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Sigmund, Jay



  • Existence: 1885-1937


Jay G. Sigmund, author, poet, naturalist, wood carver, taxidermist, and insurance company executive, was born in Waubeek, Iowa, on the eleventh of December, 1885. A graduate of Central City High School, Sigmund lived in Waubeek until the age of 19, when he moved to Cedar Rapids. A few years later, on August 9, 1910, he married Louise B. Herns of Cedar Rapids. In 1907, Sigmund began work with the Cedar Rapids Life Insurance Company and became, in 1924, vice president and agency manager. When in 1936 the insurance company in Cedar Rapids merged with Mutual of Omaha, Sigmund was offered the post of vice president of the expanded company on the condition that he move to Omaha. He refused, choosing instead to remain near his beloved Wapsipinicon Valley. Sigmund and his son, James, then became insurance company operators of the Minnesota Mutual Life Insurance Company. He died on October 19, 1937 as the result of a hunting accident near his summer home in Waubeek. He was 51.   Much of his verse describes lyrically his love for the natural beauty of the Wapsipinicon Valley northeast of Cedar Rapids. Sigmund recognized the essential kinship between nature and man, the cycle of birth, growth, death, and decay that is common both to the earth and its inhabitants. Morning Mists on the Wapsipinicon, Waubeek in June, and Stone City Iowa each reflect Sigmund's sense of wonder toward his native land. Still more verse and several one-act plays cover religious themes. Sigmund had a deep and abiding interest in the Catholic faith especially, and was a frequent visitor of New Melleray Abbey, near Dubuque, and the Sinsinawa Dominicans in southwestern Wisconsin.   He was a regional poet, though he brought the spirit of the Wapsipinicon to readers far beyond his native Iowa. Though a life-long Iowan and a regular contributor to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, he was praised by the likes of H.L. Mencken, Carl Sandburg, and Sherwood Anderson. The poet Robinson Jeffers described Sigmund as having fine powers of imagination and imaginative sympathy, as well as musical verse. Shortly before his death, Sigmund collaborated on several works with Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Jay Sigmund was a member of the Midland Authors' Society and the Iowa Press and Authors' Club.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Jay Sigmund Papers

Identifier: msc0697

Insurance agent, poet, story writer, and lecturer on literature. Preliminary drafts of plays, poetry, an unpublished novel, and correspondence with writers of note.

Dates: 1911 - 1975