The University of Iowa LibrariesThe Biographical Dictionary of Iowa: Jacket Art - Agriculture - Cresco, Iowa by Richard Haines ca 1934 -  Photo by Scott Christopher courtesy of Gregg Narber


University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Sage, Leland Livingston
(April 23, 1899–February 16, 1989)

–historian, university professor, and community activist–devoted most of his scholarly attention to the history of Iowa. He was born in Magnolia, Arkansas, the son of Jesse A. Sage and Mary C. (Livingston) Sage. He graduated with a B.A. in history from Vanderbilt University in 1923 and taught for five years at high schools in Camden, Arkansas, and Taylorville, Illinois. He received his M.A. (1928) and Ph.D. (1932) in history at the University of Illinois. From 1928 to 1932 he taught history at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he met his future wife, Margaret Pearson, a member of the school's music faculty. They were married on December 30, 1929, in Bedford, Indiana, a union that produced one daughter, Carolyn Sage (Robinson).

    In 1932 Sage joined the history faculty at Iowa State Teachers College, where he continued to teach until 1982. Although he initially taught various courses in European history, Sage soon developed a powerful interest in the history of Iowa. He was widely respected and admired as a model teacher-scholar, and produced a legion of students who went on to teach history in numerous high schools, colleges, and universities. His major forte as a teacher was the ability to relate local and state history to a wider context of national and international developments. Although he officially took mandatory retirement in 1967 at the age of 68, Sage continued to offer courses in Iowa history until 1981 and to direct students in correspondence courses until 1986, making him the campus's all-time leader in continuous service. In 1982 colleagues and former students recognized his 50 years of service at a formal ceremony, and during the 1983 commencement they awarded him a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. The following year, they planted a maple tree bearing a plaque memorializing his contributions to the university.

    Over the years Sage published numerous articles and book reviews on a wide variety of topics in European and American history in scholarly and popular journals. In 1956 he produced his first book, William Boyd Allison: A Study in Practical Politics, a biography of the Iowan who was one of the most influential Republican members of the U.S. Senate during the late 19th century. In 1974 Sage published his magnum opus, A History of Iowa, which became the standard work on the subject. Both books won national recognition in the form of the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History. In 1987 Sage produced a revised edition of History of Iowa, a geographic, political, and economic history with added emphasis on agriculture, religion, immigration, and industry. Sage paid special attention to the state's founding and early years, the Civil War era, the emergence of Iowa as a one-party Republican state, agrarian radicalism from Greenbackers to Populists, and the rise and fall of the progressive Republicans. The book's strongest suit is Sage's behind-thescenes glimpses of the political maneuverings of the people who determined the state's development.

    In addition to his academic achievements, Sage also devoted a good deal of time and energy to community activities in and around Cedar Falls. He and his wife, Margaret, gave numerous performances in vocal music, and Sage was president of both the Cedar Falls Rotary Club and the Cedar Falls Historical Society. From 1977 to 1981 he served on the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society of Iowa, including a term as the board's president. In 1985 Governor Terry Branstad presented him with an award for his services to the community. After the death of his wife on July 3, 1986, and his daughter on April 8, 1988, Sage moved to Iowa City, where he continued historical research and writing right up to the end of his life at the age of 89.
Sources Sage wrote his own brief autobiography for Leland Livingston Sage and Donald Robert Whitnah, Turning Points: An Autobiography (1990). He is profiled in Contemporary Authors (1976) and in the Directory of American Scholars, 6th ed., vol. 1 (1974). Sage is also accessible through his own writings, particularly Lord Stratford de Radcliffe and the Origins of the Crimean War (1932); William Boyd Allison: A Study in Practical Politics (1956); and History of Iowa (1974; rev. ed., 1987).
Contributor: John D. Buenker