|Scope and content:
||This collection consists of a bound photograph album containing 57 prints of the stage, stage machinery, workshops and backstage areas of the Royal Opera House, and a folder of 11 sepia prints of the same areas. Some of the loose prints are duplicates of those in the album, except in sepia. In 1900-1901, Sachs supervised the remodelling of the stage, which many of these photographs document. The remodelling included the installation of five movable bridges to Sachs’ own design, raising the stage roof, fitting a continental counterweight system for the movement of equipment above the stage, and construction of a new switchboard control at stage level. Much of the mechanical equipment installed at this time remained in use until the redevelopment of the Royal Opera House in 1997-99. The photographs were taken by Alfred Ellis of Baker Street, London.|
ROH Collections hold additional material on Sachs: two photographic portraits, an interview from 'The Sketch', and construction plans and drawings of the theatre at the time.
||Edwin O Sachs (1870-1919) was an architect and engineer who specialised in the prevention of theatre fires. Sachs was born on 5 April 1870 in St John’s Wood, London, son of Gustav Sachs. He was educated at the University College School, Hampstead, and Königliche Technische Hochschule, Charlottenburge, Germany. He qualified as an architect in 1892. Sachs worked as an ensign in the Berlin Royal Fire Brigade (1890) and later spent time with the Vienna Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the Paris Brigade. On his return to England, he took part in fire-fighting in London, and became Vice-President of the National Fire Brigades’ Union. He also held a commission in the Volunteer Battalion of the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment) from 1895 to around 1898. He married Flora Jacobi in 1896. |
In 1897 Sachs founded the British Fire Prevention Committee. During 1898 he was responsible for the installation of unique electrically operated stage lifts at Drury Lane Theatre. In 1898, he became technical adviser to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, an appointment he held to the end of his life. His first assignment was to take charge of considerable structural alterations to the interior, including the remodelling of the stage, the removal of the apron at the front of the stage and two stage boxes, enlargement of the orchestra pit, creation of new entrances to the stalls from the pit lobby, removal of gas installations and their replacement with electric lighting, construction of a new smoking room beneath the royal box, and installation of a new fire safety curtain. During this time he published the book 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' (London: B T Batsford, three volumes, 1896-98).
Sachs was responsible for the establishment of the first Fire Testing Station in Europe, for the testing of fire-resistant qualities of building materials, and fire extinguishing qualities of jets of chemicals. In 1902 he began to organise the first ever International Fire Congress, held at Earls Court London, 6-11 July 1903. He gained international recognition for his work in the area of fire prevention, receiving awards and honours from France, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Luxembourg, Italy and Siam. In 1912 he received the Coronation Medal. Sachs was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1904), a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, an Associate of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, and a member of the Institute of Naval Architects. Sachs died in London on 9 September 1919.
Sources: Wilmore, David (ed.). 'Edwin O. Sachs: architect, stagehand, engineer & fireman'. Summerbridge, North Yorks: Theatresearch, 1998; Rosenthal, Harold. 'Two centuries of opera at Covent Garden'. London: Putnam, 1958.