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Vandervelde Family papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 21/8/6

Scope and Content

This collection (1837-[ongoing]) consists of materials collected by Marjorie Vandervelde about her family, including her parents, brothers, sisters, husband, sons, and extended family. Many of these items focus on life growing up in Le Grand, Iowa at the turn of the century as the children of the local doctor. The bulk of the materials consist of writings by Marjorie Vandervelde, correspondence between family members and anecdotal family history. Also included are extensive writings, correspondence and photographs from Marjorie Vandervelde's involvement with the Kuna and Choco tribes of Panama. Other items of interest relate to Nellie Sudduth who built a small homestead in Idaho during the late 19th century and Lake Kathryn, Idaho, which the family succeeded in getting named for a family member.

Among the papers are photocopies of vital family documents, photographs, correspondence, newspaper and magazine articles, and genealogical information. Marjorie Vandervelde's books can be found in the archives book collection: Born Primitive is available at F1565.2 C8 I388 1982; the Spanish-language version of it, Nacido Primitivo, can be found at F1565.2 C8 I38818 1983; the call number for Beauty is a ring in my nose? is F1565.2 .C8 I35x 1978.

Researchers should note that a complete collection of Marjorie Mills Vandervelde's columns are available at the Iowa Women's Archives (University of Iowa) in Iowa City, IA.


  • Creation: 1837-2009, undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Marjorie Mills was born to Ernest Manning Mills (1863-1945) and Anna Burgess Mills (1869-1939) on September 13, 1908. Ernest was a medical doctor; he and Anna had a total of ten children: Max, Glenn, Ruth, Ursula, Helen, Ralph, Marian, Harlow, Marjorie and Ernest. After living in Kansas City, Kansas and Payson, Illinois, the family settled in LeGrand, Iowa.

Mills siblings

Max became a dentist and married Reba Ferguson. The couple had two sons: Milo (1920-1998), an attorney and Lawrence (b. 1923), who received his Ph.D. in Pre-Columbian art and headed the art department at Central College in Pella, IA. Glenn married Hazel Harvey and they had a daughter, Kathryn (1921-1967), who was immortalized after her death by becoming the namesake for an Idaho lake. Ruth Mills died in infancy. Lois Ursula Mills (1898-1986) received degrees from Grinnell College and the University of Northern Iowa. She married Lyell E. Johnson and had three sons: Robert, a physicist, Norman, a farmer, and Maynard, a livestock breeder. Robert received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University and has several special patents to his credit.

Helen (1900-1980) received a degree from the University of Northern Iowa and married L. Roy Grimes, with whom she had three sons and a daughter: Leonard, Dale, Ruth, and Paul. Ralph R. Mills received his degree from Cornell College, Iowa and married Ruth Northrup. They had one daughter, Rose, who became a teacher. Marian Mills received her degrees from Cornell and the Penn College of Business. She married Coe R. Durland and had two children: Connie and David. Harlow B. Mills (1906-1971) received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University and married Esther Brewer. They had two sons and a daughter: David, Gary and Judy. Ernest L. Mills (1911-1945) married Lois Garrett and had two children: Larry and Jody. He died during World War II.

Marjorie graduated from LeGrand high school and attended Penn (William Penn) College and Iowa State University where she met future husband Andrew Vandervelde.

Marjorie and Andrew Vandervelde

Andrew Vandervelde ("Vandy") was born to Martin Vandervelde, Jr. and Mary Voss on August 10, 1904 and had ten brothers and sisters. Although he was born in Arkansas, the family returned to Iowa when Andrew was an infant and settled in Emmetsburg.

The couple married December 31, 1929 in Le Grand, Iowa and bore three sons: Gerald, Donald, and Kent. Andrew and Marjorie developed a hybrid seed corn business; Vandy's 15, one of their products, received the bronze medal from the Iowa Corn and Small Grain Grower's Association in 1940. Their son Gerald received his M.D. from the University of Iowa and became a radiology specialist. Kent became a pilot in the U.S. Navy and Donald became a chemist and inventor who has a number of special patents to his credit.

Marjorie was a free-lance writer and spent considerable time with the Kuna tribe in Panama. She authored Keep out of Paradise (1966), Sam and the Golden People (1972), Across the Tundra (1972), Could it Be Old Hiari? (1975) as well as numerous magazine and newspaper articles; she is also the co-author of Art of the Indian (1973), Beauty is a ring in my nose? (1975), Born Primitive (1982), and Me run fast good (1983).

Marjorie Vandervelde won several awards from the Iowa Press Women and received the National Press Women's first award in 1973 for her juvenile book, Across the Tundra.

Andrew Vandervelde passed away in 1980. Marjorie Vandervelde died on March 19, 2010.


5.93 Linear Feet (7 document boxes, 1 half-document box, 1 card file box, 1 oversize box and 1 map case folder)


This collection is organized into four series:

Series 1, Mills Family, 1837-2009, undated

Series 2, Vandervelde Family, circa 1920-2003, undated

Series 3, Marjorie Mills Vandervelde writings and photographs, 1958-2006

Series 4, Marjorie Vandervele and the Kuna/Choco tribes, 1964-2006, undated

Each series is organized in alphabetical order.

RS 21/8/6. Vandervelde Family papers, 1837-2009, undated
May 9, 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