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J. Hyatt Downing Papers

Identifier: MsC0591

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Scope and Contents

The papers of J. Hyatt Downing consist of 1.5 linear feet of manuscripts dating from 1925 to 1968. The arrangement is primarily alphabetical, with the short stories and an unpublished novel grouped separately. The papers include such items as correspondence, biographical material, drafts and published versions of short stories, and a typescript draft of his last unpublished novel. A description of Downing and this collection may be found in Books at Iowa, no. 8 (April 1968) p. 11-18, 23: "The Chronicle of an Era," by Anthony T. Wadden.


  • Creation: 1925-1968


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

John Hyatt Downing was born on March 18, 1888 in Granville, Iowa. His family first moved to Hawarden, Iowa before settling in Blunt, South Dakota. Downing worked on his father's ranch and then left to work with railroad surveyors in the West. Returning to attend the University of South Dakota, Downing graduated in 1913. After graduation he held a number of jobs including newspaper reporting and fiction writing in Sioux city. He also worked for the Internal Revenue Service in South Dakota. During this period he met and married Mary McGinnis. They had one son, John, born in 1921. The family next moved to New Mexico because Downing had contracted tuberculosis. By 1925, he had recovered and they returned to the Midwest.

He worked as an insurance agent in Saint Paul, Minnesota, while writing short stories as a sideline. From 1925 to 1930 he published a number of stories in Scribner's Magazine which were well received by the critics. However, after a promotion from the insurance company, Downing stopped writing. After a seven-year layoff, he quit his job, returned to Sioux City, and dedicated himself to a writing career. His first novel was published in 1938, closely followed by four more. After his best seller, Sioux City, sold to the movies, the Downing's once again moved, this time to Los Angeles. Although the book was never filmed, Downing found work at Twentieth Century Fox writing publicity and radio scripts. He continued to write and publish, although with less and less success. His last published story appeared in Reader's Digest in 1963. J. Hyatt Downing died ten years later, at the age of eigthy-five.


1.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Novelist and story writer. Correspondence, subject files, biographical material, and preliminary drafts of his writings.

Method of Acquisition

This collection was given to the University of Iowa Libraries by J. Hyatt Downing over a period of years.

Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)