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Richard Albert Tewkesbury papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 21/7/22

Scope and Content

This collection (1934-1976, undated) contains news clippings, correspondence, maps, and a comic book story (1942) detailing Tewkesbury’s expedition through the Darien Isthmus. In addition, there are several files of “Richard A. Tewkesbury: Source Material Relating to His Trips to the Darien in 1939 and 1940.” These files contain correspondence, maps, photographs, news clippings, and Tewksbury’s accounts of the trips. The collection also includes his passport and a certificate (1962) for crossing the equator.

Tewkesbury’s papers also contained several small artifacts; these items have been placed in the University Archives Artifact Collection. The artifacts include a small plastic elephant, his compass, small hand carved wooden statue, and a native child’s mola blouse. The statue and the mola blouse were items he received from the natives of the Darien Jungle. Mola is the traditional textile art form of the Kuna people of Panama and Columbia. Molas are cloth panels with intricate designs made from multiple layers of cloth in a reverse appliqué technique. The plastic elephant is an example of the items Tewkesbury gave to the native people during his trip.


  • 1934-1976

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Richard Albert Tewkesbury was born in Montour, Iowa in 1907. He graduated from Iowa State College (University) (1927). After graduation, Tewkesbury went on to teach mathematics at schools in Illinois, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

Tewkesbury is best known for taking two expeditions through the Darien Jungle of Panama during the summers of 1939 and 1940. He wanted to prove that the jungle and its inhabitants were not barriers to plans that would create a Pan American Highway. Tewkesbury was one of the first non-native men to trek through the Darien Isthmus and come out alive. For his efforts, he received a commendation (1941) from the Pan American Congress.

Tewkesbury passed away December 19, 1969.


0.42 Linear Feet (1 document box)


The collection is organized Alphabetically.


Digital reproductions of a selection of materials from the Richard Albert Tewkesbury papers are available electronically. Please see the Electronic Resources section for a link.

Collection Files

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

RS 21/7/22. Richard Albert Tewkesbury papers, 1934-1976
May 29, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672