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John J. Hamilton Papers

Identifier: MsC0024

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Scope and Contents

John J. Hamilton was Editor of the Des Moines Daily News, as well as the first Assistant Librarian for the University of Iowa (1873 - 1878). His "Sociological Survey of Rowanty Township, Dinwiddie County, Virginia, August to November, 1878, Negro Population" is a 200+ page document with information gathered and written out (longhand) by Hamilton as part of a research project for his master's degree (from the University of Iowa), but never really used. In his study, which he conducted by walking around the entire township and visiting every family he met, Hamilton "...proceeded to take down the family history of every negro family in the township from 'Nat's Fray', Nat Turner's slave insurrection in the early '30's in the neighboring county of Southampton, in which fifty six white men, women and children lost their lives, till that lovely fall of 1878. I called it a 'sociological survey' and, not knowing precisely, flatter myself that it was one of the earliest bits of field work ever taken even on its small scale. It covered the complexion -- degrees of gingercake color, they usually called it -- state of health, habits as to liquor and tobacco, party and church affiliations, amounts of land, livestock and poultry owned, whether or not incumbered, and other information volunteered in their quaint lingo, 'gwines' and all in some cases. Names were carefully noted, not always correct, as on the first page, "Yates" Smith later turned out to be E. H. Smith, the old aristocratic father of 'the boy congressman' John Ambler Smith, already superseded by the Republican congressman Joseph Jorgenson..." (Hamilton to Miss Clara Hinton, 3 Dec., 1937).


  • Creation: 1877-1938
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1877


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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


.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Journalist and public official. Includes two notebooks of a survey of race relations in the lower Southern states recorded on a journey on in 1877.

Method of Acquisition

This collection was donated to the University of Iowa Libraries in 1937 by John J. Hamilton.

Related Materials

John Judson Hamilton's letters are available in the Upton Sinclair Archives at the Lilly Library. Jo An Manfra and Robert R. Dykstra, "Serial Marriage and the Origins of the Black Stepfamily: The Rowanty Evidence." Journal of American History 72:1 (June 1985), 18 - 44) draws extensively on the "Sociological Survey."

Language of description
Script of description

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)