the Imperial Court Ball at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna given by Emperor Franz Josef I and Empress Elizabeth of Austria in May 1853.

During this time von Roth lived in a house at 22 Minera Mews in the Belgravia section of London, where he gave several large parties.  He became the general director of Ciro's Club in London, billed as "the famous London rendezvous of Smart Society." Following that he moved to Surrey, where he was the resident managing director and secretary of Wanborough Manor, an ancient and historic home.

There is some evidence that von Roth also wrote for The Sketch, a British illustrated newspaper weekly, which focused on high society and the aristocracy. None of his writings appear in this collection, however.

In 1955, Theo von Roth returned to South Africa for a time, and then visited Canada in late 1956.  In both places, he continued to plan and host parties and benefits.  In 1958, he was hired by the Sheraton-East Hotel in New York City to re-open the Embassy Club and Knight Box.  Many large events took place there under his patronage, such as the "Trinidad Carnival Ball" to benefit the Variety Club of New York's Cancer Foundation, on March 1, 1960 and the "Jamaica and Antigua Carnival Ball" the next year for the same charity. 

In the late 1950s and early 1960s von Roth also became involved with a number of African-American organizations, helping to organize gala events and fundraisers. Two examples are the "International Cotillion," sponsored by the National Council of Negro Women, Inc., on September 22, 1961, and "Carnival in Rio, the 22 Annual Beaux Arts Ball," for the benefit of the National Urban League on February 16, 1962.  Eleanor Roosevelt was an honorary chairman of the 1961 event.

By 1964, von Roth was working for Fugazy Travel Bureau, Inc. in New York City.  In that capacity, he hosted tours around Europe, billed by Fugazy as: "Baron Theo von Roth, renowned host, international traveler and society columnist, whose receptions, parties and cultural events have been featured by newspapers and magazines around the world."

On February 15 1965, Theo von Roth was granted United States citizenship in New York City. He was actively participating in social events in New York through 1967, after which there is little news of his activities. He died of cardiorespiratory failure in Acapulco, Mexico, on March 26, 1973; he was 48 years old.  His burial place is unknown.

Scope and Content Note:

These sixteen photo albums were created by Theo von Roth himself. He carefully dated and captioned almost every page and photo, giving the names of the people and places he chronicled. In his capacity as director and host of hundreds of parties, gala benefits and charitable events, he frequently came into association with minor royalty, persons of nobility, wealthy acquaintances, the yachting set, and Hollywood stars.

A few of those pictured in this collection are: Mary Ann Mobley (Miss America, 1959), Franklin Roosevelt, Jr., Carol Channing, Dorothy Dandridge, Hermione Gingold, Salvador Dali, Florence Desmond, James Garner, and Paul Newman.

These albums have been organized chronologically and by topic. The first one is a selection of personal portraits of Theo von Roth.  Volumes 2-9 chronicle his frequent and wide-ranging travels with scenes of the places he visited, the people with whom he was acquainted, the homes where he lived or stayed, and the landmarks he saw.  Volumes 10-15 document many of the important events he organized or hosted and the people who sponsored and attended them. Volume 16 is a scrapbook that contains examples of the invitations, programs and announcements of these events.  Within each volume, there is not a consistent order of dates, and some events are covered in more than one volume.  Finally, there are several folders of loose materials and photographs.

Box and Volume List:

Box Volume Description Dates
    Personal Portraits  
1 1 Photo album (24 x 30 cm) is entitled, "Some Portraits of Theo."  This album contains a timeline of photographs of Theo von Roth from the age of 6 months through age 42, including both portraits and photographs taken throughout the world on his travels.  It includes several photos of his mother as well. 1924-1966
    Travel Photographs  
1 2 Photo album (24 x 26 cm) contains photographs of landmarks, landscapes, and family and friends beginning in Cambridge, England, in May 1947.  It includes a trip to Paris, France, with pictures of his mother and one picture of both his parents.  Later that year, he was in New York City and Washington, D.C.  The following year he was aboard ship from New York City to South Africa, seeing Johannesburg, Portuguese East Africa and South West Africa. 1947-1949
2 3 Photo album (24 x 26 cm) contains photographs of landmarks, landscapes, homes he stayed in, and friends he visited at Robben Island, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria and the Eastern Transvaal in South Africa, from December 1947 to January 1948. 1947-1948
2 4 Photo album (24 x 26 cm) mixes images of visits to Stonehurst, Ardingly, Sussex, in 1947, with pictures of Durban, South Africa, in 1949, with pictures of family and friends in various locations in England following his 1950 return from South Africa. 1947-1954
2 5 Photo album (24 x 26 cm) begins with images from a 1947 trip to Paris, Versailles, Nice, the French Alps, Italy, and Monaco. It goes on to document his return voyage to South Africa in April 1955, and shows photos of his flat in Cape Town that year.  In June 1956 von Roth headed back to Europe, and in August/September of that year he visited Quebec, Canada. There are also photos of the Canary Islands and St. Helena Island.  1947-1956
3 6 Photo album (22 x 29 cm) contains more photos of the 1947 trip to Paris; aboard the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth from Southampton to New York in August 1947, including friends and activities on board; pictures from a cross-country journey through Chicago to California and back to Princeton, Yale and Harvard universities, then upstate New York.  This album also contains more photos from his 1950 stay in Johannesburg before his departure back to Europe.  On the way he visited Madeira.  Then in June/July of 1951 von Roth was in Ireland.  Also included are pictures of the winter of 1955-1956 that he spent in South Africa, including interior shots of his residence there. The album ends with a few photos of Scotland from August 1956.   1947-1956
3 7 Photo album (24 x 30 cm.) contains photographs, ca. 1954, of interiors and exteriors of Wanborough Manor [Surrey, England] and The Old House, Betchworth, Surrey, where Theo appears to have had a home at "The Lodge." Other images are from visits to Canada, New York, Boston, Charleston, Savannah, Miami, Camp Hayes in Godeffroy (Orange County), N.Y., Connecticut and Pennsylvania from 1956-1959. 1954-1959
4 8 Photo album (40 x 27 cm.) contains photographs of landmarks, landscapes, parties and activities with friends in Florida, Puerto Rico, Antigua, Martinique, Barbados, Trinidad, Aruba, Grenada, Jamaica, Brazil, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Russia, Denmark, Austria, England, Italy; graduation exercises at West Point, June 7-8, 1960. 1959-1964
4 9 Photo album (35 x 28 cm.) contains photographs of landmarks, exteriors, landscapes, and friends in Austria, West Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Chile, Egypt along the Nile, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa and Pennsylvania; color photographs taken at Stonehurst, Sussex, and in Austria and at the New York World's Fair of 1964-1965. 1964-1966
    Event Photographs  
5 10 Book (31 x 25 cm) of  black-and-white press photographs of:
  1. Party for 200 given by Baron Theo von Roth with the Hutchinsons at their home in Johannesburg, South Africa, on November 25, 1949. Photos by Walter Kirby (PTY) Ltd.
  2. Party given by Baron Theo von Roth for the birthday of Tony Wright at Ciro's Club on December 9, 1949. Photos by Walter Kirby (PTY) Ltd.
  3. Party given by Baron Theo von Roth for Gwen Francon-Davies after premiere of "Macbeth" in Afrikaans, Johannesburg, February 14, 1950.
5 11 Book (31 x 25 cm) of black-and-white press photographs of:
  1. Party at Ciro's Club, Johannesburg, to celebrate Florence Desmond, British actress, after her performance at the Colloseum [sic] Theater on February 1, 1950. Photos by Walter Kirby (PTY) Ltd.
  2. Farewell party for Harry Jacobson, pianist, at Marcel de Haes, April 10, 1950.
  3. At Manley and Vivian Anstey's farewell party for Louise Laubscher, April 12, 1950.
  1. First General Committee Meeting for The National Appeal, 1950, of the War Memorial Health Foundation at the Langham Hotel, June 2, 1950.  Shows von Roth addressing the committee as Hon. Secretary. Photos by Walter Kirby (PTY) Ltd.
  2. Major-General and Mrs. Trevor Westbrooke's wedding reception at the Automobile Club, Johannesburg, June 1950.
  3. At the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, February 21, 1951.
  4. Vera Kramer's Farewell from London, at The Alegro, June 21, 1951.
  5. Dinner at the House of Commons, London, June 5, 1952.
5 12 Book (31 x 25 cm) of black-and-white press photographs of:
  1. Opening Night of the Georgian Room, London, March 6, 1951.
  2. Cocktail party for 150 at [Theo von Roth's] Minera Mews Cottage, London, May 29, 1952
  3. Piccadilly Street party in Minera Mews [London], October 6, 1952; attended by 500. Photos by George Konig, A.R.P.S.
5 13 Book (27 x 23 cm) of black-and-white press photographs titled, "A Book of Pictures of ‘A Dream Realised!' An Imperial Court Ball at the Hofburg in Vienna given by their Majesties Emperor Franz Josef I and Empress Elizabeth of Austria in May 1853. Revived by me [Theo von Roth] in London 1953, to celebrate the occasion of my 100th Party." Held at the Londonderry House, Park Lane, London; May 8, 1953. Photographs by Chris Ware and Bert Hardy. 1953
5 14 Book (27 x 23 cm) of black-and-white press photographs:
  1. More photos of Minera Mews party, October 6, 1952
  2. A luncheon at Ciro's [Club, London], April 1953.
  3. At a Fashion Show at Ciro's [Club, London], April, 1953. (with photo of von Roth with Elsa Schiaparelli)
  4. Opening party of my [Theo von Roth] Green Room Club at Ciro's [Club], London, March 3, 1953.
  5. More photos of the Vienna Ball, May 8, 1953.
  6. Helping out at a Fashion Parade in Cape Town [S. Africa], September 1955.
  7. The Rose Ball given at The Rotunda, Camps Bay, Cape Town, [S. Africa], November 3 1955.
  8. My [Theo von Roth's] 33rd birthday party at "Chez Paree," Montreal, Canada; August 28, 1957.
  9. At Bruno's Restaurant, Montreal [Canada], with Hermione Baddeley, actress, December 1957.
6 15 Photo album (35 x 28 cm) of (mostly undated) press photographs of events and parties, pictures of von Roth posing with European royalty and other officials, Hollywood figures, and well-known names from the art and performing-arts worlds, in New York City, Vienna and other locations. Related newspaper clippings were inserted in some pages. Condition of this album is fragile. 1958-1967
6 16 Photograph album (35 x 28 cm) used as a scrapbook holding
invitations and programs from parties thrown by Baron Theo von Roth in London, New York City, Montreal; and benefit events in which he took part in London, South Africa, and New York City.  Also includes announcements of his career associations, blank letterhead from various events and a 1966 announcement of his impending move to Austria.
7 1 Publicity and news clipping (4 items):
  1. Draft press guest list, likely from opening of Ciro's Club, London, ca. 1950
  2. List of London theaters playing Pathé film of von Roth's Viennese party, 1953
  3. Celebrity Bulletin announcing von Roth's appointment at the Sheraton-East Embassy Club, September 8, 1958
  4. Newspaper clipping on Hope Hampton, actress, December 6, 1959
7 2 Large event programs and publicity photographs (6 items):
  1. Program for "An Evening at the Casino of Estoril, Portugal," May 5, 1959
  2. Program for the "Trinidad Carnival," at the Sheraton-East on March 1, 1960
  3. Program for the "Jamaica and Antigua Carnival," at the Sheraton-East on February 14, 1961
  4. Three 9 in. x 13 in. black-and-white Life magazine photographs by Bill Ray of Baron von Roth and guests at the above event, dated February 15, 1961
7 3 "Brazil Court Ball" press and photographs (16 items):
  1. Six 8 in. x 10 in. black-and-white photographs of the sponsors and royal court of the ball; three by Stanley Gold and three by Jerry Sachs
  2. Eight 9 in. x 13 in. black-and-white photographs of the guests and activities at the ball, by David Vestal
  3. "Come as they were," Sunday New York News Color Magazine, feature article about the Brazil Court Ball, with photographs, July 23, 1961, p. 12-13.
May 10,
7 4 James Garner and Paul Newman press coverage and photograph and von Roth news item (4 items):
  1. One 8 in. x 10 in. black-and-white photograph of Baron von Roth with actors Paul Newman, James Garner and others, by Life photographer Eliot Elisofon, dated September 12, 1963
  2. Sunday New York News Color Magazine article clipping about Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, May 10, 1964
  3. Newspaper clipping about James Garner and Julie Andrews in a new film [The Americanization of Emily], late 1964
  4. Travel Trade Magazine clipping announcing Baron von Roth's hosting of Fugazy's "Three Festival Tour" to England, Scotland and Austria, June 1964
7 5 Susan Wilding press clippings and photograph (8 items):
  1. Four press clippings about Susan Wilding, recently Mrs. Michael Wilding, n.d.
  2. Note from Susan Wilding
  3. Souvenir photograph from the Copacabana Lounge in New York of Baron von Roth with Susan Wilding and another woman [possibly Joan Collins?], n.d.
ca. 1966
Last Updated: May 21, 2021