Miniature models of the Globe—with Folger connections

There is a long tradition of attempting to reconstruct the 1599 Globe, the multi-level open-air playhouse where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. It will always be difficult to determine various details about the 1599 Globe, which burned to the ground on June 29, 1613, at a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, when an onstage cannon set fire to it. Still, documentary research and, in more recent years, archaeology, have provided some answers.

The most famous of these replicas may be Shakespeare’s Globe, a full-scale reconstruction in London near the original site of the Globe that used archaeological discoveries to inform its design, but many other models, including much smaller ones, have also been created by artists, scholars, and enthusiasts. Since Shakespeare wrote some of his plays with the Globe in mind, constructing large and small replicas helps us to visualize those early performances and how the Globe may have shaped his work.

Two of the miniature Globe models have made their home at the Folger: the Conklin model and the Cranford Adams model.

Ernest Conklin Model

Globe model
Picture of H. Ernest Conklin Model from the Library of Congress. LOT 6566 [item] [P&P]
Shortly after it was completed, the Conklin Globe model was installed at the Folger in late 1933, more than a year after the Folger Shakespeare Library opened. The model was built by H. Ernest Conklin, whom we don’t know much about other than that he lived in Long Island and had a passion for creating models of the first Globe. The Conklin Globe model remains in the Folger’s possession, along with the blueprints Conklin used to create it. As with all Globe models, however, it is somewhat challenging to store because of its size and shape. Before renovations on the Folger began in 2020, it was simply kept in the library’s microfilm room.

At the time of the model’s installation at the Folger, Joseph Quincy Adams, the Folger’s first director, wrote to Conklin and described it as “the most satisfactory reconstruction of Shakespeare’s theater that has yet been achieved.” Conklin solicited feedback from Adams on the model and Adams provided a list of relatively minor changes. With that information in mind, Conklin planned to create copies of the Folger’s model in his personal workshop. One of these copies, previously owned by the Cleveland Museum of Art, is now at Cleveland State University, where it was recently renovated. But while Conklin’s model was accepted as a “satisfactory” reconstruction, later models reflected more updated scholarship, including the other small-scale Globe model that was held at the Folger for many years.

Cranford Adams Model

man with a scale model of the Globe Theatre
John Cranford Adams with his model of the Globe Theatre. Photo courtesy of the Axinn Library Department of Special Collections at Hofstra University.

The Cranford Adams model, which stands 32 1/2 inches high at the base of its flagpole, was constructed by John Cranford Adams, the president of Hofstra College (now Hofstra University) and a former Folger fellow, with assistance from the artist Irwin Smith, and completed in 1950. The Cranford Adams Globe was constructed on a 1-24 scale using 24,917 pieces of walnut timber, largely from a single plank, plaster, tiles, rubber bricks, and other materials. Cranford Adams’s dissertation research, which was detailed in his 1942 book, The Globe Playhouse: Its Design and Equipment, provided the scholarly basis for the model, which Folger director Louis B. Wright called the “the finest model of the Globe Theatre ever built”.

Apart from a brief period when it was exhibited at Hofstra, the Cranford Adams Globe model was housed at the Folger from 1950 until 1984. That year, the Globe model was returned to Hofstra University, at its request. The model is now housed at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse, named after its creator. Though it is no longer at the Folger, the Folger has sketches of the model by the artist C. Walter Hodges, whose Elizabethan and theater drawings are held at the Folger.

sketches of a Globe model
Sketches of the Cranford Adams model by C. Walter Hodges. Folger Shakespeare Library ART Box H688 no.1 pt.6

While Cranford Adams may not have thought much of Conklin’s earlier model, which he once described as “derivative,” his own Globe model is now considered inaccurate as well, given our current understanding of the Globe. Discoveries about the Globe continue to be made, and models can only be as accurate as the knowledge that creators had access to as they built them.

Meanwhile, Globe models, small and large, are still created by artists, students, and scholars hoping to understand the theater where some of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. Some are replicas of the second Globe from 1614, built to replace the 1599 Globe. Professor John Malolepsy built a traditional small-scale model of the second Globe in 2004, based on research by C. Walter Hodges. The idea of recreating the Globe also inspires ambitious and somewhat less literal replicas as well. There are plans for a full-scale reconstruction of the Globe built out of shipping containers (the Container Globe) and an enthusiastic player created a digital reconstruction of the Globe in the video game Minecraft. And if you have an interest in building a Globe model of your own—but aren’t yet ready to commit to something on the scale of the Conklin or Cranford Adams models—you can purchase a paper model to construct as well.

To learn more about life-size reconstructions of the Globe, read our blog post Globe-al Dominance: The rise in reconstructed Globe theatres or listen to the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast episode, Shakespeare Outdoors, which includes earlier large-scale replicas of the Globe at past World’s Fairs.