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Ruth Pryor memorabilia

Identifier: Dance-MS-Pryor

Scope and Content of the Collection

Memorabilia consists of a scrapbook, apparently assembled by a friend, which is primarily of newspaper clippings relating to Pryor’s career in the 1920s and 1930s. There are a few programs, announcements and articles. Also, three loose items: two programs and a copy of The Dance magazine, February, 1930, which has a review of the Chicago Civic Opera’s production of Swan Lake.


  • Creation: 1923-1964



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Ruth Pryor memorabilia are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Ruth Pryor memorabilia 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 Pryor

Chicago ballet dancer.

Born in Chicago June 21, 1906, Ruth Pryor was the premier danseuse of the Chicago Civic Opera and an independent dance artist. Her dance career began at fourteen when she appeared in an act called “Blossoms” for the Midwest vaudeville circuit. At sixteen she joined partner Beatrice Gardel, in a vaudeville and touring act called “Dances of Here and There”. In 1928, she joined the Chicago Civic Opera Company, becoming a soloist. She was the leading dancer with Edward Caton in a large-scale production of Aida in 1929, and in 1930 she was the first American ballerina as the Swan Queen in a special presentation of Swan Lake.

During the 1930s, Pryor freelanced, touring and performing in various venues, including picture palaces around the country. In 1940, she made a success in a big production of Carmen at Chicago’s Soldier Field. In 1950, she moved to Cleveland with her second husband, and established the Ballet Russe Academy with Laurent Novikoff.

She retired from the school in 1972 and moved west, settling in Albuquerque. She had one daughter, Janis Wildey. Pryor died May 31, 2001, just short of her 95th birthday.


0.4 Linear Feet (1 box)


Scrapbook of Ballet dancer Ruth Pryor, born in Chicago in 1906, who began her career in vaudeville as half of the team of "Gardel and Pryor." By 1929 she had become the premier danseuse of the Chicago Civic Opera, and appeared as the first American ballerina to be the Swan Queen in a special production of Swan Lake. The scrapbook includes many newspaper clippings, and a few articles and programs.

Collection Stack Location

3a 48 11


Gift, Ruth Pryor Swanson, 1989.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2009.

Inventory of the Ruth Pryor memorabilia, 1923-1964
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