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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Collins Mortgage and Farms Companies

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1901-1945
Creator: Collins, Merle Hunter (1878-1943)
Extent: 12.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0317
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Records of a Cedar Rapids-based mortgage company and company devoted to innovative utilization of farmland. Records include correspondence, financial records, legal files, property descriptions, and tax files.

Access: This collection is open for research.

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

Acquisition:

Preferred Citation: Collins Mortgage and Farms Companies, 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
Email: lib-spec@uiowa.edu
Website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/sc

Merle Hunter Collins was born on October 5, 1878 to the Reverend Josephus Collins and his wife Jane, in Orion, Illinois. In 1882 his family moved to Kansas, but during the Oklahoma land rush of the 1890s, they moved again, in 1896, to Kingfisher, Oklahoma. In 1904, Merle married Faith Andrews of Kansas. The couple had only one child, Arthur Andrews Collins, who was born in 1909.

Collins was a successful businessman and land investor in Oklahoma, and Eastern investors encouraged him to establish a new business venture in Iowa. Collins moved his family to Cedar Rapids, Iowa and formed the Collins Mortgage Company, with the Collins Farms Company being founded in 1928.

After the failures of his own companies, Collins joined the executive board of his son Arthur's Collins Radio Company, where he became vice-president of the corporation. Merle Collins died at the age of 64 on April 2, 1943.

Merle H. Collins founded the Collins Mortgage Company in 1916 after moving with his family from Oklahoma to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The company specialized in farm loans, and grew over the years to be quite profitable. The CMC operated in Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

Beginning in 1925, Collins began acquiring a number of idle farms (farms abandoned after mortgage foreclosures) and using them as platforms for the implementation of new farming and land utilization techniques. His success in this initial endeavor led Collins to form the Collins Farms Company in 1928, with himself as president. By 1931 the CFC owned and occupied nearly 30,000 acres across 39 Iowa counties.

Unfortunately for Collins (as for many others, of course), in 1929 the stock market crashed, causing a worldwide economic depression. Poor economic conditions affected the Collins Companies as well, but the immediate causes of their decline were due to their connections with other financial institutions. CMC had been long associated with Equitable Life Assurance Company of New York (arranging and selling farm mortgages to the firm), and in Iowa was working closely with the Cedar Rapids National Bank on many loans. In October of 1931, federal bank examiners, investigating CRNB, found that nearly 1/10th of the bank's assets constituted second mortgages tied to CMC. Eastern firms, such as Equitable, traditionally refused to handle these types of mortgages. Although Equitable was pressed by federal examiners to advance $810,000 to CRNB, the bank still faced a large write-off and its solvency was threatened. On October 29, 1931, CRNB merged with and was taken over by Merchants National Bank.

Collins continued to struggle with Merchants, and eventually with Equitable over the future of his mortgages and farmlands. In July 1932, Equitable filed a farm foreclosure suit for $10,000 against the Collins Companies in the Winnebago County, Iowa District Court. Collins countersued for over $1.5 million in commissions on mortgage loans and then followed it up with a second suit for $1.3 million. In February 1933, Equitable responded by suing Collins in federal court (both in Iowa's Northern District at Fort Dodge and the Southern at Des Moines) for over $3.5 million and sought foreclosure actions in 39 Iowa counties. In February 1934 the federal court in Fort Dodge appointed a receiver to take charge of the farms properties in question; many farms ended up being sold to individual farm operators to satisfy the claims of Equitable and Merchants National. In late 1934 Equitable and Collins agreed to settle, releasing each other from all existing claims (Collins and Merchants National reached a similar agreement.) Collins signed over all his remaining CMC and CFC properties to Equitable and to Merchants. Collins' assets were drastically reduced, though he was not wiped out, and he faced ongoing hostility from a number of people who had lost money from the failures of his companies and of CRNB.

Collins also operated another firm, a real estate and farms holding company, the Mississippi Valley Farms Company, that operated from 1932 until 1945.

This collection consists of correspondence, financial records, property records, and other materials from the two major companies created and owned by Merle H. Collins (as well as a small amount from his third company, the Mississippi Valley Farms Company). The collection is divided into several series:

Bound Materials: This series contains ledgers, registers, and other compilations of financial information, as well as bound copies of legal proceedings in the lawsuit of Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. the Collins Companies.

Financial Files: This series consists of various records relating to the Collins Companies' finances and financial transactions.

Foreclosure Files: This series is comprised of selected files relating to individual farm foreclosures, selected to provide examples of the types of materials and transactions involved in these sorts of activities.

General Files: Obviously, this series contains materials relating to a wide variety of subjects and activities. Much of the material in this series consists of correspondence, not only general, but that between the Collins Companies and its chief nemeses Equitable Life Assurance Co. and Cedar Rapids National Bank.

Legal Files: The Legal Files in the collection consist of legal documents, including bills of equity, witness testimonies and other materials relating to the various lawsuits in which the Collins Companies were engaged over the years. Most of the material relates to the federal suit filed against the Collins Companies by Equitable Life Assurance in 1933-1934.

Mortgage Files: This series consists of selected files relating to individual mortgagees. LIke the Foreclosure Files, these were sampled and selected from the mass of similar files to provide substantive examples of the types of materials and transactions invoved with Collins' customers.

Property Files: These files consists primarily of documents describing various farm properties mortgaged through CMC or CFC. Many of the files, consisting of correspondence, property descriptions, and inspection reports, were actually exhibits for the federal lawsuits filed against Collins by Equitable. Also included is one box of field survey books containing survey information for a number of different Collins farms.

Tax Files: This series consists primarily of tax returns and related records for Collins and his companies.

Oversize Materials: A few items, though organizationally attached to other series, are considered too large to place in the boxes with those series. Those items are shelved together at the end of the collection, in folders.
COLLINS RADIO COMPANY. Records of the Collins Radio Company, 1925-1980. 34.1 ft.

Corporate and product records of a Cedar Rapids-based communications and aerospace company. Records include correspondence, administrative records, product files, advertising, research materials, photographs, and blueprints. MsC814.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: BOUND MATERIALS
Series 2: FINANCIAL FILES
Series 3: FORECLOSURE FILES
Series 4: GENERAL FILES
Series 5: LEGAL FILES
Series 6: MORTGAGE FILES
Series 7: PROPERTY FILES
Series 8: TAX FILES
Series 9: OVERSIZED MATERIALS

  • Series 1: BOUND MATERIALS
  • On shelf:
  • Collins Mortgage Company: Journal Sheets - 1922-1930
    5 volumes
  • Collins Mortgage Company: Debentures
    2 volumes
  • Collins Farms Company: Stock Certificates Issues - 1928
  • Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - People To Whom Stock Issued - 1928-1930
  • Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Transfer Cash Revenues - 1930-1931
  • Collins Mortgage Company: Account Register - 1929-1932
  • Collins Farms Company: Tile Ledger - 1930
  • Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Kansas City Office - 1926-1932
  • Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Mortgage Holders(?) - 1912-1930
    3 volumes
  • Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Bank Loans - 1929-1930
  • Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Draft Transfers Drawn on Commercial Bank of Kansas City - 1927-1930
  • Debentures Journal, - 1930
  • Collins Farms Company: Subscription Warrants for Stock
    2 volumes
  • Collins Farms Company: Stock Certificates
  • Collins Farms Company: Ledger - Loanee Name and Loan Number - 1931
  • Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Expenses and Liabilitie - 1925-1928
  • Collins Companies Scrapbooks: Company Related News Clippings
  • Copies of Company Forms
  • Reconcilement of Accounts - 1927-1931
  • Legal Files: Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. CMC, et.al. - Proceedings, volumes 1-13
  • Series 2: FINANCIAL FILES
  • Box 1:
  • Account Register, CFC - 1927-1928
  • Annual Reports to Iowa Secretary of State, CFC - 1930-1931
  • Assorted Financial Statements - 1924-1933
  • Audit, CFC - 1931
  • Audit, CMC - Correspondence and Report, November - 1930
  • Audit, CMC - Financial Records, November - 1930
  • Balance Sheets, CMC/CFC - 1922, 1930
  • Balance Sheets, CMC Kansas City Office - 1926-1931
  • Budgets, CFC - 1929
  • CFC Account Papers, 1928-1931
  • Daily Statements, CMC - 1917-1926
  • Dresdner Bank (Berlin, Germany) - 1921-1930
  • Financial Statements, Assorted, 1924-1933
  • Financial Statements, CFC - 1929-1930
  • Financial Statements, CFC - Provided to E.G. Nourse (Brookings Institution) - 1929-1930
  • Financial Statements, CMC - 1931
  • Financial Statements, CMC Kansas City Office - 1925-1930
  • Financial Statements, CMC Kingfisher, OK Office - 1924
  • Financial Statements, M.H. Collins Farm Account - 1929-1930
  • Receipts and Disbursements, CFC - 1932-1934
  • Trial Balance Sheets, CMC - 1923-1925
  • Series 3: FORECLOSURE FILES
  • Box 1:
  • Anderegg, Theresa May - 1930-1932
  • Barnes, Jesse - 1930-1933
  • Fellers, Roy O. - 1931-1934
  • Kershner, Laura E - 1930-1934
  • Liska, John - 1930-1931
  • Martin, John C. - 1931-1940
  • Nancolas, Fred - 1933-1934
  • Thompson, Henry - 1930-1932
  • Twelve Mile Lake Farm - 1931-1933
  • Series 4: GENERAL FILES
  • Box 1:
  • Affidavits (Amounts of Capital Invested), Oklahoma - 1933
  • Agreements - 1912-1934
  • Amendment of Certificate of Incorporation - 1931
  • Annual Report from A.G. Thurman, CFC - 1931
  • Assignment of Rights to Equitable Life Assurance - 1931
  • Box 2:
  • Cedar Rapids National Bank Debentures - 1919-1937
  • Collins, Josephus (Death of - 1928
  • Collins, M.H., Farm Account Information - 1928
  • Collins Farms, Lists and Descriptions - 1931
    Includes undated
  • CFC Farm Inspection Reports - 1929-1930
    Includes undated
  • CFC Summary and Cost Estimates of Operations
    Undated
  • Collins Farm Company Promotional Book (Typescript with photographs) - 1929?
  • Collins Mortgage Company of Delaware - 1934-1941
  • Correspondence
  • American State Bank (Geary, OK)  - 1924-1932
    Three folders
  • Barnes, Don - 1926, 1931-1933
    Two folders
  • Boyd, W.R. - 1929-1931
  • Cedar Rapids National Bank - 1925-1932
  • CMC Kansas City Office  - 1931-1932
    Four folders
  • Collins, Arthur - 1930-1931
  • Equitable Life Assurance Company - 1916-1930
    Three folders
  • Box 3:
  • Correspondence Continued
  • Equitable Life Assurance Company - 1931-1934
    Two folders
  • First National Bank (Lost Nation, IA) - 1929-1931
    Two folders
  • General - 1929-1939
    Five folders, contains undated materials
  • Guaranteed Loans by CMC Kansas City Office - 1932-1933
  • Havner, H.M. - 1932-1933
  • International Harvester Company - 1928-1932
  • Iowa Guaranteed Loans - 1932-1933
  • Keppel, F.P. (Carnegie Corporation) - 1930-1931
  • Kuning, Charles (Regional Agricultural Credit Corporation, Omaha, NE) - 1932-1935
  • Lintner, Ruth Vavra - 1930-1936
  • Loan Application Approvals - 1930-1931
  • Nourse, E.G. (Brookings Institution) - 1930-1931
  • Oklahoma Oil Leases - 1923, 1925
  • Pritchett, Henry C. (Carnegie Foundation) - 1930-1931
  • Redfearn, P.A. - 1931
  • Rawls, E.H. (Guaranty Trust Company of New York) - 1930-1931
  • Roberts, George E. (National City Bank) - 1930-1931
  • Ruml, Dr. Beardsley - 1930-1931
  • Solicitation Letters "To Our Correspondents" - 1916-1926
  • Box 4:
  • Correspondence - State Management Company (holding company) - 1929-1931
  • Davis, J.O. (Petition for Clemency, Geary, OK) - 1928-1929
  • Farm Descriptions - Farms in Iowa Owned by CFC
    Undated
  • Farm Loan Applications (Appanoose-Wright County, Iowa)
    Three folders
  • Farms for Sale by CFC - 1930
  • Farms Redeeded to Equitable - 1932
  • Homestead Application Receipt, M.H. Collins - 1901
  • Incorporation Documents, CFC - 1928-1932
  • Incorporation Documents, CMC - 1910
  • Insurance Survey of CMC/CFC - 1930
  • Investor Prospects (including selected solicitations) - 1930-1931
  • Loan Grantees, Lists of, Kansas and Oklahoma - 1931
  • Loans Smaller than $2000 - 1926-1933
    Contains undated materials
  • Maps of CFC Iowa Properties
    Undated
  • Memoranda, Confidential - 1931-1933
    Three folders, contains undated materials
  • Minutes, CFC Board of Directors Meetings - 1931-1933
  • Mississippi Valley Farms Company - 1932-1945
    Two folders
  • Box 5:
  • Mississippi Valley Farms Company - Ledger Sheets - 1935-1937
  • Mississippi Valley Farms Company - Real Estate Licenses - 1934
  • Photographs - CMC Executives and Employees?
    Undated
  • Photographs - Unidentified Farmsteads
    Undated
  • Promotional Leaflet, CFC
    Undated
  • Publications
  • Announcement of CFC Independent Growers Division
  • Collins Correspondent, January-September - 1931
  • Informational Bulletin, CFC - 1930
  • The Pulse (Equitable Life Assurance Co. newsletter), February - 1932
  • Winter Wheat in Iowa: A Practical Farmer's Handbook, CFC - 1929-1930
  • Registration of Agents, CFC - 1928-1931
  • Registration of Preferred Stock (in Iowa), CFC - 1929-1930
  • Semi-Annual Report to Stockholders, CFC - 1930
  • Speeches and Addresses, 1931
    Contains undated materials
  • Stitt-Collins Mortgage Company - 1912-1917
  • Stock Certificates - 1931, 1933
  • Subscription Warrants for CFC Stock - 1929
  • Ventilated Grain Bins - 1931
  • Series 5: LEGAL FILES
  • Sub-Series: L.A. Andrew
  • Box 5:
  • Receiver of State Bank of Alden, vs. Collins - 1932-1933
  • Sub-Series: Cedar Rapids
  • Box 5:
  • Cedar Rapids Life Insurance vs. CMC, et. al. - 1935
  • Sub-Series: CMC vs. Equitable Life Assurance Co. - 1935
  • Box 5:
  • Amendments to Answer and Cross Bill (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1933
  • CMC Reply to Answer and Cross Bill (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1933
  • Fielding, Henry T., Direct Examination, n.d. (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)
  • Fielding, Henry T., Reclassification Entries (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1934?
  • Petition At Law and Sundry Schedules (Polk County [Iowa] District Court) - 1933
    Two folders
  • Ruling of Master in Chancery (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1932
  • Sub-Series: Equitable Life Assurance Co. General
  • Box 5:
  • Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. Glen L. Bennett, Arthur A. Collins, et.al., (Garfield County [OK] District Court) - 1933-1934
  • Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. Arthur A. Collins, et.al., (Kay County [OK] District Court) - 1933
  • Sub-Series: Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. CMC, et.al.
  • Box 5:
  • Affidavit of M.H. Collins (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1934
  • Application for Appointment of Receiver (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District) - 1933
  • Application for Recommendation for Appointment of Receiver (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1934
  • Answer of CMC to Bill in Equity (Draft), (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1933
  • Assorted Documentation - 1933
    Contains undated materials
  • Bill in Equity, Part 1, (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District)  - 1933
  • Box 6:
  • Bill in Equity, Part 2, (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District) - 1933
  • Bill in Equity and Affidavit for Attorney's Fees, (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District) - 1933
  • Bill in Equity and Affidavit for Attorney's Fees, plus Amendments and Answers, (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1933
  • Brief (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1933?
  • Brief on Appointing a Receiver (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1933?
  • Correspondence - 1932-1934
  • Exhibits - Correspondence - 1931-1932
  • Exhibits - Lists of Farms - 1933?
  • Havner Memorandum - 1933?
  • Index by Farms of Court Record
  • Interrogatories for Document Discovery (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1933
  • Orders (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District)
    1934
  • Subpoenas (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District) - 1933
  • Testimony on Land Values by F.M. Collard - 1934
  • Testimony on Land Values by Fred C. Fisher - 1934
  • Box 7:
  • Testimony on Land Vaues by H.S. Van Alstine - 1933 or 1934?
  • Witness Statements (Winnebago County [Iowa] District Court) - 1932
  • Sub-Series: Equitable Life Assurance Co. General
  • Box 7:
  • Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. M.H. Collins, et.al., (Blaine County [OK] District Court) - 1933-1934
  • Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. Eliza Jane Lisk, M.H. Collins, Faith Collins, (Mahaska County [Iowa] District Court) - 1931-1933
  • Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. John B. Schmidt, Arthur A. Collins, et.al., (Caddo County [OK] District Court) - 1933-1934
  • Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. Sarah Van Doren, CMC, et.al., (Ottawa County [KS] District Court) - 1932
  • Sub-Series: Assorted Legal Files
  • Box 7:
  • John Hancock Mutual Life vs. H.L. Bellmer, CFC, et.al., (Fayette County [Iowa] District Court) - 1932
  • Johnson Lumber Co. vs. Cudahy and Wilson (CMC as Cross-Petitioner), {Greene County [Iowa] District Court) - 1933
  • Lewis S. Lein vs. M.H. Collins, et.al., (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District) - 1933-1935
  • Andrew Mitchell, et.al. vs. CMC, Equitable Life Assurance Co., (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District) - 1936
  • Oklahoma, Barrett vs. Ross H. Gamble, M.H. Collins, et.al. (Blaine County [OK] District Court) - 1930-1935
    Two folders
  • B.M. Thomas vs. CMC, Equitable Life Assurance Co., (Federal Court-Iowa, Northern District) - 1932-1933, 1938
  • Edward A. Werner vs. A.H. Auckerman, CFC, (Linn County [Iowa] District Court) - 1931
  • Series 6: MORTGAGE FILES
  • Sub-Series: Individual Mortgagees
  • Box 7:
  • Abbas, Teus - 1917-1934
  • Andrews, Mary - 1929, 1932-1941
  • Hunter, LaMaude Ryan - 1924-1931
  • Lathrum, H.H. - 1932-1944
  • O'Flaherty, Thomas - 1930-1932
  • Sub-Series: Mortgagees
  • Box 7:
  • B-H - 1925-1932
  • J-R - 1931-1933
  • S-Y - 1929-1933
  • Mortgage List - 1931-1932
  • Series 7: PROPERTY FILES
  • Sub-Series: Farms
  • Box 8:
  • Black Hawk-Buchanan County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Butler-Cerro Gordo County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Chickasaw County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Clay-Dickinson County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Emmet County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Fayette County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Box 9:
  • Hancock County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Hardin-Howard County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Humboldt-Iowa County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Box 10:
  • Kossuth County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Linn-Mitchell County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Palo Alto-Wright County (Iowa) - 1930s
  • Sub-Series: Loan Applicant Tables (including Property Descriptions)
  • Box 10:
  • Adair-Crawford County (Iowa) - 1916-1929
  • Dallas-Jefferson County (Iowa) - 1916-1929
  • Johnson-Page County (Iowa) - 1916-1929
  • Palo Alto-Wright County (Iowa) - 1916-1929
  • Sub-Series: Surveys
  • Box 11:
  • Field Survey Books, Various Farms
  • Series 8: TAX FILES
  • Box 12:
  • CMC - Miscellaneous Documentation for Tax Returns
  • CMC - Taxes - 1916-1925
    Five folders
  • Box 13:
  • CMC - Taxes - 1926-1930
    Six folders
  • Collins Companies - Taxes - 1930-1933
    Three folders
  • Correspondence - 1931-1934
  • Foreign Corporation Permits and Licenses - 1927, 1930-1933
  • Series 9: OVERSIZED MATERIALS
  • Sub-Series: Financial Files
  • Audit of CMC, November - Financial Tables - 1930
  • Statements, Equitable Life Assurance Co. - 1931
  • Sub-Series: Foreclosure Files
  • Foreclosures - 1928-1931
    Contains undated materials
  • Sub-Series: General Files
  • Certificates of Land Ownership - 1903
  • Chart of Accounts, CFC
    Undated
  • Collins Grain Bin Blueprint, CFC - 1930-1931
  • Map (with pushpins) of CMC Properties
    Undated

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.