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Ruth Kilbourn papers

Identifier: Dance-MS-Kilbourn

Scope and Content of the Collection

Small collection of 1940s memorabilia, photographs and performance programs and dance school announcements relating to Ruth Kilbourn and the Kilbourn School of Dancing of Chicago. Includes photographs and memorabilia concerning “Horse 'n Buggy Days” at the Wisconsin Dells in 1949, and a pair of toe shoes.


  • Creation: approximately 1947-1949



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Ruth Kilbourn papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Ruth Kilbourn papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Ruth Kilbourn

Chicago dancer and dance teacher.

Ruth Kilbourn was born in 1895 and lived her whole life in her home in Hyde Park, where she died at the age of 89 in 1984. Educated in Chicago schools, Kilbourn studied dance with several well-known teachers, and in her youth she appeared on Broadway and as an adagio dancer at the Chicago Opera House.

After a back injury, she established the Kilbourn School of Dance in her home and studio and gave lessons in after-school programs at several public schools. She offered a wide range of popular styles: interpretive, character, Grecian, toe, ballroom, Oriental, and acrobatic, among others. Summer studio recitals were held in an outdoor Grecian-type theater in the backyard of her home.

Kilbourn bred Samoyed dogs and she enjoyed saving and spinning the hair they shed in order to produce soft wool which she would knit or weave into small garments like mittens and scarves. For many years she was a volunteer at the Animal Welfare League and after her death her property was willed to the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society.


0.4 Linear Feet (1 box)


Small collection of memorabilia, photographs and performance programs and announcements of Ruth Kilbourn, who ran a dance studio in Chicago, Illinois, in the 1940s. Includes a pair of toe shoes


Arranged by type of material.

Collection Stack Location

3a 48 8


Gift, Alta M. Blakely, 2002.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2008.

Inventory of the Ruth Kilbourn papers, approximately 1947-1949
Virginia Hay Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States