MacDougall, Curtis Daniel, 1903-

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Author, professor at Northwestern University, journalist, civic leader, and political activist, of Evanston, Ill.

From the description of Papers, 1904-1978. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70966240

During his more than 35 years at Northwestern University, Curtis MacDougall – Dr. Mac to his students – emerged as one of America's leading journalism experts and educators. He was apologetically blunt, remaining outspoken on his beliefs, political and otherwise, until his death at the age of 82 in 1985.

Curtis Daniel MacDougall was born on Feb. 11, 1903, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. It was there, at the Fond du Lac Commonwealth-Reporter, that he started his journalism career at the age of 15. MacDougall received his Bachelor's degree in English from Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1923. He also received a Master's degree in Journalism from Northwestern (1926), a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin (1933), and an honorary Litt.D. from Columbia College (1965). Before joining the Northwestern faculty in 1935, MacDougall reported for the St. Louis Star-Times and United Press International; edited the Evanston Daily News-Index ; and wrote editorials for the Chicago Sun . From 1939 to 1942 he was the state supervisor of the Illinois Writers Project, where he edited the work of Saul Bellow, Nelson Algren, and Studs Terkel, among others.

MacDougall authored more than a dozen books over more than 50 years, including Hoaxes (1941), Understanding Public Opinion (1953), and Gideon's Army (1965-66), a three-volume history of the Progressive Party movement of the late 1940s. His most important book was Interpretative Reporting (1938), a standard text in journalism schools across the world for more than 50 years. He was working on the book's ninth edition at the time of his death.

In 1944 MacDougall ran for Congress in Illinois'10 th District on the platform of “preventing World War III and World Depression II.” While distributing handbills for his campaign in Lake Forest in September of 1944, MacDougall (along with Northwestern English faculty members Harrison Hayford and Merrell D. Davis) was arrested under a city ordinance prohibiting the distribution of political literature; after much negative publicity, the city dropped the case. MacDougall went on to lose that election – and two more. He also ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1948 and participated in the 13 th District Democratic Congressional Primary in 1970.

MacDougall's political activism came at a cost. In 1936, while Editor of the Evanston Daily News-Index, he wrote an editorial criticizing the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover responded with a letter, which MacDougall printed, but the incident still caused Hoover to initiate an investigation of MacDougall that would last 35 years. In 1978, under the Freedom of Information Act, MacDougall obtained the 292 pages of surveillance reports collected over the course of the investigation; he kept a bound copy on his coffee table. His political outspokenness also caused a rift with the Northwestern administration. In fact, MacDougall was so bitter when he left Northwestern that he asked his family not to allow the University to participate in his memorial service.

From the guide to the Curtis MacDougall (1903-1985) Papers, 1940-1992, (Northwestern University Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf MacDougall, Curtis Daniel, 1903-. Papers, 1904-1978. Evanston Historical Society
creatorOf Curtis MacDougall (1903-1985) Papers, 1940-1992 Northwestern University Archives
referencedIn Durr, Virginia Foster. Papers: Series II, 1929-1991 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972. Letter to Curtis D. MacDougall. : Kansas City, MO. 1953 Dec. 9. University of Iowa Libraries
creatorOf Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972. Letter to Curtis D. MacDougall. : Kansas City, MO. 1953 May 14. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn Papers of Virginia Foster Durr, 1919-2007 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Shannon, David A., 1920-1991. Papers, 1955-1958. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949. Papers, 1872-1949 Houghton Library
referencedIn Scott Millross Buchanan papers, 1911-1972. Houghton Library
referencedIn Charles W. Roberts Papers, 1932 - 1991 Herbert Hoover Library
referencedIn The Nation, records, 1879-1974 (inclusive), 1920-1955 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Progressive Party (U.S. : 1948). Records of the Progressive Party, 1940-1969 1940-1955. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn Sullivan, Patricia, 1950-. Progressive Party oral history interviews, 1975-1982. Emory University Library, Special Collect Department
creatorOf MacDougall, Curtis Daniel, 1903-. Correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1933. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972. Letter to Curtis D. MacDougall. : Kansas City, MO. 1953 Feb. 27. University of Iowa Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Buchanan, Scott Millross, 1895-1968 person
associatedWith Democratic Party (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Durr, Virginia Foster. person
associatedWith Medill School of Journalism corporateBody
correspondedWith Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865). corporateBody
associatedWith Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith Progressive Party (U.S. : 1948) corporateBody
associatedWith Roberts, Charles Wesley, 1916- person
associatedWith Shannon, David A., 1920-1991. person
associatedWith Sullivan, Patricia, 1950- person
associatedWith Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972. person
correspondedWith United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation corporateBody
correspondedWith Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Race relations
Journalism--Study and teaching (Higher)--United States
Political Campaigns
Journalists--United States--20th century
Political participation
Journalists--Political activity--United States--History--20th century
Pulitzer Prizes
College teachers--Illinois--Evanston
Political activists--Illinois--Evanston


Birth 1903

Death 1985-11-10





Ark ID: w67s7rb5

SNAC ID: 49213258