Benjamin F. Shambaugh

Benjamin Franklin Shambaugh was born January 29, 1871, in Elvira, Iowa. He graduated from the Iowa City Academy June 13, 1888. At the State University of Iowa (as The University of Iowa was then called, or SUI), he earned his B.Ph. in 1892 and his M.A. the following year. He took his Ph.D. in 1895 at the University of Pennsylvania. He was educated in Germany from 1895-1896 and was an instructor and professor at the SUI from 1896 to 1940, serving as head of the Political Science Department from 1900 on. He was superintendent and editor at the State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, from 1907 to 1940. He served as president of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association in 1910 and president of American Political Science Association in 1930.

Benjamin Shambaugh at convocation, 1938

"During the ‘Shambaugh era,’ the Iowa Department of Political Science came of age. The scholarly production of the relatively small faculty was augmented with many articles and monographs that were produced by the growing graduate student classes. Many of the dissertations were on various phases of Iowa government. Particular attention was focused on local governments and their public politics.” (Ross 1986, 6) Shambaugh argued that “the scientific attitude toward politics is one that declares tendencies rather than pronounces exact conclusions, and charts directions rather than marks goals. Hence research is of vital importance.” (Ross 1986, 8) In 1900, he was one of the founding members of the American Political Science Association, which was formally founded in 1903. He was on the committee with three others who launched the American Political Science Review and served on its editorial board for many years.

Shambaugh lecturing

It was here in Iowa City that Shambaugh met and married Bertha Maude Horak in 1897. The Shambaughs were prominent campus figures, famed for their hospitality. Benjamin Shambaugh died in Iowa City on April 7, 1940. Bertha Shambaugh died in Iowa City in 1953. The Shambaughs bequeathed their home to the University, and it has been used to house the International Center, the Honors Center and, currently, the International Writing Program.

The Benjamin F. Shambaugh Memorial Fund was created following the death of Mrs. Shambaugh. Her will specified a generous bequest to the University to establish an endowed fund, the income from which would provide for selecting and bringing to campus outstanding scholars and public speakers to deliver lectures on government and citizenship. The lectures began in 1961. Since the late 1960s, the funds have supported a continuing series of conferences covering topics at the cutting edge of research in political science. The conferences are directed by Department of Political Science faculty members with participation by leading specialists on the given topic. Each conference leads to publication of the research presented during the conference in the form of a book, special journal issue or other scholarly outlet.


University of Iowa Libraries, Shambaugh Family Papers:

Ross, Russell M. 1986. Political Science at The University of Iowa, 1859-1986. State Historical Society of Iowa.