MsC 731

Iowa Author

  Manuscript Register


Collection Dates: 1948 -- 1957
.5 linear ft.

This document describes a collection of materials held by the
Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1420
Phone: 319-335-5921
Fax: 319-335-5900

Posted to Internet: November 1997
Addendum: 2003, 2

Acquisition Note: This collection was donated to the University of Iowa Libraries in 1952 by Mr. Willson.

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 Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on "Property Rights, Copyright Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials"

Use of Collections: The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections.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.

Biographical Note

Meredith Willson (1902 -- 1984), author, musician, composer, lyricist, and librettist, made his home town of Mason City, Iowa, famous in his Broadway musical, The Music Man, which he based on his own memories and town lore. As a child, Willson took the obligatory piano lessons and played the flute and piccolo in the high school band. After graduation he left for New York and the Institute of Musical Art (now the Juliard School). At nineteen, he became a member of John Philip Sousa’s famous band. Five years later, he joined the New York Philharmonic, then under the direction of Arturo Toscanini. From there he traveled to the West coast where he served as a musical director, first with the American Broadcasting Company and then the National Broadcasting Company. In that capacity he became an active composer, at times writing more than a dozen musical programs each week. He also scored films for Hollywood, including Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. During World War II, Willson headed the musical division of the Armed Forces Radio Services. At war’s end, he turned his talent to network radio and television work. In 1949, the Meredith Willson Show debuted.

Meredith Willson’s greatest success came in 1957, with the Broadway musical The Music Man. He wrote the book, music and lyrics for this Tony award winning show, which earned him both an Oscar for the movie version and the first Grammy ever presented for best album. Willson went on to write three other Broadway shows: Here’s Love, 1491, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which was also made into a movie musical. He authored five books, including the autobiographical And There I Stood with My Piccolo. Willson is remembered for his popular tunes such as May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You as well as the boisterous Iowa Fight Song which he wrote in 1950.

Mason City’s favorite son died at the age of eighty-two.

Scope and Contents

The papers of Meredith Willson consist of 0.5 linear feet of his manuscripts and musical compositions. Arranged alphabetically by title and dating from 1948 to 1957, they include the typescript of his autobiographical novel, And There I Stood with My Piccolo and a publisher's typescript of his book, Who Did What to Fedalia?, as well as a final script of The Music Man. There is sheet music for three songs relating to Iowa, including the Iowa Fight Song.

Box 1

And There I Stood with My Piccolo. First typescript draft with revisions, 1948.


Holograph sheet music.

Phonograph record. In Oversized Box 1

Iowa Fight Song. Holograph sheet music.

Iowa Indian Song. Sheet music with holograph revisions.

The Music Man. Final script, September 23, 1957.

What Every Young Musician Should Know. New York: Robbins Music Corporation, 1938. Photocopy.

Who Did What to Fedalia? Publisher’s typescript with corrections and revisions.

2003 Addendum

Biographical information


Letters and postcards

Letter to Karl Goedecke; 1 to Abe Meyer; 2 to Viv and Mac McCracken; 1 postcard to the McCrackens; 1 postcard to Abe Meyer. 1 Happy Chanuka card with no addressee

Items transferred from the administrative file, October 2008



--- The Iowa Fight Song

--- Miscellaneous

--- The Music Man


--- Willson at the Rose Bowl. Print and negative

Programs and playbills

Radio and television shows featuring Willson, 1937-1959

2010 Addendum

Leoma. Holographic sheet music with words. Written for Helen Leoma Riha. Includes a photograph of her shortly after her marriage to Lee Wulff. Gift of her son and daughter-in-law, Barry and Ella May Wulff.  In Oversized Box 1


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