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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

HAYFORD, Mary Regina

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Mary Regina Hayford. Photo courtesy: Barbara Ludwig.
Unidentified newspaper clipping, probably Dubuque Telegraph Herald, January 1965. Clipping courtesy: Barbara Ludwig.
Mary Regina Hayford and Carol Burnett, May 1967. Photo courtesy: Barbara Ludwig.

HAYFORD, Mary Regina. (Dubuque, IA, Dec. 12, 1903-Dubuque, IA, June 12, 1989). The original "Little Old Lady of Dubuque." Considered Dubuque's most famous ambassador, Hayford received her title in 1964 as part of a campaign by the DUBUQUE AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE to combat the city's image begun in 1925 with a statement in New Yorker magazine that it was not edited for "the old lady in Dubuque."

Chosen because she was the right age, well-spoken, and well-dressed, the sixty-one-year-old Hayford went on to be an acquaintance of celebrities including Johnny Carson and Carol Burnett. Always the city's faithful ambassador, Hayford carried photographs of Dubuque to show in cities around the world. The promotional campaign ended after one year. Hayford, however, faithfully continued to live up to her title although the New Yorker, in May 1987, chose Dubuque attorney Jane Mylrea to promote the magazine (claiming this proved the magazine appealed to Dubuque readers). The New Yorker had only acknowledged Hayford once, in a column for its October 3, 1964, issue.

Hayford, a founding member of the CATHOLIC MOTHERS' STUDY CLUBS, hosted the Civic Newcomers for twenty years until her retirement in 1983. She was a member of the Camp Little Cloud GIRL SCOUTS and an international honorary member of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. Hayford owned the MARSH MANSION from the 1940s to 1960s.

Mary Regina Hayford and Steve McQueen, May 1967. Photo courtesy: Barbara Ludwig.
Image courtesy: Mike Day. Kendall C. Day family collection