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The University of Iowa Libraries

Special Collections and University Archives

Finding Aid

Papers of Keith Vawter
MsC 150.03
Collection Dates: 1865-1936
1 linear ft.

Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.

Copyright: Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on Property Rights, Copyright Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials.

Use of Collections: The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Use of Manuscripts Statement.

Acquisition and Processing Information: This collection was given to The University of Iowa Libraries by Cora E. Vawter through Professor H. J. Thornton of The University of Iowa History Department.

Photographs: Box 1

Keith Vawter Photo

Scope and Contents

The manuscripts of Keith Vawter include correspondence, one folder of photographs, Chautauqua schedules and miscellaneous documents including contracts, Memoranda of Agreement, and invoices. The collection also contains various Chautauqua paraphernalia including employee information, advertisements, program fliers, and lists of talent, entertainment features, and lectures.

Biographical Note

Keith Vawter was born in Indianola, Iowa April 23, 1872. After attending Drake University in Des Moines Iowa, Vawter worked for the family business, Vawter & Sons Booksellers, from 1896-1899. At the same time he aided in obtaining lecture talent for the Des Moines Lyceum. In 1899 Vawter established the Standard Lecture Bureau in Des Moines Iowa. In 1901 Vawter purchased a one-third interest in the Redpath Lyceum Bureau and began working for the Bureau in Chicago in 1903. At the same time Vawter and his partner Roy J. Ellison established the Standard Redpath Chautauqua with the Redpath Lyceum Bureau and a year later Vawter and Ellison organized the first tent or circuit Chautauqua.

A tent Chautauqua was created by grouping a number of towns in the same area together to create a circuit. Vawter then provided a set of entertainment and lectures that would travel from town to town within that circuit. Each town would have the same program. Vawter’s method eliminated open dates, reduced talent cost by using long time contracts, helped lecturers work full time, and reduced the amount and cost of traveling. He also monitored the quality of talent hired, chose the dates and talent that would be available and reduced the cost of advertisements. The first circuit in 1904 consisted of 15 towns in Iowa and Nebraska and by 1907 Vawter had a circuit of 33 towns. Vawter furnished all talent, tents, advertising, and work crews for the towns; local citizens handled the advance sale of tickets.

Vawter introduced the use of tents for performances since some towns didn’t have a Chautauqua building, while other towns had buildings that were too small for the number of people that attended the events. In 1909 Vawter started the seven day Chautauqua and in 1910 he assigned each performer a specific day on the seven day program allowing for talent to perform in one town and immediately move on to the next town. Vawter hired many famous speakers including Warren G. Harding, Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin, Senator Albert B. Cummins of Iowa, and William Jennings Bryan.

Vawter sold his interest in Redpath in 1926 and went into banking during which he served as president of the Center Point Bank in Center Point Iowa and Walker Bank & Trust Co. in Walker Iowa. He was also President of the Board of Trustees of Drake University in 1918-19 and received an honorary L.L.D. from Culver-Stockton College in Canton Missouri in 1931. Vawter died from a stroke in 1937.

Related Materials

McCown, Robert A.  "Records of the Redpath Chautauqua." from Books at Iowa.  19 (November 1973) 

Horner, Charles F.  Strike the Tents, the Story of the Chautauqua. Philadelphia, Dorrance [1954]

Records of the Redpath Lyceum Bureau, MsC 150  Please note the list of additional mini-collections of Chautauqua material at the end of the Redpath finding aid.

Box Contents List

Box 1

Book of Towns on Chautauqua Circuit listed in alphabetical order

Folder 1, Advertisements, Programs and Newspaper Articles
---Advertisements and Programs, 1915-1923
---Two Chautauqua Buttons
---Twenty Years of Chautauqua Progress Pamphlets, 1904-1923
---Chautauqua Herald, 1921-1922

Folder 2, Employee Information, Tickets and Receipts, Reports and Lists --- International Chautauqua Alliance Tabulated Confidential Talent Reports, 1905-1907
---Keith Vawter Dramatic Productions Tickets, Ticket Receipts
---List of Chautauquas and Summer Assemblies and their Managers, Superintendents Secretaries and Program Builders, 1907-1911
---Redpath Chautauqua System: Booklet of reports and clippings from newspapers regarding Chautauqua work, programs for 1907
--- Employee Information Pamphlets
--- Suggestions to Superintendents
--- Transportation and payment information
--- Instructions to cashiers
--- Employee contract
--- List of Talent, 1907-1927
--- List of Entertainment Features in alphabetical order, 1907-1925
--- List of Lecturers in alphabetical order, 1907-1925

Folder 3, Chautauqua schedules of New York and New England, 1916-1929
---Redpath Chautauqua schedules, 1915-1929

Folder 4, Photographs
---Vawter Family Pictures, 1865-1870
---Portraits of Keith Vawter, 1935

Folder 5, Correspondence, 1902-1917

Folder 6, Correspondence, 1918-1925

Folder 7, Correspondence, 1926-1927

Folder 8, Correspondence, 1928-1936; undated

Box 2, Vawter Records

Folder 9, 1891-1904

Folder 10,1905-1907

Folder 11, 1908-1918

Folder 12, 1919-1923

Folder 13, 1923-1931

Folder 14, Miscellaneous, undated records

Folder 15, Contracts and Agreements: Hathaway, Vawter, Harry P. Harrison
--- Agreement between Redpath Lyceum Bureau, Hathaway & Co. and Vawter, January 8, 1902
--- Articles of Copartnership between Hathaway, Vawter to create George H. Hathaway & Co., November 20, 1902
--- Memorandum of Agreement between Redpath Lyceum and Harrison, February 15, 1905
--- Contract between Redpath Lyceum and Vawter, February 2, 1906 renewed March 1, 1907
--- Agreement between Vawter and Harrison, July 18, 1909
--- Memorandum of Agreement between Vawter, Peffer and Harrison, June, 26, 1909
--- Agreement between Vawter and Harrison, October 17, 1911
--- Agreement between Vawter and Harrison, January 16, 1915
--- Contract between Redpath Vawter Chautauqua System and Rupe, February 25, 1925
--- Memorandum of Agreement for the Evening Star Chautauquas, No Date
--- Letter between Vawter and Grimm; February 24, 1925

Folder 16, Redpath Minute book
---Minutes of Vawter Chautauqua System Stockholder Meeting, November 3, 1919
--- Notice of Redpath Lyceum Bureau, Inc. Stockholder Meeting, June-November, 1925
--- Minutes of Redpath Lyceum Bureau, Inc. Stockholder Meetings May-November 1925
--- Dissolution of Vawter Chautauqua System, November 29, 1919
--- Pamphlet from International Lyceum and Chautauqua Managers Association; 1919
--- Invitation to Redpath Vawter Management Banquet, No Date
--- Employee Contract for Redpath Vawter Service, January 1922
--- Chautauqua “Comps” from Redpath Vawter
--- Correspondence concerning Redpath Lyceum Bureau Minute Book, 1924-1926
--- Money Receipt, December 13, 1924
--- Interview with Keith Vawter, July 13, 1934
--- Order form for “Billiards-The Home Magnet” to K. Vawter, January 30, 1917

Folder 17, Clements, Ralph Henderson. "Culture Under Canvas." Copy of a speech to be delivered October 28, 1975 before the C.R. Literary Club.