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

THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Throne, Mildred
(October 31, 1902–July 7, 1960)

–historian and historical editor—was born and raised in Ottumwa, Iowa. She graduated from high school in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, earned her B.A. at the University of Chicago in 1934, and then worked at a Chicago business, McDonald-Miller, Inc.

    Throne's graduate work at the State University of Iowa began in 1942; she earned a Ph.D. in 1946 with a dissertation on agriculture in southern Iowa, 1833-1880. At the same time, she was an editorial assistant to Louis Pelzer, editor of the Mississippi Valley Historical Review. From 1946 to 1948 she taught U.S. and European history at Washburn Municipal University in Topeka, Kansas.

    In the fall of 1948 William J. Petersen, superintendent of the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) in Iowa City, hired Throne. As associate editor of the Iowa Journal of History (IJH), Throne routinely prepared primary documents for publication, often one per issue. This fit with Petersen's intent both to share SHSI collections with readers and researchers and to build the collections through donations of diaries and letters.

    Most of the primary sources Throne edited were related to the Civil War. Aware that historians were awash in such diaries, she also understood their appeal. After finishing "The Civil War Diary of Cyrus F. Boyd, Fifteenth Iowa Infantry, 1861-1863," she confessed, "I'm about fed up with the Civil War for a while."But in a few years she wrote her own article on the Battle of Shiloh, a "sort of a trial run" for a book she hoped to write on Iowa and the Civil War.

    Throne contributed articles to the Palimpsest magazine (as well as to the IJH) and handled reference queries. Petersen wrote, "Scores of graduate students... were shuttled to her desk by their American history professors" for research topics and help in SHSI collections. Her correspondence reveals her ongoing solicitation of manuscripts. "Editing a state quarterly is quite a chore–not in deciding which article to use, but how to get good articles.... Therefore, I am always on the prowl."She encouraged planners of national history conferences to avoid "dreary" and "antiquarian" papers or "those puny monographic things," and to instead invite papers by established historians who would inspire young historians. A passionate and avid reader, she owned a "well rounded personal American history library" (although she was also a longtime subscriber to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine).

    Throne's own scholarship centered on mid-19th-century agricultural history, the Grange, and Iowa Governor Cyrus Clay Car penter. While preparing for publication political biographies by Leland Sage (on William Boyd Allison) and Thomas R. Ross (on Jonathan Prentiss Dolliver), she also completed her own on Carpenter. But the book-length manuscript stayed on the back burner. After seeing the Allison biography into print, she confided, "Possibly within a few months I can finish [Carpenter] off. Poor old chap has been sadly neglected, what with the Journal every four months, and the Allison book, which took lots of time, and other little side duties."Two years later: "It looks like my old governor is finally going to get into print.... I'll be glad to get him off my hands."In October 1959 the Carpenter biography was "ready, whenever we get the time."

    The next June Throne fell ill and was hospitalized for a month–reading galley proofs from her hospital bed. She died in July at age 57. Agricultural historian Allan Bogue presided at her memorial service in Iowa City. She was buried in Ottumwa.

    The IJH floundered without her; only three issues followed. Petersen asserted that quali fied applicants would reject the low salary and that his own time was filled with directing SHSI and editing the Palimpsest. In mid 1961, after six decades, the well-reputed journal died (in one observer's words) "for the want of an editor."

    In 1974, fourteen years after Throne died, SHSI published Cyrus Clay Carpenter and Iowa Politics, 1854-1898. In its introduction, Peter Harstad, SHSI's new director, wrote that Throne "used the life of C. C. Carpenter as the framework for analyzing Iowa politics, particularly the intricacies of the Republican Party, during a complicated period."In the preface, historian Philip D. Jordan wrote, "The biography exemplifies Mildred Throne's historical talents–the scholarship is sound, Carpenter's career and contributions are balanced, the writing is deft."

    In 1988 the State Historical Society of Iowa established the Throne/Aldrich Award. Named to honor her (and Charles Aldrich, longtime editor of the Annals of Iowa), the award annually recognizes the best articles on Iowa history.
Sources Mildred Throne's correspondence is in Special Collections, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City. See also Peter T. Harstad, introduction, and Philip D. Jordan, preface, to Mildred Throne, Cyrus Clay Carpenter and Iowa Politics, 1854–1898 (1974); Alan M. Schroder, History, Analysis, and Recommendations Concerning the Public Programs of the Iowa State Historical Department, Division of the State Historical Society (1981); and obituaries in Iowa City Press-Citizen, 7/8/1960; Ottumwa Daily Courier, 7/8/1960; and Iowa Journal of History 58 (1960), 287– 88. Two of Throne's articles have been an thologized: "'Book Farming' in Iowa, 1840–1870," in Patterns and Perspectives in Iowa History, ed. Dorothy Schwieder (1973); and "Southern Iowa Agriculture, 1865–1890: The Progress from Subsistence to Commercial Corn-Belt Farming," in United States Economic History: Selected Readings, ed. Harry N. Scheiber (1964).
Contributor: Ginalie Swaim

Cite as: Swaim, Ginalie. "Throne, Mildred" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 16 December 2018