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Arthur Davison Ficke Papers

Identifier: MsC0603

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Scope and Contents

This collection is made up of draft manuscripts of novels, short stories, poems, and dramas, most of them never published.


  • Creation: 1920-1949


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

Arthur Davison Ficke was born in Davenport, Iowa, on November 10, 1883, the son of a prominent Davenport lawyer, Charles August Ficke and his wife, Frances Davison Ficke. Ficke attended schools in Davenport and as a young man travelled extensively with his father, who was an art connoisseur. Ficke acquired a taste for Japanese prints.

He attended Harvard, where he obtained an A.B. degree in 1904. After a trip around the world, he studied law at the State University of Iowa (later the University of Iowa), where he taught English in 1906 -- 1907. He was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1908 and went into practice with his father in Davenport.

He volunteered for service in World War I, where he was commissioned as a captain in ordnance department of the U.S. Army with the A.E.F. He served until July 1919, when he retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

According to Ficke, "I was more interested in writing poetry than in anything else; but I yielded to my father's wishes and became a lawyer. However, I found time during the first ten years in his office to write eight books of poems and two treatises on Japanese art. . . . After my army service, I never went back to the law, but became solely a writer." (Kunitz, Stanley. Twentieth Century Writers: A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature. New York: Wilson, 1942.)

He began publishing with a book of poems in 1907, From the Isles. He wrote verse, verse dramas, short stories, treatises on Japahese art, and one novel, Mrs. Morton in Mexico. With Witter Bynner using the name Emanuel Morgan and himself using the name Anne Knish, he published Spectra in 1916. This was a satire on modern experimental verse and claimed to start the Spectric school of poetry. This school of poetry gained some proponents who were dismayed when the hoax was revealed.

In 1907, Ficke married Evelyn Bethune with whom he had one son, Stanhope Blunt Ficke. They were divorced in 1922. In 1923, Ficke married Gladys Brown. After 1928, he lived on his estate, Hardhack in Hillsdale, New York. He died in Hudson, New York, on November 30, 1945.

(The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol.35. New York: J. T. White.)


0.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Poet and writer born in Davenport, Iowa. Manuscripts include materials for a course in Arthurian legend given at the State University of Iowa 1906-1907, drafts of published poems and stories, and typescripts of unpublished stories and novels.

Method of Acquisition

This collection was donated to the University of Iowa Libraries by Ficke's widow, Mrs. Arthur Davison Ficke, and his son, Stanhope Ficke, in 1948.

Related Materials

MsL F447br. To [Sharon] Brown. Sante Fe, New Mexico. 16 Feb. 1926. Giving permission to reprint some of his poems; offering advice as to selection. ALS. 2pp.

MsL F447go. To W.C. Goodson. New York City. 9 Feb. 1938. Concerning the autographing of a book. ALS. lp. With envelope, Ficke's penciled note is on the verso of a letter from Goodson to Ficke, 1 Feb.

MsL F447vi. To [Frank H.] Vizetelly. [New York], 24 September 1933. Concerning the correct way to pronounce his name and commenting on the plight of a name-changer.TLS. lp.

MsL F447we. To Harry K. Weymer. [New York], 28 May 1935. Stating the qualities his handwriting reveals and giving his opinion of graphologists. ALS. lp.

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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)