Actor, producer, director and stage manager Michael Ellis (1917-2008) was born Mayer Ellis Abrahamson in Philadelphia. He attended the University of Grenoble, the Sorbonne, Dartmouth College and Drew University, from which he received an M.A. in 1973. He performed in or was stage manager for several Broadway productions, and became a Broadway and off-Broadway producer in the late 1940s, working with Mae West, Bette Davis and Neil Simon, among others. Of the forty-five plays he produced as managing director of Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pa. (1954-1964), several later opened in New York City. He was also managing director of a playhouse in Florida (1973-1976). During the early 1970s Ellis became interested in magic and was an accomplished performer. He was elected to the Board of the International Brotherhood of Magicians in 1985, and served as the group’s president from 1990-1991. In 1991 Ellis endowed a prize at Drew University for the best Master of Arts thesis in English literature.
The Ellis Collection comprises over 400 volumes in four areas: American literary humor, including authors Mark Twain, Robert Benchley, and Damon Runyan; comic wit and humor, including Clarence Day, Groucho Marx, and Bill Mauldin; fiction by famous people, including Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli, and Gypsy Rose Lee; and theatre and Hollywood in fiction, including J.B. Priestley, Malcolm Douglas, and Mary Asquith.