Lawrence Langner was born in 1890 in Swansea. His father, a jeweller, was an eccentric with an avid interest in science and gadgets. After moving to London as a young man he took a job as an assistant in the offices of theatrical producer J Bannister Howard, where he became immersed in the world of the stage. He was enthralled at a young age with the works of George Bernard Shaw.

Circumstances brought an end to his involvement in the business of theatre and Lawrence took a job as a technical assistant in a Patents office, studying engineering at Night School to improve his knowledge. He became a member of the British Chartered Institute of Patent Agents and, in 1910, was sent by his company to work in their New York offices. A difference of opinion led to Lawrence joining an Ohio firm which manufactured the Delco electric starter for automobiles. He was soon sent back to London to represent the company's interests in Europe.

In 1913 he made the decision to return to America to set up his own patents business. However, his proximity to the arts and theatre in New York rekindled his interest in the stage, and he found himself cofounding the Washington Square Players in New York with the company's debut performance at the Bandbox Theatre in 1915.This led, in 1918, to Lawrence's involvement in founding the Theatre Guild of America. The Guild undertook a different way of approaching theatrical production, with all the Board members sharing responsibility for the choice of plays, management and production. The Guild contributed greatly to the success of Broadway between 1920 and the 1970s. Lawrence was instrumental in bringing the plays of George Bernard Shaw to America: out of 228 plays produced by the Guild 18 were by Shaw. Lawrence also founded the American Shakespeare Festival and the Westport County Playhouse.

Throughout this time Lawrence was never far away from his interest in inventions and patents. He served on the Advisory Council to the House of Patents Committee in Washington. He subsequently founded the National Inventors Council which served to examine inventions and initiatives which had the potential to help the allies win the Second World War.

Lawrence Langner, who died in New York in 1962, is an unsung hero of the history of theatre in America and also of the fight against Hitler and Germany during WWII.


  Lawrence Langner