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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Robert B. Tabor Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1933-1972
Creator: Tabor, Robert B. (1882-1972)
Extent: 2.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0272
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Iowa artist. Diaries and sketchbooks, correspondence and biographical material documenting his career.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Box 2; Audio tapes in Box 5.

Access: This collection is open for research.

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

Acquisition: The papers of Robert B. Tabor were given to the University of Iowa Libraries by his daughter, Ruth Tabor, in 1972.

Preferred Citation: Robert B. Tabor 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

Robert Byron Tabor (1882--1972) was born in Independence, Iowa, and lived most of his life in the Independence and Oelwein area. He began to paint at the age of 52. He had been a traveling salesman for a Cedar Rapids paint company, when he lost his job during the Great Depression. Desperate for work, he turned to the Public Works of Art Project. One of his first oils painted under the project was chosen as one of the twenty-five best pictures of the 15,000 submitted. The painting, entitled Vendue, depicted an Iowa farm auction of the depression and hung in Franklin Roosevelt's White House office throughout his presidency. Ironically, it disappeared later, never to be recovered. Mr. Tabor's artwork has been exhibited throughout the country, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.

The collection includes biographical information along with correspondence from Harold E. Hughes, John C. Culver, and Edward B. Rowan. Several folders relate to the missing painting, "Vendue." Tabor kept diaries from the 1940s until his death in 1972. Finally, there are more than twenty sketchbooks and two scrapbooks.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL
Series 2: 2005 ADDENDUM

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical material
  • Correspondence - 1933-1971
    including correspondence with Richard (Dick) Leet, Marcus Bach, Harold E. Hughes, H. R. Gross, Edward B. Rowan, and Clyde L. Herring
  • "The Discovery of the Van Allen Radiation Belt"
  • Edith E. Brown correspondence - 1961
  • "Four Seasons on an Iowa Farm: The Paintings of Robert Tabor," by Roy R. Behrens. Iowa Heritage Illustrated: Spring - 2000
  • Miscellaneous Writings
  • Box 2:
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Oelwein Public Library Robert Tabor show materials - 1972
  • Photographs
  • Poetry, stories, and other writings
  • The search for "Vendue" including correspondence with John C. Culver
  • Star Pictures
  • The "Vendue" story
  • Writings on various subjects
  • Box 3:
  • Diary - 1945
  • Diary - 1946
  • Diary - 1953
  • Diaries - 1955
    2 diaries
  • Diary - 1958
  • Diary - 1959
  • Diary - 1960
  • Diary - 1962
  • Diary - 1965
  • Diary - 1966-1967
  • Diary - 1968
  • Diary - 1969
  • Diary - 1970
  • Diaries - 1971
    3 diaries
  • Miscellaneous undated notebooks - 1972
  • Box 4:
  • Sketchbooks
    24 sketchbooks
  • Folder with loose sketches
  • Scrapbooks
    2 scrapbooks
  • Series 2: 2005 ADDENDUM
  • Box 5:
  • Fourteen 1 7/8/3 3/4 i.p.s. audio tapes of converstions with Robert Tabor, covering a period of time when he was living in Iowa with his daughter Ruth.
    Gift of Mary Bopp.

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Corporate Names:
Public Works of Art Project (U.S.)

Art, American
Mural painting and decoration


Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Independence
United States -- Iowa
United States -- Iowa -- Oelwein

Genre/Form of Materials: