Brownlow and Dorothea Thompson Collection, 1639-1994

Collection number: MC 294
Size: (13 boxes) (3.66 cu.ft.)

About Brownlow and Dorothea Thompson

Brownlow (“Brownie”) Leighton Thompson (1909-1998)

Brownlow (“Brownie”) Leighton Thompson (6 Sept. 1908-18 Aug. 1998) was a square dance caller and dance historian from North Conway, New Hampshire. Originally born in Iowa, his family moved to Massachusetts by 1911, and he lived in N. Conway from the 1940s onwards. He is mentioned in the New England Caller publications, the Northern Junket, and various New Hampshire newspapers. Brownie Thompson served as the president of the New Hampshire Folk Federation from 1949-1951, and was very active in the Mt. Washington Stompers and other square dance clubs.

His dance history interests are reflected in his correspondence and collections related to Ralph Page; other associated callers include Arthur Tufts, Bob Bennett, Frank Fortune, Mal Hayden, Frank Morrison, Wayne Rick, and Fred Pulsifer. He was also involved with the organization of the international square dance organization CALLERLAB.

The collection’s materials suggest that Brownie and his wife Dot called equally frequently within the Bicentennial Dancers, the Mt. Washington Stompers, and around greater New England.

Dorothea Martin Thompson (1911-1992)

Dorothea “Dot” Martin (later Thompson) (18 Aug. 1911-3 Feb. 1992) began square dancing during her childhood on a ranch outside Calgary, Alberta, Canada. By 1940 she had moved to Amarillo, Texas, possibly to attend West Texas State College. Here she organized a school square dance club, which later expanded to include the entire community as part of the Works Project Administration (WPA). She served as director of the WPA’s recreation project in Amarillo from 1940-1944; weekly dances soon had an attendance of 200+ people and offered workshops in squares and round dances for faculty and community organizations. Visiting teachers included well known caller Jimmy Clousen.

After the war she toured Italy and Iceland as a caller, before marrying and settling down in New Hampshire. Here she became heavily involved in the New Hampshire Folk Federation, the New Hampshire Folk and Square Dance Festival, the Bicentennial Dancers, and the Mt. Washington Stompers square dance club of North Conway (founded 1971). During the period of 1949-1951 she served as dance chairman of the New Hampshire Folk Federation. Dot Thompson is remembered particularly for having introduced and popularized the “Western do” and “Texas Star” figures in New Hampshire and Maine.

About the Brownlow and Dorothea Thompson Collection (1802-1994)

The Brownlow and Dorothea Thompson Collection (1853-1994) consists of dance notation, 19th century New England music publications and manuscripts, and extensive personal dance journals spanning several decades of the Thompson’s dancing and calling careers. These journals often include the dancers present, the caller, the musicians, and the overall quality of the dancing.

Calling materials relate to the Bicentennial Dancers of North Conway, CALLERLAB, New Hampshire Folk Federation, and Western style square dancing. The Bicentennial Dancesr were a performance group the Thompsons founded in 1971, which performed Western squares, New England squares, 17th-19th century contra dances, and more modern round dances for audiences until the mid-1990s. The repertoire of prominent guest callers such as Ralph Page is noted.

Historical materials include several handwritten dance manuscripts from the Peacock family of Gardiner, Maine and others. A collection of 106 dance cards spans the years 1853-1934 and covers most of New England (these were apparently collected and researched by Dorothea Thompson). Completing the collection is ca. 30 nineteenth century publications on dance and music from New England. The titles of these are listed beginning in Box 8 below.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Brownlow and Dorothea Thompson Collection, 1802-1994, MC 294, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Gift of the Estate of Brownlow Thompson, 1999

Separated Material

The following materials were separated:

  • 1.5 cubic feet of periodicals: Northern Junket; Rosin the Bow; NEFFA News; New Hampshire Folk Federation Service Bulletin; Square Dancing; American Dance Circle, The; Direction (from CALLERLAB); Pioneer Press (Mainewoods Dance Camp); American Square Dance; Sets in Order; Northeast Square Dancer Magazine, The; New Hampshire Genealogical Record, The; New England Caller, The; National Directory of Square and Folk Dance Callers, Teachers, and Leaders.
  • 2 cubic feet of commercially published books newer than 1920, now housed with the repository's main collection
  • 4 cubic feet of sound recordings (commerical and home-made): 12” LPs, 10” 78s, 7” 45s, commercial cassettes; Homemade cassettes.

Collection Arrangement

Original order was maintained as much as possible within material types (e.g. texts, dance programs).

Collection Contents

Series 1: Personal Papers, 1971-1981

(0.25 cubic feet)

Detailed records and accounts of the nearly daily dances the Thompsons called or attended during the decade of 1971-1981. A small amount of correspondence and several unlabeled photographs follow. Two folders contain syllabi and posters from dances and conventions the Thompsons attended, and a separate folder has early New Hampshire Folk Festival Materials.

Box 1
Personal Papers

Folders 1-11: Personal papers, including detailed dance diaries and early New Hampshire Folk Festival materials.

Series 2: Bicentennial Dancers of North Conway, 1974-1991

(0.05 cubic feet)

Speeches, programs and choreography for the Bicentennial Dancers of North Conway NH, 1974-1991.

Box 1
Bicentennial Dancers Material

Folders 12-13: Programs and choreography for the Bicentennial Dancers of North Conway, 1974-1991.

Box 2
Bicentennial Dancers Material continued

Folders 1-2: Detailed programs and narrations from the Bicentennial Dancers of North Conway, 1974-1991.

Series 3: Historical Manuscripts, 1850-1980

(0.3 cubic feet)

Handwritten historical music manuscripts from Norman Singer and Geoffrey Charlesworth (New York City, 20th century), Brownlow Thompson (New Hampshire, 20th century), Sydney Peacock (Maine, 19th century), Anna Mabde Dill (Maine, 19th Century), several unidentified 19th century manuscripts, and a copy of Caleb Chase’s manuscript (New Hampshire, 19th century, original at New Hampshire Historical Society).

Box 2
Historical Manuscripts

Folders 3-11: Handwritten historical music manuscripts from Norman Singer and Geoffrey Charlesworth (New York City, 20th century), Brownlow Thompson (New Hampshire, 20th century), Sydney Peacock (Maine, 19th century), Anna Mabde Dill (Maine, 19th Century), several unidentified 19th century manuscripts, and a copy of Caleb Chase’s manuscript (New Hampshire, 19th century, original at New Hampshire Historical Society).

Box 3
Historical Manuscripts continued

Folders 1-13: Historical music manuscripts, continued from Box 2.

Series 4: Dance Notation, 1940-1994

(0.5 cubic feet)

The Thompsons were active dance historians, and called many older dances such as quadrilles, cotillions, triple minor contras, and older couple's dances. They were also interested and active in the contemporary dance scenes of Western squares, New England singing squares, round dances, and contras. Both older and newer materials are represented in this series.

Box 3
Dance History and Notation, 1940-1990

Folders 14-17: Dance notation for 19th century quadrilles and some newer square dance material from CALLERLAB.

Box 4
Dance Notation, 1970-1994

Predominantly singing square dance notation, with some syllabi, round dancing, and contra dancing included. Two folders are of material from CALLERLAB.

Box 5
Dance Notation. 1940-1980

Mostly ‘chestnut’ contra dances in triple and duple minor forms, including some material from Ralph Page. Early Western square dance cue sheets are included, as well as some round dances.

Series 5: Dance Programs, 1802-1934

(0.66 cubic feet)

115 historical dance programs, mostly small, of the type which would be given to dancers to arrange partners in advance at 19th century balls. These programs list performers, halls, dances, local printers, historical advertising, types of dances, and much more. They cover 150 years and at least eight states. Most were bought at auction, given by friends, or collected from estates by the Thompsons.

Box 6
NH and MA Dance Programs 1853-1921

Historical dance program booklets from New Hampshire (1890-1921) and Massachusetts (1853-1911). These were seemingly collected by Dorothea Thompson from dealers, friends, and auctions. Her research notes are written on the original envelopes and are included in the folder with each program. Arrangement is chronological within each state.

Box 7
MA, NJ, PA, NY, NYC, VT Dance Programs, 1802-1934

Historical dance program booklets from Massachusetts (1895-1910), New Jersey (1873-1975), Maine (1880-1900), and various locations in New York City, New York State, Pennsylvania, and unknown (1878-1934). One catch-all folder at the end contains various upper-New England programs.

Series 6: Historical Publications, 1639-1890

(1 cubic foot)

Titles are listed below. Original folders contain useful annotations are foldered with the publications. See also Oversized Box 2.

Box 8
Historical New England Dance Imprints, 1639-1890
  • American Imprints 1639-1800 in Readex Microprint form from the American Antiquarian Society. Various titles, all with mentions of dance or music. (Readable on a microprint reader.)
  • Cartier, Professor. “Ball Room Guide and Call Book; Practical Illustrated Waltz Instructor” (New York: Dewitt, 1882).
  • Ferrero, Edward. “The Art of Dancing and Ball Room Instructor” (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald Publishers, 1859).
  • French, J.A., ed. “Prompter’s Handbook” (Boston: Oliver Ditson Co., 1893).
  • French, J.A., ed. “Prompter’s Handbook” (Boston: Oliver Ditson Co., 1893). Reprinted, without some material.
  • Greene, William E. “The Terpsichorean Monitor” (Providence, RI, 1889).
  • Howe, Elias. “Musician’s Omnibus No. 7” (Boston, 1882)
  • Rook. “Drills and Marches” (Philadelphia: Penn Publishing Company, 1890/1911).
  • Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (1st Edition), 1883
  • Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (1st Edition), 1883 [loose leaves]
  • Saltator. “A Treatise on Dancing and Various Other Matters” (Boston, Commercial Gazette, 1802). [copy]
  • Schell, John M. “Prompting: How To Do It” (New York: Carl Fischer Inc., 1890).
  • Washburn, H.G.O. “The Ball Room Manual” (Belfast, Maine: H.G.O. Washburn, 1856 and 1857). Click here to view the 1856 edition, and here to view the 1857 edition (.pdf format).
  • Wehman Bros. “The Way to Dance, or, Dancing Without A Master” (Wehman Bros., New York, ca. 1890).
Box 9
Historical New England Dance Imprints continued, 1802-1894
  • Cartier. “Pocket Guide and Calls for Square Dances” (n.p., ca. 1880-1885).
  • Cellarius. “The Drawing-Room Dances” (Boston: Ditson and Co., 1858). [Original 1847]
  • D’Orsay, Count Alfred. “Etiquette or, a Guide to The Usages of Society” (New York: Wilson and Co., 1843).
  • Hillgrove, Thomas. “Ball Room Guide: A Complete Practical Guide to the Art of Dancing” (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1863).
  • Holt, Arden. “The Cotillon” (London: 1894)
  • Howe, Elias. “Ball-Room Handbook” (1858). [Book lacks cover; this is likely what it is based on text similarity.]
  • Howe, Elias. “How’s Complete Ball-Room Hand Book” (New York: Oliver Ditson and Co., 1858).
  • Howe, Elias. “The Pocket Ball-Room Prompter” (Boston, Russell and Tolman: 1858-1859). [copy]
  • Offenbach. “Dancing Without A Master: Ball Room Manual” (New York: Hurst and Co., 1876).
  • Saltator. “A Treatise on Dancing” (Boston, The Commercial Gazette, 1807). [See also 1802 edition, Box 8]
  • Tousey and Small, Publishers. “How To Dance: A Complete Ball-Room and Party Guide” (New York: 1878).
  • W.P.H. “Ball Room Guide” (Philadelphia, late 19th cen.)
Box 10
Historical New England Dance Imprints continued, 1858-1920
  • “Dick’s Quadrille Call-Book and Ball-Room Prompter” 2nd? Ed. (New York: Fitzgerald Pub. Corp., 1895). [2 copies]
  • “How To Dance” [Wehman Bros. ca. 1910-1925]
  • American Imprints “Shaw-Shoemaker Bibliography” in Readex Microprint form from the American Antiquarian Society. Various titles. Some sheet music included. (Readable on a microprint reader.)
  • Howe, Elias. “The Ball Room Handbook” (Boston, 1858).
  • Howe, Elias. “The Pocket Ball-Room Prompter” (Boston, ca. 1870)
  • Howe, Elias. “The Waltz! How to Correctly Dance It.” (Boston, 1891).
  • Wehman Bros. “The Way To Dance” (New York, ca. 1870).

Also included in this box:

  • King, Jay. “First Supplement to ‘The Square Dancer’s Dictionary’”, 1976
  • Fraidenburg, Ed. “The Callers Notebook: 250 Original Figures” (Elf Enterprises).
  • Burleson, Bill. “The Square Dancing Encyclopedia” (1970)
  • Universal Round Dance Council. “Round Dance Encyclopedia and Reference Manual.”

Series 7: Odd Sized Materials, 1880-1980

(1 cubic foot)

Three boxes containing calling cards, historical dance publications, and historical dance sheet music.

Box 11
Dance Calling Cards, 1940-1950

Dance calling cue cards from the Thompsons, ca. 1940-1950 (?). Some are from CALLERLAB, some are handwritten, and some are from Sets in Order publications.

Oversize Box 1
Sheet Music and Manuscript Folders, 1880-1980

Handwritten and published music from ca. 1900, including a handwritten folio from “Sarah J. Newkirk, Oxford, Chenango Co., New York”. One folder is of oversized dance notes, while the remainder consist of annotated folders from the Bicentennial Dancers and the Thompson’s historical dance publications.

Oversize Box 2
Large Historical Dance Publications, 1888-1900

Publication titles are listed below. See also Box 8.

  • “Beginner’s Favorite Dance Album” (Philadelphia, J.W. Pepper, 1888). [violin and piano parts]
  • “Metropolitan Collection” (Philadelphia, J.W. Pepper, 1893).
  • “Sym’s Old Time Dances” (Detroit: Melody Lane Publishers/New York: Geo. T. Worth and Co., 1930).
  • Custom bound volume of piano music collected by Marian Ward, ca. 1900. Various publishers and dates.
  • Howe, Elias. “Howe’s Full Quadrille Band Orchestra” ca. 1890s, Boston. [1st, 2nd violins, and Bass parts]
  • Winner, Sep. “Music and Steps of the Round and Square Dances for piano or organ” (Boston: Oliver Ditson Company, 1893)