Skip to main content

The Burton Holmes Lectures playbills

 Collection — Folder: 1
Identifier: RITArc-0174

Scope and Contents

The Burton Holmes Lectures playbills contain information on the various lecture series sponsored by the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute. Each playbill contains a schedule of events, descriptions of each lecture, and advertisements for various companies located throughout the city of Rochester and surrounding areas. In total, there are six playbills from 1898-1901.


  • Creation: 1898-1901


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical Information: Burton Holmes

Elias Burton Holmes (1870-1958) was born on January 8, 1870 to Ira and Virginia (née Burton) Holmes. As part of an affluent Chicago family, Holmes attended the Allen Academy and Harvard School in Chicago until the age of sixteen. In 1886, Holmes left school to travel to Europe with his grandmother on the RMS Etruria. Having bought his first camera at the age of thirteen, Holmes documented most of this trip. In 1890, he presented his lantern slides to the Chicago Camera Club. His lecture was well-received and marked the start of a successful career.

In 1893, Holmes decided to become a professional lecturer, sharing images and stories from his trips overseas. Over the next few years he travelled to England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, Greece, Russia, China, Japan, Egypt, and Morocco. He also travelled in North America, visiting both Alaska, Hawaii, and the Grand Canyon. These travels, among others, formed the basis of Holmes's lecture series. Considering himself a performer rather than a lecturer, Holmes performed at many prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall in New York, Symphony Hall in Boston, and Orchestra Hall in Chicago.

One of the highlights of Holmes's lecture series was his incorporation of film into each presentation. Following his lecture, Holmes would show a brief motion picture using a Chronomatographe. The film essentially contained a series of images taken at twenty second intervals and pieced together on a "ribbon of transparent film." Holmes's early film creation marked one of the first times that motion pictures were incorporated into a public lecture. These films and lectures eventually evolved into travelogues, making Holmes a prominent name in the early film industry. In recognition of his contribution to the motion picture industry, Holmes was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Holmes married Margaret Elise Oliver (1879-1968) of Baltimore on March 21, 1914. He received numerous awards throughout his lifetime and gave over 8,000 lectures by the time he retired in 1949. Holmes died on July 22, 1958 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.


1 Folder(s) (6 items)




Playbills from the Burton Holmes Lecture series, sponsored by the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Each playbill includes details about the topics to be covered during the specified lecture segments.


The collection is arranged chronologically.

Physical Location

C.S. South, Shelf 807, Box 202A

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Lara Nicosia in May 2011.

The Burton Holmes Lectures playbills
RIT Archives
Lara Nicosia
31 May 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the RIT Archives Repository

Rochester NY 14623 USA