Friday, February 1, 2013

New Exhibit - Hidden Treasures

The Archives and Special Collections is mounting a new exhibit in the Steel Plant Art Gallery.  "Hidden Treasures: Photographers and the Lowell Thomas Papers" will be on display from February 7th through March 2nd.  Please join us for the opening reception on February 7th from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.  Light refreshments will be served.

This exhibit displays the work of four photographers from the Lowell Thomas Papers. Frank R. Roberson was a prolific early travel lecturer. Lowell Thomas’s “With Allenby in Palestine and With Lawrence in Arabia” made him world famous. Harry Chase was a pioneer photographer whose innovations enthralled audiences. Lowell Thomas, Jr. was one of only a few to take photographs of Tibet and the Dalai Lama before the invasion of Communist China. The remarkable photography within the collection is truly a hidden treasure.

Lowell Thomas’s remarkable life began in the gold mining boom town of Cripple Creek, Colorado.  An ambitious term of collegiate study earned him two Bachelor’s degrees from Valparaiso University in two years and then a Master’s degree from the University of Denver while he worked as a newspaper writer. From there he moved on to the Chicago Kent College of Law, and then to Princeton University, where he taught while pursuing his law degree. In Chicago he worked as a reporter for the Chicago Evening Journal and gained notoriety for exposing a man attempting to blackmail a number of wealthy Chicago industrialists – men who provided the capital for the Lowell Thomas Travelogues.

In 1917 his fledgling career obtained him ambiguous support from the U.S. government to create war propaganda. In August he married Frances Ryan and left for Europe where he toured the Western Front and found it insufficient for a travelogue. When he heard of General Allenby’s campaign in Palestine he jumped at the opportunity and sped off to the Middle East where he met T. E. Lawrence in Jerusalem in February 1918. Fran Thomas stayed in Italy where she worked with the Red Cross, was shot at while touring the front and arrested as a spy for taking photographs.

Thomas returned to America in 1919 where he gave his travelogue performance at the Century Theater and Madison Square Garden in New York. British theater promoter Percy Burton brought him to London where “With Allenby in Palestine and With Lawrence in Arabia” became an enormous hit. Thomas then took his travelogue on tour through Australia and New Zealand while others performed the lecture throughout Canada. Keen to build upon his early success, Thomas returned through Malaya, Burma and India where he and Chase gathered material to create “Through Romantic India.”

Lowell Thomas is remembered mostly as an American radio news broadcaster from 1930 to 1976, first on the NBC and then the CBS radio network. He was also an author of more than 50 books and countless newspaper and magazine articles, a noted speaker who for much of his life traveled widely on the national lecture circuit, a world traveler, filmmaker, entrepreneur and friend and associate of many of the most influential people of the 20th century.

Lowell Thomas in Petra, 1918.