Our Iowa Heritage: Economy Advertising – Midland Magazine.

(C-0067) Economy Advertising Company of Iowa City – January 1919.
(C-0244) An interesting postal cover from 1919. During WW I (effective in March 1917) postage rates increased from 2-cents to 3-cents in order to raise funding for the war. When the war ended, the Postal Service did something they ‘never’ do…decreased rates back to 2-cents! This collector, wanting to remember such a rare event, pasted a newspaper article from The Sioux City Journal informing folks on how & when to turn in their 3-cent stamps for 2-centers. The change occurred on June 28, 1919.
Economy Advertising was founded around 1896 by Samuel W. Mercer. He had this two-story brick building constructed in 1923. In addition to The Midland, Economy published hard back books under the “Clio Press” imprint, and for several years printed the State Historical Society of Iowa’s journal, The Palimpsest.
Economy Advertising Company is a historic building located at 117 N. Linn Street in Iowa City. Its importance is the association this company had with John Towner Frederick and the journal he founded and edited, The Midland. This was a literary magazine that focused on regional literature from the Midwest, featuring writers whose work was not being accepted by literary journals in the eastern U.S. that dominated national literary circles. While The Midland had several offices during its run from 1915 to 1934, Economy Advertising Company typeset, printed and bound every edition of the journal. They also provided financial support. Frederick had worked here as an apprentice when he was a student at the University of Iowa. He went on to become the first educator to organize and teach a course in American literature when he taught at Iowa. Together with Frank Luther Mott, he organized the Saturday Luncheon Club, a literary forum that was a forerunner of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
(BH-0040) The Midland Magazine 1915-1933 – March 1926 Edition
John T. Frederick (1893-1975), an Iowan from near Corning, began The Midland Magazine in 1915 while an undergraduate at The University of Iowa. Though ably assisted by Frank Luther Mott, Frederick kept the magazine alive with hard work, financial sacrifice, and editorial leadership as he moved it from Iowa City to such places as frontier Michigan and downtown Chicago. An inspiring teacher, a scholar, a novelist, John Frederick never lost sight of “The Great Valley,” the midwestern land and people that he loved so much. In the great age of The Saturday Evening Post, he believed his magazine offered a service to local writers not compromised by Eastern commercialism.

John T. Frederick In the years when Midwesterners like Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, and T. S. Eliot were East-bound, John Frederick’s editorial policy was dramatized in prose and poetry with a basic theme: “It’s better here, at home.” The Dream was composed of essential values: (1) There is dignity and beauty in rural and small-town life, an organic setting of a whole people, not to be confused with the romantic or the genteel. (2) There is goodness in the family, wisdom in the older generation, and great love which grows out of marriage, not before it. (3) There is a Thoreauvian rapture to be discovered in the natural wonders of the region. (4) There is little delight in literary experimentation, in the prospects and realities of the city, in the battlefield once the noble words about war are forgotten. (5) There is much to explore in the area of folk humor and authentic Indian and Negro literature.

Paul Engle & The Iowa Writers’ Workshop (1908 – 1991). Engle, born in Cedar Rapids, was an American poet, editor, teacher, literary critic, novelist, and playwright. He is remembered as the long-time director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (1941-1965) and as co-founder of the International Writing Program (IWP), both at the University of Iowa.

This year, I am at the University of Iowa. I am here with the understanding that I am to spend most of my time writing, with only two mornings a week of teaching. The university is very friendly to the idea, as they also have a painter, Grant Wood, under the same scheme. The idea is that a university should be a center of all culture, not just of scholarship, and that students who wish to be helped with painting or writing or music can have someone to who is practicing the art in which they are interested.

Paul Engle, November 20, 1937
Circa 1946 – The first home of The Writer’s Workshop was these WWII Quonset huts built on the NE corner of Iowa Ave and Clinton Street via the camera of Fred W. Kent.
(BH-053) In 1961, Engle served as editor of the book, Midland: Twenty-Five Years of Fiction and Poetry, Selected from The Writer’s Workshop at The State University of Iowa. Obviously, Engle’s tip of the hat to John T. Frederick and The Midland Magazine.
The world-famous Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. Some of Engle’s first published writings, “Two Poems: Hands of a Dead Machinist, To No Dark House,” appeared in The Midland Magazine in the September-October 1930 issue. After The Midland folded in 1933, Engle kept Frederick’s literary vision of “The Great Valley” alive through the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
Click here to read about James Alan McPherson, the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. McPherson taught at the Iowa Writers Workshop for thirty years (1979-2009).
(BS-004) Of course, one of the best-known writers to come out of the Workshop was W.P. Kinsella (1978) who authored Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa, which in 1989 became the most beloved baseball movie of all time… Field of Dreams.

Click here to read more about W.P. Kinsella and how he wrote his now-famous story about an Iowa farmer and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Is this heaven?  No . . . it’s Iowa!

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