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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Elizabeth Clarkson Zwart Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1940-1982
Creator: Zwart, Elizabeth Clarkson (1925-1982)
Extent: 1.25 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0029
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Columnist for the Des Moines Tribune, the Des Moines Register, and Better Homes and Gardens.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs scattered throughout

Access: The papers are open for research with the exception of the correspondence which is closed until January 15, 2041.

Use: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 30) were received from Elizabeth M. Hoak in 1984

Preferred Citation: Elizabeth Clarkson Zwart papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Address: 100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5068
Curator: Kären Mason

Elizabeth ("Beanie") Clarkson Zwart was born to Bertha Clarkson and Joseph Zwart in Des Moines on August 20, 1904. She graduated from West High School in Des Moines and attended finishing school in New York. In the 1920s, she began a career in journalism, writing for the Des Moines Capitol, New York Herald-Tribune, New York World, and Des Moines Tribune. On January 14, 1928, Zwart married Donald Metcalf. She continued to use "Clarkson Zwart" as her professional name. They had one daughter, Elizabeth ("Mitzi").

In December 1931, Zwart began writing "The Front Row" for the Des Moines Tribune. The column was popular among its readers for its humorous and insightful observations of the everyday lives of Iowans. Zwart continued to write this column for fifty years. Later, the column also appeared in the Sunday Des Moines Register. From 1935 to 1949, Zwart was book editor for the Sunday Register. During the 1960s, she also wrote a monthly column for Better Homes and Gardens, which offered cooking tips.

Zwart retired in 1982 when the Tribune closed. That same year she suffered a stroke. She died July 1, 1983. According to a Des Moines Register article written after her death, Zwart was a private person who declined to give interviews. Consequently, little biographical information about her is available.

The Elizabeth Clarkson Zwart papers date from 1925 to 1982 and measure 1.25 linear feet.

The bulk of the collection is correspondence. Two letters from 1927 (from Jay Darling) discuss Zwart's prospects for securing employment at the Des Moines Tribune and note the importance of not appearing to be just a "'charming young thing' who thinks it would be romantic to 'work at the paper.'"  Other early letters are from Zwart to her family when she was travelling in Europe in 1928, and letters from authors whose books she reviewed during the 1930s.

Letters from the 1940s and 1950s relate to articles and short stories which Zwart had published in magazines such as Reader's Digest and Colliers.  Other letters pertain to Zwart's column, "The Front Row."  Contracts with Better Homes and Gardens for Zwart's cooking column are found amongst the correspondence from the 1960s.  After 1960 the bulk of correspondence is related to Zwart's column, "The Front Row."  Readers (from Iowa as well as other parts of the country) wrote letters of appreciation for the column and also offered information they thought might be of interest to Zwart.  Scattered throughout the correspondence files are letters from family members and other letters of a more personal nature.

Early material from the 1920s includes Zwart's 1925 passport and a travel diary (kept by both Zwart and her husband, Donald Metcalf) from the tour the two took of Europe during 1928.

The Des Moines Tribune and Des Moines Register (where Zwart's columns can be found) are held on microfilm by the University of Iowa Libraries.
Des Moines Public Library:  A complete collection of Elizabeth Clarkson Zwart's writings are bound and available at the Des Moines Public Library.

Browse by Series:
Series 2: GENERAL
Series 3:

  • Box 1:
  • General - 1927-1939
    Includes letters from: Darling, Jay N., DeJong, David Cornell, Wheelock, John Hall
  • General - 1940-1949
    Includes letters from: Brush, Katherine, Buck, Pearl S., Burroughs, Edgar Rice, Darling, Jay N., Glick, Carl, Gould, Bruce, Hayes, Helen, Henry, Spence, Hartzell John M.
  • General - 1950-1959
    Includes letters from: Brown, Paula Watts, Franzenburg, Paul; Kirsch, Dwight; Nollen, John Scholte; Runyon, Tom; Weeks, Carl
  • General - 1960-1966
    Includes letters from: Berry, Don L.; DePuy, Clifford; Gartner, David G.; Gross, H.R.; Henry, John M.; Kirsch, Dwight; MacDonald, Kenneth; Williams, Roger
  • General - 1967-1969
  • General - 1970-1972
    Includes letters from: Brown, Paula Watts; Parker, Louise (Mrs. Addison)
  • General - 1973-1975
    Includes letters from: Bauer, Douglas; Bissell, Richard; MacDonald, Kenneth; Parker, Louise
  • General - 1976
    Includes letters from: Henry, John M.; Jumper, Will C.
  • General - 1977
    Includes letters from: Black, Gladys; Douglass, Cy; Jumper, Will C.; Koss, Mary; Lendt, David L.; Spencer, Dick
  • Box 2:
  • General - 1978-1979
    Includes letters from: Gannon, James P.; Jumper, Will C.; Koss, Mary
  • General - 1980
    Includes letters from: Koss, Mary; Parker, Louise
  • January-August - 1981
    Includes letters from: Black, Gladys; Douglass, Cy; Jumper, Will C.; Koss, Mary; Simmons, Ellie
  • September-December - 1981
    Includes letters from: Black, Gladys; Hickerson, Loren
  • General - 1982
    Includes letters from: Gartner, Michael; Jumper, Will C.; Kreidenier, David
  • Undated (2 folders)
    Includes letters from: Koss, Mary
  • Series 2: GENERAL
  • Box 3:
  • Passport - 1925
  • Photographs, undated
  • Travel Diary - 1928
  • Series 3:
  • Sub-Series: Publicity