In Tony's Early Days, the Award Was Pocket-Sized (Money Not Included)

Tony Awards   In Tony's Early Days, the Award Was Pocket-Sized (Money Not Included) At first it seemed that Howard Sherman, the Executive Director of the American Theatre Wing, which presents the Tony Awards television ceremony with the League of American Theatres and Producers, was just showing off his fat bankroll.

On closer inspection, however, the gold money clip he had laid on the table at a recent Tony Awards press event bore an inscription: "The American Theatre Wing Presents Your `Tony,' an Antionette Perry Award, 1946-47."

"Here's something very few people have seen," said Sherman. "That is an original 1947 Tony Award. It was given to Burns Mantle. It was a special award," given to honor Mantle's annual publication of the "Ten Best Plays" volumes. "It was given the first year of the awards. And as far as we know, it's the only one of the original awards anybody can find."

Sherman explained that during the first two years that the Tonys were handed out—1947 and 1948—awards ranged from "either a cigarette lighter, a compact for the ladies or a money clip." (Mantle was apparently not a smoker.)

In 1949, a competition through United Scenic Artists resulted in the creation of the Tony medallion. These were placed in special boxes and bestowed through 1966. "It was when the Tonys went on national television in 1967 that the medallion was put on the pedestal," continued Sherman. "That's the evolution of the awards."

Sherman appeared pleased as punch to be toting the memento around. He assured his interlocutor, however, that it was only for a few hours. "It came out of the safe deposit box just for the day."

The first-ever Tony Award.
The first-ever Tony Award. Photo by Anita and Steve Shevett