Skip to main content

Chapman Family papers

Identifier: IWA0988

  • Staff Only
  • Please navigate to collection organization to place requests.

Scope and Contents

The Chapman Family papers date from 1896-2016 and measure 2.6 linear feet. The papers include documents, artifacts, photographs and media, and are arranged into five series: Family History (1896-2016); Ansel and Corinne Chapman (1915-2009); Katherine Chapman Keller (1967-2013); Englert Theater (1920-2012); Photographs (1897-1995), and Artifacts (1938).

The Family History series (1896-2016) contains genealogical information written on forms from the Genealogical Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Inc. It also includes an essay on the history of Louis Wohlner (the ancestor of Corinne Wohlner Chapman), newspaper clippings regarding the death of Nathan Chapman, birth and marriage certificates, U.S. Army discharge papers for Albert Davis, and Ansel Chapman’s certificate of election to the district court. It contains the essay "A Reflection on 100 Years of Agudas Achim," written by Katherine Chapman with input from Nathan and Barbara Chapman.

The Ansel and Corinne Chapman series (1915-2009) contains a show program for the Sisterhood of Agudas Achim, an Omaha Central High School Commencement program, and an Iowa Advocate publication article entitled “Scholarship fund established to honor Judge Chapman,” from 2005. The newspaper clippings announce Judge Ansel Chapman’s nominations and appointment to the district court bench, describe Ansel’s participation in high school competitions, and Corinne’s participation in the Iowa City Arts and Crafts fair, as chairman of the Iowa City House tour, and as a member of the League of Women Voters. The Memorial tributes folder contains obituaries, memorial service programs, an article about Corinne in The Voter publication, eulogies, and a list of donations made in memory of Judge Chapman.

The Katherine Chapman Keller series (1967-2013) contains an article about Keller’s career in the View, Keller’s Crystal Apple Award nominee certificate, photos and newspaper clippings of Kathy and Ansel’s 1967 trip to the nation’s capital, and correspondence between Katherine and her father Ansel.

The Englert Theater series (1920-2012) contains a newspaper clipping describing actors Marjorie Main (‘Maw Kettle’), Joe Besser, and Shelley Winters’ visit to the Englert Theater in 1948 during their tour from Los Angeles. Ansel Chapman is pictured in the clipping.

The Photographs series (1897-1995) folders are organized by family, although the photos of many individuals can be found in the folders of multiple families. The Davis family photos include images of Albert (Al) Davis, Dora Davis Chapman, John Henry Davis, Nate Chapman (with Dora), Rose Davis, and Molly Emanuel Davis. The Chaia and Solomon Chapman family photos occur in both Russia and Des Moines, and include their children Nate and Abe, grandsons Ansel and Marvin, Julius Chapman, and the great-grandchildren of Chaia Chapman (children of Ansel and Corinne and of Marvin and Louis). The Al and Molly Wohlner family photos contain images of Al in uniform during WWI. The Dora and Nate Chapman family photos contain images of their grandchildren Mimi and Carol, their children Marvin and Ansel, Dora’s youngest brother, Louis Davis, Ansel’s Bar Mitzvah celebration in Des Moines, Iowa, and an early 1920’s class picture at Longfellow School in Iowa City. The Ansel and Corinne Chapman family photos include images of their children Nathan, Kathy and Barbara, images of Louise Chapman (the wife of Marvin Chapman), and wedding photos. The Sigma Delta Tau (SDT) photos depict class photos, Louise Chapman, and SDT Parents day showing 3 generations of SDTs when Kathy Chapman was a freshman at Iowa. Miscellaneous photos picture Louise, Julia, and Helen Chapman, Annie and Charles Horwich, and Grandpa Malaslock and his family in Europe.

The Artifacts series consists of artifacts used by the Chapman family. The series contains a fez and Masonic apron that belonged to Ansel Chapman; one pillowcase made by Chaia (Ida) Chapman, Ansel Chapman's grandmother; and one doily made by Sonia Sands, the house mother at the Phi Epsilon Pi fraternity at the University of Iowa. This series also includes tefillin (phylacteries).


  • Creation: 1896-2016


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

The Chapmans were a prominent Jewish family in the Iowa City area for much of the 20th century. Nathan Chapman owned and operated the Englert Theater along with other movie theaters in Iowa City. His son, Ansel Chapman, was the first Jewish judge in Iowa appointed to the State District Court.

Dora Davis Chapman was born in 1893 in St. Cloud, Minnesota. She married Nathan Chapman, a Russian immigrant, in 1913. After arriving in Iowa City in 1920, Nathan Chapman managed The Garden Theater for A.H. Blank out of Des Moines. Eventually, he leased and then purchased the Englert Theater from Etta Englert. He died in 1924 and Dora continued to run the business while raising their sons, Ansel and Marvin.

Ansel Chapman was born in Des Moines in 1915 and raised in Iowa City, Iowa. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Iowa where, in 1932, he enlisted in the Army (ROTC). Chapman joined the Officer’s Reserve Corps in 1941. After finishing law school at Yale, Chapman practiced briefly in Mason City until his reserve unit was called up following Pearl Harbor. While continuing to help run Iowa City’s Englert Theater, Chapman had a career in law. In 1968, he became a judge in Iowa’s State District Court, becoming the first Jewish person to do so.

He married Corinne Wohlner Chapman, the daughter of a Lithuanian immigrant, and the two raised three children, Nathan, Katherine, and Barbara. Corinne Chapman was involved in many community organizations and served as the chapter president of the League of Women Voters in Johnson County and as the vice-president of the Iowa League of Women Voters.

Ansel Chapman died in 2005 and Corinne Chapman in 2009.


18.00 linear inches (1 videocassette [V950] and 2 DVD [D0321], [d0344] shelved in the videocassette and digital collections.)

Language of Materials



A prominent Jewish family in Iowa City, Iowa that included Nathan and Dora Chapman, owners of the Englert Theater, and Ansel Chapman, a State Distrcit Court judge.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Chapman Family papers (donor no. 1463) were donated by Katherine Chapman Keller in 2016.

Chapman Family papers
Katie Gandhi, 2017
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)