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Ira Nothstein

Librarian and archivist, 1918-1935

Ira O. Nothstein, 1920s
Ira O. Nothstein, 1920s

Ira O. Nothstein was born on January 16, 1874, in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, to Lloyd and Ema Nothstein. He attended Muhlenberg College and was ordained on June 8, 1900, by the Augustana Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. On November 13, 1900, he married Minne Louisa Kuhns.

Together they traveled west, where Nothstein served as pastor to several churches in St. Paul and St. Peter, Minnesota, and in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania. In 1907 Nothstein became the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Rock Island, Illinois.

He became a librarian at Augustana College in 1918, and also served as archivist from 1935 until his retirement in 1959. Nothstein was the first librarian at Augustana to take an interest in archival materials. Donations to and purchases for the library during his tenure included several impressive collections. 

Nothstein was an active member of many groups in the Rock Island community, including the Rock Island Historical Society and the Augustana Historical Society, which he played an important role in organizing. Due to his deep interest in local history, in 1936 Nothstein was commissioned to write the first history of the Rock Island Arsenal by Col. A. G. Gillsepie, then commander of the Arsenal. Nothstein also published several works about Swedish Lutherans, including Adventures for Christ and Lutheran Makers of America.

Nothstein founded the Augustana Synod annual, My Church in 1915, and was the head editor from 1915 to 1929.In 1928 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by Muhlenberg College.

Nothstein died on May 1, 1962, after several years of failing health. He outlived his wife, who had died in 1953, and was survived by a son, three daughters, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.