John Gneisenau Neihardt [RG1042.AM]


RG1042.AM:  John Gneisenau Neihardt, 1861-1973

Papers:  1911-1983
Bancroft, Cuming County, Nebraska:  Epic poet, Professor
Size:  4.0 cu.ft.; 8 boxes


John Gneisenau Neihardt was born near Sharpsburg, Illinois, on January 8, 1861, 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 (deceased January 5, 1973).

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.


The materials in this collection relate to the life and work of John Neihardt.  The collection is arranged according to the following series:  1) Writings by Neihardt; 2) Correspondence; 3) Writings About Neihardt; 4) Legislative Resolutions; 5) Scrapbooks; and 6) Miscellaneous.

Series 1 includes twenty-five 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 twenty-eight 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.

Also included in Series 1 are Neihardt’s handwritten and typed prose, arranged alphabetically, and poetry written by John Neihardt.  One folder holds a copy of the Nebraska Normal College Song, with lyrics written by John Neihardt.  The last part of Series 1 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 Series 2.  The first part of the series contains letters to and from a single individual. The folders are titled alphabetically by the name of the individual, and the letters within each grouping are filed chronologically.  The last part of the series 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 areas, it was placed in those folders.

Series 3 consists of writings about Neihardt, including a bibliography of Neihardt’s works [including biographical information], and a 1920 treatise on Neihardt by Julius T. House.  Also included are reviews written about Neihardt’s works, filed chronologically; substantial criticism of Neihardt’s literary work, including three articles about Neihardt, and criticism of Neihardt produced for the Western Literature Association Conference in 1977; pamphlets and programs relating to Neihardt; newsletters concerning Neihardt; newspaper clippings and biographical information.  The last section of Series 3 consists of miscellaneous excerpts from articles with information about Neihardt compiled by Elmer Holm.  The information may relate to the Holm letters in Series 2.

Series 4 contains legislative resolutions relating to John Neihardt, as well as 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 Series 5 contain mostly newspaper clippings about John Neihardt.

Series 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.


Series 1 – Writings by Neihardt
Box 1

  1. Part A:  Manuscript Autobiography
    Part B:  Manuscript Autobiography
    Part C:  Manuscript Autobiography
  2. Manuscript Autobiography
  3. Manuscript Autobiography
  4. Manuscript Autobiography
  5. Manuscript Autobiography
  6. Manuscript Autobiography
  7. Manuscript Autobiography
  8. Manuscript Autobiography
  9. Manuscript Autobiography
  10. Manuscript Autobiography
  11. Manuscript Autobiography
  12. Manuscript Autobiography
  13. Manuscript Autobiography

Box 2

  1. Manuscript Autobiography
  2. Manuscript Autobiography
  3. Manuscript Autobiography
  4. Manuscript Autobiography
  5. Manuscript Autobiography
  6. Manuscript Autobiography
  7. Manuscript Autobiography
  8. Manuscript Autobiography
  9. Manuscript Autobiography
  10. Manuscript Autobiography
  11. Manuscript Autobiography
  12. Article, My Most Unforgettable Character, Jan. 1970
  13. The Alien, [typescript]
  14. Captain Marsh, [handwritten, not Neihardt’s handwriting] April, 1973
  15. The Coming of the Word, [typescript] January, 1973
  16. The Homecoming of the Bride, [handwritten, not Neihardt’s handwriting], 1973

Box 3

  1. Laureate Address (Chicago: The Bookfellows, 1921)
  2. Playmates, [handwritten, not Neihardt’s handwriting], undated
  3. Notes to Song of Three Friends, [handwritten] undated
  4. The White Radiance, Mimeograph, undated
  5. The Song of the Indian War (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1925)
  6. Photocopies of changes by Neihardt for The Song of the Indian War, undated
  7. The Nebraska Normal College Song, published, undated
  8. The Quest (New York:  The MacMillan Company, 1916)
  9. Reviews and articles, 1917
  10. Reviews and articles, 1927-1935
  11. Reviews and articles, undated

Series 2 – Correspondence

  1. Mrs. Brockway, 1922
  2. Rex Carey, 1909, 1959
  3. U.S. Conn, 1926
  4. U.S. Conn, 1931
  5. U.S. Conn, 1932
  6. U.S. Conn, 1934
  7. Danker, 1961
  8. Elanita Frye, 1959, 1961

Box 4

  1. Elmer and Mary Holm, 1938
  2. Elmer and Mary Holm, 1939
  3. Elmer and Mary Holm, 1940
  4. Elmer and Mary Holm, 1941
  5. Elmer and Mary Holm, 1942
  6. Elmer and Mary Holm, Undated and Fragments
  7. Ron Hull, 1961, 1965
  8. Louis Ledoux information, undated
  9. Louis Ledoux, 1907
  10. Louis Ledoux, 1908
  11. Louis Ledoux, 1909
  12. Louis Ledoux, 1910
  13. Louis Ledoux, 1911
  14. Louis Ledoux, 1912
  15. Louis Ledoux, 1913
  16. Louis Ledoux, 1914
  17. Louis Ledoux, 1915
  18. Louis Ledoux, 1916
  19. Louis Ledoux, 1917
  20. Louis Ledoux, 1918
  21. Louis Ledoux, 1919
  22. Louis Ledoux, 1920
  23. Louis Ledoux, 1921
  24. Louis Ledoux, 1923
  25. Louis Ledoux, 1924
  26. Louis Ledoux, 1940
  27. Louis Ledoux, 1941
  28. Louis Ledoux, Undated
  29. Letters to Ledoux from other writers, 1908-1911
  30. Letters to Ledoux from Mona Neihardt and others, undated [photocopies]
  31. Letters to Ledoux from Neihardt, 1911-1941 [photocopies of F13-27]
  32. Letters to Ledoux from Neihardt, undated [photocopies of F28]
  33. John Madden, 1968

Box 5

  1. Masters, 1921-1925
  2. Reuben Nelson, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1974, 1977
  3. Addison E. Sheldon, 1942-1943
  4. Evelyn Vogt, 1959
  5. Evelyn Vogt, 1964
  6. Evelyn Vogt, 1965
  7. Evelyn Vogt, 1966
  8. Evelyn Vogt, 1967
  9. Evelyn Vogt, 1968
  10. Evelyn Vogt, 1969
  11. Evelyn Vogt, 1975
  12. Evelyn Vogt, undated
  13. Otto Weinkauf and A.E. Long, 1923, 1925, 1963, 1967
  14. White House, 1971-1973
  15. General, 1900
  16. General, 1911
  17. General, 1917
  18. General, 1919
  19. General, 1920
  20. General, 1923 [includes a letter to Mrs. A.E. Long from Alice Neihardt]
  21. General, 1930
  22. General, 1945
  23. General, 1947
  24. General, 1956-1959
  25. General, 1962-1965
  26. General, 1966
  27. General, 1968
  28. General, 1969; 1971
  29. General, 1972
  30. General, 1973
  31. General, 1974
  32. General, 1975
  33. General, undated

Series 3 – Writings about Neihardt

  1. Bibliography of Neihardt’s Life and Works
  2. John G. Neihardt: Man and Poet, by Julius T. House, 1920

Box 6

  1. Reviews, 1922
  2. Reviews, 1926
  3. Reviews, 1932
  4. Reviews, 1957
  5. Reviews, 1964
  6. Reviews, 1971
  7. Reviews, 1973
  8. Reviews, 1977
  9. Reviews, undated
  10. Everet Bergstrom, “The Epic of the West” [incl. correspondence]
  11. Everet Bergstrom, “The Song of Hugh Glass” [incl. correspondence]
  12. Fred Lee, “John Neihardt: The Man and His Western Writings,” 1978 [incl. correspondence]
  13. Papers about Neihardt from the Western Literature Association Conference, 1977, including:
    Lucile Aly, “John G. Neihardt and the American Epic”
    Paul Pavich, “Myth and Paramyth in John Milton’s Notes to A Bald Buffalo”
    Billie Wahlstrom, “Searching for an Authentic Hero: The Poetics of History in John G. Neihardt’s A Cycle of the West
    Jean McIntyre, “Man in the Wilderness: Myth and Approach Wolf Song and Lord Grizzly”
    Anthony Arthur, “Manfred, Neihardt, and Hugh Glass: Variations on an American Epic”
    Glenn Selander, “Coyote: Milton’s ‘Ghost-Who-Walks’”
    “The Word Sender”
    Sally McCluskey, “History and Mystery: John G. Neihardt’s The Song of Jed Smith
    “The Use of Hugh Glass as Mythic Hero in Neihardt and Manfred”
  14. Pamphlets and programs, 1961-1968
  15. Pamphlets and programs, 1969
  16. Pamphlets and programs, 1970-1971
  17. Pamphlets and programs, 1972
  18. Pamphlets and programs, 1973
  19. Pamphlets and programs, 1976-1983
  20. Pamphlets and programs, undated
  21. The Goldenrod newsletter, 1920
  22. Various newsletters, 1970-1973

Box 7

  1. Newspaper clippings, 1921-1939
  2. Newspaper clippings, 1941-1959
  3. Newspaper clippings, 1961
  4. Newspaper clippings, 1962-1965
  5. Newspaper clippings, 1966-1967
  6. Newspaper clippings, 1968
  7. Newspaper clippings, 1969
  8. Newspaper clippings, 1970
  9. Newspaper clippings, 1971
  10. Newspaper clippings, 1972
  11. Newspaper clippings, 1973
  12. Newspaper clippings, 1974
  13. Newspaper clippings, 1975
  14. Newspaper clippings, Undated
  15. Newspaper clippings [See OB007]
  16. Biographical Information
  17. Information about Neihardt’s Death

Box 8

  1. “Holm” excerpts from articles about Neihardt; notes

Series 4 – Legislative resolutions

  1. Legislative Resolution 36 (1961)
  2. Legislative Resolution, Congressional Record (April 21, 1971)
  3. Program Material for Legislative Resolutions (1971)
  4. Legislative Resolution #40, and Nebraska Hall of Fame Materials (1973-1957)
  5. Legislative Resolution–Wisdom Award of Honor and Legislative Resolution 197 (1976)
  6. Legislative Resolution #188 (January, 1980)
  7. Legislative Resolution #2 from 80th Nebraska Legislature

Series 5 – Scrapbooks

  1. Scrapbook
  2. Scrapbook

Series 6 – Miscellaneous

  1. Neihardt Family History- Interview Fragments [Donald Danker and Neihardt, 1971]
  2. Dust Jacket Design for Paperback Edition, Black Elk Speaks
  3. Neihardt Wedding Announcement
  4. Neihardt Family History, Document Copies
  5. Educational Aids Based on Song of Three Friends
  6. Midland College Recitation, 1972
  7. Inventories
  8. Drawings
  9. Miscellaneous
  10. Miscellaneous oversize materials [See OB007]
  11. Posters [See oversize]

Subject headings:

Authors — Nebraska
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
Poets — Nebraska
Poets, American — 20th Century
Vogt, Evelyn
Weinkauf, Otto

DAB/HEK/ab       06-06-1967
APD/ct                 01-30-1976
MLW/kfk              08-19-1998
Revised TMM     04-23-2020


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