Brownlow and Dorothea Thompson Collection, 1639-1994
Collection number: MC 294
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
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
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.
This collection is open.
Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions
about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.
[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.
Gift of the Estate of Brownlow Thompson, 1999
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.
Original order was maintained as much as possible within material types (e.g. texts,
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.
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.
|Bicentennial Dancers Material
Folders 12-13: Programs and choreography for the Bicentennial Dancers of
North Conway, 1974-1991.
|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).
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
|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.
|Dance History and Notation, 1940-1990
Folders 14-17: Dance notation for 19th century quadrilles and some newer
square dance material from CALLERLAB.
|Dance Notation, 1970-1994
Predominantly singing square dance notation, with some syllabi, round
dancing, and contra dancing included. Two folders are of material from
|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.
|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.
|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
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.
|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
- French, J.A., ed. “Prompter’s Handbook” (Boston: Oliver Ditson
Co., 1893). Reprinted, without some material.
- Greene, William E. “The Terpsichorean Monitor” (Providence, RI,
- Howe, Elias. “Musician’s Omnibus No. 7” (Boston, 1882)
- Rook. “Drills and Marches” (Philadelphia: Penn Publishing Company,
- Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (1st Edition), 1883
- Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (1st Edition), 1883 [loose
- 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
- Washburn, H.G.O. “The Ball Room Manual” (Belfast, Maine: H.G.O.
Washburn, 1856 and 1857). Click here to download the 1856
edition, and here to download the 1857 edition (.pdf
- Wehman Bros. “The Way to Dance, or, Dancing Without A Master”
(Wehman Bros., New York, ca. 1890).
|Historical New England Dance Imprints continued,
- Cartier. “Pocket Guide and Calls for Square Dances” (n.p., ca.
- 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.)
|Historical New England Dance Imprints continued,
- “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
- Howe, Elias. “The Ball Room Handbook” (Boston, 1858).
- Howe, Elias. “The Pocket Ball-Room Prompter” (Boston, ca.
- Howe, Elias. “The Waltz! How to Correctly Dance It.” (Boston,
- 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’”,
- Fraidenburg, Ed. “The Callers Notebook: 250 Original Figures” (Elf
- Burleson, Bill. “The Square Dancing Encyclopedia” (1970)
- Universal Round Dance Council. “Round Dance Encyclopedia and
Series 7: Odd Sized Materials, 1880-1980
(1 cubic foot)
Three boxes containing calling cards, historical dance publications, and
historical dance sheet music.
|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
|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,
- “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)