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Carol Lynn papers

 Collection
Identifier: PIMS-0133

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The Carol Lynn papers, approximately 1920-1965, contain materials related to Lynn's career as a dancer and educator.

Series A-C contain photographs, clippings, and professional documents such as programs and correspondence. Items of note include unique photographs of film stills from her private studio in Baltimore from the 1920s and 1930s. Professional documents of note include handwritten lists of repertoire performed by her studio and an essay about why she teaches dance.

Series D contains dance method books and files compiled by Lynn with exercises for fundamental levels.

Series F consists of choreography, often with corresponding musical scores. Most of the scores are annotated. Series G contains two sketches of costume and production designs.

Series H contains 81 16mm motion picture films. The majority of these films are black-and-white and silent. Eight of these films, including The Chemical Ballet, Les Sylphides, and Coppelia, were reformatted in approximately 2012.

Lynn reused many old recital programs as covers and file folders for music and choreography. She also wrote choreography ideas on old envelopes, concert posters (like one advertising a Ted Shawn performance in Baltimore), recital invitations from her private studio, and miscellaneous Jacob’s Pillow mailings.

Dates

  • Creation: approximately 1920-1965

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for use at the Arthur Friedheim Library Archives of the Peabody Institute. Contact peabodyarchives@lists.jhu.edu for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright. All requests for permission to publish or perform materials in this collection must be submitted in writing to the archivist of the Arthur Friedheim Library.

Biographical / Historical

Carol Lynn (1893-1987, born Carol Lynn Fetser) enjoyed a varied career as a dancer and educator, but she was best known for her association with Ted Shawn and the Jacob's Pillow ballet school. Born in 1893 in New York City, Lynn began childhood dance training at eight, studying folk dancing before the time of widespread ballet instruction in the United States. It was during a theatrical performance she attended with her mother when, seeing a dancer en pointe, Lynn's fascination with ballet began. She was sent to study ballet with the influential Madame Elisabetta Menzeli until the 1920s. Lynn then toured as a professional dancer with a small company that performed in vaudeville until the 1930s.

Lynn began training at the Denishawn School in 1922, where she studied dance with such teachers as Michel Fokine, Mikhail Mordkin, Ruth St. Denis, and Ted Shawn. By the 1930s, she became more involved at Jacob's Pillow by supervising the female students and administering the school. She was administrative director, along with Ted Shawn, of Jacob's Pillow University of Dance and Dance Festival from 1936 to 1960. During her tenure at the Pillow she was in charge of school activities and filmed the many artists performing, as well as Les Sylphides as performed by Ballet Theater and Giselle and Coppelia by Ballet Rambert.

In the 1920s and 1930s Lynn also taught at her own school in Baltimore, the Carol Lynn School of Dance. She and her advanced students danced annually at the Lyric Theatre for almost 10 years, and later at the Baltimore Museum of Art. In 1939, Lynn and Richard C. Lord Jr. choreographed the Carol Lynn Dancers in The Chemical Ballet at a concert for the 1939 meeting of the American Chemical Society in Baltimore. The show depicts a chemist who dreams a great experiment coming to life in the form of dancers representing atoms and molecules.

Lynn came to the Peabody Preparatory's Dance Department in 1947 at the request of Peabody Conservatory Director Reginald Stewart and the recommendation of Alice Garrett, a patron of the arts in Baltimore who had studied with Lynn and hosted her for many summers in the 1920s and 1930s at the Garretts' Evergreen Mansion. Lynn directed the Peabody Dance Department until her retirement in 1970. During her tenure, the program attracted visiting artists such as Shawn, St. Denis, Antony Tudor, and guests from the American Ballet Theatre. The department added modern dancer Dale Sehnert in 1955.

From the 1930s to 1950s Lynn filmed dance extensively, notably at Jacob's Pillow and for her own ballet school. These films are now divided between the Carol Lynn papers at the Peabody Institute's Arthur Friedheim Libraries and the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Lynn died January 20, 1987, at the age of ninety-three.

Sources:
Guide to the Carol Lynn papers, https://archives.nypl.org/dan/19857. Last accessed February 6, 2023.
Kramer, Susan. "Carol Lynn, 1893-1987, dancer and educator extraordinaire." Available at http://www.susankramer.com/carollynn.html. Last accessed February 1, 2023.
Schaaf, Elizabeth. "Carol Lynn: Doyenne of Dance in Baltimore." Johns Hopkins Peabody News, February 1986.
Wallach, Rachel. "Raising the Barre." Peabody magazine, Spring 2015.

Extent

5 Cubic Feet (11 boxes; 81 film reels; 4 reel-to-reel audiotapes)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Carol Lynn (1893-1987, born Carol Lynn Fetser) was a dancer and educator who was the co-director with Ted Shawn of the Jacob's Pillow ballet school. Lynn taught privately in Baltimore in the 1920s and 1930s and directed the Peabody Preparatory Dance Department from 1947 until her retirement in 1970. The Carol Lynn papers contain Lynn's choreography with corresponding musical scores, a collection of her 16mm dance films, and photographs, programs, and other documents related to her career.

Arrangement

The Carol Lynn papers are arranged in seven series.

Series A: Photographs, approximately 1920-1960
Series B: Clippings, 1928-1939 and undated
Series C: Professional documents, 1922-1963
Series D: Dance fundamentals and methods, 1921-1965 and undated
[Series E removed during reprocessing in 2023]
Series F: Choreography and musical scores, approximately 1920-1965
Series G: Costume designs, approximately 1925-1950
Series H: Film reels and sound recordings, approximately 1930-1960

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the collection was donated in 2003 by Helene Breazeale, one of Lynn's former students. Denishawn and Menzeli certificates donated by Harriet Lynn in 2015. April 17, 1939, issue of LIFE magazine featuring the Chemical Ballet donated by Lisa Green-Cudek in 2017.

Related Materials

A collection of Lynn's papers from her time at Denishawn and Jacob's Pillow is available at the New York Public Library. See the Guide to the Carol Lynn papers at https://archives.nypl.org/dan/19857 for details. Many of Lynn's films are held by the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Additional materials related to Lynn's tenure at Peabody may be found in the Peabody Preparatory records at the Arthur Friedheim Library Archives.

Processing Information

Processed by Melissa Wertheimer in 2011. Finding aid conversion and light reprocessing by Matt Testa in 2022-2023. During reprocessing, the collection name was changed to the Carol Lynn papers from "the Helene Breazeale collection of Carol Lynn memorabilia" in accordance with contemporary archival descriptive standards. Some series were consolidated and about 15 out-of-scope musical scores were removed. Some folder labels may still reflect the original collection title and arrangement.

Some films may have originated in the Peabody Institute's collection of institutional sound and moving image recordings. During reprocessing in 2022-2023, it was not possible to distinguish any institutionally collected film reels from those that were donated by Breazeale.

A note with the prefix "CL" indicates a folder title or description originally assigned by Lynn.

Source

Title
Guide to the Carol Lynn papers
Status
Completed
Author
Matt Testa
Date
2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Peabody Archives Repository

Contact:
Peabody Institute
1 E. Mount Vernon Place
Baltimore MD 21202 USA