John Charles Thomas papers
- Majority of material found within 1903-1991
- Thomas, John Charles, 1891-1960 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
42.52 Cubic Feet (100 total: 6 record center boxes, 49 medium flat boxes, 16 full-size legal boxes, 2 full-size letter boxes, 1 half-size letter box, 6 half-size legal boxes, 3 card file boxes, 1 original card catalog box, 6 large flat boxes, 2 small flat boxes)
Biographical / Historical
John Charles Thomas emphasized the importance of poetry as a source of musical inspiration, which resulted music written especially for him with lyrics by major American poets of the first half of the 20th century. Thomas' repertoire included many songs with lyrics by Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Joyce Kilmer, and others. Thomas worked with many women composers who wrote music especially for him. The works of 92 women composers figured in his music library, including works by Carrie Jacobs Bond, Margaret Carreau, Elizabeth Kent Charles, Mary Carr Moore, Clara Edwards, and Mabel Wood Hill.
A pioneering figure in radio, Thomas' long broadcasting career made him a favorite in homes across the country. He performed with a host of well-known performers, including Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, and Al Jolson and hosted his own immensely popular Westinghouse Hour. After his concert career ended in 1955, Thomas remained active in light opera, continuing his radio and television career, and becoming director of the Music Academy of the West. Thomas was also a philanthropist, hosting annual concerts to raise money for local hospitals. He continued teaching and championing young artists until his death in 1960.
Scope and Contents
Series 4 contains correspondence, personal papers, and business papers. A large portion of the series includes scripts from films and radio programs. Another large portion of the series includes manuscript copies of a biography of Thomas written by Merle Armitage. Materials created by archives staff in the course of preparing for the Peabody exhibit on Thomas in 1991 have been retained in this series. Included is correspondence, photographs, and inventories of the sheet music collection. Series 5 contains various ephemera that belonged to Thomas, including costumes, trophies, and framed artwork.
Series 6 contains photographs from Thomas' performances, appearances, and personal life. Also included are scrapbooks containing clippings and photographs from various performances. Series 7 contains recordings of live performances and radio programs. The recordings are on magnetic wire, reel-to-reel, audiocassette, and 45- or 78-rpm records; a few have been transferred to CD.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Other Finding Aids
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Peabody Archives mounted an exhibit about Thomas' career, "John Charles Thomas: An American Classic," in 1991. Some of the collection's arrangement and physical processing was likely carried out at that time by archivist Elizabeth Schaaf. Materials and research notes created by archives staff for that exhibit were commingled with the original source material and have not been separated.