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John MacVicar Papers

Identifier: MsC0051

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Scope and Contents

This small collection is made up of correspondence, legal papers, clippings, photographs, and scrapbook pages. Mayor of Des Moines 1896-1898, 1898-1900, 1914-1916, 1928. Died in office in 1928.


  • Creation: 1881-1952


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 MacVicar was born on July 4, 1859 in Galt, Ontario, Canada. His parents, John and Mary (McEwan) MacVicar had emigrated from Scotland seven years before and eventually settled in Erie, Pennsylvania. MacVicar went to school and soon began working for a mercantile house in Erie. In 1882 MacVicar moved to Des Moines, Iowa, to manage the wallpaper department of Redhead, Norton, Lathrop & Co. On June 14, 1884 MacVicar married Nettie Nash and the couple had four children: Mary, Marjorie, John, and Dorothy. By 1893 he had opened his own wallpaper business, John MacVicar Co. He developed an interest in local politics, serving as town clerk, being elected as mayor in 1896, and later serving on the city council. A proponent of the commission form of city government, while he was mayor Des Moines became the first city of its size to adopt the idea. He served as mayor 1896 -- 1898, 1898 -- 1900, 1916 -- 1918, and again in 1928. Becoming something of an expert on municipal government, MacVicar wrote extensively on the topic for magazines. He lived and worked in Des Moines until his death on November 15, 1928 while serving his fourth term as mayor.

A. Neville, September 2005

Information taken from a letter from Nettie (Nash) MacVicar from James T. White Co. (The National Cyclopedia of American Biography).


0.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Record of expenditures for a farm located on Muscatine Island.

Physical Access Requirements

The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on Property Rights, usecoll Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials

Method of Acquisition

These papers were given to the University of Iowa Libraries in 1959 by Marjorie Macomber, Marjorie Sheehan, and Iva Ethel Walker. It was collected by George Sheets, and was a part of the Sheets collection until 2005, when that collection was broken into various collections.

Related Materials

The State Historical Society of Iowa has 20 linear feet of material on MacVicar at the Des Moines Library.

A. Neville, September 2005
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)