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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Denton Chester Crowl Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1909-1938
Creator: Crowl, Denton Chester (1882-1944)
Extent: 1.50 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0150.01
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Lecturer-portrayalist, salesman and editorial writer for the Toledo Blade, Denton Crowl performed on the Chautauqua circuits and in other venues. This collection includes correspondence, appointment diaries, photographs, and manuscripts, mostly relating to his lecture and political activities.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs Box 1

Access: This collection is open for research.

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

Acquisition: These papers were given to the University of Iowa Libraries by Jane Reid in 2005.

Preferred Citation: Denton Chester Crowl 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

Denton Chester Crowl was born June 1, 1882 to John and Effie Crowl in Urbana, Ohio. By the age of eighteen, Crowl had won a speaking contest. He became acquainted with the evangelist Sam Jones, with whom he eventually worked, perhaps as a secretary. Crowl seems also to have had a gift for impersonation, and he created impersonations of Davy Crockett and Jekyll and Hyde, among others. Eventually he acquired permission to impersonate Sam Jones on the platform, and began appearing on the chautauqua circuits. He also worked as a booking promoter for chautauquas.
Sometime before 1908 he visited H.H. Tredway in Metamora, Ohio, to schedule a chautauqua event and met Tredway's sister Georgia. They were married May 18, 1908, and for more than 20 years, the Tredway farms were Crowl's country summer home where he lived with Georgia and her parents when not traveling. A daughter, Kathryn, was born in 1914.
During the winter months, they moved elsewhere while Crowl pursued ventures such as producing and selling Glare Shields for cars and a luggage rack that attached to the running board of a car. He also sold the Ali Carrier, a set of removable wheels for suitcases invented by a fellow chautauqua performer, J. Mohammad Ali, which took the lug out of luggage. At times in the 1920s he owned the Metamora Record, a small newspaper. He also contributed editorials to the Toledo Blade.
Crowl was a staunch Republican, opposed to the League of Nations and the New Deal, who thought chautauquas were an ideal venue for getting Republican ideas before the public. He was frustrated when he could not accomplish this, which may have had something to do with his leaving the circuits. In later years he wrote pamphlets regarding taxation and business. He became involved in the first Florida land boom and wrote curricula and conducted training sessions for salesmen in Coral Gables. In the 1920s, Crowl took to Ohio the idea of The Breakers, a beach resort club in Chicago. He founded the Catawba Cliffs Beach Club near Port Clinton, Ohio. Crowl developed the promotional material and as investors purchased memberships, the club grew, eventually including a marina, beach, bathhouse, and finally a club house and hotel. Unfortunately, by 1933 the wealthy members were wealthy no more as the Depression took hold, and the club's grand opening coincided with a bank holiday declared by President Roosevelt. Crowl eventually lost the club. It is still in existence today as the Catawba Island Club.
During the early 1930s Crowl moved his family to Toledo. His final business venture in the 1930s and 1940s was the Allen-Crowl Company which he organized to produce and distribute drugs and medicines especially for dogs. In March 1941, Crowl suffered a stroke while in Florida. He survived but never recovered completely. He died in August 1944 at the age of 62.

This collection includes many documents relating to Crowl's work on the lecture circuit. Correspondence and schedules from chautauquas, correspondence about chautauquas, appointment diaries recording his schedule, and chautauqua programs make up a part of this collection. Photographs document moments on the road and other events and performers, most notably a large format photograph of the conference of the International Lyceum and Chautauqua Association of December 1922. Clippings by and about Crowl record performances as well as reveal his political leanings. A Republican, he was active in the 1930 presidential election, and there are several files relating to that campaign as well as his work on a drive for a national sales tax. Promotional materials he developed are included. His writings make up the largest section of this collection and include the texts of at least two of his platform impersonations as well as speeches and newspaper editorials.
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.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Appointment diaries - 1904; 1906-1916; 1924-1930
  • Biographical materials
  • Cartoon drawing of Crowl by MAC (of janitor crew 7)
  • Community Chautauqua: Correspondence - 1920
  • Crowl's schedule including undated - 1911-1913; 1917; 1920; 1924-1925
  • International Lyceum and Chautauqua Association; Lecturer's Conference, Washington D.C. See also large photograph listed under photographs; December 7-9 - 1922
  • Chautauqua Programs and material
  • Wood Orchestral Trio brochure - 1909-1910
  • Metamora, Ohio, August 26-September 1 - 1912
  • Orleans, Vermont, August 1-3, 5, 6 - 1918
  • Gahanna, July 30-31, August 1 - 1919
  • Coaticook, Quebec, August 17-21 - 1920
  • Picton, Ontario, July 28-August 2 - 1920
  • Jonestown, Pennsylvania, June 17-19 - 19--
  • Pamphlet, "To the Lyceum Agents" (How to sell Denton Crowl)
  • Clippings, including Crowl's obituary
  • Correspondence - 1900-1920
  • Correspondence - 1921-1922
  • Correspondence, including undated - 1923-1943
  • Miscellaneous including Ali's Suitcase Carrier pamphlet; Rand-McNally Indexed Pocket Map for Tennessee; pocket ledger, some undated - 1920
  • National Sales Tax proposal
  • Photostat and transcription of letter to the public by Samuel P. Jones - 19--
  • Photographs
  • Chautauqua audience, circa. - 1910
  • Tabernacle Chautauqua Park; Mountainair, New Mexico
  • Denton C. Crowl, circa. - 1940
  • Father Vaughn
  • Georgia (Tredway) Crowl & Denton C. Crowl. Note "Ali Carrier" wheels on luggage, circa. - 1908
  • Family home of Denton C. Crowl in Urbana, Ohio; Denton is 3rd from right, Georgia is 2nd from right
  • Camping on the Chautauqua Circuit: Denton Crowl, Kathryn Crowl, Georgia Crowl; Comment on Bottom of picture: "Side Show"
  • Tent on Chautauqua Circuit
  • Camping on Chautauqua Circuit, left to right: ?, Denton Crowl, Kathryn Crowl, Georgia Crowl; Comment on the back of picture: "Gypsy style life, ha!"
  • Country home of Denton C. Crowl on Horace Tredway Farm near Metamora, Ohio.
  • Denton C. Crowl
  • Large photograph "Conference of International Lyceum and Chautauqua Assoc. on Visit to President Harding, Washington, D.C.", December 9 - 1922
    Map case 13, Drawer 14
  • Large format photograph of a Chautauqua group (?) n.d., n.p.
    On top of Map case 13
  • Photograph of 11-member band
  • Photograph of Rev. Sam P. Jones
  • Publications featuring Crowl - 1923, 1933, 1935, 1936
  • Republican Party Election clippings - 1930
  • Election correspondence - 1925; 1930s
  • Political election pamphlets - 1930s
  • Typed speech delivered by Crowl to Republicans of Lucas county, "Spirit of Republicanism"
  • Pages removed from scrapbook
  • Pages removed from scrapbook
  • Numerous writings by Crowl including texts of his Davy Crockett and Sam Jones impersonations.
  • "Pages From Memory" by Crowl; type-written
  • Political writings by Crowl
  • Two writings by Crowl: "Scrambled Business" and "Scrambled Taxation."