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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Harrison John Thornton Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1917-1952
Creator: Thornton, Harrison John (1892-1952)
Extent: 6.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0150.08
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: A history professor at The University of Iowa who specialized on the Chautauqua circuit. Collection contains extensive materials divided into research materials, teachings, and written publications by Thornton.

Access: This collection is open for research.

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

Acquisition: Thornton and his widow, Mrs. H.J. Nadine Thornton, collected and presented all materials to the University of Iowa libraries.

Preferred Citation: Harrison John Thornton Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Harrison John Thornton was born July 8, 1892, in Liverpool, England. During his early life, Thornton spent time in England and South Africa. He attended school in Liverpool, and continued his education at the Transvaal School of Mines and at Johannesburg Commercial College. He came to the United States just before World War I during which he served in the Canadian army.

He attended Grinnell College and received B.A. and M.A. degrees. Thornton also received an M.A. degree from Harvard, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He taught at Grinnell College as an instructor from 1925-1927, at Harvard as an exchange assistant in 1927-1928, and at The University of Iowa as an assistant professor in 1929. Thornton became an associate professor for The University of Iowa in 1936, and was promoted to full professor in 1939.

Thornton was best known for being a scholar of the Quaker Oats Company, the history of The University of Iowa, and the history of the Chautauqua Association, among other topics. Along with numerous other publications, Thornton published one of ten biographical sketches of outstanding builders of The University of Iowa, which have been published in a series called Centennial Memories. Thornton also published numerous written essays dealing with the history of the Chautauqua movement. Thornton intended to write a two volume work on Chautauqua, the first to deal with the New York institution and the second on the Chautauqua circuits. He finished the first volume, Chautauqua: Adventure in Popular Education, before his death. The manuscript currently resides at the Chautauqua Institution in New York.

Thornton died suddenly at the age of sixty in Iowa City on September 22, 1952, during his twenty-third year as a member of The University of Iowa faculty.

The collection of Harrison John Thornton consists of six boxes of materials divided into three main categories: research materials, teachings, and written publications by Thornton. Within Boxes 1 and 2 of the research materials are bibliographies, correspondence, and newspaper clippings. The research materials in Boxes 3-6 consist of information on note cards kept in Thornton's original order.
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.
For information on Thornton's tenure at the University of Iowa, please see his faculty vertical file in Special Collections.

Browse by Series:

  • Sub-Series: Bibliographies
  • Box 1:
  • General
  • General
  • General
  • General
  • Note cards
  • Box 2:
  • Keith Vawter
  • Sub-Series: Correspondence
  • Box 2:
  • A-O
  • P-Unidentified
  • Sub-Series: Newspaper Clippings
  • Box 2:
  • General
  • General and Indianapolis News clippings
  • Sub-Series: Note cards, kept in order that Thornton had them
  • Box 3:
  • Books noted and searched
  • Sources Consulted
  • Thornton cites in progress
  • Theses, Dissertations
  • Completed thesis/completed bibliography and notes
  • Collections
  • Articles Noted [Organized alphabetically and chronologically]
  • Periodicals on Chautauqua and Lyceum
  • Miscellaneous, period runs, materials in batches
  • Articles in Process
  • Chautauquan
  • Independent
  • Lyceumite 1
  • Talent 1
  • Lyceumite and Talent 2
  • Lyceum Magazine 3
  • Lyceum Magazine and Leadership 4
  • Platform World 5
  • Searched in Chautauqua. eat, waiting for ILL [?]
  • Books in Process
  • Books Completed
  • New York Times Art
  • Other newspaper articles
  • Bibliographies
  • Graphic materials, Program books
  • Handbooks, Associate Proceedings, Bureau publications
  • Government documents
  • Miscellaneous
  • Book Reviews by title of book
  • Rail and Library Arts
  • Performance Materials CLSC
  • Cards not relevant
  • Microfilm to be examined (mostly theses) [no materials, only card insert]
  • Box 4:
  • Friendly Judgment
  • Circuit Beginnings
  • Audiences
  • Cornell
  • South [no materials, only card insert]
  • War
  • Abroad
  • Local Committee Problems
  • Reform
  • Independents
  • Lectures
  • Heyday of Circuit Chautauqua
  • Endowing Chautauqua
  • Illustrations
  • General
  • Junior Chautauqua
  • Ancestry
  • Introduction [no materials, only card insert]
  • Beginnings [no materials, only card insert]
  • The General Program to 1900 [no materials, only card insert
  • CLSC [no materials, only card insert]
  • Social Patterns [no materials, only card insert]
  • Reform [no materials, only card insert]
  • Press
  • Leaders
  • Box 5:
  • Outline
  • Chautauqua To-Day
  • Circuit Beginnings
  • Chautauqua Notables
  • Redpath: Vawter, Peffer, Horner, Hathaway
  • Bureau Rivalry and Problems [no materials, only card insert]
  • Chautauqua was clean
  • Chautauqua salute – Circuit
  • Aims and Values
  • Independents
  • Abroad
  • Ancestry
  • Chautauqua in Wartime
  • Talent Payment
  • Religious Factor
  • Chautauqua Bureaus
  • Hey Day
  • Idealistic Pretension
  • Swarthmore and Eastern
  • Standard Bureau
  • Slayton Bureau
  • Contracts
  • Early Circuit
  • Universities and Chautauqua
  • Regional Department
  • Criticism
  • Decline
  • Organization
  • Moving Pictures
  • Effect on Communities
  • Redpath
  • Talent
  • Talent Problems
  • Box 6:
  • What is Chautauqua?
  • Talent
  • Financial Circuit
  • What was Chautauqua?
  • Contracts Among the Chautauqua Managers and Bureaus
  • Vawter’s Grandest Chautauqua Contracts [no materials, only card insert]
  • Talent and Other Contracts [no materials, only card insert]
  • Talent – Personal and Hardships [no materials, only card insert]
  • Getting Local Contracts
  • Mechanics of a Circuit
  • Superintendents
  • Vawter – Life and Circuit Regs. [Regulars?]
  • Series 2: TEACHINGS
  • Box 7:
  • Miscellaneous and Student Papers
  • Student Papers
  • Box 7:
  • A-C
  • Ashton, J.W. and Harrison John Thornton. Dissertations in History and English. Iowa City: The University of Iowa - 1930
  • "Builders of the University." The Iowa Alumni Review, June - 1948
  • "Chautauqua and the Midwest." Wisconsin Magazine of History, December - 1949
  • "Chautauqua in Iowa." Iowa Journal of History: 1-26 - 1952
  • C
  • "Chautauqua Memories." The Eleusis of Chi Omega: 44-49 - 1951
  • "Chautauqua Moves West." Iowa Library Quarterly: 177-179 - 1952
  • "Coeducation at the State University of Iowa." The Iowa Journal of History and Politics: 380-412 - 1947
  • "Critics and Reformers at Chautauqua in the '80's and '90's." New York History: 1-15 - 1945
  • Box 8:
  • L-S
  • "Locating the State University of Iowa." Iowa Journal of History: 50-62 - 1949
  • "Oats in History." The Iowa Journal of History and Politics: 377-394 - 1932
  • "The Origin and Growth of Masonry in Iowa." The Palimpsest: 1-33 - 1944
  • "A State University is Born." The Palimpsest: 33-48 - 1947

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.