Skip to content
print page header

The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the J. Hyatt Downing Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1925-1968
Creator: Downing, J. Hyatt (1888-1973)
Extent: 1.50 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0591
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Novelist and story writer. Correspondence, subject files, biographical material, and preliminary drafts of his writings.

Access: This collection is open for research.

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

Acquisition: This collection was given to the University of Iowa Libraries by J. Hyatt Downing over a period of years.

Preferred Citation: Papers of J. Hyatt Downing, 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 Hyatt Downing was born on March 18, 1888 in Granville, Iowa. His family first moved to Hawarden, Iowa before settling in Blunt, South Dakota. Downing worked on his father's ranch and then left to work with railroad surveyors in the West. Returning to attend the University of South Dakota, Downing graduated in 1913. After graduation he held a number of jobs including newspaper reporting and fiction writing in Sioux city. He also worked for the Internal Revenue Service in South Dakota. During this period he met and married Mary McGinnis. They had one son, John, born in 1921. The family next moved to New Mexico because Downing had contracted tuberculosis. By 1925, he had recovered and they returned to the Midwest.
He worked as an insurance agent in Saint Paul, Minnesota, while writing short stories as a sideline. From 1925 to 1930 he published a number of stories in Scribner's Magazine which were well received by the critics. However, after a promotion from the insurance company, Downing stopped writing. After a seven-year layoff, he quit his job, returned to Sioux City, and dedicated himself to a writing career. His first novel was published in 1938, closely followed by four more. After his best seller, Sioux City, sold to the movies, the Downing's once again moved, this time to Los Angeles. Although the book was never filmed, Downing found work at Twentieth Century Fox writing publicity and radio scripts. He continued to write and publish, although with less and less success. His last published story appeared in Reader's Digest in 1963. J. Hyatt Downing died ten years later, at the age of eigthy-five.

The papers of J. Hyatt Downing consist of 1.5 linear feet of manuscripts dating from 1925 to 1968. The arrangement is primarily alphabetical, with the short stories and an unpublished novel grouped separately. The papers include such items as correspondence, biographical material, drafts and published versions of short stories, and a typescript draft of his last unpublished novel. A description of Downing and this collection may be found in Books at Iowa, no. 8 (April 1968) p. 11-18, 23: "The Chronicle of an Era," by Anthony T. Wadden.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical material
  • Clippings
  • Correspondence - 1925-1966
  • Gregory Peck material
  • Scrapbook (including correspondence)
  • Series 2: SHORT STORIES
  • Box 1:
  • "And Then It Was Spring"
  • "Buffalo Grass"
  • "The Butte"
  • "Chicken Business"
  • "Closed Roads." Scribner's Magazine, August - 1925
  • "The Distance to Casper." Scribner's Magazine, February - 1927
  • "Dream Street"
  • "The First Illusion." Scribner's Magazine, May - 1930
  • "Furlough." Farm Journal, July - 1943
  • "Girl of Many Faces"
  • "The Great MacLeod"
    Typed draft
  • "The Great MacLeod." Collier's, November 13 - 1948
  • "The Harvesters"
  • "Head of the Family"
  • "Headwork." Liberty, November 6 - 1946
  • "The House on Bad Woman Creek"
  • "How Does Your Garden Grow"
  • "If Darryl Zanuck"
  • "Just for the Night." Good Housekeeping, October - 1940
  • "The Longer Shot"
  • "A Man Needs a Horse"
    Typed draft
  • "A Man Needs a Horse" Collier's, February 23 - 1943
  • "The Man Who Killed Jeb Stuart"
  • "The Marshal's Friend." True, April - 1947
  • "Old Cimmarron - On The Santa Fe Trail." Westways, August - 1951
  • "One of the Boys"
  • "Out of the Dark"
    Typed draft
  • "Out of the Dark." Liberty, May 10 and 24 - 1947
  • "The Return of Willie Scroggs"
    Typed draft with corrections
  • "The Return of Willie Scroggs." Country Gentleman, July - 1947
  • "Rewards." Scribner's Magazine, April - 1926
  • "The Sage of Virgin Creek"
  • "Sir, the King!"
  • "Star Without Glamor." Collier's, October 20 - 1945
  • "Sun-Kissed Bangtails." Collier's, March 2 - 1946
  • "This Is Where He Walked"
  • "Treasury of the Past"
    Typed draft
  • "Treasury of the Past." Holiday, November - 1946
  • "We Went West." Scribner's Magazine, May - 1928
  • "Woman in A Hurry"
  • Box 2:
  • Typed draft
    2 folders
  • Jacket covers