Skip navigation

The University of Iowa Libraries

Records of the Redpath Chautauqua Collection

Manuscript Register
MsC 150

Quantity: Records, 648 linear ft., (1,132 boxes); Photographs, 4.0 linear ft., (8 boxes plus panoramic photos)

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

Access: The papers are open for research. Information on literary rights available in the repository.

Preferred Citation: Redpath Chautauqua Bureau Records, Special Collections Department, University of Iowa Libraries (Iowa City).

Records of the Redpath Chautauqua Collection

Organization History

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.

Scope and Contents Notes

The Redpath Chautauqua Bureau Records are 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 divided into series. Series I-IX encompass material received from the Redpath-Chicago Bureau. Series X-XIII contain items donated by various individuals.

Series I: Talent Correspondence and Brochures
Series II: Photographs and Postcards
Series III: Music
Series IV: Agent and Employee Records
Series V: Business Files
Series VI: Geographic Locations
Sub-Series A: Canada
Sub-Series B: United States
Series VII: Financial Records

Series VIII: Talent Schedules

Series IX: Realia and Varied Material

Series X: Theses/Essays
Series XI: Journals/Periodicals
Series XII: Contemporary Uses
Series XIII: Related Collections

The Talent series is the largest portion of the collection and documents approximately 8,400 Chautauqua performers. It is arranged alphabetically by the name of the performer and includes some 7,900 publicity brochures, along with promotional advertising, flyers, and correspondence relating to the individual performer or group. The publicity brochures in this series have been digitized and are available online at and

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 have been digitized and are available online at

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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).

Articles, books, etc., that used the Redpath Chautauqua collection as a source of images, correspondence, brochures, etc., are located under Contemporary Uses.

A number of related collections provide additional insight into what Chautauqua was all about.

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."


Harrison, Harry P., 1878-
Vawter, Keith, 1872-1937.
Horner, Charles Francis, 1878-
Redpath, James, 1833-1891.
Redpath-Horner Chautauquas.
Redpath Vawter Chautauquas.
Chautauquas -- United States -- History
Chautauquas -- Canada -- History
Entertainers -- United States -- History
Lecturers -- United States -- History
Lyceums -- History
Popular culture -- United States -- History -- 20th century
United States -- Popular culture -- Periodicals


Balance sheets


Go to Series listings by clicking on entry:

SERIES I: Talent Correspondence and Brochures ( Boxes 1-349)

SERIES II: Photographs and Postcards (Boxes 1-8 plus oversized)

SERIES III: Music (Boxes 1-4)

SERIES IV: Agent and Employee Records (Boxes 1-249A)

SERIES V: Business Files (Boxes 1-263)

SERIES VI: Geographic Locations:

Sub-Series A: Canada (Boxes 1-26)

Sub-Series B: United States (Boxes 27-436)

SERIES VII: Financial Records (Boxes 1-58)

SERIES VIII: Talent Schedules (Boxes 1-21)

SERIES IX: Realia and Varied Material

SERIES X: Theses/Essays


SERIES XI: Journals and Periodicals

SERIES XII: Contemporary Uses

SERIES XIII: Related Collections

150.01 Denton Crowl

150.02 L.E. Moyer

150.03 Keith Vawter

150.04 Alfred E. Moredock

150.05 Arthur Spivey

150.06 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

150.22 Fred Crane Chautauqua Recording Series