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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

BISSELL, Susan Adams

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BISSELL, Susan DeForest Adams. (Dubuque, IA, Aug. 21, 1906--Dubuque, IA, Nov. 13, 1999). Susan was the daughter of John Taylor ADAMS, one of the founders of the Carr, Adams, and Collier Company (CARADCO), a nationally recognized sash and door manufacturer, and a principal founder of SPAHN AND ROSE LUMBER COMPANY.

"Short Walk for Asolo." Dubuque Museum of Art
Susan attended LINCOLN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL and had a series of private tutors to complete her formal education in Iowa. As the family extensively traveled (ocean trips to Spain, Italy, and Egypt in the 1920s) for her father's lifelong interest in archeology, Susan also enrolled at The Masters School (Dobbs Ferry, NY) and at The French School (New York, NY). At a young age, she left the family's home to join a circus and wild west show, where she performed on horseback and gained a reputation as an excellent horsewoman. Her equestrian skills also served her well in Kentucky, where she accompanied nurses on their rounds as part of the Frontier Nursing Service, the first American organization to employ credentialed nurses as midwives. Susan attended the Stone City art colony in 1933. There she worked with such noted regional artists as Grant Wood and Marvin Cone.

In 1937, Adams married Frederick Ezekiel Bissell, Jr., a Harvard graduate student (M.A., 1933) who served as a history instructor from 1933-1937. Bissell also demonstrated early art talents and heartily supported his future wife's interests in painting. The couple married in Susan's family home; Fred voluntarily left Harvard due to their future plans and never completed his dissertation. After settling in Dubuque, Fred began working at CARADCO, and over his thirty year career, served as a company vice president and sales manager. In turn, his father's family business, the H. B. GLOVER COMPANY, was the inspiration for a book titled 7 1/2 Cents by his brother, Richard BISSELL. The book later became the inspiration for the Broadway musical, The Pajama Game.

Susan was an active supporter of the Nature Conservancy and was one of the first contributors to the HERITAGE TRAIL. (1) By the age of fifty, she began painting watercolors, capturing wide, Iowa landscapes and creating miniatures of European scenes. She had a brick cottage on the outskirts of Dubuque, affectionately named "the sink," where she worked, entertained, and hosted painting and sculpture classes. After her three children started their schooling in New England, Adams enrolled at LORAS COLLEGE, taking classes in watercolor from Father Edward Sullivan, then chair of the art department.

Linwood Cemetery




1. Obituaries. Telegraph Herald, November 17, 1999, p. 14

The Stone City Art Colony and School 1932-1933 "Susan Adams Bissell" http://projects.mtmercy.edu/stonecity/otherartists/adams.html