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Collection Number RG1042.AM
Collection Name RG1042 Neihardt, John Gneisenau, 1881-1973
Identifier Personal papers
Size and Materials 4.0 cu.ft.; 8 boxes
Title John G. Neihardt papers
Date or Date Span 1911-1983
Year Range from 1911
Year Range to 1983
Admin/Biographical History John Gneisenau Neihardt was born near Sharpsburg, Illinois, on January 8, 1881, the third child of Nicholas Nathan Neihardt and Alice Culler Neihardt. In 1886 the family moved to a sod house in northwestern Kansas, and then to Kansas City in 1888. In 1891 he moved with his mother and sisters, Lulu and Grace, to Wayne, Nebraska, where he attended Nebraska Normal College, graduating at the age of 16. He finished his first book, The Divine Enchantment, based on Vedanta philosophy, at age 16, and published it three years later.

After teaching at a country school for two terms, he moved to Bancroft Nebraska, where he worked with an Indian trader among the Omahas. He edited the Bancroft Blade, a country weekly, for several years there. During this time he lived among the Sioux Indians, becoming an authority on their traditions and customs. His interactions with the Sioux later inspired his writing of Black Elk Speaks.

He married Mona Martinsen (1884-1958), a sculptress and one time student of Rodin, in 1908. They had four children: Hilda, Alice, Enid, and Sigurd.

In 1912 Neihardt began his major work, A Cycle of the West, devoting 18 years to its writing. He also worked for the Minneapolis Journal [c.1912-1916]. In 1921 the Nebraska Legislature named him Poet Laureate. As literary editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he wrote book reviews [c.1926-1938]. He was Poet in Residence, and Lecturer in English at the University of Missouri-Columbia from 1949-1965.

Neihardt was a member of a number of organizations, including the National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York; the International Institute of Arts and Letters, Germany; founder of the Westerners; first civilian member, Order of the Indian Wars of the United States, 1927; vice president of the Midwest division of the Poetry Society of America; and chancellor of the Academy of American Poetry (1951-1967).

Neihardt received numerous honors for his literary ability. In 1919 he won the Poetry Society's national prize and the gold medal for foremost poet of the nation from the Poetry Center of New York. His bust was placed in the State Capitol building in Lincoln, Nebraska (1961). In 1968 the Nebraska governor named the first Sunday in August "Neihardt Day." That same year the United Poets Laureate International named him Prairie Poet of America. He received the Thomas Jefferson Award from the University of Missouri-Columbia. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln awarded him the Nebraska Builder's Award in 1972. In 1973 literary experts named his A Cycle of the West as one of the 3000 best books in the 3000 years from Homer to Hemingway.

Several colleges and universities in the Midwest granted Neihardt honorary degrees. He was awarded an honorary Litt. D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1917), the University of Missouri (1947), and Midland Lutheran College (1972). He also received an honorary LL. D. from Creighton University in Omaha (1928).

John Neihardt died on November 3, 1973, at the age of 92.
Scope & Content The materials in this collection relate to the life and work of John Neihardt. The collection is arranged according to the following subgroups: 1) Writings by Neihardt; 2) Correspondence; 3) Writings About Neihardt; 4) Legislative Resolutions; 5) Scrapbooks; and 6) Miscellaneous. Many of the Subgroups are further divided into Series.

Subgroup 1, Series 1 includes 25 folders of manuscript materials relating to the second half of Neihardt's autobiography, All Is But A Beginning. According to notes made at the time of donation, the 28 legal pads were written at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Julius Young in Lincoln, Nebraska. Mrs. Young apparently helped with the work after Neihardt became ill. The manuscripts are mostly in the handwriting of Neihardt, with some passages in Myrtle Young's hand. Neihardt died before completing the manuscript, leaving the autobiography incomplete. The legal pads were left in the order in which they were received at the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Subgroup 1, Series 2 contains Neihardt's handwritten and typed prose, arranged alphabetically.

Subgroup 1, Series 3 consists of poetry written by John Neihardt. Folder 2 holds a copy of the Nebraska Normal College Song, with lyrics written by John Neihardt.

Subgroup 1, Series 4 includes book reviews and articles written by Neihardt during his early career working for the Minneapolis Journal and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His column in the Post-Dispatch was titled "Of Making Many Books." The reviews are filed chronologically. Researchers should note that only a portion of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reviews, and none from the Minneapolis Journal are contained in this collection. Microfilm copies of these newspapers may be available from other institutions through Inter-Library Loan [ILL].

Correspondence between Neihardt and various persons form the content of Subgroup 2. The subgroup is divided into sixteen series. Each of the first fourteen series in this subgroup contains letters to and from a single individual. The series are titled alphabetically by the name of the individual, and the letters within each series are filed chronologically. Series 15 consists of White House letters. Series 16 contains the remaining general correspondence and is arranged chronologically. A majority of the correspondence is included here, but because some correspondence was directly related to materials in other series, it was placed in those series.

Subgroup 3, Series 1 contains a bibliography of Neihardt's works [including biographical information], and a 1920 treatise on Neihardt by Julius T. House.

Subgroup 3, Series 2 includes reviews written about Neihardt's works. They are filed chronologically.

Subgroup 3, Series 3 consists of substantial criticism of Neihardt's literary works. It includes three articles about Neihardt, and criticism of Neihardt produced for the Western Literature Association Conference in 1977. The individual papers presented at the conference are listed in the Description section of this inventory.

Subgroup 3, Series 4 includes pamphlets and programs relating to John Neihardt. They are arranged chronologically.

Subgroup 3, Series 5 consists of newsletters concerning John Neihardt. The newsletters from the Neihardt center were published during Neihardt's life. Information on the Foundation since his death can be found in the Neihardt Foundation collection.

Subgroup 3, Series 6 contains newspaper clippings about the life and works of John Neihardt. They date from 1921-1983.

Subgroup 3, Series 7 includes biographical information about Neihardt. The first folder relates to information about Neihardt's honors, achievements, and work. The second folder holds materials about his death and posthumous material.

Subgroup 3, Series 8 consists of miscellaneous excerpts from articles with information about Neihardt compiled by Elmer Holm. The information may relate to the Holm letters in Subgroup 2, Series 6.

Subgroup 4 contains legislative resolutions relating to John Neihardt. Folder 3 also contains program materials relating to the unveiling of the Neihardt portrait bust. All relevant information and correspondence has been kept with the original legislative resolutions.

The scrapbooks of Subgroup 5 are mostly newspaper clippings about John Neihardt.

Subgroup 6 contains miscellaneous information about Neihardt, including fragments of an interview between Donald Danker and John Neihardt in 1971; the jacket design for Black Elk Speaks; the wedding announcement of John Neihardt and Mona Martinsen; information about Neihardt's family history [Hilda Neihardt's widow's pension records, and Neihardt's father's military enlistment records, etc.]; educational aids for the use of Song Of Three Friends in the classroom; and other materials.
Creator Neihardt, John Gneisenau, 1881-1973
Finding Aids John G. Neihardt finding aid
Related units of description The photograph portion of this collection [RG1042.PH] contains approximately 413 images, including portraits of Neihardt, his wife and family; Neihardt with friends and notable people, receiving awards, and at Skyrim Farm; Mona Neihardt and her sculpture; various Neihardt relatives and residences; and miscellaneous other photographs relating to Neihardt. The photographs are arranged in 25 groups, and range in date from the 1890s to the 1970s.

See the audio [RG1042.AU] and moving image [RG1042.MI] components for related materials.

Collections RG5103: Richards, John T., and RG5104: Neihardt Foundation contain significant materials relating to Neihardt.

See the NSHS Library Catalog and the Nebraska History index for published materials by and about John Neihardt.

Some artifacts relating to John Neihardt are held by the Nebraska History Museum.
Associated Material The bulk of John Neihardt's papers are held at the State Historical Society of Missouri.
Subjects Authors
People Conn, Ulysses S., 1866-1936
Holm, Elmer
Holm, Mary
Hull, Ron
LeDoux, Louis V., 1880-1948
Long, A.E.
Neihardt, John G., 1881-1973
Neihardt, Mona (Martinsen), 1884-1958
Nelson, Reuben
Vogt, Evelyn
Weinkauf, Otto
Search Terms Authors -- Nebraska
Poets -- Nebraska
Poets, American -- 20th Century