Marengo, Hamilton, Miss Pearl

Miss Pearl Hamilton

Pearl Hamilton was selected the first employed librarian of the newly established Marengo Public Library in 1905.[1]  Pearl spent the first six weeks of her eight year tenure as librarian in Iowa City, enrolling in a course for library training at what was then known as the State University of Iowa.[2]

Pearl served as the librarian in Marengo from 1905 until 1913.  The announcement of her resignation in the Davenport Daily Times states that she “resigned her position to accept a better position in the public library at Des Moines.”[3]  She would remain in that position until her marriage to Henry Nollen on the 7th of November, 1916.[4]  Her wedding announcement states that she, “is well known, having efficiently filled the position of superintendent of the substations of the city library.”[5]

Pearl Hamilton was a local Marengo girl, as she was the daughter of David, listed as Davis in some records, and Martha Hamilton of Marengo, Iowa.[6] Pearl was born to David and Martha on the 27th of August, 1881.[7]  When she was three, her mother gave birth to a short-lived, and unnamed, sibling.  The Hamilton family took their time having more children, leaving Pearl an only child until the birth of her brother Alfred on the 30th of July, 1889.[8]

While Pearl’s later years would see her moving around the state of Iowa, census records show that her early life was confined to the tidy grid of Marengo. While there are no records of her baptism to shed light on her family’s religious background, her obituary in the Des Moines Register names St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church as the site of her burial service.[9]

Her marriage would be the end of her career as a librarian.  Pearl and Henry remained together until his death in 1952.  Pearl stayed in Des Moines until 1960, when she began living with her brother in Grinnell.  She died there in April of 1965 at the age of 83.[10]

In addition to her work as a librarian, Pearl was also an incredibly social and athletically talented woman.  Newspaper records detail her railroad travels across the state of Iowa in her youth to participate in live music and theater.  In Des Moines she dressed as Cleopatra to celebrate Shakespeare[11], took part in her country club, and was a member of several local organizations.  She began playing golf at the age of 43.  She was president of the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association, and the state champion in nine-hole competition.[12]

           -Russell Buchanan

[1] “Pearl Nollen, Grinnell, Dies,” Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, April 23, 1965, p. 9.

[2] “Local News,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, Iowa City, Iowa, June 23, 1905, p. 7.

[3] “Marengo,” The Daily Times, Davenport, Iowa, February 14, 1913, p. 6.

[4] “Society and Clubs,” Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, November 7, 1916, p. 5.

[5] Ibid.

[6], Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2018.,

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Pearl Nollen, Grinnell, Dies,” Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, April 23, 1965, p. 9.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Shakespearean Processional in West High Auditorium,” Des Moines Register and Leader, Des Moines, Iowa, April 5, 1916, p. 7.

[12] “Pearl Nollen, Grinnell, Dies,” Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, April 23, 1965, p. 9.