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Dean Diggins Papers

Identifier: Dance-MS-Diggins

Scope and Content of the Collection

Material regarding the career of tap dancer Dean Diggins, including class notes when studying with Paul Draper, clippings, photographs, programs, publicity items, and two scrapbooks relating to the Mattison Trio. Also extensive choreographic notes for dances Diggins composed for classical music, including Morton Gould’s Concerto for Tap Dancer and Orchestra. Audiovisual material consists of a VHS tape of the Mattison Trio appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show and Diggins dancing to classical selections, plus two audio cassettes of those classical pieces.


  • Creation: 1956-1995



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Audiovisual Access

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have not been digitized and are unavailable for use at this time.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Dean Diggins 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 Dean Diggins

American tap dancer.

Born in Hampton, Iowa, Dean Diggins, the son of a music teacher, began dance lessons at an early age, and by the time he was a teen-ager he was giving dance lessons and operating two dance studios. During a stint in the army he performed for Special Services, and after discharge he moved to Chicago to study at the Stone-Camryn School. From Chicago he settled in New York, where he learned from and worked closely with Paul Draper, the inventor of ballet tap.

In 1957, Diggins formed the Mattison Trio with Guy Tanno and Dorothy Matthews, a balletic tap group that toured for ten years, performing regularly on television and in nightclubs and summer theaters. Then Diggins made a career change, earning a doctorate in psychology and going on to teach at Brooklyn College until he retired to Kittery, Maine. However, he did not retire from dancing, and in 1989 he performed Morton Gould’s Concerto For Tap Dancer and Orchestra with the Houston Symphony at the symphony’s 75th Anniversary concert. Diggins continued to perform, broadening his repertoire by applying balletic tap choreography to other classical works, including compositions by Bach, Handel, Haydn and others. He also wrote several books, one a manual for tap teachers entitled “Tap Technique,” which ends with exercises taught by his mentor, Paul Draper.


0.4 Linear Feet (1 box)


Material regarding Diggins’s career as a tap dancer and teacher, including class notes while studying with Paul Draper, plus clippings, photographs, programs, publicity items and scrapbooks relating to his ten years as a part of the Mattison Trio. Also, his choreographic notes for tap routines composed for classical music and audio and video tapes of some of those dances.


Arranged alphabetically by type of material, with audiovisual items at the end.

Collection Stack Location

3a 48 6


Gift of Dean Diggins, 1996.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith.

Inventory of the Dean Diggins Papers, 1956-1995
Virginia Hay Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 08/17/2011: Revisions, additions, and updates were made.

Repository Details

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

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States