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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the John MacVicar Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1881-1952
Creator: MacVicar, John (1859-1928)
Extent: .25 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0051
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Record of expenditures for a farm located on Muscatine Island.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs: Box 1

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: These papers were given to the University of Iowa Libraries in 1959 by Marjorie Macomber, Marjorie Sheehan, and Iva Ethel Walker. It was collected by George Sheets, and was a part of the Sheets collection until 2005, when that collection was broken into various collections.

Preferred Citation: John MacVicar Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

John MacVicar was born on July 4, 1859 in Galt, Ontario, Canada. His parents, John and Mary (McEwan) MacVicar had emigrated from Scotland seven years before and eventually settled in Erie, Pennsylvania. MacVicar went to school and soon began working for a mercantile house in Erie. In 1882 MacVicar moved to Des Moines, Iowa, to manage the wallpaper department of Redhead, Norton, Lathrop & Co. On June 14, 1884 MacVicar married Nettie Nash and the couple had four children: Mary, Marjorie, John, and Dorothy. By 1893 he had opened his own wallpaper business, John MacVicar Co. He developed an interest in local politics, serving as town clerk, being elected as mayor in 1896, and later serving on the city council. A proponent of the commission form of city government, while he was mayor Des Moines became the first city of its size to adopt the idea. He served as mayor 1896-1898, 1898-1900, 1916-1918, and again in 1928. Becoming something of an expert on municipal government, MacVicar wrote extensively on the topic for magazines. He lived and worked in Des Moines until his death on November 15, 1928 while serving his fourth term as mayor.
Information taken from a letter from Nettie (Nash) MacVicar to James T. White Co. (The National Cyclopedia of American Biography).

This small collection is made up of correspondence, legal papers, clippings, photographs, and scrapbook pages.
The State Historical Society of Iowa has 20 linear feet of material on MacVicar at the Des Moines Library.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Correspondence
  • To John MacVicar from H.C. Corbin. Invitation to the inauguration of James Garfield, January 5 - 1881
  • To John B. Lucas from John MacVicar, Sr., October 25 - 1907
  • To John MacVicar from his father, John MacVicar, Sr., November 7 - 1907
  • To John MacVicar from his father, John MacVicar, Sr., November 25 (no year)
  • To Nettie (Nash) MacVicar from James T. White Co. Includes biographical information, August 22 - 1929
  • Legal documents
  • Proposal for a furnace installation in the South Des Moines MacVicar home, November 2 - 1886
  • The State of Iowa v. A.H. Kyser for "Carrying a gun on the Sabbath day", November 18 - 1888
  • Incorporated Town of North Des Moines v. J.P. Cross et al., May 16 - 1889
  • Statement from Mr. Cate, February 3 - 1890
  • Letter from Robert Fullerton to Mr. Hamilton, December 9 (no year)
  • Newspaper clippings - 1877-1952
  • Photographs
  • John MacVicar; notes on back of photo
  • John MacVicar with cardboard frame
  • John MacVicar
  • Scrapbook pages; includes political cartoons, short articles, poems - 1911-1915
  • Scrapbook having to do mostly with John B. Lucas.
    In Oversized materials.

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Personal Names:
MacVicar, John, 1859-1928


Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Des Moines

Genre/Form of Materials:
Legal documents
Clippings (Information artifacts)