Highlight: Hearst Family Papers

In Celebration of National Poetry month in April, I had the opportunity to create an exhibit that highlighted the Hearst Family Papers (record series 14/03/04) here in SC&UA. The collection contains 89 boxes and a wealth of knowledge not only of James Hearst, but other members of the Hearst family as well. The purpose of this highlight is to show some of the special and rare materials that you can explore here at SC&UA. 

Hearst was born to Katherine and Charles Hearst on August 8, 1900 in Black Hawk County on Maplehearst Farm. Photo of Maplehearst Farm as seen from the road.

Hearst was the eldest of four children and he worked on the family farm during his teen years. He attended high school at the Training School of Iowa State Teachers College. Hearst and his Sophomore classmates are seen in the 1916 yearbook, Courant. 

After high school, he enlisted in the army just as World War I was ending. Hearst was discharged shortly after the end of the war and came back home to Black Hawk County. He enrolled at the Iowa State Teachers College in 1918. His Honorable Discharge form is included in the papers.  Military document ordering the honorable discharge of James Hearst.







As his second year at the college was coming to an end, he attended a party on the banks of the Cedar River. There he dived from a bridge and was badly injured. In a 1974 issue of The North American Review, Hearst shares how that event shaped the rest of his life:A piece of text from a Historical Journal.












Hearst broke his neck and spent almost two years in recovery at the Iowa City Hospital. After those two years of physiotherapy, he regained the use of his arms. After the accident and subsequent recovery, Hearst did not return to school. Instead, he poured himself into a kind of self education. He read everything he could get his hands on. He studied and kept poetry that he admired in scrapbooks, a page of which you can see below. 

While he lived on the family farm he worked as much as he could with his brother, Chuck. For a time, his brother would even lift him up on the tractor so he could drive which you can see in the photograph here.  
Page from a scrapbook with small newspaper clippings pasted on. Photograph of James Hearst driving a tractor with a wagon behind it.



















A source of interest in many of the biographical collections at SC&UA is personal correspondence. A researcher can get a real sense of the subject in this way. In the case of the Hearst collection, the correspondences are especially glittering. As a prolific writer, Hearst attracted the friendship of other prolific writers. One such writer was Robert Frost. In box 77 of the Hearst Family papers you can read a collection of Christmas cards from Frost to Hearst, some of which have hand written notes. Included here is a Christmas greeting from 1951. 

Christmas Card

Christmas Card

















To view more of the Christmas cards as well as a sampling of other materials from the Hearst family papers, visit the James Hearst Documents in ScholarWorks. 

To read some of the poetry of James Hearst, visit the James Hearst Digital Archive, a digital humanities project coordinated by Dr. Jim O'Loughlin, Professor of Languages & Literatures. For more information on James Hearst, including family photos, personal correspondence, and other materials, email us at libarchives@uni.edu or visit Special Collections & University Archives on the 3rd floor of Rod Library by making an appointment.


Contributed by Library Assistant Lydia Pakala, April 2021.