Drake University recently announced the launching of its digital collection of papers from the late John Cowles, Mike Cowles and David Kruidenier — the family behind Drake’s Cowles Library and the Cowles family publishing legacy.
This project was made possible by a gift from the Gardner and Florence Call Cowles Foundation — the family whose past support helped create Drake’s Cowles Library, which acquired the collection after John and Mike’s deaths.
The collection, which includes papers, speeches, correspondence, photographs, artifacts, newspaper and magazine articles and more, is searchable through the library’s Drupal database online. Items can be searched by name, date and keyword and viewed in person through the through the Reference Department at Cowles Library, 2725 University Ave.
With three parts, the collection includes materials from: John Cowles and Mike Gardner Cowles, Jr., — sons of Gardner Cowles who purchased the Des Moines Register in 1903 with Harvey Ingham — and David Kruidenier, grandson of Gardner Cowles Sr. and former publisher of the Des Moines Register.
Gardner Cowles Sr. is known for jumpstarting the Cowles publishing family business that began when he purchased the Des Moines Register in 1903 with Harvey Ingham, title/history. His sons, Mike and John, took over the family company and expanded into the Minneapolis market in 1935 when they bought the Minneapolis Star. Eventually, the two took over all the major newspapers in Minneapolis with the purchase of the Minneapolis Tribune.
In 1937 the Cowles family went on to introduce Look magazine to the nation, and several other publications followed. Not only were the newspapers profitable, but well-run and well-known for their journalistic integrity.
The John Cowles collection includes 16 filing cabinets of family and public files, papers, memorabilia, speeches, correspondence, documents, photographs and artifacts. Some family files discuss Cowles family correspondence and business matters, while public files include papers relating to business and politics, the Ford Foundation, the Des Moines Register and Look magazine, among others.
With papers from approximately 1942-1975, the Gardner Cowles, Jr. (Mike) collection covers correspondence, speeches and material related to politics and the business of publishing — especially Look magazine and The San Juan Star.
David Kruidenier’s collection contains family files and correspondence and history, as well as files on The Des Moines Register and on its sale to Gannett Co. Inc., in 1984-85, reports, minute books and clippings. The collection also includes files on the Cowles Media Company and Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The Cowles family collection is part of Cowles Library’s Drake Heritage Collections project, which collects, digitizes and preserves Drake’s 125-year history. The Heritage Collections also include digital collections about Drake architecture, the Drake Relays, historic Des Moines, the editorial cartoons of Ding Darling and Women Remember Drake.