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Paul M. Pearson and Drew Pearson photographs

Identifier: SFHL-PA-157

Scope and Contents

This collection is part of the Paul M. Pearson Papers, RG5/121. It contains black and white photographs (and some negatives), along with some albums, of the following subjects mostly related to Paul M. Pearson's life and work: Swarthmore Chautauqua, Virgin Islands, Oglebay Park and Institute, Photographs for Drew Pearson Articles, and Miscellaneous (including personal photographs).


  • Creation: 1890 - 1938


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Some of the items in this collection may be protected by copyright. The user is solely responsible for making a final determination of copyright status. If copyright protection applies, permission must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns to reuse, publish, or reproduce relevant items beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to the law. See

Biographical / Historical

Paul M. Pearson was born on a farm in Illinois on Oct. 22, 1871, raised a Methodist, and graduated from Baker University in 1891. While in college, Pearson developed his skill in "platform work" - lectures and recitals. He first traveled on the Methodist ministry circuit and then as a lyceum speaker. He also studied at Harvard University and Northwestern. In 1896, he married Edna Wolfe, and the couple had four children: Andrew, Leon, Barbara, and Ellen. The eldest was the well-known columnist Drew Pearson. Beginning in 1902, Paul Pearson taught public speaking at Swarthmore College. In 1904 he became the proprietor and editor of the magazine Talent, a magazine of the lyceum movement. In 1905, he established The Speaker, a magazine on successful public reading. In 1906, he and his family became members of Swarthmore Monthly Meeting.

In 1912, Pearson founded Swarthmore Chautauqua Association, a non-profit enterprise financially backed by private investors, many of whom were Quakers. The Association at its peak operated about 2,000 Chautauqua in the smaller towns along the eastern seaboard. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Chautauqua movement provided popular education along with entertainment in the form of concerts, lectures, and the like, generally travelling on a circuit to small towns to provide cultural and educational enrichment. Pearson resigned his position as head of the Public Speaking Department at Swarthmore College to devote full time to Chautauqua. He also was active in the Chautauqua at the national level and served as President of the International Lyceum and Chautauqua Association. In 1930, due to economic pressures and the changing life styles of Americans, the Swarthmore Chautauqua ceased operation, and Pearson, who had loaned money to the Association, was forced to declare personal bankruptcy.

In 1931, Paul M. Pearson was appointed by President Herbert Hoover to serve as the first civilian governor of the Virgin Islands. The U.S. had purchased the Islands in 1917 from Denmark in order to establish a navy base in the Caribbean. Pearson was considered a non-partisan appointment, but soon became embroiled in Island and Washington politics which lead to charges of mismanagement. In 1935 President Franklin Roosevelt appointed him to the post of Assistant U. S. Housing Director in charge of public housing, then a very new government program. He died on March 26, 1938, while on a business trip to California to urge passage of a law to permit public housing in that State.


1 cubic ft. (3 boxes)

Language of Materials



Paul M. Pearson (1871-1938) was a noted Quaker educator, editor, and speaker, a professor of Public Speaking at Swarthmore College, the first civilian governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, an assistant director of the U.S. Housing Authority, and a leading founder and executive in the Chautauqua movement. His son, Drew Pearson (1897-1969), was a syndicated national columnist. This collection contains photographs of the following subjects mostly related to Paul M. Pearson's life and work: Swarthmore Chautauqua, Virgin Islands, Oglebay Park and Institute, Photographs for Drew Pearson Articles, and Miscellaneous (including personal photographs).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Barbara Pearson Lange and Ellen Pearson Fogg, daughters of Paul Pearson, 1972-1978; Alice S. Jenkins, 1978 (Additional Chautauqua pictures); Julie Hall, 2004 (Additional essays and photo albums); Barbara and David Grove, 2011. Part of the Paul M. Pearson Papers, RG5/121.

Separated Materials

This collection was removed from the Paul M. Pearson Papers, RG5/121.

Processing Information

The Paul M. Pearson papers (RG5/121) were processed by FHL staff in 1973. Chautauqua photographs given to FHL in 1978 by Alice S. Jenkins were added to this collection. With the gift of transcripts of the Virgin Island letters in 2011, FHL staff determined to correct the storage of earlier processing and additions. In 2012, the collection was rehoused in acid-free folders and a more detailed inventory created. Photographs were consolidated and transferred to FHL Picture Collections, to become this collection (PA 157).

Zoe Peyton Jones
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

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