November has been branded Aviation History Month, and here in the Department of Special Collections, we have a number of items showcasing the crossroads of Iowa State University and aviation history. These dapper gentlemen are participating in the Model Airplane contest portion of 1948′s VEISHEA, for example.

Let’s not leave out the female contributions to flight, though. During World War II, the Curtiss-Wright Corporation sponsored an engineering program for women students that introduced them to aspects of drafting, stress analysis, materials lab, aerodynamics, and production liaison.

RS 13/16/4

Members of the Curtiss-Wright Engineering Cadettes Program experiment with model planes

Eighty-four of the 100 program participants went on to work in Curtiss-Wright Corporation’s St. Louis, MO, plant. More information on the Cadettes, as the women were known, is available in RS 13/16/4, Curtiss-Wright Engineering Cadettes Program Records, 1941-1945. A finding aid is available online.

Posted by: Stephanie | November 15, 2013

Happy 101st birthday to ISU Homecoming

On November 15 and 16, 1912, Iowa State University held its first Homecoming weekend. The game, which was against arch-rival University of Iowa, was held on the football field known as “State Field,” situated approximately where Parks Library sits today.


The first Homecoming game played at Iowa State on November 16, 1912

More information about the 1912 Homecoming is available online in the Special Collections exhibit about the history of Homecoming at Iowa State University. A number of photos are available on our Flickr site, too!

Posted by: Stephanie | November 11, 2013

Veterans in the Archives: Learning More about Henry Black

Today, the United States observes Veterans Day, which commemorates veterans of all wars. If you’re familiar with Iowa State University, you probably know Henry Montgomery Black – even if you don’t think you do. Professor Black, a World War II veteran and the head of the Mechanical Engineering department from 1946 until 1972, is the namesake of the Black Engineering Building. Special Collections hosts the Black Family papers, and we have recently processed Henry Black’s professional papers from his tenure at ISU.

Box 2, Folder 7, Henry Montgomery Black Papers

Black in his role as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, circa 1950s (Box 2, Folder 7, RS 11/10/19)

As is to be expected, the Henry Montgomery Black Papers provide insight into the field of mechanical and professional engineering, particularly at Iowa State University, his alma mater (1929) and employer. Dr. Black was very interested in the direction of engineering education; this interest led him to roles in a number of engineering organizations, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME), the Engineers’ Council for Professional Development, and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Since many, if not all, of his students aimed to become licensed professional engineers, Black kept a hand in professional engineering standards and examinations, serving in a leadership position on the Iowa State Board of Engineering Examiners for several years. The collection reflects all of these associations and his contributions to them.

Henry Black was a man of many interests, and his papers sketch a more nuanced picture of his contributions outside of engineering leadership. As an example, for nearly 20 years Black worked on the annual ASME design problem contest, a challenge aimed at inspiring creativity from engineering students that is still in existence today. He was interested in practical applications of engineering, not just its study, and the contest was a way to help students apply their knowledge. The papers show that the professors who wrote the test questions were challenged to develop difficult problems for students to solve!

He was also an amateur historian who collected historical information for the institutions to which he claimed allegiance. His papers contain notes on the history of mechanical engineering at ISU, which he used as department head and professor; the history of mechanical engineering in the United States, which was relevant as a member of ASME’s Centennial Committee and its the History Subcommittee; and the Army Reserve’s history at ISU, which was important to him as an alumnus and a World War II veteran.

Box 1, Folder 25, Henry Montgomery Black Papers

Black and students pictured during an inspection trip, gaining first-hand, practical knowledge of the mechanical engineering field (Box 1, Folder 25, RS 11/10/19)

Black’s military career is represented in his professional papers as well. A famous saying goes, “once a Marine, always a Marine,” and the sentiment applies to Black’s Army service as well.  His Army career started in 1929, when he joined the Reserves upon graduation from Iowa State. This led to his role as chief engineer of the Army’s landing at Utah Beach during the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Black resumed his reservist status when he returned to Iowa State and did not retire until 1960. Over those nearly 15 years, as the commander of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers group, he attended and led training for other soldier-engineers. These case studies and problems appear in his Iowa State files, indicating that perhaps the Army Corps of Engineers were not the only one to benefit from Black’s time in its employ.

Black’s contributions extend to the community of Ames as well. He was active in the Tall Corn Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, using his engineering insight to help maintain various Boy Scout camps in Iowa. As evidenced by a scrapbook and newsletters in his papers, Black served year-long presidencies of the Ames Chamber of Commerce and the Ames Rotary Club and was a long-time member of both organizations. Curious about the history of these business and community service organizations in Ames? The Henry Black Papers can satisfy that craving.   For more information about the Henry Montgomery Black Papers (RS 11/10/19) or our other faculty and alumni collections, please visit us online or on the fourth floor of Parks Library in the Special Collections department, open M-F, 10 am to 4pm. A copy of the paper’s finding aid, listing all the materials and providing more background on the collection, is also available online here.

Posted by: Stephanie | October 31, 2013

New Faces in Special Collections

There have been some new faces around the Special Collections and University Archives department on the fourth floor of Parks lately. In fact, we have been here for almost three months, so it’s downright rude that we have not stopped in at the ISU Special Collections blog to introduce ourselves. Time to remedy that! Earlier this year, having said goodbye to our Head, Tanya Zanish-Belcher, in February and anticipating the departure of Collections Archivist Michele Christian in August, the department hired three Project Archivists.

The first of us to arrive on scene at the University Library was Whitney Olthoff, who became a member of staff in late July. In fact, Whitney has been here before; she is a 2009 alumna with a degree in psychology. From here, she went on to library school at Indiana University in Bloomington, where she specialized in Archives and Records Management and both worked and interned at the Indiana University Archives. As a student worker, she processed several collections, including the Indiana University Association of Women Students Records and about half of former IU president John W. Ryan’s papers. She also gained experience working with photographs, encoding in TEI and EAD, and creating exhibits and displays. During the interim period between graduating from IU and returning to ISU, she moved back home to the majestic cornfields of Iowa, mastered her cover letter writing skills, and worked part-time as a library assistant at the Ericson Public Library in Boone. Whitney is happy to be back at her alma mater and to be working in her first real grown-up job.

Project Archivists

Our new project archivists, from left: Stephanie Bennett, Amy Bishop, and Whitney Olthoff

Second of the Project Archivists (the middle child, if you will) to arrive was Stephanie Bennett, fresh from Boston College’s John J. Burns Library. While at the Burns, Stephanie was part of a team that processed more than 400 feet of manuscript collections related to the city of Boston, including the papers of a professor and penologist, unfortunately known for a high-number of escaped prisoners under his watch; theater playbills from playhouses all around the world, dated 1850-2005; and the records of the New England Deaconess Hospital, one of many long-tenured medical establishments in the city. Prior to earning her graduate degree from Boston’s Simmons College, Stephanie lived in Washington, DC, and made a living as a research analyst for consulting companies. She hails from the coast of North Carolina, and in a Six Degrees of Separation move that would make Kevin Bacon jealous, has her undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University, where former Head of the Special Collections Department, Tanya Zanish-Belcher, now works.

Last on scene at the University Library, but certainly not least, was Amy Bishop, who joined the Special Collections team in late August.  Her move to Iowa was the latest in a series of determined attempts to remain in the frigid climes of the North while being paid for doing what she loves. After eighteen years in New Mexico, she made a bold move to reclaim her Midwestern roots by attending college in the frozen tundra of northern Wisconsin at Northland College. From there she moved on to Massachusetts where she landed her dream job in… accounts receivable. Well, that paid the bills, but Amy began volunteering at the Thoreau Institute Library at Walden Woods. That led her back to the Midwest, to Urbana-Champaign for graduate school in library science, specializing in special collections. As a graduate assistant at the University of Illinois’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, she processed the Combat Paper Project Collection – a group of records and art pieces from an art therapy organization developed by and for combat veterans – as well as an addition to the Marcel Proust papers. Much to her surprise, she fell in love with the Illinois cornfields, and so Amy happily moved up the Corn Belt to work at ISU, where she daydreams of snow-covered fields.

In short, though we’ve taken many paths to arrive here, we three are all pleased to join a great team in the University’s Special Collections. You’ll be hearing from us regularly through this blog, as we write about our profession and the collections available at ISU. If something piques your interest, stop by the Special Collections reading room on the fourth floor of Parks Library to seek our help regarding Iowa State’s many interesting records and papers. See you here!

Posted by: Whitney | September 30, 2013

Jack Trice: A Sacrifice Remembered


Jack Trice, 1923

A new online digital collection, containing highlights from the Jack Trice Papers and University Photographs, is available for viewing. 90 years ago this October, an Iowa State legend lost his life from injuries sustained during his first college football game. John G. Trice, better known as Jack, was born in 1902 in the small town of Hiram, Ohio. He later attended high school in Cleveland at East Technical High School, where he had a stellar football career. When his high school coach, Sam Willaman, left to coach at what was then Iowa State College, Trice followed to study animal husbandry with the ultimate goal of going south to help fellow African-Americans in their farming endeavors. While at Iowa State, Trice participated in both track and football, though he is best known for the latter. While just about everyone who has ever been associated with Iowa State knows the story of Trice’s first and last game with the college, here it is for those who are not familiar with it.

On October 6, 1923 Iowa State College (now University) played the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Trice was excited to play in his first college football game and, according to his “last letter,” felt like he had something to prove. In the second play of the game, Trice broke his collar, but said he was alright and kept playing. Then, during the third quarter, University of Minnesota players tackled Trice, forcing him to the ground and crushing him. Although he again claimed to be fine, he was taken out of the game and sent to the hospital. After an examination, the doctors decided that he was fit to travel, and he returned to Ames with the rest of his team. Not long after, on October 8, 1923, Jack Trice passed away from internal bleeding due to injuries from the game. According to a hospital record, he died of traumatic peritonitis following an injury to his abdomen. He left behind a young wife, Cora Mae, whom he had married just that previous summer and who was devastated by the news. Jack Trice is the only athlete to have died as a result of playing for Iowa State.

The night before the game, Trice wrote a letter, part of which is pictured below. It not only gives us a glimpse into what he was thinking and feeling the night before the big game, but it shows that he may have had some sense of what was to come.

Jack Trice letter.  Special Collections Department, Iowa State University.

The first page of the letter that Jack Trice wrote the night before his first, and final, game.

the most  poignant excerpt reads as follows:

“The honor of my race, family, and self is at stake. Every one is expecting me to do big things. I will. My whole body and soul are to be thrown recklessly about the field. “

Jack Trice made history even before the fated football game. He was Iowa State College’s first African-American athlete, which is made more significant by the fact that this was the early 1920s and many schools, especially in the South, did not have integrated teams until the 1950s and 1960s. Not everyone viewed Trice’s involvement on Iowa State’s team as a good thing. The states of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma all refused to let their schools play against an African-American; essentially what they said was that either Trice would not play in the games against them, or there would be no football game. As expected of that time, Trice faced prejudice and discrimination, and yet he kept going. It does seem, however, that he and his fellow teammates got along well enough.

Jack Trice and teammates 1923 copy

Jack Trice and some of his teammates, 1923

Today, a bronze statue of Trice, erected in 1987, stands near Jack Trice Stadium, the only Division I-A stadium named after an African-American. The stadium, built in 1975 to replace Clyde Williams Field, was finally named after Trice in 1997 after a long promotion to name it after him that started in 1973. It was originally named Cyclone Stadium in 1984 and the playing field was named Jack Trice Field at that time as well. Now the stadium and bronze statue stand as a commemoration of a young man who sacrificed all for his team, his race, his family, and himself.

For more information on Jack Trice, in addition to what can be found in the online digital collection, feel free to contact us or stop by the Special Collections Department to view the physical collection.  To see what the collection contains, click here.  To learn more about Jack Trice Stadium, please see collection RS 4/8/4. Come on in and see us!


Russian World War I soldiers in the battlefield and trenches (photographs from Box 15, Scrapbook 2; image number 36 in the online digital copy).

Next summer marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the first war fought on a large, global scale. A recent addition to the University Archives included a number of materials from a soldier who had fought in World War I.  The grandfather of former ISU Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Hoffman, Andrew Kalpaschnikoff, fought in the Russian Army during this time. His accounts of the Great War and other experiences are held in the Special Collections Department and are ready for research!

Andrew Kalpaschnikoff grew up in Imperial Russia’s upper class, was employed by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Ambassador to the United States, and later joined the Russian Army during World War I. While in service, he was named Director of the Russian Red Cross, which explains the many Red Cross-related photographs within his materials. After the Bolshevik Revolution, Kalpaschnikoff was arrested and imprisoned by the Communists, escaped, and returned to the United States. Afterward, he wrote a book entitled A Prisoner of Trotsky’s (1920), a later copy of which can be found in the Special Collections (call number DK265.7 K25 2009x).

Kalpaschnikoff’s materials are located within the Elizabeth Hoffman Papers, RS 13/1/26. The materials related to Kalpaschnikoff include photographs, photograph albums, and undated memoirs. In his memoirs, Kalpaschnikoff tells of his encounters with such notable figures as Czar Nicholas II and Leon Trotsky. The two photograph albums can be viewed online here and here. They are well worth a look! These photographs include images of battleground sites, wounded soldiers, and Red Cross stations. A further description of the series and the collection can be found online.


Russian Red Cross workers and a patient during World War I (photographs from Box 15, Scrapbook 1; image number 20 in the online digital copy).

Collections of other World War I materials can also be found in the Special Collections Department.  A subject guide for collections related to World War I is available online.

If you have questions regarding the collection, please contact the Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library at 515-294-4216, or visit our website. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted by: Laura | August 13, 2013

A Farewell to Michele Christian!

Michele a few years after starting here at Iowa State.

Michele a few years after starting here at Iowa State.

August 1, 2013 was Michele Christian’s last day here in the Special Collections Department at the Iowa State University Library.  Collections Archivist and University Records Analyst while at Iowa State, she recently accepted the position of University Archivist at South Dakota State University.  As is usual for Michele, her last day was not an uneventful one.  She worked with dedication up until the very end!  Even with the possibility of a little less excitement here in the department, she will be sorely missed.  Last week was a hard one for everyone who had worked closely with her here!

We had hoped to put together a blog post before she left, and we can completely blame her for this sorely belated post.  Since she did so much here in the department, we had to make sure that we learned as much as possible before she left.  As a result, we have all felt her loss with the additional duties we have taken on!  And, as usual, she was generous and tried to help us to have enough time to quiz her about all that she did (and, of course, to create a blog post before her departure!) by unselfishly extending the amount of time before leaving Iowa State (she had only a three day weekend before starting her new job on August 5th).  However, not yet as skilled as Michele in juggling all of her duties, we were unable to take advantage of her generosity.  We hope that we can repay her a at least a little with the following blog post for our departed colleague!

Before working at Iowa State, Michele was the labor archivist at the State Historical Society of Iowa in Iowa City (October 1999-September 2000).  She was also an archivist at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (September 1998-August 1999).  Coming to Iowa State in the fall of 2000, she began as University Records Analyst and was later promoted to Collections  Archivist.  She received her MA in history and her MLIS from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.  In addition to her dedication to Iowa State, one has a hard time forgetting about her passion for the University of Northern Iowa (where she met her husband and received her BA in history) since she could almost always be found wearing  purple on Fridays (and the rest of us in the department tried to make sure that our purple attire remained at home on that particular day of the week!).


Michele wearing purple for the University of Northern Iowa on one of her final days here at Iowa State.

Michele did so much for our department, it is hard to summarize everything she did during her thirteen years here.  She tirelessly helped both donors and researchers alike, in addition to being an advocate for the archives and giving numerous tours and presentations to classes, researchers and visitors.  In addition to managing the team that worked with the University Archives which includes the books, archival collections, audio-visual materials, photographs, and artifacts, she also worked to make our resources more readily available on the web by setting up many of our Web 2.0 sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter.  And, as readers may notice, she was the unofficial photographer for our department.  As a result, much to our dismay while putting together this post, few of the photographs of our department include Michele!  In addition to her duties here in the department, she also produced papers and presentations as a faculty member.  To see a selection of Michele’s publications, please visit her SelectedWorks page.

Besides taking on multiple projects and responsibilities, Michele’s door was always open to colleagues, co-workers and students alike both for advice and encouragement.  It goes without saying that Michele has been missed, and will continue to be.  We wish her all the very best in her future endeavors at South Dakota State University!

Commencement 1936

Commencement 1936

With Commencement taking place a few weeks ago, and orientation beginning this week, Iowa State has been experiencing both the beginning and ending stages of a student’s life here on campus.  As an archivist, we might wonder how many of these Iowa Staters are carefully saving records documenting their experiences here at Iowa State?  How many of those pictured above in the 1936 Commencement carefully saved those dance cards, VEISHEA programs, photographs of fellow students, and other memorabilia from their life here at Iowa State?

The University Archives receives the papers of former Iowa State students on an annual basis, and each documents their experiences here at Iowa State, and sometimes their life after, in different ways.  Below are brief summaries of just a few alumni collections which we have either received recently, or which we have recently put the finding aids for their collections online. The collections cover a variety of topics including student life at Iowa State, 4-H, the temperance movement, and service during World War I.

Austin Robert (Bob) Koch (1915-2008) was born near Ida Grove, Iowa. A. Robert Koch received his B.S. (1940) in agronomy from Iowa State College (University). He later worked for the United States Department of Agriculture for 33 years in various supervisory positions within the Farm Security Administration, later known as the Farmers Home Administration. This collection contains biographical information, college coursework, photographs, and class reunion materials for the Iowa State class of 1940. Koch’s college coursework includes reports, notes, and exams in botany, geology, crop breeding, animal husbandry, soil science, and bacteriology.  The finding aid for his papers can be found online:


A Golden Diploma given to Austin Robert Koch in 1990 by the ISU Alumni Association “in recognition of many years as a loyal alumnus of Iowa State University”.

Susan Carberry Drtina was born in 1957 and raised in Newhall, Iowa. She joined 4-H as a member of the Eldorado-Ettes and, later, the Eldorado Early Birds in Benton County. This collection includes Drtina’s 4-H record book and other memorabilia documenting her time as a member of the Eldorado Early Birds 4-H Club. The finding aid for her papers can be found online:


Drtina’s Benton County 4-H Home Economics blue ribbon (first place) (RS 21/7/243).

Della Neal was born on November 22, 1862 in Hamilton, Pennsylvania. She earned her B.S. (1882) from Iowa Agricultural College (Iowa State University). Neal eventually completed training in nursing and became active in the state and national temperance movement. This collection includes some of Neal’s writings, including college course work and writings on the temperance movement.  The finding aid for her papers can be found online:

21-7-28 neal

A letter noting the influence of young girls on young men.

R. E. McCurdy was born in Cass County, Iowa on Octber 15, 1887. He received his undergraduate education from Iowa State College (University), graduating with a B.S. (1916) in civil engineering. These reminiscences were written by McCurdy and describe events as they unfolded in his life, including his service in World War I. McCurdy also writes about his many engineering jobs that took him around the world.  The finding aid for his papers can be found online:


The first page of McCurdy’s reminiscences in which he describes his first memory, the morning of his third birthday.

Virgil D. Kirby of Sioux City, Iowa, was born in 1895. He received his B.S. (1917) in mechanical engineering from Iowa State College (University). As a student, he was a member of the Colonials (Theta Delta Chi), the Delphian Literary Society, and the Mechanical Engineering Society. This college scrapbook (1913-1917) was compiled by Kirby while at Iowa State. The scrapbook contains 222 black and white photographs, campus postcards, dance cards, and other college memorabilia. There are a significant number of images of classmates, fraternity brothers, and the interior and exterior of the Colonials’ fraternity house at 217 Ash Avenue. Other materials include picture postcards of campus buildings and scenery, football team photographs, homecoming souvenirs, literary society programs, picture postcards of St. Patrick’s Day parades, and several photographs of the band on the field at the University of Nebraska football stadium.  The finding aid for her collection can be found online:


Two 1926 postcards from Ames and London. Catt Hall (in 1926 known as Botany Hall) can be seen in the top postcard.

Mary E. (Graf) Speer was born and educated in Elkader, Iowa. She received her B.S. (1946) in food and nutrition from Iowa State College (University) and became a consulting dietitian with small hospitals and nursing facilities throughout Central Iowa. This collection consists of loose scrapbook pages of memorabilia compiled by Speer during her college years at Iowa State. These materials include newspaper clippings, dance cards, athletic programs, concert programs, VEISHEA programs, Frisbie Fellowship Club materials, travel brochures, and her membership certificate for joining Sigma Eta Chi. The newspaper clippings cover various topics including student life, women’s fashion trends, the integration of blacks into Big 6 athletic competitions, and World War II. The finding aid for her collection can be found online:


Mary E. Speer’s 1946 senior prom dance card (RS 21/7/250)

Interested in seeing more of the alumni papers above, or perhaps other papers of Iowa State alumni we might hold?  Please feel free to visit our department on the fourth floor of Parks Library (M-F, 10-4).  Additional alumni papers held by the University Archives can be found listed here:

Iowa Seed Company-1913_cover

With the slow onset of spring this year, many are probably getting anxious to be able to get out into their gardens.  Most have hopefully already ordered their seeds…so what can one do while waiting through the next week of rain?  Or perhaps you are looking for some interesting historical resources to use as you finish up your projects at the end of the semester.  The Digital Collections site has a selection of our materials available, including a number of our seed catalogs.

The Seed Catalogs Digital Collection contains digitized copies of a variety of seed catalogs from the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th century.  Companies include C. W. Dorr, Iowa Seed Company, and Page and Kelsey.  The catalogs can be quite fun to look through, in addition to being a wonderful study on the varieties of seeds available at that time and the different ways companies promoted and described their seeds.  Catalogs include seeds and bulbs for flowers, trees, herbs, ornamental shrubs, vegetables, grains, grasses, and fruit.  In addition, the catalogs often also include gardening tools and implements.

Most of the seed catalogs are from the Iowa Seed Company.  What did the Iowa Seed Company’s catalog look like one hundred years ago, in 1913?

Curious about the types of corn they might have sold for a later season like the one we are having now? (page 48):

Iowa Seed Company-1913_corn

Or the “curious vegetables”, such as eggplant, sesame, ornamental mice, cotton and Egyptian lentils (page 16):

Iowa Seed Company-1913_curious vegetables

And, if one would like birds for their garden, the Iowa Seed Company has a variety to choose from (page 146):

Iowa Seed Company-1913_birds

Have any of these pages sparked your interested?  Interested in the flowers, grains, and other seeds available through these early seed catalogs?  If you would like, take a look at more seed catalogs available from Digital Collections, or visit our department to look at the originals.  We have other seed catalogs which can be find from the library’s webpage.  In addition, we have several related manuscript collections such as the Iowa Seed and Nursery Pamphlets Collection (MS 393), and a wide variety of publications and archival collections related to agriculture.

Posted by: Laura | March 22, 2013

Job Opening: Project Archivist

The Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library is currently searching for a 2-year term Project Archivist.  If you are interested, please visit for a complete description, qualifications and application instructions (Vacancy ID:  130256).

Below is a brief description of the position:

The Iowa State University Library is currently seeking applications for a Library Associate II position. This position will serve as a Project Archivist in the Special Collections Department. Responsibilities include appraising, arranging, rehousing, general preservation activities, and describing large 20th century archival collections. Collection management duties include establishing an overall organization for the collections; assuring efficient, effective, and appropriate processing based on archival policies and procedures; and creating finding aids that include historical notes, scope and content, and series descriptions. This position will work under the direction of the Collections Archivist.

The Project Archivist will work collaboratively with others in regards to the archival processing, preservation and digitization of records. This position will serve as backup on the departmental reference desk and may also supervise part-time student assistants.

The successful candidate will have the ability to work independently and collaboratively, creatively, and effectively as a part of a team; interact effectively with library staff; and communicate effectively (written and oral). The ability to perform physical activities associated with archival environments including lifting up to 40lbs will also be needed for success in this position.

To ensure consideration, please submit your application by April 21, 2013.

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