Josephine Sanders "Irene Delroy" Collection
(including Pike Collection)

Table of Contents

Collection Information
Volume of Collection:
Twelve boxes.
Collection Dates:
Provenance: Donated by Girard F. Oberrender Jr. (step son of Irene), 1998
Reproduction Rights:
Permission to reproduce or publish material in this collection must be obtained in writing from the McLean County Museum of History.
Alternative Formats:
Other Finding Aids: None.
Location: Archives.

See: Josephine Sanders (Irene Delroy) Books and Papers Collection - 6 boxes
See: Photograph Collection People: Josephine Sanders (Irene Delroy) Collection - 4 boxes
See: Josephine Sanders (Irene Delroy) Scrapbook Collection - 2 boxes
See: Oversized Collections - Miscellaneous MC15-74 thru MC15-95

Youtube video: Interview with Collection Organizers

Historical Sketch

Josephine Lucille Sanders was born July 21, 1900 in Bloomington to parents Royal Woodsen Sanders and Della Sanders (nee Soverns). Her parents were married Sept 2, 1897 and Josephine was their first child.

Josephine had one brother, named Lindley Soverns Sanders, who was born Oct 31, 1902. During these early years of her childhood her father was a teacher of mathematics, civics, and commercial law at Bloomington High School and was also in charge of the girls' basketball team. Sometime between 1902 and 1908 the family moved to Minneapolis, MN.

Lindley died in Minneapolis, MN at noon on May 31, 1909 of scarlet fever. His body was returned to Bloomington, IL to be buried at the family plot in Evergreen Cemetery.

Irene studied ballet in Chicago in her late teens, and secured a spot in the Chicago Opera Ballet in 1919. Although her parents were initially reluctant to let her seek a career in show business, her success with the Chicago Opera convinced them otherwise. Around this time Josephine Sanders took her stage name "Irene Delroy." The "Delroy" was a combination of her parents' names, Della and Royal. During her career Royal Sanders lived in Peoria, IL, and Della Sanders traveled with Irene.

Until 1930, Irene starred consistently in follies, plays and musicals, including Greenwich Village Follies, Ziegfeld Follies, Hitchy Koo, Follow Thru and Here's Howe!. She then signed a contract with Warner Bros. She made four movies with them, of which the best promoted was Divorce Among Friends, until 1931, when she decided to marry William L. Austin, Jr., a business man. Bill Austin did not want her to continue her career, despite the fact that her contract with Warner Bros was good for another four years, so they signed a prenuptial agreement in which Irene Delroy would receive a large amount of stock in Austin's company in exchange for canceling her contract. Irene Delroy became known as either Mrs. William Austin Jr. or Irene Delroy Austin.

The marriage was unsuccessful, and after a separation agreement in 1935, Irene moved to Reno to obtain a divorce in 1937. Bill Austin remarried, and died in 1963. Irene Delroy became known as either Irene Delroy when performing or Mrs. J. Sanders Austin.

After the separation Irene went back to work in show business, and played in a 1935 production of Anything Goes with Victor Moore and also put her beautiful voice to use in radio productions. During the war she was a volunteer nurse's aide at Memorial Hospital, New York. Josephine was interested in genealogy and was a. member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She remarried in November 1972 to Dr. Girard F. Oberrender, a throat specialist. She then became known as Mrs. Josephine Oberrender. She died June 14, 1985 in Ithaca, NY.

The Career of Irene Delroy took Josephine Sanders all over the country; many places that people from Central Illinois only dreamed of visiting. The story of Josephine Sanders is an interesting one to say the least. While the places that her career took her and the people she met along the way are something of a fairytale for a girl from the Midwest, it was not without certain consequences. The profound career of Josephine Sanders put an immense amount of stress on her family, particularly the marriage of her parents Royal and Della. With Royal and Della being separated for long periods of time, it was difficult for them to cooperate in raising their daughter, and they both experienced periods of depression. Royal spent much of his time traveling around Illinois to find as much business as he could, so as to have enough money to support himself and also send money East to support Della and Josephine. Royal had strict guidelines on how he felt money should be spent and who Josephine should be surrounding herself with. Much of the conflict between Royal and Della is due to the people Josephine surrounded herself with and her spending habits. Unfortunately, the marriage of Royal and Della would be filled with disagreements and feelings of distrust until Della's death on February 5, 1933.

The career of Josephine Sanders would bring her fame and fortune, but would bring her many misfortunes as well. During her time in show business she would see the destruction of her parents' marriage, she would struggle with the pressures of being in the spotlight, she would be stalked, and would enter into a marriage that would end in divorce and effectively end her career. When looking back on the career of Josephine Sanders one must not focus completely on the fame that she found, but also consider the effect her fame had on her and her family. It is truly a story of a hometown girl who made it big, but is also a tragic story of a family torn apart by the fame and fortune acquired while in the spotlight.

Scope and Contents Note

This collection includes scrapbooks, posters, and photographs from Irene Delroy's career. It also includes correspondence, genealogical materials, and legal documents of the Pike - Sanders Families; including the Civil War Memoir of Alpheus H. Pike while he was in Andersonville Prison.


Box Inventory
Photo Inventory


McLean County Museum of History Collections and Research