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Henry N. Graven Papers

Identifier: MsC0222

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Scope and Contents

The papers of Henry N. Graven consist of 50 linear feet of manuscripts (100 boxes), dating from 1908 to 1974, documenting his legal and judicial career along with his work for the Lutheran Church of America and the University of Iowa's School of Religion The papers are arranged in four separate series: 1) Briefs and cases; 2) Personal papers; 3) Citations, and; 4) Jury instructions. The first series of briefs and cases contains material relating to lawsuits. Here are subject folders concerning issues such as contracts, types of evidence, insurance policies, and treaties. The personal papers date from 1908 to 1974 and consist of fourteen boxes of manuscripts. This section spans his lifetime and reflects his many interests. There is material from his high school days and his service during WWI, papers relating to the Lutheran Church, information on his law clerks and his retirement from the bench, along with many other subjects. Correspondence folders include letters from: Guy M. Gillette, Nelson G. Kraschel, Wiley Rutledge, and Mason Ladd. The largest section, titled citations, is comprised of sixty-five boxes of legal papers. Arranged alphabetically by subject, this series contains folders on abandonment to motor vehicles and product liability to World War veterans. The papers end with a collection of jury instructions given by Graven while serving on the bench.


  • Creation: 1908-1974


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. This collection is stored at an offsite location. When requesting materials, please allow two business days for items to arrive at the Special Collections reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

Henry N. Graven (1893 -- 1970) was born in Saint James, Minnesota. In 1921, he graduated from the University of Minnesota with both his B.A. and LL.B. That same year, after being admitted to the bar in both Iowa and Minnesota, he began a law practice in Greene, Iowa, with his brother James. Graven served as Iowa’s Assistant Attorney General from 1936 -- 1937 and was also council to the Iowa Highway Commission. He left his law practice in 1937 when Governor Kraschel appointed him Judge of the 12th Judicial District of Iowa. Judge Graven instigated the program of continuing legal education which was later adopted by the Iowa State Bar Association. In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated him to the federal bench. He was a U.S. District Judge for the northern district of Iowa until 1961, when he informed President Kennedy of his desire to retire from his regular duties. However, as a United States Senior District Judge, during his retirement Judge Graven was called upon to serve in many jurisdictions with overcrowded schedules. Consequently, he held court in New York, North Dakota, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, California, and Puerto Rico.

Active in the American Lutheran Church, Judge Graven initiated the pastoral system for the church, which has served as a guideline for other similar pension plans of other religious sects. For twenty five years, he served as the chairman of the Pension Board of the American Lutheran Church. Judge Graven was also a member and former president of the Board of Trustees of the School of Religion at the University of Iowa.


50.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Iowa. Papers primarily relating to his legal and judicial career with briefs, jury instructions, citations, subject files, and speeches. Also includes correspondence, information on the School of Religion at the University of Iowa and material about the Lutheran Church.

Method of Acquisition

Mrs. Graven donated the judge's papers to the University of Iowa Libraries In 1981.

Related Materials

McNeely supplementary materials provided by the Tripp County Historical Museum in South Dakota (refer to Series II, Box 13 in Iowa's collection).

Genre / Form




Language of description
Script of description
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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)