Skip navigation

The University of Iowa Libraries

Special Collections and University Archives

Finding Aid

Collins Mortgage and Farms Companies
MsC 317
Collection Dates: 1901-1945

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Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on Property Rights, Copyright Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials.

Use of Collections: The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections.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: The records of the Collins Companies were received in 1997 from Ben Stearns on behalf of Arthur A. Collins' widow Mary. This collection was processed in the summer and fall of 2009.

Photographs: A few, located in General Files.









Scope and Contents

This collection consists of correspondence, financial records, property records, and other materials from the two major companies created and owned by Merle H. Collins (as well as a small amount from his third company, the Mississippi Valley Farms Company). The collection is divided into several series:

Bound Materials: This series contains ledgers, registers, and other compilations of financial information, as well as bound copies of legal proceedings in the lawsuit of Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. the Collins Companies.

Financial Files: This series consists of various records relating to the Collins Companies' finances and financial transactions.

Foreclosure Files: This series is comprised of selected files relating to individual farm foreclosures, selected to provide examples of the types of materials and transactions involved in these sorts of activities.

General Files: Obviously, this series contains materials relating to a wide variety of subjects and activities. Much of the material in this series consists of correspondence, not only general, but that between the Collins Companies and its chief nemeses Equitable Life Assurance Co. and Cedar Rapids National Bank.

Legal Files: The Legal Files in the collection consist of legal documents, including bills of equity, witness testimonies and other materials relating to the various lawsuits in which the Collins Companies were engaged over the years. Most of the material relates to the federal suit filed against the Collins Companies by Equitable Life Assurance in 1933-1934.

Mortgage Files: This series consists of selected files relating to individual mortgagees. LIke the Foreclosure Files, these were sampled and selected from the mass of similar files to provide substantive examples of the types of materials and transactions invoved with Collins' customers.

Property Files: These files consists primarily of documents describing various farm properties mortgaged through CMC or CFC. Many of the files, consisting of correspondence, property descriptions, and inspection reports, were actually exhibits for the federal lawsuits filed against Collins by Equitable. Also included is one box of field survey books containing survey information for a number of different Collins farms.

Tax Files: This series consists primarily of tax returns and related records for Collins and his companies.

Oversize Materials: A few items, though organizationally attached to other series, are considered too large to place in the boxes with those series. Those items are shelved together at the end of the collection, in folders.

Biographical Note

Merle Hunter Collins was born on October 5, 1878 to the Reverend Josephus Collins and his wife Jane, in Orion, Illinois. In 1882 his family moved to Kansas, but during the Oklahoma land rush of the 1890s, they moved again, in 1896, to Kingfisher, Oklahoma. In 1904, Merle married Faith Andrews of Kansas. The couple had only one child, Arthur Andrews Collins, who was born in 1909.

Collins was a successful businessman and land investor in Oklahoma, and Eastern investors encouraged him to establish a new business venture in Iowa. Collins moved his family to Cedar Rapids, Iowa and formed the Collins Mortgage Company, with the Collins Farms Company being founded in 1928.

After the failures of his own companies, Collins joined the executive board of his son Arthur's Collins Radio Company, where he became vice-president of the corporation. Merle Collins died at the age of 64 on April 2, 1943.

Historical Note

Merle H. Collins founded the Collins Mortgage Company in 1916 after moving with his family from Oklahoma to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The company specialized in farm loans, and grew over the years to be quite profitable. The CMC operated in Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

Beginning in 1925, Collins began acquiring a number of idle farms (farms abandoned after mortgage foreclosures) and using them as platforms for the implementation of new farming and land utilization techniques. His success in this initial endeavor led Collins to form the Collins Farms Company in 1928, with himself as president. By 1931 the CFC owned and occupied nearly 30,000 acres across 39 Iowa counties.

Unfortunately for Collins (as for many others, of course), in 1929 the stock market crashed, causing a worldwide economic depression. Poor economic conditions affected the Collins Companies as well, but the immediate causes of their decline were due to their connections with other financial institutions. CMC had been long associated with Equitable Life Assurance Company of New York (arranging and selling farm mortgages to the firm), and in Iowa was working closely with the Cedar Rapids National Bank on many loans. In October of 1931, federal bank examiners, investigating CRNB, found that nearly 1/10th of the bank's assets constituted second mortgages tied to CMC. Eastern firms, such as Equitable, traditionally refused to handle these types of mortgages. Although Equitable was pressed by federal examiners to advance $810,000 to CRNB, the bank still faced a large write-off and its solvency was threatened. On October 29, 1931, CRNB merged with and was taken over by Merchants National Bank.

Collins continued to struggle with Merchants, and eventually with Equitable over the future of his mortgages and farmlands. In July 1932, Equitable filed a farm foreclosure suit for $10,000 against the Collins Companies in the Winnebago County, Iowa District Court. Collins countersued for over $1.5 million in commissions on mortgage loans and then followed it up with a second suit for $1.3 million. In February 1933, Equitable responded by suing Collins in federal court (both in Iowa's Northern District at Fort Dodge and the Southern at Des Moines) for over $3.5 million and sought foreclosure actions in 39 Iowa counties. In February 1934 the federal court in Fort Dodge appointed a receiver to take charge of the farms properties in question; many farms ended up being sold to individual farm operators to satisfy the claims of Equitable and Merchants National. In late 1934 Equitable and Collins agreed to settle, releasing each other from all existing claims (Collins and Merchants National reached a similar agreement.) Collins signed over all his remaining CMC and CFC properties to Equitable and to Merchants. Collins' assets were drastically reduced, though he was not wiped out, and he faced ongoing hostility from a number of people who had lost money from the failures of his companies and of CRNB.

Collins also operated another firm, a real estate and farms holding company, the Mississippi Valley Farms Company, that operated from 1932 until 1945.

Related Materials

COLLINS RADIO COMPANY. Records of the Collins Radio Company, 1925-1980. 34.1 ft.

Corporate and product records of a Cedar Rapids-based communications and aerospace company. Records include correspondence, administrative records, product files, advertising, research materials, photographs, and blueprints. MsC814. (Finding Aid)

Box Contents List


Bound Materials

Collins Mortgage Company: Journal Sheets (5 volumes, 1922-1930)

Collins Mortgage Company: Debentures (2 volumes)

Collins Farms Company: Stock Certificates Issues, 1928

Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - People To Whom Stock Issued, 1928-1930

Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Transfer Cash Revenues, 1930-1931

Collins Mortgage Company: Account Register, 1929-1932

Collins Farms Company: Tile Ledger, 1930

Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Kansas City Office, 1926-1932

Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Mortgage Holders(?) (3 volumes, 1912-1930)

Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Bank Loans, 1929-1930

Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Draft Transfers Drawn on Commercial Bank of Kansas City, 1927-1930

Debentures Journal, 1930

Collins Farms Company: Subscription Warrants for Stock ( 2 volumes)

Collins Farms Company: Stock Certificates

Collins Farms Company: Ledger - Loanee Name and Loan Number, 1931

Collins Mortgage Company: Ledger - Expenses and Liabilities, 1925-1928

Collins Companies Scrapbooks: Company Related News Clippings

                                                         Copies of Company Forms

Reconcilement of Accounts, 1927-1931

Legal Files: Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. CMC, - Proceedings, volumes 1-13

                                                                                                   - Farm Examinations by Fred C. Fisher

                                                                                                   - Farm Examinations by M.M. Thompson

                                                                                                   - Witness Testimony

Box 1

Financial Files

Account Register, CFC, 1927-1928

Annual Reports to Iowa Secretary of State, CFC, 1930-1931

Assorted Financial Statements, 1924-1933

Audit, CFC, 1931

Audit, CMC, November 1930 - Correspondence and Report

Audit, CMC, November 1930 - Financial Records

Balance Sheets, CMC/CFC, 1922, 1930

Balance Sheets, CMC Kansas City Office, 1926-1931

Budgets, CFC, 1929

CFC Account Papers, 1928-1931

Daily Statements, CMC, 1917-1926

Dresdner Bank (Berlin, Germany), 1921-1930

Financial Statements, Assorted, 1924-1933

Financial Statements, CFC, 1929-1930

Financial Statements, CFC - Provided to E.G. Nourse (Brookings Institution), 1929-1930

Financial Statements, CMC, 1931

Financial Statements, CMC Kansas City Office, 1925-1930

Financial Statements, CMC Kingfisher, OK Office, 1924

Financial Statements, M.H. Collins Farm Account, 1929-1930

Receipts and Disbursements, CFC, 1932-1934

Trial Balance Sheets, CMC, 1923-1925


Foreclosure Files

Anderegg, Theresa May, 1930-1932

Barnes, Jesse, 1930-1933

Fellers, Roy O., 1931-1934

Kershner, Laura E., 1930-1934

Liska, John, 1930-1931

Martin, John C., 1931-1940

Nancolas, Fred, 1933-1934

Thompson, Henry, 1930-1932

Twelve Mile Lake Farm, 1931-1933


General Files

Affidavits (Amounts of Capital Invested), Oklahoma, 1933

Agreements, 1912-1934

Amendment of Certificate of Incorporation, 1931

Annual Report from A.G. Thurman, CFC, 1931

Assignment of Rights to Equitable Life Assurance, 1931

Box 2

Cedar Rapids National Bank Debentures, 1919-1927

Collins, Josephus (Death of), 1928

Collins, M.H., Farm Account Information, 1928

Collins Farms, Lists and Descriptions, 1931, n.d.

CFC Farm Inspection Reports, 1929-1930, n.d.

CFC Summary and Cost Estimates of Operations, n.d.

Collins Farm Company Promotional Book (Typescript, with photographs), 1929?

Collins Mortgage Company of Delaware, 1934-1941

Correspondence -

      American State Bank (Geary, OK) (3 folders, 1924-August 1932)

      Barnes, Don (2 folders, 1926, 1931-1933)

      Boyd, W.R., 1929-1930

      Cedar Rapids National Bank, 1925-1932

      CMC Kansas City Office (4 folders, 1931-1932)

      Collins, Arthur, 1930-1931

      Equitable Life Assurance Company (3 folders, 1916-1930)

Box 3

Correspondence -

      Equitable Life Assurance Company (2 folders, 1931-1934)

      First National Bank (Lost Nation, IA) (2 folders, 1929-October 1931)

      General (5 folders, November 1929-1939, n.d.)

      Guaranteed Loans by CMC Kansas City Office, 1932-1933

      Havner, H.M., 1932-1933

      International Harvester Company, 1928-1932

      Iowa Guaranteed Loans, 1932-1933

      Keppel, F.P. (Carnegie Corporation), 1930-1931

      Kuning, Charles (Regional Agricultural Credit Corporation, Omaha, NE), 1932-1935

      Lintner, Ruth Vavra, 1930-1936

      Loan Application Approvals, 1930-1931

      Nourse, E.G. (Brookings Institution), 1930-1931

      Oklahoma Oil Leases, 1923, 1925

      Pritchett, Henry C. (Carnegie Foundation), 1930-1931

      Redfearn, P.A., 1931

      Rawls, E.H. (Guaranty Trust Company of New York), 1930-1931

      Roberts, George E. (National City Bank), 1930-1931

      Ruml, Dr. Beardsley, 1930-1931

      Solicitation Letters "To Our Correspondents", 1916-1926

Box 4


      State Management Company (holding company), 1929-1931

Davis, J.O. (Petition for Clemency, Geary, OK), 1928-1929

Farm Descriptions - Farms in Iowa Owned by CFC, n.d.

Farm Loan Applications (3 folders, Appanoose-Wright County, Iowa)

Farms for Sale by CFC, 1930

Farms Redeeded to Equitable, 1932

Homestead Application Receipt, M.H. Collins, 1901

Incorporation Documents, CFC, 1928-1932

Incorporation Documents, CMC, 1910

Insurance Survey of CMC/CFC, 1930

Investor Prospects (including selected solicitations), 1930-1931

Loan Grantees, Lists of, Kansas and Oklahoma, 1931

Loans Smaller than $2000, 1926-1933, n.d.

Maps of CFC Iowa Properties, n.d.

Memoranda, Confidential (3 folders, November 1931-August 1933, n.d.)

Minutes, CFC Board of Directors Meetings, 1931-1933

Mississippi Valley Farms Company (2 folders, 1932-1945)

Box 5

Mississippi Valley Farms Company - Ledger Sheets, 1935-1937

Mississippi Valley Farms Company - Real Estate Licenses, 1934

Photographs -

      CMC Executives and Employees?, n.d.

      Unidentified Farmsteads, n.d.

Promotional Leaflet, CFC, n.d.


       Announcement of CFC Independent Growers Division, n.d.

       Collins Correspondent, January-September 1931

       Informational Bulletin, CFC, 1930

       The Pulse (Equitable Life Assurance Co. newsletter), February 1932

       Winter Wheat in Iowa: A Practical Farmer's Handbook, CFC, n.d.

Registration of Agents, CFC, 1928-1931

Registration of Preferred Stock (in Iowa), CFC, 1929-1930

Semi-Annual Report to Stockholders, CFC, 1930

Speeches and Addresses, 1931, n.d.

Stitt-Collins Mortgage Company, 1912-1917

Stock Certificates, 1931, 1933

Subscription Warrants for CFC Stock, 1929

Ventilated Grain Bins, 1931


Legal Files

L.A. Andrew, Receiver of State Bank of Alden, vs. Collins, 1932-1933

Cedar Rapids Life Insurance vs. CMC, et. al., 1935

CMC vs. Equitable Life Assurance Co., 1935

        Amendments to Answer and Cross Bill, 1933 (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

        CMC Reply to Answer and Cross Bill, 1933 (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

        Fielding, Henry T., Direct Examination, n.d. (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

        Fielding, Henry T., Reclassification Entries, 1934? (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

        Petition At Law and Sundry Schedules (2 folders, 1933) (Polk County [Iowa] District Court)

        Ruling of Master in Chancery, 1932 (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. Glen L. Bennett, Arthur A. Collins,, 1933-1934 (Garfield County [OK] District Court)

Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. Arthur A. Collins,, 1933 (Kay County [OK] District Court)

Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. CMC,

       Affidavit of M.H. Collins, 1934 (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

       Answers from Cedar Rapids National Bank and Merchants National Bank, 1933 (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District)

       Application for Appointment of Receiver (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District)

       Application for Recommendation for Appointment of Receiver, 1934 (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

       Answer of CMC to Bill in Equity (Draft), 1933 (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

       Assorted Documentation, 1933, n.d.

       Bill in Equity, Part 1, 1933 (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District) 


Box 6

Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. CMC,

        Bill in Equity, Part 2, 1933 (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District)

        Bill in Equity and Affidavit for Attorney's Fees, 1933 (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District)

        Bill in Equity and Affidavit for Attorney's Fees, plus Amendments and Answers, 1933 (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

        Brief, 1933? (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

        Brief on Appointing a Receiver, 1933? (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

        Correspondence, 1932-1934

        Exhibits - Correspondence, 1931-1932

        Exhibits - Lists of Farms, 1933?

        Havner Memorandum, 1933?

        Index by Farms of Court Record, n.d.

        Interrogatories for Document Discovery, 1933 (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

        Orders, 1934 (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District)

        Subpoenas, 1933 (Federal Court - Iowa, Southern District)

        Testimony on Land Values by F.M. Collard, 1934

        Testimony on Land Values by Fred C. Fisher, 1934


Box 7

Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. CMC,

        Testimony on Land Vaues by H.S. Van Alstine, 1933 or 1934?

        Witness Statements, 1932 (Winnebago County [Iowa] District Court)

Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. M.H. Collins,, 1933-1934 (Blaine County [OK] District Court)

Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. Eliza Jane Lisk, M.H. Collins, Faith Collins, 1931-1933 (Mahaska County [Iowa] District Court)

Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. John B. Schmidt, Arthur A. Collins,, 1933-1934 (Caddo County [OK] District Court)

Equitable Life Assurance Co. vs. Sarah Van Doren, CMC,, 1932 (Ottawa County [KS] District Court)

John Hancock Mutual Life vs. H.L. Bellmer, CFC,, 1932 (Fayette County [Iowa] District Court)

Johnson Lumber Co. vs. Cudahy and Wilson (CMC as Cross-Petitioner), 1933 {Greene County [Iowa] District Court)

Lewis S. Lein vs. M.H. Collins,, 1933-1935 (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District)

Andrew Mitchell, vs. CMC, Equitable Life Assurance Co., 1936 (Federal Court - Iowa, Northern District)

Oklahoma, Barrett vs. Ross H. Gamble, M.H. Collins, (2 folders, 1930-1935) (Blaine County [OK] District Court)

B.M. Thomas vs. CMC, Equitable Life Assurance Co., 1932-1933, 1938 (Federal Court-Iowa, Northern District)

Edward A. Werner vs. A.H. Auckerman, CFC, 1931 (Linn County [Iowa] District Court)

Mortgage Files


Individual Mortgagees -

  Abbas, Teus, 1917-1934

  Andrews, Mary, 1929, 1932-1941

  Hunter, LaMaude Ryan, 1924-1931

  Lathrum, H.H., 1932-1944

  O'Flaherty, Thomas, 1930-1932


  B-H, 1925-1932

  J-R, 1931-1933

  S-Y, 1929-1933

Mortgage Lists, 1931-1932

Box 8

Property Files

Farms, Black Hawk-Buchanan County (Iowa), 1930s

Farms, Butler-Cerro Gordo County (Iowa), 1930s

Farms, Chickasaw County (Iowa), 1930s

Farms, Clay-Dickinson County (Iowa), 1930s

Farms, Emmet County (Iowa), 1930s

Farms, Fayette County (Iowa), 1930s

Box 9

Farms, Hancock County (Iowa), 1930s

Farms, Hardin-Howard County (Iowa), 1930s

Farms, Humboldt-Iowa County (Iowa), 1930s

Box 10

Farms, Kossuth County (Iowa), 1930s

Farms, Linn-Mitchell County (Iowa), 1930s

Farms, Palo Alto-Wright County (Iowa), 1930s

Loan Applicant Tables (including Property Descriptions)

       Adair-Crawford County (Iowa), 1916-1929

       Dallas-Jefferson County (Iowa), 1916-1929

       Johnson-Page County (Iowa), 1916-1929

       Palo Alto-Wright County (Iowa), 1916-1929

Box 11

Field Survey Books, Various Farms

Box 12

Tax Files

CMC - Miscellaneous Documentation for Tax Returns

CMC - Taxes (5 folders, 1916-1925)

Box 13

CMC - Taxes (6 folders, 1926-1930

Collins Companies - Taxes (3 folders, 1930-1933)

Correspondence, 1931-1934

Foreign Corporation Permits and Licenses, 1927, 1930-1933


Oversize Materials (In Folders)

Financial Files:

Audit of CMC, November 1930 - Financial Tables, 1930

Statements, Equitable Life Assurance Co., 1931

Foreclosure Files:

Foreclosures, 1928-1931, n.d.

General Files:

Certificates of Land Ownership, 1903

Chart of Accounts, CFC, n.d.

Collins Grain Bin Blueprint, CFC, 1930-1931

Map (with pushpins) of CMC Properties, n.d.