Monday, April 28, 2014

Looking For Something Else, Found This

At the pivot point between all-I-can-find for the Flannery family of Paris, Ontario, and seven more surnames to complete before our Irish research trip next fall, I decided to pull up a strand that’s not been pursued here at A Family Tapestry: Lee.

Now, I know—judging by the groans I can digitally sense through this Internet connection—Lee is not much more of an agreeable genealogical research topic than, say, Smith or Jones. There are a lot of them out there! To compound the problem, Lee is one of those surnames of trans-national prevalence, so it takes a lot of honing in to isolate the specific line I’m seeking. Why would I ever want to do something like that to myself? Especially within the time parameters I’m facing?

Calm down. This Lee has a connection that might yield some geographic tips for the Irish trip. Johanna Lee, my focus, is somehow a cousin to my thoroughly-researched Agnes Tully Stevens, my husband’s Chicago-based paternal grandmother. Lee, as it turns out, is not her maiden name, but her married name. She was born Johanna Flanagan, and like many of her Irish immigrant relatives, arrived in Chicago via Canada.

To prepare to launch into this research project, I checked my files for what I had already gleaned on this woman. I had already, when encountering resources on Johanna’s history which would have sucked me into those inevitable rabbit trails, digitized the records and filed them away for a later opportunity.

This was that opportunity, I figured, and headed back into my files to locate what I had saved.

Of course, you know it had to turn out more convoluted than that simple explanation, though, don’t you? Reading through saved emails, one by one, I began losing hope that I’d locate what I was seeking. After about the forty-somethingth file I opened, I ran across an email from an unfamiliar address and began scanning the contents:
I am going to try to e-mail you a picture of grandma Stevens (Agnes Tully). She is second from the left, middle standing, they played all over the country and on passenger ships.

I couldn’t believe it! Rabbit trail or no rabbit trail, I had to stop there and change paths. This was the very file I had looked for when blogging about Agnes and her earlier years touring as a violinist—a digitized copy of the promotional brochure, including Agnes’ photograph. It was sent in an email from my husband’s cousin Mike nearly ten years ago.

Seeing the brochure itself provided just a slim bit of searchable information to move me onward. What were the chances that I could find more via an online search now? Nearly cringing with thoughts of how this could go awry, I entered the terms “Lady Entertainers” along with “Agnes Tully”—adding the name in hopes it would divert the search results from a direction I didn’t intend to go.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the Google™ results. Not only was I able to find a copy of the brochure’s cover—albeit a poor facsimile of the original—but a complete rendering of all four pages, which I lacked.

Apparently, the University of Iowa Libraries has a collection, dubbed “Traveling Culture,” which focuses on what they subtitled “Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century.” From that separate entry, I gleaned the names of the other three young women in Agnes’ group:
            Mayfa M. Haines
            Kathryn A. Reed
            Kathryn Roberts

Agnes Tully Stevens of Chicago as former Circuit Chautauqua violinist circa 1910
Another digital file at the University of Iowa collection confirmed the date of the brochure as 1910—just two years before Agnes’ marriage to William Stevens, giving me an idea of the brief duration of her tenure with Redpath, the booking agency managing the group’s engagements.

Not only did that brochure earn Agnes a place in the archives of the University of Iowa collection, but an entry in the listings at the Library of Congress, which also provided a page on the Circuit Chautauqua movement. I was even able to find a listing for Agnes Tully at Trove, the archive of the National Library of Australia!

Apparently, the brochure included a separate portrait of Agnes, standing, with her violin. The 1910-1911 season brochure also contained copy—in the flowery style of the era—promoting the group’s presentation, specifically noting Agnes’ part in the program:
Concerning the violin playing of Miss Tully too much praise can scarcely be accorded to it. The hearty encores which she invariably receives may be regarded as ample proof of the high regard in which she is held. Miss Tully is a most satisfactory concert player and soloist. She at once established herself in the good graces of her audience, and deserves the applause so generously awarded her. Her playing is characterized by great warmth of tone, color and abandon which, combined with a clean technique, beautiful bowing and virile interpretation places her among the leading lady violinists of the day. Her uniform success in these engagements of the Lady Entertainers has established for her an enviable reputation as an artist who gives promise of a brilliant future.
While I'll pick up my place, back at the head of the rabbit trail, with tomorrow's post on Johanna Lee, this was one diversion I could not resist mentioning the minute I discovered it.

Brochure information:
Front page of brochure as scanned from copy in private collection of Agnes Tully Stevens'  family member.
Inset, lower right, portrait of Agnes Tully from Redpath brochure, dated 1910, courtesy University of Iowa Libraries; both articles in public domain.


  1. Wow, a rabbit trail to beat all rabbit trails!
    Do you read Mike Brubaker's blog Tempo Senza Tempo? Your post today reminds me a lot of what he does. He tracks down the most amazing information about musicians, their instruments, their careers, etc.

  2. Well now, isn't that super-cool!! I wonder if this explains any the road trip photos and letters you have of the Amazing Agnes Tully (I think she is anyway) at the beach or in the deep south?!?


  3. Great post, Jacqi! And I LOVE the title--sums up so much of what I find myself doing! What a neat photograph of the ladies.

  4. Well isn't that a wonderful old photo! How lucky are you to have found it !


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