Skip to main content

James Hearst Papers

Identifier: MsC0623

  • Staff Only
  • Please navigate to collection organization to place requests.

Scope and Contents

The papers of James Hearst include poems, correspondence, magazine articles, newspaper clippings, publicity materials, and other miscellaneous materials.


  • Creation: 1950-1987


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

James Schell Hearst was born in Black Hawk County near Cedar Falls, Iowa in 1900. Hearst cultivated his interest in writing early in life, in eighth grade rewriting prose stories into verse. At the age of nineteen, Hearst became a paraplegic after a diving accident in the Cedar River. For much of his life Hearst, along with his brother, Charles, was an active farmer on the Hearst family farm, Maplehearst, near Cedar Falls. Hearst wanted to use his writing to "tell the truth about farming and about life as it is lived on a farm," (The North American Review, Fall 1974). He began his professional writing career in his twenties writing articles on farm matters. In 1941 Hearst was invited to teach creative writing at the Iowa State Teachers College (the University of Northern Iowa) by Dr. H. W. Reninger, Head of the English Department. Upon his retirement Hearst was a Distinguished Professor of English and in 1975 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature from UNI. Hearst was also a poet-in-residence for many summers at Aspen, Colorado.

At the age of 43 Hearst married Carmelita Calderwood, a nurse he had met in Iowa City, Iowa during his physical therapy. Their marriage ended prematurely as Carmelita succumbed to cancer seven years later. In 1953 Hearst was married again to Meryl Norton, a friend of Carmelita's with whom Hearst corresponded frequently after Carmelita's death. Meryl devoted much of her time to Hearst: harvesting corn on his farm, typing his manuscripts and helping edit his autobiography, My Shadow Below Me (1981) . The two invited many notable writers into their Black Hawk County home including Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg. Hearst authored thirteen volumes of poetry and two autobiographical works, publishing more than 600 poems in his lifetime. Known often as the "farmer-poet," Hearst died in 1983.


1.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



James Hearst, partially paralyzed at the age of nineteen by diving into a shallow pond, nevertheless lived an active life as a farmer and went on to become Iowa's distinguished farmer poet. This collection includes published poems, drafts of poems, correspondence, interviews, and a photograph.

Method of Acquisition

These papers were given to the University of Iowa Libraries by James Hearst.

Related Materials

The Hearst Family Papers are held at the University of Northern Iowa Library in Cedar Falls, Iowa.   Hearst corresponded with Paul Engle MsC514   See the Carroll Coleman Papers for correspondence with Hearst   Lanter, Wayne. Threshing Time: A Tribute to James Hearst. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS Iowa Authors Collection

A. Neville, August 2005
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

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)