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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Typ 1344

Collection relating to Iowan African American printer, photographer, and entrepreneur Robert E. Patten


Pamphlets and other ephemera printed by and for Iowan African American entrepreneur, Robert E. Patten.


  • Creation: circa 1939-1948


Condition Description

In good condition.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

This collection is shelved offsite. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine retrieval policies and times.


.08 linear feet (1 volume)

Examples of items printed by or for Patten, including pamphlets, handbills, anatomical "manikins" (paper models), and an engraver's maquette for tickets.

Biographical / Historical

Robert E. Patten Patten was born in rural Georgia in 1883 of African-American and Native American lineage. He relocated to Iowa around 1900, settling in the coal mining town of Buxton, an integrated community where Blacks and immigrants enjoyed equal opportunities in lifestyle and professional pursuits. He worked as a job printer, photographer, and itinerant seller of books and prints.

He moved in 1909 to Des Moines where he lived and ran his business in the city's segregated, but thriving, Center Street community. In 1910, he met teacher Margaret Mitchell, and they married. Their children helped in Patten's print shop located in the front of their Des Moines home.

Patten died in 1968.

(Source: Lufkin, J., (1996) “Patten's Neighborhood: The Center Street Community and the African-American Printer Who Preserved It”, Iowa Heritage Illustrated 77(3), 122-145)


Arranged as received.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Custodial History

Ownership prior to this acquisition is unknown.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2023MH-16. Purchased from Between the Covers with the Bentinck-Smith Fund, 2023 March 21.

Related Materials

In 1995, Patten's son, E. Hobart De Patten, donated the collection of material by and about his father that had remained in the family to the State Historical Society of Iowa.

Processing Information

This collection was processed to a basic level with minimal rehousing, organization, and preservation. (Melanie Wisner, 2023)

Collection Relating to Iowan African American Printer, Photographer, and Entrepreneur Robert E. Patten, circa 1939-1948 (MS Typ 1344): Guide
Houghton Library, Harvard University
2023 April 10
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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