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Iowa Byington Reed papers

 Collection — Folder: 1
Identifier: IWA0555

Scope and Contents

The Iowa Byington Reed papers date from 1872 to 1936 and measure 2.25 linear feet. The papers consist of Iowa Reed's diaries, with daily entries covering her life from age twenty to just a few weeks before her death at age eighty-four. Also included is the diary of her brother Robert Byington, covering the last year and a half of his life, April 1893 to August 1894.

Iowa Byington Reed's diaries are filled with information about housekeeping chores, entertainments, the rituals of birth, marriage and death, holiday practices, illnesses and the weather. Reed writes about family and friends, as well as local and national news. She writes of family birthdays and deaths, including the death of her brother Robert in 1884 at age thirty, and the death of her niece Edith at age seventeen in 1898. She writes about her lengthy courtship with Will Reed, the months of preparations before their wedding, their married life, and her inconsolable grief at his death. Reed also writes about local fires, deaths and politics. On the national front, Reed and her brother Robert attended the World's Fair in St. Louis just months before his death. She writes about Grover Cleveland's election to President, President McKinley's assassination, the deadly theater fire in Chicago in 1903, and World War I.

Robert Byington's diary complements Reed's from April 1883 to August 1884. Byington writes about the family's business ventures. His entries provide information about the family's farming operations, their finances, and their position in the Iowa City community. Byington writes about meeting former Confederate President Jefferson Davis during his visit to St. Louis during the World's Fair. He also writes of his illness.

A small vertical file contains loose items that were interspersed throughout Iowa Reed's diaries. The items include Will Reed's 1918 obituary, Robert Byington's 1873 teaching certificate, a Halloween card, Christmas card lists, and an 1890 souvenir ribbon celebrating Iowa's first two capital cities of Burlington and Iowa City.

The Correspondence series holds letters written and received by Iowa Reed’s brother O.A. (Otto) Byington from 1891 to 1938. In 1891, Byington visited Rexburg (formerly known as Kaintuck), Bingham County, Idaho to buy and sell land in the area, and he wrote to his wife Fannie Byington in Marshalltown, Iowa. From 1891-1894, Byington made business trips from Marshalltown to Iowa City, Iowa and Chicago, Illinois, again writing letters detailing his life and work to his wife. In 1936, Byington received condolences on the death of his sister Iowa Reed. In 1938, Byington received a few letters notifying him of attendance at the McCollister Family Reunion.


  • Creation: 1872-1936


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Iowa Byington was born on July 23, 1851 to Mary McCollister Byington and LeGrand Byington. She was the second of six children: Charlie (born 1846), Robert (born 1854), Mahaska "Hattie" (born 1857), Otto (born 1859) and Lee (born 1862). Byington grew up in the Iowa City area. She taught for a while in both Iowa and Illinois, but spent the better portion of her unmarried years earning money sewing. Byington was an accomplished seamstress. She also embroidered, knitted, and tatted lace. Iowa Byington married William "Will" Reed on May 12, 1886 in Iowa City. According to his obituary, Will Reed engaged in farming with conspicuous success. Will Reed died on December 10, 1918. Iowa Byington Reed died February 13, 1936.


2.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The diaries of an Iowa City woman who supported herself as a seamstress prior to her marriage in 1896.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 984) were donated by Helen and Bill Byington in 2005.

Lisa Mott, 2005; Abbie Steuhm, 2021.
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)