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Hamlin Garland Papers

Identifier: MsC0797

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Scope and Contents

This small collection consists of four short manuscripts, biographical materials, some photographs, clippings, correspondence, and few items of miscellany.


  • Creation: 1892-1940


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

Hannibal Hamlin Garland was born near Salem, Wisconsin in 1860. He and his family moved to Iowa in 1869 settling first in Winneshiek County and moving to Burr Oak Township in Mitchell County shortly thereafter. On his family's farm in Mitchell County Garland is said to have done a man's work, but with apparent flair, sometimes wearing kid gloves and a frock coat to do chores. From 1875 until 1881 Garland lived Osage, Iowa while attending the Cedar Valley Seminary. Despite extreme poverty Garland was an excellent student. After graduating with honors from the seminary Garland taught school in Illinois for one year before setting out to travel the country with his brother. Hearing his father speak about Boston convinced him that this city was the center of learning in America and Garland traveled to Boston in 1884 to pursue a literary career. Finding that he could not afford to attend a university, he is said to have read every available book in the Boston Public Library. Teaching private classes in English and American Literature, Garland made many influential friends including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, and Lorado Taft. While living in Boston, Garland became an advocate for the improvement of farm conditions in the rural Midwest.

While teaching and lecturing, he started to publish. He wrote short stories for publication in such journals as Arena and Harper's Weekly He gathered some of these stories and some previously unpublished stories to create, in 1890, Main-Travelled Roads, probably his most critically acclaimed book. In 1898, after completing a biography of Ulysses S. Grant commissioned by Samuel S. McClure, Garland went on a six-month expedition through the Yukon Valley. Upon his return, Garland married Zulime Taft, daughter of Don Carlos Taft and sister of Lorado. Garland had two daughters with Zulime, Mary Isabel and Constance.

He continued to publish over the next three decades, including autobiographical works such as Boy Life on the Prairie(1908), A Son of the Middle Border(1917) and A Daught of the Middle Border (1921) for which he won the Pulitzer prize for biography in 1922. He championed the cause of Native Americans and women, subjects which made their way into his writings. He ventured into literary criticism with Crumbling Idols(1894). Garland believed in a version of realism that he called veritism, which involved showing life as it was, including the squalor, unhappiness, and sometime desperation of common people. He believed that local color stories were the national literature of America, and this is what he practiced. He was disappointed, therefore, when people of the Midwest attacked his stories, and he retreated into writing Rocky Mountain romances.

Although most famous as a novelist, writing more than forty books, Garland was also an accomplished poet, essayist, short-story writer, and lecturer. For more than forty years Garland lectured on American history and authors. After moving to Hollywood, California in 1929 Garland authored two final books concerning psychic research and phenomenon; Forty Years of a Psychic Research(1936) and The Mystery of the Buried Crosses (1939). Garland died on March 4, 1940 in California.


0.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Correspondence, four short manuscripts, and photographs make up this small collection for this Iowa author and champion of local color.

Related Materials

The bulk of Garland's papers are at the University of Southern California. Correspondence and diaries are in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California Shambaugh Family Papers, University of Iowa SpecialCollections RG06.0029.001 Papers of Ellis Parker Butler, University of Iowa Special Collections MsC0575 Talent brochure from the Redpateh Lyceum Bureau. From the collection at the University of Iowa and the Library of Congress American Memory website. The Hamlin Garland Society Wisconsin Electronic Reader

A. Neville, J. Roethler, August 2005
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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)