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Redpath Chautauqua Bureau Records (this collection is currently under construction)

Identifier: MsC0150

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Scope and Contents

The Redpath Chautauqua Collection is comprised of approximately six hundred forty-eight linear feet of records primarily from the offices of the Redpath-Vawter Bureau of Cedar Rapids (Iowa), the Redpath-Chicago Bureau, and the Redpath-Kansas City (Missouri) Bureau. Other booking agencies are also represented in the collection, including the Associated Chautauquas of America, the Coit-Alber Chautauqua Company, the Ellison-White Chautauqua System, Loar International Chautauquas, and the Swarthmore Chautauqua Associations. Dating between 1890 and 1944 (bulk, 1904-1935), the collection is arranged into a number of series. Please see Arrangement note for further series-specific information.


  • Creation: 1890-1944


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

Circuit or "tent" Chautauqua had its beginning in the lyceum movement, which started in Massachusetts as early as 1826, and in the Chautauqua assemblies held at Lake Chautauqua, New York, beginning in 1874. The purpose of the lyceum movement was self-improvement through lectures and discussions on literary, scientific, and moral topics. After the Civil War, commercial lyceum bureaus were founded; among them was the Redpath Lyceum Bureau of James C. Redpath in 1868. In 1901, Keith Vawter purchased a one-third interest in the Redpath Lyceum Bureau and became the Redpath booking agent in Chicago, later moving his headquarters and operations to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the summer of 1904, Vawter launched the first Chautauqua circuit with the assistance of Charles Horner.

The Redpath Lyceum Bureau had offices in other American cities, including White Plains, New York; Columbus, Ohio; Chicago; and Kansas City, Missouri. Vawter’s territory was roughly Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Missouri. Another Iowan and former Vawter employee, Harry P. Harrison, ran the Chicago office. Under the name "Redpath-Chicago," Harrison launched a major Chautauqua circuit in 1912. His territory was Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Gulf States. In 1912, Horner established in Kansas City the "Redpath-Horner Chautauquas." His territory was Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, and South Dakota. Circuit or tent Chautauqua began to expand and became an even greater influence about 1913, but World War I interrupted the circuits somewhat. In the years after the War (1920-1924), Chautauqua reached its peak of attendance. In 1920 there were twenty-one companies operating ninety-three circuits in the United States and Canada. The Great Depression brought an end to the circuits. The final circuit folded its tents in 1932 and the splendor of tent Chautauqua was over.


648.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Commercial lecture bureau and booking agency for Chautauqua and lyceums throughout the United States and parts of Canada. Office files of the Redpath-Vawter Bureau of Cedar Rapids, IA, the Redpath-Chicago Bureau run by Harry P. Harrison and Charles Horner's Redpath Chautauquas. Included are: talent files consisting of correspondence, contracts, publicity brochures, and advertising flyers; business files including employee records; geographical location files with materials about cities and towns that sponsored Chautauquas and lyceums; periodicals; daybooks, cashbooks; and photographs.


Series 1 - Talent

The talent brochures and accompanying correspondence comprise the Talent Series. The following guidelines will assist in locating all of the information pertinent to an individual or a group. The use of "see" and "see also" references have been used to allow greater access. The "see" reference indicates that all the information will be found under that name, e.g., Marlo, Edward, see Marlo the Great means that all entries are under Marlo the Great. The "see also" reference indicates that information may be found under the name that is being searched, as well as under additional entries, e.g., Duval Brothers, see also Blaeser, Andrew means that information will be found under both Duval Brothers and Blaeser, Andrew.

In some instances, there are variations in the spelling of the names of groups or an individual on the brochures. When there are differences in the spellings, the authoritative form for the names is taken from the written correspondence.

Individual names of members of groups usually are not included. Exceptions are for duos and some trios in which all of the names of the group members are listed on the front of the brochure, or as part of the group's name, e.g., Smith-Springer-Holmes Company, or McCormick and Bronte. In both instances, each of the names is listed along with "see" or "see also" references. Often the name of a group would be used for a number of years, but the spelling would vary. When there are multiple spellings of the same name, e.g., Criterion Male Quartet and Criterion Male Quartette, the groups are listed separately.

Individuals or groups whose names are listed as "Mac" or "Mc" have been combined and appear in the "Mac" alphabetical listing. Vocational abbreviations, military rank, and marital status are designated when a reference is made within the correspondence or on the brochures. Examples include: Rev. (for ministers and priests of Protestant and Catholic denominations); Rabbi (for leaders of the Jewish faith); Dr. (for medical doctors only); Gen., Col., Pvt., etc. (for military rank); Mr., Miss, Mrs., Mlle. (for marital status when indicated).

The marriage of female talent often resulted in a name change; therefore, the name is listed under the respective designation. An example is Listeman, Virginia who later became Baxter, Virginia Listeman. "See" and "see also" references connect the two.

Theatrical plays and presentations are designated by quotation marks followed by the word Company, e.g., "Sweethearts" Company or "Hope Valley" Company, and are filed under the title of the production. Exceptions have been made for groups such as the Scottish Musical Company, the Manhattan Opera Company, or the Ben Greet Players, in which cases the brochures are filed under the name of the theater company or the group of players rather than the title of the production.

A compound surname is entered in the form that appears in the correspondence, e.g., Ernestine Schumann-Heink is entered under Schumann.

Series 2 - Photographs and Postcards

There are over seven hundred photographs and postcards in the Chautauqua Collection with subjects ranging from tents and parades to audiences and performers, cities, and other scenery. These images, along with talent brochures, programs, and sound recordings, have been digitzed and appear on the Iowa Digital Library site:

In addition to those listed under "Identified People", talent names may also have personal or group photographs within their file.

Series 3 - Choral and Instrumental Sheet Music

Music performed by individuals and groups is found in sheet music format.

Series 4 - Agents and Employees

Agent and Employee records contain correspondence between the Chautauqua bureaus and people, usually other than talent, who worked for the bureaus.

Series 5 - Business Files

Business and financial records include Keith Vawter’s business records (1891 to 1931) and correspondence (1902 to 1936). The records from Harry Harrison’s Redpath-Chicago office, during the same period, contain business correspondence, contracts, telegrams, etc. Charles Horner’s correspondence from the early years of circuit Chautauqua is part of this series as are agent and employee files.

Series 6 - Geographic Locations

The Geographical location portion contains information about the towns which sponsored Chautauqua and lyceum programs. Arranged alphabetically, first by state and then by town, these folders include brochures, correspondence, and programs presented at that specific locale. Forty-seven states (excepting Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming) are represented; there are also folders for Canadian cities and towns.

Series 7 - Financial Records

Ledgers containing schedules of performances by talent chronicle who was appearing where.

Series 8 - Talent Schedules

Daily location logs for some of the performers.

Series 9 - Realia and Varied Material

Miscellaneous materials range from actual Chautauqua tickets to contracts, maps, books, etc.

Series 10 - Theses, Essays, and Articles

Theses and essays include papers written using the Redpath Chautauqua Collection.

Series 11 - Jounrals and Periodicals

Journals and periodicals in the collection include partial sets of a number of periodicals including: The Lyceumite (1902-1907); Talent, a Magazine of Public Speaking (1890-1907); The Lyceumite and Talent (1907-1913), a merger of Talent and Lyceumite; Lyceum Magazine (1913-1922), which continued The Lyceumite and Talent; and The Lyceum News (1911-1922). The magazine files of the International Lyceum Association are also a part of this series. Some of the sets include the International Lyceum and Chautauqua Association Yearbooks (1911-1924); Lyceum Magazine and Leadership (1928-1929) a further continuation of The Lyceumite and Talent; The Platform World (1929-1933), a continuation of Lyceum Magazine and Talent; and Program (1933-1944).

Series 12 - Contemporary Uses and Series 13 Related Collections

In 2022, these two series were removed from the finding aid and instead added as 'Related Materials' for the collection.

Physical Location

Oversized ledgers/cashbooks are now located in artifacts room:

There are oversized posters in Flatbox 25 that need to be added to the finding aid. These materials relate to Fred High.

Method of Acquisition

Gift of Harry P. Harrison, Harrison John Thornton, and others, 1940-1973.

Related Materials

150.01 Denton Crowl

150.02 L.E. Moyer

150.03 Keith Vawter

150.04 Alfred E. Moredock

150.05 Arthur Spivey

15.06 Carl Backman

150.07 Charles Horner

150.08 Harrison Thornton

150.09 Marion Ballou Fisk

150.10 Krantz Family Papers

150.11 Rosa Kohler/Radcliffe Chautauqua Papers

150.12 Tom and Ruth Blanchard Chautauqua Collection

150.13 Julian Gromer Travelogues Collection

150.14 Lincoln Chautauqua Bureau Materials

150.15 Richard G. Oram Chautauqua Collection

150.16 Barry Illinois Chautauqua Collection

150.17 William H. Thompson Papers

150.18 Papers of Clark M. Eichelberger

150.19 Betsy Loyd Oral Histories of Permanent Chautauquas

150.20 Harold McKeen Papers

150.21 George Walter Grill Chautauqua Collection

“Asia in America: an Introduction.” Asian Reflections on the American Landscape: Identifying and Interpreting Asian Heritage. Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 2005.

Canning, Charlotte M. The Most American Thing in America: Circuit Chautauqua as Performance. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005.

Ellis, Clyde. "More Real than the Indians Themselves: the Early Years of the Indian Lore Movement in the United States." Montana, The Magazine of Western History, Autumn 2008.

Loyd, Betsy. “Female Circuit Chautauqua Performers, 1904-1930.” University of Iowa Social History Graduate Seminar, May 11, 2005.

Nunn, Diane and Christine Cleary. “From the Mexican California Frontier to Arnold-Kennick: Highlights in the Evolution of the California Juvenile Court, 1850-1961.” Journal of the Center for Families, Children and the Courts. 5 (2004) : 3-34.

Sampsel, Laurie J. and Marcelyn H. D’Avis. “Music at the Colorado Chautauqua: A Century-Long Tradition.” American Music Research Center Journal. 10 (2000) : 43-82.

The Redpath Chautauqua Collection is the most extensive collection of circuit chautauqua and lyceum materials known to exist. The history of this collection is closely connected with the career of Harrison John Thornton, professor of history at the University of Iowa from 1929 to 1952. His scholarly interests in the lyceum and Chautauqua movements resulted in the Libraries’ original holdings. The Vawter estate left Keith Vawter’s personal papers to Professor Thornton, who willed the papers to the University Libraries upon his own death. The office files of the Redpath-Chicago Bureau were gifted to the University of Iowa Libraries in 1945, with the Libraries taking actual possession of the papers in 1951. Since that time the Libraries have continued to add to the collection, with several increments received in the 1970s. For more information about this collection see: McCown, Robert, "Records of the Redpath Collection," Books at Iowa, no. 19 ( November, 1973) and for further information on Chautauqua, Charlotte M. Canning's essay, "What was Chautauqua."

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)