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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Arthur Davison Ficke Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1920-1940
Creator: Ficke, Arthur Davison
Extent: .75 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0603
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Poet and writer born in Davenport, Iowa. Manuscripts include materials for a course in Arthurian legend given at the State University of Iowa 1906-1907, drafts of published poems and stories, and typescripts of unpublished stories and novels.

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 Ficke's widow, Mrs. Arthur Davison Ficke, and his son, Stanhope Ficke, in 1948.

Preferred Citation: Arthur Davison Ficke 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

Arthur Davison Ficke was born in Davenport, Iowa, on November 10, 1883, the son of a prominent Davenport lawyer, Charles August Ficke and his wife, Frances Davison Ficke. Ficke attended schools in Davenport and as a young man travelled extensively with his father, who was an art connoisseur. Ficke acquired a taste for Japanese prints.

He attended Harvard, where he obtained an A.B. degree in 1904. After a trip around the world, he studied law at the State University of Iowa (later the University of Iowa), where he taught English in 1906 -- 1907. He was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1908 and went into practice with his father in Davenport.

He volunteered for service in World War I, where he was commissioned as a captain in ordnance department of the U.S. Army with the A.E.F. He served until July 1919, when he retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

According to Ficke, "I was more interested in writing poetry than in anything else; but I yielded to my father's wishes and became a lawyer. However, I found time during the first ten years in his office to write eight books of poems and two treatises on Japanese art. . . . After my army service, I never went back to the law, but became solely a writer." (Kunitz, Stanley. Twentieth Century Writers: A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature. New York: Wilson, 1942.)

He began publishing with a book of poems in 1907, From the Isles. He wrote verse, verse dramas, short stories, treatises on Japahese art, and one novel, Mrs.Morton in Mexico. With Witter Bynner using the name Emanuel Morgan and himself using the name Anne Knish, he published Spectra in 1916. This was a satire on modern experimental verse and claimed to start the Spectric school of poetry. This school of poetry gained some proponents who were dismayed when the hoax was revealed.

In 1907, Ficke married Evelyn Bethune with whom he had one son, Stanhope Blunt Ficke. They were divorced in 1922. In 1923, Ficke married Gladys Brown. After 1928, he lived on his estate, Hardhack in Hillsdale, New York. He died in Hudson, New York, on November 30, 1945.

(The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol.35. New York: J. T. White.

This collection is made up of draft manuscripts of novels, short stories, poems, and dramas, most of them never published.
MsL F447br. To [Sharon] Brown. Sante Fe, New Mexico. 16 Feb. 1926. Giving permission to reprint some of his poems; offering advice as to selection. ALS. 2pp.

MsL F447go. To W.C. Goodson. New York City. 9 Feb. 1938. Concerning the autographing of a book. ALS. lp. With envelope, Ficke's penciled note is on the verso of a letter from Goodson to Ficke, 1 Feb.

MsL F447vi. To [Frank H.] Vizetelly. [New York], 24 September 1933. Concerning the correct way to pronounce his name and commenting on the plight of a name-changer.TLS. lp.

MsL F447we. To Harry K. Weymer. [New York], 28 May 1935. Stating the qualities his handwriting reveals and giving his opinion of graphologists. ALS. lp.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical Information
  • Davenport Public Library AD Ficke Centennial Celebration - 1983
  • Clippings
  • Clippings - 1917-1983
    Contains undated items
  • Material for a course of lectures on the Arthurian legend, State University of Iowa - 1906-1907
    Loose-leaf notebook
  • Series 2: FICKE'S WRITINGS
  • Sub-Series: Drafts of unpublished novels
  • Box 1:
  • Spoodle Spinney
  • Strangers in San Esteban
  • The Blue Jade Sceptre
  • Henry Wilburn (beginning only, not finished)
  • Sub-Series: Draft of lectures
  • Box 1:
  • Contemporary Poetry. Presented before Davenport Woman's Club, October - 1916
    Revised and with notes on how to read it
  • Sub-Series: Drafts of stories, apparently unpublished
  • Box 1:
  • That does not sound like Patrick Dugan
  • The Virtue of the Comtesse de Verre
  • Box 2:
  • The Brother's Sister
  • Strollers at a fair
  • Tribute to Greatness
  • Collection of violins
  • The Gypsy bear
  • The Twenty-First Lion from Esquire, June - 1938
  • All Roads to Graves are Dusty from Esquire, March - 1938
  • The Apotheosis of Mrs. Morton from Esquire, July - 1938
  • The Brothers of Mrs. Morton from Esquire, August - 1937
  • The Burro of Chapala from Esquire, December - 1937
  • A Candle for St. Christopher from Esquire, March - 1936
  • The Conquest of Mexico from Esquire, April - 1938
  • Lake Chapala from Esquire, May - 1936
  • Mrs. Morton Buys a Fish from Esquire, June - 1937
  • Mrs. Morton's Enemy from Esquire, May - 1938
  • The Portrait of Mrs. Morton from Esquire, December - 1936
  • Sub-Series: Plays
  • Box 2:
  • The Stair-landing
  • Mr. Faust. Program for performance by Provincetown Players, January 30-February 12 - 1922
  • Sub-Series: Poems
  • Box 2:
  • Tumultuous Shore
  • Sub-Series: Reviews
  • Box 2:
  • Review of De Cassere's poetry - 1936
  • Box 2:
  • Miscellaneous Materials
  • Ficke, Gladys B. A Technique for the Study of the Process of Painting in Children - 1975
    A study conducted with Arthur Davison Ficke Foundation Grant
  • Stichnoth, Ted A Contrary Vision: The Roots of Alienation in Davenport - 1975

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

English & American Literature
Writers Archive at Iowa
Novelists, Story Writers, & Poets