Yup. I thought I had a pretty big collection of Iowa City-themed postcards. But then one day, I came across the Iowa City Postcard King – Bob Hibbs. According to one interview, when his classic book – Iowa City Postcard History – was released (2010), Hibbs claimed his personal collection at the time was at 3,200 cards and counting! Not bad for an amateur historian who didn’t start collecting until the late 1980’s!
So, when you combine the local history that’s covered in Bob’s massive postcard collection with his five years of Iowa City historical newspaper articles (over 350), we have a treasure trove of resources that can easily rival the mountains of material left behind by Benjamin F. Shambaugh, William J. Peterson, and Irving Weber. That’s why we’ve included Bob in our Iowa Historian Hall of Fame.
Robert “Bob” Gordon Hibbs was born on November 6, 1941, in Villisca – in southwest Iowa – the fifth child of Ralph Stephen and Carol Lorene Swanson Hibbs who farmed eight miles southeast of town. Bob graduated from nearby Clarinda High School in 1960 and then came to Iowa City (1961) to earn a degree in journalism at SUI.
Bob and his high school sweetheart – Margaret Anne Kincheloe – were married in Clarinda in 1962 after she had graduated from nursing school, and together they pursued their careers in Iowa City – living all these years – since 1968 – in the same red house on Reno Street – affectionately called Kinchouse.
After college, Bob got his first job as reporter at The Iowa City Press-Citizen – his first assignment was assisting Sports Editor Al Grady. That eventually led to the newsroom with Bob becoming a city editor. Next up, Hibbs developed promotional materials for a local architectural-engineering firm, then went into real estate – owning and successfully managing a local property management company until his retirement in 1988. In 1993, Bob even took a crack at local politics (see below).
After retiring, Bob went back to writing – doing a weekly history column for the Press-Citizen for five years, using his growing postcard collection as inspiration for more than 350 historical essays.
Besides his articles, Bob also authored two beautiful history volumes published by the Press-Citizen in 2001 and 2006 under the title, “Iowa City – A Sense of Place.” (BH-049) (BH-050)
As we mentioned, in 2010, his book of postcards was published, but Bob often said that he was most pleased with his 88-page biography of Iowa City oil painting artist Mildred Pelzer (2009) – an essay he said represented his Ph.D. dissertation in local research history. (BH-035) (BH-148)
Bob contributed many assorted articles to the Press-Citizen over the years – including this short overview of Iowa City historians in 2007. See our Iowa City Historian Hall of Fame here.
Robert Gordon “Bob” Hibbs, chronicler of Iowa City area history published in four books and more than 350 newspaper and magazine articles, died May 23, 2019 at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City from the effects of treatment of lung cancer. He was 77. No funeral is planned. After cremation, the family will gather privately.
Broad interests characterize a lifetime of varied pursuits, but he wrote, “Such locutions as husband, father, brother, son, and friend were my cathedrals built in time.” His “greatest good fortune,” he said, was “to find my wife, for without her, life could never have flowered so richly.” On his intellectual evolution from church-going mason to moral humanist, he wrote: “I worship at a unified altar of science and morality, welcoming an ever-deepening understanding of the cosmos provided by science, while navigating life within a clear comprehension of the difference between right and wrong couched in the context of fairness and service to one’s fellows.” He believed that if you travel with love in your heart, you’ll never journey alone.
Thank you, Bob, for your invaluable contributions to the growing collection of resources focused on Iowa City’s rich history. Godspeed, Bob & Margaret Hibbs, Godspeed!
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.