"slip tier"

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Nov 18 18:54:09 UTC 2010

>From a description of a newly-remodelled theater, NYC, 1807:
"The boxes are supposed to contain 1292 seats; the lower tier 392, the second and third tier 360 each, and the slip tier 160."
New-York Evening Post, August 28, 1807, p. 3, cols. 2-3  (extensively quoted below, for fuller context, and for the benefit of those who may find it interesting)

slip, noun, #2, sense 9 (A window, apartment, passage, etc., of an elongated form)
c. pl. (See quot. 1874.)

1805 SIR R. WILSON in Life (1862) I. 345 Those ladies who had not boxes sat in what would be termed in England one shilling slips. 1836-7 DICKENS Sk. Boz (1850) 165/2 They thought they couldn't do better than go at half-price to the slips at the City Theatre. 1851 MAYHEW Lond. Lab. I. 19/1 When the gallery is well packed,..on the partition boards, dividing off the slips, lads will pitch themselves, despite the spikes. 1874 Slang Dict. 296 Slips, the sides of the gallery in a theatre are generally so called.

slip, noun, 3
5. pl. The sidings of a theatrical stage, from which the scenery is slipped on, and where the actors stand before entering.

1771 C. BURNEY Present State of Mus. France & Italy 244 Printed sonnets, in praise of singers and dancers, were thrown from the slips. 1812 J. & H. SMITH Rej. Addr., Theatr. Alarm-bell (1873) 152 Soldiers will be stationed in the slips. 1837 THACKERAY Ravenswing iv, She nodded to all her friends on the stage, in the slips. 1855  Newcomes xx, Raddled old women who shudder at the slips.

I do not see "slip tier" among the compounds recorded by OED.  Also, the various meanings brought together under "slip" #3 seems to me to be pretty danged miscellaneous.  I certainly suppose that the two senses from theater design should be together.

The rest of the description of the theater:
        New Theatre. -- New-York may now boast of a Theatre which unites more of taste, grandeur, room, convenience and elegance than any one in the United States. . . .  We speak of the interior only, for its outside remains just as it was, a standing libel on the taste of the town. -- The whole audience part of the house from the pit to the dome, has been pulled down; a new pit has been erected both wide & deep, and so well constructed, as to afford every person an uninterrupted view of the whole stage.*  The avenues to it are commodious, and it has a bar room and supper room annexed.  Four new tiers of boxes take place of the former three tier, and the gallery, before too large, is lessened and improved.  The boxes, highly finished, painted, papered, and ornamented in the most costly style, are supported by light and airy pillars of about five inches diameter, reeded and silver lackered, with gilt capitals and base.  From the top of every other pillar is suspended a brill!
 iant gl
ass chandelier to light the lower tier, & in like manner patent lamps are provided for the upper tiers.  The seats are covered with crimson, and between each box is to hang a festoon drapery of the same colour.  Each of the dress boxes near the stage is to have a large oval mirror, disposed in such a manner as to reflect a view of the audience.  There are four private boxes next the stage communicating with small private rooms, handsomely furnished.  The boxes are supposed to contain 1292 seats; the lower tier 392, the second and third tier 360 each, and the slip tier 160.  The pit is supposed to contain about 500 and the gallery 600; total 2372.  ***  The entrance to the boxes is through spacious lobbies, very well lighted; at the back of which, and in the front of the house, are two large, finished rooms, one over the other; the lower of which is to be handsomely furnished and is intended as a tea, coffee, confectionary and fruit room, and the upper as a sort of bar room fo
r gentlemen.
        * It is to be hoped the manager will insist on there being an end to the filthy custom of standing upon the seats between the acts, or walking upon them.
        New-York Evening Post, August 28, 1807, p. 3, cols. 2-3


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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