Over the course of the state’s 162 year history, Iowa has produced some of the world’s most influential inventors and politicians, plus top athletes, musicians and artists. A new book, The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, provides a comprehensive listing of those famous, and not so famous, Iowans. Marv Bergman, co-editor of the book, says it includes short biographies of more than 400 people.
"There are familiar names like Herbert Hoover, but there are a lot of names that will be a surprise to most Iowans and fascinating people that they will not have known about in the past," Bergman said. Bergman and the other editors, David Hudson and Loren Horton, initially started with a list of over two-thousand names.
The list was cut to shrink the book to 608 pages. Many of the enteries will not be familiar to most Iowans, but nearly every person included in the book made a significant contribution to the state or nation. Bergman provided the example of African-American lawyer Charles Howard.
"He’s the lawyer who represented Edna Griffin in her battle to desegregate Katz Drug Store in Des Moines," Bergman explained. "But he had a long, rich and controversial career well beyond that." Bergman, a trained historian of American religion, says he was interested to learn about George Herron’s life story. Herron taught at Grinnell College in the 1880s.
"He was a representative of a popular movement at the time called The Social Gospel. He was very controversial at the time and his entry just shows what a fascinating time that was in the life of that college," Bergman said.
More recognizable entries include Bix Beiderbecke, Elmer Maytag, George Gallup, Henry Wallace, Nile Kinnick and Grant Wood. The project was initially conceived as reference book for libraries, but Bergman says it’s a good read for anybody interested in Iowa history.
"It’s the kind of book that any Iowan, who cares about their state, can browse through and find lots of interesting stories," Bergman said. The book, published by University of Iowa Press , is available at most book stores and carries a retail price of $45.