Southern Methodist University

R.C. Knickerbocker collection of performing arts materials

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Knickerbocker, R.C. (Ronald C.)
Title: R.C. Knickerbocker collection of performing arts materials.
Dates: 1887-1981
Abstract: Ronald C. Knickerbocker was the founder of the Southern Methodist University Community Course. Co-sponsored by Temple Emanu-El, the largest Reformed Jewish temple in Dallas, the Community Course presented cultural events on the SMU campus, usually in McFarlin Auditorium from 1939 to 1981. The majority of the material collected during his time as director of the Community Course includes clippings, correspondence, ephemera, documents, programs, publicity and published works relating to theater, dance and classical music. Most of the material originates from Dallas, Texas, but there is also material from New York, New York and other states and cities.
Extent: 5 boxes (2.5 linear feet)
Language: Material is in English
Repository Jerry Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

Ronald C. Knickerbocker’s affiliation with Southern Methodist University began in the early 1930s with his hiring as the university’s first information director, due in some measure to the friendship of his father, Rev. H.D. Knickerbocker, a prominent Methodist clergyman in Texas and Arkansas, with SMU president Charles Selecman. Ronald Knickerbocker filled many roles during his over forty years of employment with SMU, including those of photographer, publications producer, and fundraiser before taking on his longest-running duties, those of directing the Community Course. His long association with SMU resulted in his authoring the entry for the university in the 1952 edition of the Handbook of Texas and functioning briefly as university archivist in the late 1960s. In addition, Knickerbocker was active in several other organizations concerning the cultural life of Dallas, such as the Dallas Fine Arts Commission for Civilian Defense during World War II. A former SMU administrator who worked closely with Knickerbocker characterized him—admiringly—as a "likeable maverick."

Knickerbocker served as Executive Director of the Community Course from its inception in 1937 through the late 1970s. Co-sponsored by Temple Emanu-El, the largest Reformed Jewish temple in Dallas, the Community Course presented cultural events on the SMU campus, usually in McFarlin Auditorium. These included instrumental and vocal performances by then relatively unknown individuals such as Isaac Stern as well as lectures by notable public figures such as Dean Acheson, Norman Cousins, Salvador Dali, Sinclair Lewis, and Thomas Mann. As director of this program, Knickerbocker received publicity materials from representatives of these and many other artists and celebrities, which are included in the collection. Knickerbocker also took an interest in piano performances and recitals, especially in Dallas, and the collection includes numerous programs documenting these, dating from the 1890s.

Knickerbocker continued to work with The Community Course even after his official retirement from SMU in 1974. He died in Dallas on April 8, 1984.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Knickerbocker collection primarily consists of publicity materials for various performing artists, mostly classical instrumentalists. The bulk of the material, including the publicity and the published works series, can be dated from 1960-1980. However, the collection also includes a small amount of clippings, correspondence, ephemera and documents. The majority of the clippings is from Southern Methodist University Publications, Variety, Dallas Morning News and Rocky Mountain News, and consists of ads and articles documenting the popular performing arts, primarily of classical operatic and instrumental acts.

The correspondence identifies Mr. R. C. Knickerbocker as the Executive Director of The Community Course at Southern Methodist University and consists of letters to him advertising certain performers. Both the documents and ephemera include documents and publicity materials from performers in the Dallas area.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 7 series:
Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: Clippings
Series 3: Documents
Series 4: Ephemera
Series 5: Programs
Series 6: Publicity
Series 7: Published Works


Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use. Appointment with curatorial staff at Hamon Library is required.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the staff of Jerry Bywaters Special Collections.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Community Course (Dallas, Tex.)
Performing arts -- 20th century.
Music -- Texas -- Dallas -- 20th century.
Texas -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
Mary McCord/Edyth Renshaw collection on the performing arts.

Related Materials

This is one of the collections in the Mary McCord/Edyth Renshaw collection on the performing arts.

Paul and Viola van Katwijk collection, in Jerry Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library

Community Course records, in the SMU Archives, at the DeGolyer Library (SMU 1991.0079)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

R.C. Knickerbocker collection of performing arts materials, Mary McCord/Edyth Renshaw collection on the performing arts, Jerry Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

The R. C. Knickerbocker Collection was acquired as a component of the Mary McCord/Edyth Renshaw collection on the performing arts. The McCord/Renshaw Collection originated as the McCord Theatre Museum at Southern Methodist University in 1933. It was transferred to the Hamon Arts Library in 1990.

Processing Information

The Knickerbocker Collection was received in no discernable order. During its processing, the collection was divided into separate files for clippings, correspondence, documents, ephemera, programs, publicity, and published works. Folded documents were flattened, and the papers were arranged alphabetically by subject and medium, placed in acid-free folders, and stored in acid-free boxes.

Processed by

Emily George, 2007.

Finding Aid written by

Emily George, 2008.

Edited by Sam Ratcliffe.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2008.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence

The Correspondence consists of 5 letters sent to R. C. Knickerbocker between 1971 and 1973 by individuals advertising performance artists.
Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence

Series 2: Clippings

The Clippings contain 54 items and are from Southern Methodist University publications, Variety, Dallas Morning News, and Rocky Mountain News. The material consists of ads and articles describing the popular performing arts.
Box Folder
1 2 Clippings

Series 3: Documents

Documents of particular note include the Constitution and By-laws of the Girls Chorus of the Dallas YWCA, a recommendation for Bessie Haun Brown as Teacher of Piano from William Alfred White and Harold von Mickwitz from Denver University (SMU’s second dean of music), and a list of The Music Study Club’s 1915-1916 Season.
Box Folder
1 3 Documents

Series 4: Ephemera

The 25 items of ephemera include envelopes, blank forms, pictures printed on cardboard and a calendar.
Box Folder
1 4 Ephemera

Series 5: Programs

The dates of the programs range from 1887 to 1977; provenance of a number of them is unknown. The folders are primarily organized by location, with exceptions for programs without a clear location identified. The New York programs include an assortment of Broadway, Shakespearean plays, symphony orchestras and even the Metropolitan Opera Season of 1887-1888. The Dallas programs document a wide range of cultural activities, including theater productions and classical symphonic performances. Other states such as Illinois and Maryland include one to five items, primarily concerning symphony orchestra performances.
Programs of particular note include the recital programs which include a variety of materials, from Derthick Club Meetings, to Dallas piano recitals, to unidentified instrumental recitals. These recital programs date from 1894-1953 and are mostly identified with a Dallas location. However, many locations are not identified, and some programs are presumably from New York City and other places around the United States. A program from the studio of Mary McLarry Bywaters is included in this collection of piano recital programs. The studios of Bessie Brown and William White of Dallas are also represented in the piano recital programs.
Box Folder
1 5 Programs
6 Programs-Recitals
7 Programs-Civic Music Association
8 Programs-Illinois
9 Programs-Missouri
10 Programs-New York-New York (A-M)
11 Programs-New York-New York (N-Z)
12 Programs-New York-New York-Metropolitan Opera House
13 Programs-New York-New York-Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
14 Programs-Maryland
15 Programs-Massachusetts
16 Programs-Pennsylvania
17 Programs-Texas-Fort Worth
Box Folder
2 1 Programs-Texas-Dallas
2 Programs-Texas-Dallas-Bessie Brown Pupil’s Recitals
3 Programs-Texas-Dallas-The Community Course
4 Programs-Texas-Dallas-The Dallas Civic Federation
5 Programs-Texas-Dallas-Dallas Little Theater
6 Programs-Texas-Dallas-The Dallas Symphony Orchestra
7 Programs-Texas-Dallas-Fair Park
8 Programs-Texas-Dallas-Piano Recitals
9 Programs-Texas-Dallas-SMU
10 Programs-Texas-Dallas-William E. White Pupil’s Recitals
11 Programs-Texas-Waco
12 Programs-Washington D.C.
13 Programs-Italy
14 Programs-Sweden

Series 6: Publicity

Publicity consists of advertisements from both performing artists and their agents sent to Knickerbocker in hope of an involvement in the Community Course. The majority of the materials are not identified with a date or location.
Box Folder
3 1 Publicity-Performer Representatives (A-C)
2 Publicity-Performer Representatives (D-H)
3 Publicity-Performer Representatives (I-O)
4 Publicity-Performer Representatives (P-Z)
5 Publicity-Performer Clippings (A-M)
6 Publicity-Performer Clippings (N-Z)
7 Publicity-Performers (A-B)
Box Folder
4 1 Publicity-Performers (C-E)
2 Publicity-Performers (F-H)
3 Publicity-Performers (I-L)
4 Publicity-Performers (M-N)
5 Publicity-Performers (O-R)
6 Publicity-Performers (S-T)
7 Publicity-Performers (U-Z)
Box Folder
5 1 Publicity-Press Releases
2 Publicity-New York
3 Publicity-Texas-Dallas
4 Publicity-Washington D.C.
5 Publicity-Italy

Series 7: Published Works

The published works primarily consist of catalogs of performing artists, agency newsletters, theater and symphony orchestra periodicals.
Box Folder
5 6 Published Works-Booklets
7 Published Works-Catalogues
8 Published Works-Newsletters
9 Published Works-Periodicals