Shakespeare Pilgrimage | Webster University

Shakespeare Pilgrimage

Black and white photograph of Twelfth Night playBeginning in 1939, Webster College celebrated Shakespeare's birthday every year with a pilgrimage to his statue in Tower Grove Park in St. Louis. Local dignitaries, high schools, and theatre groups in the area were invited to attend a ceremony that included speeches, a wreath laying, and usually a scene from a Shakespeare play. The photograph on this page shows three members of the Loretto Players, Webster's student dramatic club, in a scene from Twelfth Night in 1951.

 

 

Special guests were featured on a few occasions. The bottom photograph on this page is likely from the 1941 celebration with actors Helen Hayes and Maurice Evans. In 1952, Vincent Price, a native of St. Louis and well-known actor, was present (view his signed copy of the 1952 program.)

Black and white photograph of outdoor scene with students in cap and gown, 1941

 

The person generally regarded as responsible for starting this tradition was a faculty member in the Speech Department named Harry R. McClain. He directed Shakespeare plays at Webster for 36 years, often with the help of his sister, Anna McClain Sankey, who was the department chair for many years. McClain left Webster in 1954 and the pilgrimage tradition seemed to die out shortly thereafter.