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Pierce, Dante M.

Published onOct 11, 2021
Pierce, Dante M.

(August 29, 1880 – July 27, 1955)

Quick Facts

Dante Pierce was an agricultural publisher and founder of the Iowa Homestead agricultural journal.

Dante M. Pierce was born in Bedford, Iowa, in 1880. After service with the Fifth Regiment, Missouri Volunteer Infantry, during the Spanish-American War, he attended Iowa State College (1899-1900).

James Pierce

Dante Pierce inherited his father's position as publisher of the Iowa Homestead. Like his father, James Pierce, he wrote editorials on agricultural issues and politics. Unlike many midwestern agricultural leaders, Dante Pierce opposed the McNary—Haugen bills proposed to make the tariff effective for agriculture. In an editorial in 1924, he contended that "the bill was cumbersome, impractical and valueless to the general farmer, and that it was written, introduced and promoted only for political purposes."

Dante Pierce was, however, no conservative in politics. In 1924 he favored maverick Republican candidate Smith Wildman Brookhart for the U.S. Senate, and endorsed Progressive candidate Robert M. La Follette for president. Just before the 1924 election, the Homestead printed a ballot illustration, "How to Vote for Brookhart and La Follette." Despite their political differences, Pierce was personally friendly with Presidents Coolidge and Hoover. At the beginning of Roosevelt's New Deal, Pierce, at the request of his friend Henry A. Wallace, the new U.S. secretary of agriculture, headed a group of agricultural journalists who drafted new legislation.

In 1929 Dante Pierce sold the Iowa Homestead to the Wallace family. The last issue of the Homestead, dated October 19, 1929, does not mention the sale. Until the end of 1958 the merged paper carried the name Wallaces' Farmer and Iowa Homestead. As advertising revenue fell sharply during the Depression, the merged paper was printed less frequently and pagination was greatly reduced. The Wallace family could not keep up payments on their Homestead debt, so Pierce became the paper's receiver in 1932. Henry A. Wallace continued as editor, with Pierce's support, until Wallace became U.S. secretary of agriculture in 1933. Pierce bought the merged paper back at a sheriff's sale in 1935.

Dante Pierce had also inherited the Wisconsin Farmer. In 1929 he combined it with the Wisconsin Agriculturist (Racine), continuing a nationwide trend of consolidating farm publications. The Farmer and Stockman, in Missouri, had also been sold.

Dante M. Pierce died in his home in 1955 and was succeeded as publisher of the Iowa and Wisconsin papers by his son, Richard S. Pierce (b. 1912), who had been named associate publisher in 1950.

Selections of text republished with permission from the Iowa Biographical Dictionary, edited by David Hudson, Marvin Bergman, and Loren Horton. Published by the University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, IA. Online publication, 2009. 

Selected Sources

Dante Pierce Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Seaman, Gerald LeRoy, "A history of some early Iowa farm journals (before 1900)" (1942). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 16941.

"Dante Melville Pierce," Who's Who in Iowa, vol.1, 391. Chicago: Larkin, Roosevelt & Larkin, Ltd., 1947.

"Dante Pierce Is Dead," New York Times, July 29, 1955, page 17, column 5.

Dodge, Edward N. (ed.). "Dante M. Pierce," in Business Men of Iowa, 585. Des Moines: Midwest Publications, Inc., 1953.

Murphy, Donald R. "Dante Melville Pierce, 1880-1955," Wallace's Farmer and Iowa Homestead, LXXX, no. 15 (August 6, 1955), 12.

James M. Pierce's obituary appeared in the Iowa Homestead, 11/4/1920

Dante M. Pierce's obituary was in the Des Moines Register, 7/28/1955.

Donald R. Murphy, "The Centennial of a Farm Paper," Palimpsest 37 (1956), 449–80.

Joel Kunze, "Shameful Venality: The Pierce-Wallace Controversy and the Election of 1896," Palimpsest 71 (1990), 2–11.

John J. Fry, The Farm Press, Reform, and Rural Change, 1895–1920 (2005).

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