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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the McCown Family Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1909-2012
Creator: McCown, Robert (1939-2015)
Extent: 5.50 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0852
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Multigenerational family papers of the former head of the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections Department.

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: The donor retained copyright during his lifetime.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 1116) were donated by Bob McCown in 2012.

Preferred Citation: McCown Family 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
Email: lib-women@uiowa.edu
Website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa

Alfred Brown McCown (1850-1929) was raised in Coalport, Iowa. In 1882, he married Armedia Jane Hegwood (1856-1928) and they had four children: Don Cleveland McCown (1884-1950), Bret Harte McCown (1886-1940), Walter Francis McCown (1889-1972), and Ethel Marie McCown (1892-1964). In 1900 Alfred. McCown was appointed to the Board of Control of State Institutions and was living in Des Moines at the time of his death.

Don Cleveland McCown (1884-1950), was born and educated in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1908, he married Bernice Wooster (1887-1937) of Montezuma, Iowa, and they had three children. Don McCown was a champion in trap shooting and fly-casting. He won numerous competitions and wrote several articles on bait and fly-casting for The National Waltonian. Don C. McCown worked as a salesman with the Perfection Stove Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Widowed in 1937, he married Frances Anne Freking (1902-1963) in 1938. The couple’s only child, Robert Arthur McCown, was born the following year. In 1942, Don C. McCown purchased an interest in a hardware store in Hawarden, Iowa, and in 1944 became the sole owner, renaming it “Don C. McCown Hardware.” In 1949, he was appointed to the retail committee of the Hawarden Chamber of Commerce. The following year he suffered a heart attack and passed away.

Frances Anne (Freking) McCown (1902-1963) was born in LeMars, Iowa, the sixth child of Henry and Elizabeth Freking. She married a farmer named Joe Groetken and had one child, Jean Groetken (1925-1988). Frances Anne Freking later left her physically abusive husband and returned with her daughter to her parents' home. She worked as a bookkeeper at the local hardware store where she met Don C. McCown. They settled in Hawarden in 1942, and Frances McCown became the bookkeeper for the Don C. McCown Hardware store. She belonged to numerous clubs and organizations and led an active social life. Two years after her husband’s death, Frances McCown sold the hardware store to an affiliate of Ace Hardware. She continued to live in Hawarden until 1953, when she returned with her son to LeMars. She kept a diary for much of her life and recorded many details of her daily activities and current events. She lived in LeMars until her death in 1963.

Robert Arthur McCown (1939-2015) was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He started attending St. Mary’s School in 1944. His childhood was marked family trips out west and the "Spike Club," founded with a group of neighborhood boys in 1949, and named for a member’s beloved dog. By 1953, the boys had held two hundred official club meetings. At thirteen, Robert A. McCown enrolled at the Holy Ghost Seminary in East Troy, Wisconsin. He continued his education at Gehlen High School, graduating in 1957. He entered St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, graduating in 1961 a degree in history. In 1963, he completed his Master of Arts in history at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa). The same year he married Margaret Mary Myers of West Liberty, Iowa, and they moved to New Milford, Connecticut, where Robert A. McCown taught at The Canterbury School, a private boarding school for boys. In 1964, their first child, John Patrick, was born, followed by daughter Anne Elizabeth in 1965 and son Matthew Cleveland in 1969. After five years at the Canterbury School, McCown enrolled in library school at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. The McCowns' infant son Matthew contracted spinal meningitis and passed away in 1971.

Robert McCown assumed the position of Manuscripts Librarian at The University of Iowa in 1971. He collected the papers of Iowa politicians, authors, and journalists. In addition, he began collecting the papers of Iowa women and their organizations. He presented regularly at the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC), and published several papers on issues related to his work in Special Collections. From 1979 to 1987 he served as editor of the Manuscript Society, an organization that promoted the appreciation and preservation of manuscripts, and earned an Award of Distinction for his services. McCown served on numerous boards and panels for organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Iowa State Historical Society. In 1986, McCown became head of the Special Collections Department and editor of "Books at Iowa," a bi-annual publication by the Friends of the University of Iowa Libraries. In 1997, he began phased retirement. He continued actively acquiring books and manuscripts for Special Collections and engaged in numerous professional activities until his retirement in 2001. McCown was honored by the State Historical Society of Iowa, receiving the Petersen/Harlan award, which is given to an individual or group that has made significant long-term or continuing contributions to Iowa history. Many of the papers he collected from women politicians, artists, writers, nurses, and journalists provided a foundation for the establishment of the Iowa Women's Archives.

The McCown Family papers date from the 1881 to 2012 and measure 5.5 linear feet. The collection is arranged into 6 series: Family, Robert McCown, Artifacts, Photographs, Oversized, and Audiovisual.

The McCown Family series (1909-1950) documents the life of Alfred Brown (A.B.) McCown, Don McCown, and Francis McCown.  The series includesDown on the Ridge: Reminiscences of the Old Days in Coal-port and Down on the Ridge, published in 1909, and a poem, "The Rural Life" written by A.B. McCown about his life on the prairie of Iowa, which he calls "the new west."  Also featured are photographs, a collection of five-year diaries written by Francis McCown, legal documents concerning her estate, and correspondence from her son Robert McCown, as well as a scrapbook documenting the professional life of Don McCown.

The Robert McCown series (1939- ) begins with the Biographical subseries, which includes papers from Robert McCown's early life, such as his baby book, transcripts, and maste's thesis "Irish-Catholic Opinion and the Oriental Problem in San Francisco, 1902-1924."  Much of the series is comprised of McCown's correspondence, including legal correspondence, letters and cards from friends, and a large collections documenting McCown's relationship with his daughter, Anne.  The subseries concludes with a transcript of McCown's oral history, conducted in 2000, personal essays, and reflections on numerous topics, including his contemplations on reading, life, and living with Parkinson's.

The Running subseries(1979-1991)  includes McCown's running journals, and the Professional subseries (1973-2010) documents the history and development of the University of Iowa Special Collections, including correspondence, memos, speeches and publications. The Professional-Conferences and Boards subseries (1975-2000) includes professional journals and meeting minutes from the numerous professional manuscript and librarianship associations McCown participated in.

The Photographs series (1881-2001) includes photographs from the lives of A.B. McCown, Don and Frances McCown, and other members of their extended family and community, covering the late 19th and 20th centuries.  Also included are the family photo albums of Robert McCown, including many photographs of his children Anne and John. The Artifacts series (1934-1963) includes pins, ribbons and medals from A.B., Don, and Robert McCown.

The Oversize series (1949-2001) includes Robert McCown's retirement album, professional certificates, and the records of the Spike Club.

The Audiovisual series includes tapes of Robert McCown’s oral history and speeches on Iowa history, as well as a DVD, "Bob at 70," which features a photographic slideshow documenting Robert McCown's life set to music.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: McCOWN FAMILY
Series 2: ROBERT A. McCOWN
Series 3: PHOTOGRAPHS
Series 4: OVERSIZE
Series 5: ARTIFACTS
Series 6: AUDIOVISUAL

  • Series 1: McCOWN FAMILY
  • Box 1:
  • A.B. McCown - 1909
  • Sub-Series: Frances McCown
  • Box 1:
  • Correspondence - 1951-1968
  • Diaries - 1939-1952
  • Diaries - 1953-1963
  • Estate - 1963-1966
  • Sub-Series: Don C. McCown
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical
  • Scrapbook
  • Series 2: ROBERT A. McCOWN
  • Sub-Series: Biographical
  • Box 2:
  • Biographical, General
  • Biographical, Baby book - 1939
  • Biographical, Appointment Calendars - 1975-1990
  • Biographical, Appointment Calendars - 1991-2004
  • Education - 1945-1957
  • Education - 1957-1961
  • Education, St. John's University Yearbook - 1961
  • Box 3:
  • Education - 1963-1971
  • Education-Thesis - 1963
  • Cards from D.H. Collins - 1993-2009
  • Cards from Jim & Mary Cunningham - 1983-2004
  • Cards from Judi, undated
  • Box 4:
  • Correspondence from Anne [3 folders] - 1978-2005
  • Correspondence from Frank Hanlin - 1980-1982
  • Correspondence from Jack and Libby McDonald - 1978-1993
  • Correspondence from Jean and Ed Anderson - 1980-1988
  • Correspondence from Jim Beilman - 1979-1982
  • Correspondence from Jim and Mary Cunningham - 1979-1993
  • Correspondence from Margaret McCown - 1978
  • Correspondence from Peter Hussey - 1989
  • Correspondence, general - 1951-2012
  • Legal correspondence and documents - 1978-1984
  • Diary of books read since 1984 - 1984-1995
  • Family History
  • Family History Correspondence - 1951, 1996
  • Box 5:
  • Hawarden - 1943-2006
  • Parkinson's - 2002-2012
  • Print Club - 2002-2006
  • Ruth Suckow - 2006
  • Writings, Life chronicle [2 folders] - 2005-2009
  • Writings, personal essays, undated
  • Oral history transcript - 2000
  • Original Small Collection File
  • Sub-Series: Running
  • Box 5:
  • General - 1979-1991
  • Running journals - 1979, 1982
  • Box 6:
  • Running journals - 1983-1984
  • Running journals - 1985, 1987
  • Running journals - 1990-1991
  • Striders Club [2 folders] - 1981-1982
  • Sub-Series: Professional - general
  • Box 6:
  • Correspondence, Blaine Houmes - 2004-2009
  • Correspondence, Judy Lensink - 1979-2001
  • Box 7:
  • Correspondence - 1973-2010
  • Miscellaneous
  • Manuscript Society News - 1980-1987
  • Memos re: travel - 1970-1980
  • Box 8:
  • Memos re: travel - 1981-1996
  • Memos re: trip results - 1970-1972
  • Objectives and Goals - 1989, 1994-2001
  • Performance evaluations - 1978-1979
  • Personnel forms and surveys
  • Summary of activities - 1980-1990
  • Summary of activities - 1991-2001
  • Professional publications, "Chautauqua" [2 folders] - 1984-1985
  • Professional publications, "Iowa Authors on Iowa" - 1996
  • Professional publications, Iowa in Fact & Fiction - 1984-1985
  • Box 9:
  • Professional publications, "James W. Bollinger as a Collector of Lincolniana" - 1982, 2007
  • Professional publications, "The Life and Times of Leigh Hunt" - 1984
  • Professional publications, "The Population of Cedar County in the Nineteenth Century" - 1975
  • Professional publications, general - 1973-1996
  • Speeches/talks, about Iowa City, undated
  • Speeches/talks, general - 1973-1992
  • Petersen/Harlan Award - 2001
  • Phased retirement - 1996-2002
  • Retirement - 2001-2002
  • General resources - 1984-1996
  • Box 10:
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Sub-Series: Professional - conferences and boards
  • Box 10:
  • Conference on Publication of the American Historical Manuscripts - 1975-1977
  • Food for Thought Conference - 1985-1986
  • Iowa ACRL - 1977
  • MAC Fall - 1975
  • MAC Fall - 1977
  • MAC Spring - 1980
  • MAC Spring - 1984
  • MAC Fall - 1984
  • MAC Fall - 1987
  • MAC membership questionnaires, undated
  • Missouri Valley History Conference - 1978
  • Misc. Conference Brochures - 1984-1993
  • AMSC Program Committee - 1989
  • Iowa Humanities Board - 1978, 1990
  • National Historical Publications Committee - 1976-1977
  • SAA Committee on Collecting - 1977
  • State Historical Records Advisory Board - 1990-2000
  • White House Conference on Library and Information Services - 1979
  • Box 11:
  • Workshop in Community History - 1977
  • Series 3: PHOTOGRAPHS
  • Box 11:
  • A.B. McCown
  • Don C. McCown
  • Frances McCown
  • Photo Album
  • McCown Family
  • Hawarden, IA
  • Ed and Jean Anderson
  • Freking Family
  • LeMars
  • McCown Family Photo Album - 1940-1943
  • McCown Family Photo Album - 1944-1950
  • Box 12:
  • Robert A. McCown
  • Anne and John McCown
  • Anne (McCown) Hussey and Family
  • Extended McCown Family
  • Framed Photographs (3 folders)
  • Series 4: OVERSIZE
  • Box 13:
  • Certificates - 1976, 1987
  • Spike Club Records - 1949-1953
  • Retirement Album - 2001
  • Series 5: ARTIFACTS
  • Box 14:
  • Pins belonging to A.B. McCown
  • Fishing medal belonging to Don C. McCown - 1934
  • Ribbons, school IDs and checkbook belonging to Robert A. McCown - 1955-1963
  • Series 6: AUDIOVISUAL
  • Box 14:
  • "Bob at 70" DVD - 2009
    Two Copies, d0090; d0091
  • Altrusa Club talk
    AC 1484
  • University of Iowa Oral History Project Tape 1 - 2000
    Two Copies, AC 1485; AC 1487
  • University of Iowa Oral History Project Tape 2 - 2000
    Two Copies, AC 1488; AC 1489