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Claudia Cassidy papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Cassidy

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, works, personal materials, photographs, and audio materials related to the life and career of Claudia Cassidy.

Correspondence consists of incoming letters from Cassidy's friends and associates, with a small amount of outgoing letters to her mother. Extensive clippings cover Cassidy's career at the Chicago Journal of Commerce, Chicago Sun, (later Chicago Sun-Times), Chicago Tribune, and other publications. Clippings encompass her theatre columns "On the Aisle," and "Europe on the Aisle," her music column "On the Record," and various other reviews and articles. Transcripts for the entire run of Cassidy's radio program for WFMT-FM are also included.

The Personal series contains biographical articles, two Ph-D dissertations analyzing Cassidy's impact on theatre criticism, her appointment books, annotated theatre programs, and various other personal and collected items. Photographs are of both family and friends, and also include many photos documenting Cassidy's European travels. The collection also contains a recording of Cassidy discussing the work of dancers John Kriza and Ruth Ann Koesun, recordings of singer Edith Mason, and some classical and opera recordings. Most phonograph recordings are test pressings though a few are commercial.


  • Creation: 1880s-1996
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930-1985


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Claudia Cassidy 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 Claudia Cassidy

Chicago performing arts critic.

Claudia Cassidy was born in 1900 in the port town of Shawneetown, IL, where she first encountered the performing arts on show boats that cruised the Ohio River. When she was 14, Cassidy's parents George and Olive moved the family to Champaign, IL. After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1921, Cassidy worked as a secretary at the Chicago Journal of Commerce, where she moved into theater criticism after an editor, looking for someone to write a last minute review, spotted her in the office. Her sharp, opinionated writing style attracted many fans, and her column became an important feature of the Journal.

In 1941 she moved on to a larger audience at the Chicago Sun, but left after a year for the Chicago Tribune at the behest of publisher Robert R. McCormick. While at the Tribune, Cassidy wrote her "On the Aisle" commentary as well as other reviews and articles steadily until 1965, and beginning in 1949 made annual summer tours of European festivals for "Europe on the Aisle."

After 1965, Cassidy wrote on a free-lance basis for the Tribune, Chicago Magazine, and other publications, and from 1968 to 1983 she hosted a weekly radio program of arts criticism on Chicago's WFMT-FM.

Cassidy, sometimes referred to as "Acidy Cassidy," was an influential presence on the Chicago theater scene, particularly from 1942-1965 when her Tribune byline was a consistent feature in the paper. Her writing alienated and angered some in the arts community, but her praise also promoted the careers of others, including Tennessee Williams, Lotte Lehmann, and Maria Callas. Cassidy fiercely supported Williams' "The Glass Menagerie," which premiered at Chicago's Civic Theatre in 1944. She also strongly influenced events at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where her public admiration or disdain of music directors had a direct effect on the CSO's history.

Cassidy was married to William J. Crawford for 57 years. After his death in 1986, she retreated from public life and lived alone at the Drake Hotel. Her last published writing was for the 1990-1991 Lyric Opera program book. She died after a brief illness on July 21, 1996.


18.3 Linear Feet (42 boxes, 3 oversize boxes, and 1 item)


Articles and reviews, correspondence, broadcast scripts, photographs, and clippings of the Chicago Tribune performing arts critic from 1942 to 1965. Cassidy wrote her influential "On the Aisle" column for the Tribune, then wrote freelance criticism and hosted a weekly program of arts criticism for WFMT, helping to shape the course of music, theater, and dance in Chicago.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence, 1892-1995
Boxes 1-2
Series 2: Works, 1930-1991
Boxes 3-38
Series 3: Personal, 1925-1996
Boxes 39-40b
Series 4: Photographs, 1880s-1980s
Box 41
Series 5: Audiovisual, 1960s-1980s
Items 1-5

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Most audiovisual recordings in this collection have been digitized. Researchers may access materials in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Collection Stack Location

1 9 6-7; 1 45 1


Gift of Claudia Cassidy estate, 1996, with subsequent donation from Richard A. Crawford, 2007.

Processed by

Kelly Kress and Shannon Yule, 2007, and Lisa Hartman, 2018


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Claudia Cassidy papers, 1880s-1996, bulk 1930-1985
Kelly Kress and Shannon Yule
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