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Sheldon Cheney in New Hope. Image courtesy of Peggy Lewis.

Author, art historian and theater critic, Sheldon Cheney was regarded as one of the most significant figures in the modernist movement in American drama in the 1920s and the 1930s. Cheney's writing on the history of theater influenced personalities, such as playwright Eugene O'Neill and set designer Robert Edmund Jones. Although Cheney was born in Berkeley, California and died there ninety-four years later, he lived most of his life on Mechanic Street in New Hope. In 1916, he founded Theatre Arts Magazine, which served as an important voice of the theater.

His historical work, The Theatre: 3000 Years of Drama, Acting and Stagecraft, was recognized as the first comprehensive history of theater written in English. Cheney wrote thirteen books on theater, art history, sculpture, and architecture. He was a friend of dancer Isadora Duncan and assisted on her autobiography.

As an art and drama critic for many magazines, his writing included contributions to Encyclopedia Britannica, the New Caravan, and Theatre Arts Magazine.

Sheldon Cheney in New Hope. Image courtesy of Peggy Lewis.

Education & Community

Education and Training
A.B. in Architecture and Drawing, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California, 1908
Attended California College of Arts and Crafts and Harvard University

Teachers and Influences
His father, Warren Cheney, and his mother, May Lucretia Shepard;
Isadora Duncan; Charles Coburn; Ethel Barrymore; Jane Cowl; Laurette Taylor; Elsie Ferguson; Edith Wayne Mathison; Josephine Hull; Grant Mitchell

Connection to Bucks County
Sheldon Cheney was a New Hope resident for most of his life. He and his family lived on Mechanic Street, a section of which he had renamed Stoney Hill Road. In 1974, after the death of Cheney's second wife, Martha Candler, he returned to Berkeley where he lived until his death in 1980.


The New Movement in the Theatre
, 1914
The Open Air Theatre
, 1918
A Primer of Modern Art
, 1924
The Art Theatre,
Art and the Postage Stamp
, 1926
Isadora Duncan's The Art of Dance
, 1927
Stage Decoration
, 1928
The Theatre: 3000 Years of Drama, Acting and Stagecraft
, 1929, 1952
New World of Architecture,
Expressionism in Art,
1934, 1958
Art and the Machine, with Martha Candler Cheney, 1936
A World History of Art,
The Story of Modern Art,
Men Who Have Walked with God
, 1945
A New World History of Art,
Sculpture of the World
, 1968

Awards & Appointments

Teaching and Professional Appointments
Founded the Theatre Arts Magazine in 1916 and served as its editor until 1921
Play Reader, Actor's Equity Theater, 1922-1925

Major Awards
Honorary Fellowship from Union College, 1937-1940
Benjamin Franklin Fellow

Affiliations and Memberships
Authors League of America
Society of American History
Royal Society of Art, London, England

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