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Noble Photograph collection

Identifier: IWA0031

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Scope and Contents

The Mary Noble Photograph Collection consists of postcards, cabinet cards, panoramic photographs, and various other types of photographs. Also included are papers that complement the collection, including information about Iowa photographers, and miscellaneous printed material. The collection is arranged in seven series: Professional Women Photographers; Professional Photographers in Iowa; Photographic Postcards; Photographs by Subject; Oversized Photographs; Glass negatives; and Printed Material and Artifacts.

The first two series, Professional Women Photographers and Professional Photographers in Iowa consist for the most part of studio portraits in the form of cabinet cards. Also included is some biographical information about individual women photographers, an article by Mary Noble entitled "Iowa's Women Professional Photographers," published in Books at Iowa (November 1996); and information on professional photographers in Iowa compiled by Joann Burgess.

The next four series have been arranged by format and size in order to facilitate storage, and are organized by subject within each series. These series are:  Photographic Postcards; Photographs by Subject;  Oversized Photographs; and Glass negatives. The Photographic postcards are primarily amateur photographs printed as postcards. Many have messages written on the reverse, and photographs in a variety of formats depicting life in Iowa. The postcards, as well as the Photographs by Subject and Oversized Photographs depict buildings, street scenes, groups, recreational activities, and other aspects of life in Iowa. The Glass negatives consist of twenty-one glass negatives apparently taken by Otto F. Ney of Waukon in about 1908, depicting family and friends, as well as Waukon buildings.

Printed Material and Artifacts series includes souvenir cards given out by teachers to their students in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; booklets and brochures published by businesses and women's organizations; trade cards of Iowa businesses; and campaign cards of Verna O'Connor, who ran for county office in Garber, Iowa, in 1928 and 1932. Also in this series are several items published by the African-American printer W.E. Patten of Des Moines, including cardboard fans printed as advertisements. A 1940 Negro Business and Information Directory published by the Negro Business and Information Directory [published by Negro Chamber of Commerce, Des Moines], 1940, and a 73rd Anniversary Booklet and Program, 1872-1945 published by the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, Des Moines provide considerable information on African Americans in Des Moines in the 1940s. Artifacts consists of an autograph book, a Woman's Home Missionary Society ribbon,and a packet of sewing machine needles given out as an advertisement by Mrs. M. L. Johnson of Britt, Iowa. Two early twentieth century journals are also included.


  • Creation: 1874-1996


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Mary Noble, a librarian and collector of historical photographs, was born in Berwyn, Illinois in 1945. She attended the Riceville, Iowa public schools, graduating from Riceville Community High School in 1963. She received her BA in Sociology from the University of Iowa in 1967 and her Master of Library Science degree from the University of Iowa in 1968. She was hired as a cataloger by the University of Iowa Libraries in 1968 and continued to work there for more than three decades.

She began collecting historical photographs in the 1980s, purchasing them at antique stores, photograph shows, and fleamarkets. After the Iowa Women's Archives opened in 1992 she began donating photographs to the archives, with special attention to images of women and by women photographers.


5.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Postcards and photographs of Iowa includes the work of professional women photographers in Iowa.

Method of Acquisition

The collection (donor no.31) was donated by Mary Noble in 1993 and succeeding years.

Natalie S. Brody, 1997-1998; Kären M. Mason, 2000; Bailey Adolph, 2019.
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)