Skip navigation

The University of Iowa Libraries

Special Collections and University Archives

Finding Aid

Papers of Vilhjalmur Stefansson
RG 99.0013
Collection Dates: 1918-1986
0.25 ft.

Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.

Copyright: Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on Property Rights, Copyright Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials.

Use of Collections: The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Use of Manuscripts Statement.

Acquisition and Processing Information: These materials were transferred to the University Archives from Professor G.Edgar Folk, Jr., Department of Physiology and Biophysics.  Guide created by Denise Anderson, June 2007.

Photographs: Box 1

Vilhjalmur Stefansson, February 6, 1930

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Photograph by Frederick W. Kent appeared in the

Des Moines Register on February 6, 1930

Scope and Contents

These papers include biographical pamphlets, photographs, clippings, and correspondence.  Later correspondence is regarding the creation of a bronze bust and holding the Stefansson Centennial Symposium in 1980. 

Correspondents include President Walter A. Jessup, President Virgil M. Hancher, President Willard L. Boyd, Fred W. Sargent (Head, SUI Iowa Memorial Union), Dean Vernon P. Squires (University of North Dakota), Charles B. Maruth and H. C. Dorcas (SUI Office of the Registrar), Grace Van Wormer and Dale M. Bentz (SUI Libraries), F. G. Higbee (head, SUI Centennial Committee), Arlo Wilson, Robert E. Latimer, G. Edgar Folk, Jr. (Stefansson Centennial Committee), John E. Sater (Arctic Institute of North America), Gary A. Laursen (Naval Arctic Research Laboratory), professor Frank A. Pitelka (University of California, Berkeley), professor W. O. Pruitt, Jr., (University of Manitoba), Ron K. McGregor (Office of Naval Research), Max E. Britton (U. S. Geological Survey), John Bligh (University of Alaska, Fairbanks), Peter J. Anderson (Institute of Polar Studies, Ohio State University), Theodore A. Snyder, Jr. (President, Sierra Club), Max Brewer and John Schindler (directors, Naval Arctic Research Laboratory, Point Barrow), Paul Sampson (National Geographic Society), Olivier Héroux (Canadian Physiological Society), Dr. John Martin, Dr. Robert L. Van Citters (University of Washington), Walter Sullivan (New York Times), Vera Alexander (director, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Alaska), Jacque LeBlanc (Université Laval, Quebec), Warren W. Denner (Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada), John G. Kemeny (President, Dartmouth College).

Biographical Note

Much of this biographical note was drawn from Lynn Gordon Hughes' article, located online at the following Unitarian Universalist Historical Society Web page

Vilhjalmur E. Stefansson was born November 3, 1879, in the Icelandic community of Arnes, in Manitoba, Canada.  His family moved to North Dakota when he was one year old.  After being expelled from the University of North Dakota for challenging the authority of his professors, Stefansson enrolled at the University of Iowa, and earned his Bachelor of Philosophy degree in June 1903.  From 1903 to 1904, Stefansson studied at the Harvard Divinity School.  During 1906, he joined the Anglo-American polar expedition, and lived with Inuit people, adapting their lifestyle.  Stefansson joined UI colleague Rudolph Anderson in an Arctic mission from 1908 to 1912.  During this mission, Stefansson took an Inuit wife, Fannie Pannigabluk, and their son, Alex, was born in 1910.  Anthropologist and explorer Stefansson is noted for discovering the “Blond Eskimo” in 1910. 

Stefansson received an honorary doctorate at the University of Iowa, June 6, 1922, and an honorary law degree at the University of North Dakota in 1930.  In the early 1950s, Stefansson and his second wife, Evelyn, were investigated for their Communist sentiments, and for their associations with radicals Emma Goldman and John Reed in New York, where Stefansson lived.  Vilhjalmur Stefansson died August 26, 1962, in Hanover, New Hampshire.

[D. Anderson; 06/2007]

Related Materials

Folder, "Stefansson, Vilhjalmur," in Alumni and Former Students Vertical Files collection (RG 01.15.01)

"Arctic Dreamer: The Lonely Quest of Vilhjalmur Stefansson," VHS tape by White Pine Pictures, Toronto, 2003

Kohler, Francis J. "History of the State University of Iowa: Scientific Expeditions, Collections, and the Museum of Natural History. " M.A. thesis, University of Iowa, 1944.

Halas, Christine D. "The James A. Van Allen Papers" Books at Iowa 51:53-61 (November 1989)

Papers of June Helm (RG99.0018)

Russell, Frank "Explorations in the Far North, by Frank Russell.  Being the Report of an Expedition Under the Auspices of the University of Iowa During the Years 1892, '93, and '94."

Box Contents List

Box 1


---. "My Five Years in the Arctic," lecture announcement, 1919

---. Mattila, Robert. A Chronological Bibliography of the Published Works of Vilhjalmur Stefansson, 1978

---. Vilhjalmur Stefansson. New York: Nomad Publishing Company, 1925


---. 1918-1955

---. 1979-1981

Newspaper clippings, 1946 -1980

Photographs (by Gordon Searle) of dedication of Vilhjalmur Stefansson bronze bust, sculpted by Otto Hahn, 1980

Vilhjalmur Stefansson 22-cent postage stamp, issued 1986


---. Stefansson, Vilhjalmur. "The Near Way is North -- by Plane." Peace is a Process: Selected Articles from 'The Rotarian' Magazine Charting Postwar Opportunities Created by New Forces in World Affairs (January 1945): 105-106.

---. Stefansson, Vilhjalmur. "The Necessity of Cooperating With Russia." U.S.S.R. Society for Cultural Relations With Foreign Countries (VOKS). In Defence [sic] of Civilization Against Fascist Barbarism. Statements, Letters and Telegrams From Prominent People. (1941):95

---. William M. Furnish review of "Vilhjalmur Stefansson and the Development of Arctic Terrestrial Science," edited by G. Edgar Folk, Jr., and Mary Arp Folk. Arctic Journal, vol. 39, no. 3, (1984) p.280-282