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Thorvald Otterström Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Otterström

Scope and Content of the Collection

Collection contains original sheet music and pieces ghostwritten and arranged by Thorvald Otterström, notes and manuscripts for both his compositions and his music theory works, and correspondence regarding music, art, literature, and philosophy between Otterström and his acquaintances and students. Collection also contains portrait photographs of Otterström from 1910 to 1940. Additionally, collection includes advertisements, programs, and reviews of Otterström's work.


  • Creation: 1904-1952



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Thorvald Otterström Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Thorvald Otterström 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.

Biography of Thorvald Otterstrom

Composer, arranger, teacher.

Thorvald Otterström was born 1868 in Denmark, where he received his early musical training. He began his career as a published composer in 1891with “Goassack Lullaby,” which was published in St. Petersburg. After cultivating a successful career in Europe, Otterstrom moved to the United States and continued to publish, teach, arrange, and ghostwrite music. Most notably, Otterström ghostwrote for Martin G. Dumler, a painter and composer of liturgical music. He also published works on music theory, such as Manual of Advanced Harmony and One Hundred Exercises in Five and Six Part Setting.

In addition to his interest in music and music theory, Otterström also had a keen interest in philosophy, literature, and art, which he wrote about extensively to his acquaintances, particularly Helen Heller. His students and friends were devoted to Otterström and engaged with him about both the artistic and the scholarly. Several students at the University of Chicago also sought to preserve his likeness, with photographs, paintings, and sculptures of the composer.

Otterström worked as a composer until his death in 1942.


1.8 Linear Feet (1 box and 1 oversize box)


Collection of sheet music, correspondence, photographs, programs, advertisements, reviews, and notes belonging to the Danish-born Chicago composer and teacher Thorvald Otterström. Sheet music includes Otterström's original published compositions, manuscripts, and notes, in addition to works that he arranged and ghostwrote for his contemporary composers. Photographs include portraits from 1910 until his death 1942. Otterström's correspondence regarding art, philosophy, music, and literature spans 1926 until 1942, with additional posthumous correspondence regarding his work.


Materials arranged by type of material.

Collection Stack Location

1 27 5


Gift of Helen Heller, 1959; Morris Vehon, 1972; and Patricia Barath, 2012.

Related Archival Materials note

Another collection of Otterström's musical manuscripts is cataloged separately.

Processed by

Emma Martin, 2012.

Inventory of the Thorvald Otterström Papers, 1904-1952
Emma Martin
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