Skip to content
print page header

The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Francis McDermott Family Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1917-1932; 1978
Creator: McDermott, Francis (1895-1955)
Extent: .75 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0451
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Soldier, 13th Regiment of railway engineers, U.S. Army, in W.W.I. Correspondence, picture postcards, and photographs.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs: Box 2

Access: This collection is open for research.

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

Acquisition: This collection was donated to the University of Iowa Libraries by Dalton E. McFarland in 1985.

Preferred Citation: Francis McDermott Family 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

Francis McDermott was born in Waterloo, Iowa on April 8, 1895 and died at Omaha, Nebraska on June 19, 1955, at Veteran's Administration Hospital. He lived most of his life in Missouri Valley, Iowa. He is buried at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Missouri Valley. He had six sisters: Mayme, Mig (Margaret), Eva, Irene, Mary Jane, and Grace; and a brother John.
McDermott enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 29, 1917. As a former employee of the Chicago-Northwestern Railway, he became part of the 13th regiment of railway engineers. A private in Company E, he was stationed in France until after the armistice. Most of his time in the military was spent as a cook.
Following his discharge from military service, he worked as a traveling salesman in Iowa and Nebraska, selling slicing machines to butcher shops. He married Mabel Pauline of Missouri Valley on November 9, 1920. Thereafter he engaged in several business ventures, mostly successful, in Missouri Valley. For several years, with partner Peter Wright, he operated a set of carnival rides under the name of Wright Amusement Company. When this business was sold, Mr. McDermott set up an ice cream, sandwich, and plate dinner shop on main street in Missouri Valley, called the Soda Grill.
During this time he also bought and operated a sizable popcorn farm, helped found the Logan-Missouri Valley Country Club, founded a small-loan agency, and operated a tavern and card room, called the Smoke Shop, on main street in Missouri Valley. At the time of his death, McDermott was only running the tavern.

The Francis W. McDermott papers comprise .75 linear feet and cover the dates 1917-1932, with one item from 1978. It is arranged chronologically within alphabetical groupings. While predominantly correspondence, also included are photographs, postcards, and such items as military ID tags, a journal, and a railroad map. The vast majority of his letters are addressed to his mother in Missouri Valley. He also makes mention of his father James and his brother John. Occasionally he wrote of friends in the service and at home.
Also included in these papers are letters from his sisters Mig and Mayme written to their mother. Mig (Mrs. Jay Breusch) was the only married daughter and lived in Philadelphia, where her husband worked as a machinist in the Navy yards. Mayme also lived away from home and was engaged in the nursing profession.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL
Series 3: 2001 ADDENDUM

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Correspondence: June - 1917
  • Correspondence: July-December - 1917
  • Correspondence: January-March - 1918
  • Correspondence: April-May - 1918
  • Correspondence: June-December - 1918
  • Correspondence - 1919-1923
  • Correspondence, undated and fragments.
  • Journal. Francis W. McDermott - 1917
  • Map of rail line operated by the 13th Engineers (Ry.) U.S.A. In France - 1917-1919
  • Military Identification. Francis W. McDermott's WWI dog tags.
  • Postcard booklets of Versailles, Trianons, and Verdun - 1914-1918
  • Postcards of France.
  • Versailles et Trianons.
  • Series 2: PHOTOGRAPHS
  • Box 2:
  • General.
  • From Francis W. McDermott's service during WWI in France.
  • From Francis W. McDermott's period of carnival work - 1938
  • Missouri Valley, Iowa Chicago-Northwestern Ry. repair shops - 1918
  • Missouri Valley, Iowa Chicago-Northwestern Ry. shop safety committee, April 9 - 1918
  • Series 3: 2001 ADDENDUM
  • Box 2:
  • Award of disability allowance. Francis W. McDermott.
  • Bill of sale. Wright Amusement Company.
  • Christmas card from The Soda Grill.
  • Memorial card. Mabel McDermott.