"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

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

MULGREW, John Patrick

From Encyclopedia Dubuque
Jump to navigationJump to search
Photograph courtesy: Telegraph Herald

MULGREW, John Patrick. (Dubuque, IA, Jan. 12, 1886--Dubuque,IA, 1949). Mulgrew, the son of M. J. and Mary Mulgrew, attended SAINT RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL SCHOOL, DUBUQUE HIGH SCHOOL, and ST. JOSEPH COLLEGE from which he graduated in 1907. It was during college that he began writing professionally. (1) For many years he lived above the Mulgrew Bakery operated by his father and grandfather at Third and Main. (2)

Mulgrew regularly began work as a reporter and columnist for the TELEGRAPH HERALD in 1907 writing "The Way the Wind Blows." When he began submitting his poetry he was too shy to use his own name. The name he chose, 'Jazbo,' he hinted may have come from his pet dog or a men's tie popular at one time. (3)

In 1910 Mulgrew's career as a playwright began with his collaboration with Thomas Swift of Chicago on a play "In My Home Town." The play opened at the People's Theater in Chicago where it was presented by Miss Gertrude Shipman and The People's Stock Company. The play received good reviews. (4) His next work was the production in 1912 of the play Sonny. In 1914 his Bringing Up Father, based on the comic strip, enjoyed a two-year run. (5) The road version played at the MAJESTIC THEATRE. Mulgrew wrote eight other plays in five years, several based on "Jiggs and Maggie" from the George McManus comic strip.

During the GREAT DEPRESSION, he returned to Dubuque and again roomed above his father's bakery. Mulgrew gained national recognition as a scriptwriter for NBC radio's "Uncle Ezra" program heard weekly on the "National Barn Dance Hour." During the height of vaudeville, he moved East and wrote many sketches used by such new talents as Jack Benny and Fred Allen. (6)

Yearbook advertisement. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

While living in Dubuque, Mulgrew wrote a column called "And Life Goes On" for the WITNESS (THE) which also appeared in the Sunday Visitor, a nationally circulated Catholic weekly. (7) He was paid two dollars for each week's column which ran in the paper for fourteen years. His verse and wit, despite the masthead which read "America's Most Widely Unknown Columnist" became so popular that it was decided to publish a yearbook containing his best columns.

Yearbooks. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

These yearbooks were sold between 1935 and 1949. Copies were distributed to our troops stationed overseas during WORLD WAR II as a boost for their morale. Over 15,000 were shipped in just one month. (8) Mulgrew's poems which appeared regularly in the London edition of "Stars and Stripes" were read over the British Broadcasting Company on a serviceman's program. In 1937 "The Desk Drawer Anthology" compiled by Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Theodore Roosevelt featured one of Mulgrew's poems on the title page.

                  I'd like to write the sort of things
                  Folks read and then cut out
                  To tuck away and read again
                  When there's no one else about.
                  I really wouldn't care a lot
                  For an ode on a marble tomb,
                  But I'd love a place in the scrapbook
                  Folks keep in the sittin' room.

                            ----Jazbo of Old Dubuque

Mulgrew was a man of distinct habits. He picked up his mail at a certain time, stopped at Mrs. Grady's at Third and Main for coffee, visited the book department at ROSHEK'S DEPARTMENT STORE at about 9:30 a.m. and at about 4:00 p.m. would visit the chapel at ST. RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL. (9)

Signature of "Jazbo" in one of the yearbooks. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding



1. "John Mulgrew Funeral is Set," Telegraph-Herald, September 18, 1949, p. 27

2. Gifford, Thomas. "Jazbo Wanted to Write Pieces People Would Keep," Telegraph Herald, August 7, 1997, p. 4A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970807&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. "John Patrick Mulgrew," The Tri-States' Irish Heritage, Telegraph Heritage, March 16 2017, p. 70

4. "Young Dubuquer Wins Honors," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, April 21, 1910, p. 2

5. "John Patrick Mulgrew..."

6. "New Anthology Honors 'Jazbo,'" Telegraph Herald, December 8, 1937, p. 3

7. "John Mulgrew..."

8. Ibid.

9. "John Patrick Mulgrew..."