Posted by: Whitney | April 11, 2014

National Poetry Month: Songs of Iowa

It’s National Poetry Month, and our department has several collections involving poetry. One of particular interest may be the Iowa Sheet Music Collection, MS 474, a collection of songs by Iowa songwriters and/or about Iowa. Songs, as you may know, are essentially poetry set to music (one could even argue that music is a sort of poetry, but let’s not go there today). Within the collection, the songs about Iowa truly showcase Iowa pride in the early 20th century.

We're more than just corn. We also have soybeans. Hamilton County, Iowa, summer 2011. Photo courtesy of myself.

We’re more than just corn. We also have soybeans. Hamilton County, Iowa, summer 2011. Photo courtesy of Whitney Olthoff (myself).

Iowa pride. It’s an actual thing, though people not from Iowa may wonder why on earth anyone would be proud to come from this state. As someone who spent a couple years out of state, I’ve gotten my share of “what do you… like… DO there?” and “do you mean Ohio?” or, “oh, you grow potatoes there, right?” No, we are not Idaho, nor Ohio, nor should it warrant a disappointed or pitying reaction. I missed my home state quite a lot when I was in Indiana (even though southern Indiana is a beautiful place). Sure I missed my family, my friends, my dog, my favorite restaurants… but I also missed the land itself. It can be very beautiful with its rolling hills and patchwork quilt fields. But above all, it’s home. I love it, and lots of other Iowans love it, too. Now before I get carried away and go on and on about the understated awesomeness that is Iowa, let’s focus on other people’s love letters to this state – in that form of poetry loved so well, song.

"Iowa, Proud Iowa" by Virginia K. Logan and Frederic Knight Logan, 1920. The inscription implies this was a gift from the Logans to Mrs. L. B. Schmidt.

“Iowa, Proud Iowa” by Virginia K. Logan and Frederic Knight Logan, 1920. The inscription implies this was a gift from the Logans to Mrs. L. B. Schmidt.

“Iowa, Proud Iowa,” pictured above, is a poem by Virginia K. Logan, set to music by Frederic Knight Logan. On the inside cover is a list of Iowa facts, including its pronunciation – “I’-o-wah.” A few other fun facts listed include “First settled near the present site of Dubuque by French, in 1788,” “A leading state in agricultural interests, fine livestock raising, and coal and lead mines,” and “Iowa’s State Motto: – ‘Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain.'” The first verse of the song is as follows:

“All hail! Iowa, Queen of the West!

With her broad rolling prairies so fertile and blest

Where cool shady streams flow ‘mid verdure so rare,

With Iowa’s beauty no state can compare.”

Another song, “The New Iowa Song: Iowa I Love Best,” was written and composed by Coe Pettit, 1925. It was dedicated to the Kiwanis Club of McGregor, Iowa, which sponsored the publishing of the song. For your reading pleasure, here is the third verse:

“I thought I’d like to travel, I thought I’d like to roam,

So then to realize my dreams, I wandered far from home;

Now since I’ve seen the others, I know what I like best;

I’ll take my good old Iowa, And they can have the rest.”

"Iowa Corn Song" by J. T. Beeston and G. E. Hamilton, 1922 (the cover says 1921, but the copyright is 1922)

“Iowa Corn Song” by J. T. Beeston and G. E. Hamilton, 1922 (the cover says 1921, but the copyright is 1922)

“Iowa Corn Song,” pictured above, was written by J. T. Beeston with the chorus written by G. E. Hamilton. Beeston was the director of the Za-Ga-Zig Temple All Shrine Band, who played this song in Des Moines and “all conclaves” in 1921. It is also titled “The Official Za-Ga-Zig’s ‘Iowa Corn Song’.” The first verse of the song goes as follows:

“Of all the states in the U.S.A. There’s only one for me,

It’s the good old state of I O A and we’re proud of her by gee,

We’re a bunch of corn-fed shriners, full of mirth and merry jest,

Our Temple it’s Za-Ga-Zig, all shrinedom knows the rest.”

Here’s the chorus:

“We’re from I O A, I O A,

From that grand old land trav’ling o’er the sand,

We’re from I O A, I O A,

That’s where the tall corn grows.”

“On a Little Farm in Iowa,” by Fred Howard and Nat Vincent, 1936, is referred to in the sheet music as “the new Iowa Corn Song” and the “state theme song.” It was used by Farm Folks Hour, Hawkeye Dinnertime, and Tall Corn Gang on the Iowa Br0adcasting System. The following is a verse and the very start of the chorus (which is most of the song):

“Yesterday I met a stranger,

Far away from his home town

And his tear filled eyes, made me realize,

How I long to settle down,

[Chorus] On a little farm in I-O-WAY

Where the folks are happy all the day…”

"I'm From Iowa (That Beautiful Iowa Song)" by Alice E. Snow and Clifford R. Snow, 1923

“I’m From Iowa (That Beautiful Iowa Song)” by Alice E. Snow and Clifford R. Snow, 1923

“I’m From Iowa (That Beautiful Iowa Song),” picture above, was written by Alice E. Snow with music by Clifford R. Snow and published in Goldfield, Iowa. The first verse follows a familiar theme:

“I’m a long way from home,

For I’m out on a roam;

And the world seems sad to me,

I would give all I own for a note from home sweet home;

From those friends I am longing to see,”

And the chorus also contains something familiar:

“Oh I’m from Iowa

Yes she is queen of the west

I’ll say that she is the best

That’s where I’m goin’

I can hear the cattle lowin’

Out in my home in the west.”

Either “queen of the west” was a common phrase for Iowa at the time, or this alludes back to “Iowa, Proud Iowa.” Either way, it’s interesting. The other theme here and throughout much of this list is homesickness. Clearly, it has played a significant role in the love for Iowa. So many of these songs convey a sense of longing for the author’s homeland, it makes one wonder whether this is common with all places, or if there is something different about Iowa that draws people’s thoughts back here. A discussion for another day, perhaps.

“Flag of Iowa” was penned by Mrs. Laura Wright in the hope of it being incorporated into the classroom in Iowa schools to familiarize students with the state flag. No year is given on the sheet music, as it simply says “Copyright applied for,” but based on information about the flag provided on the back of the music, the design of the state flag was made official in March 1921. Presumably, this song was written not too long after. The first verse is as follows:

“Dear old flag of Iowa. Wave, O, Wave.

You’re the emblem of a noble state. Wave, O, Wave.

For an hundred years she’s battled for the right

And we pledge our allegiance,

We’ll never give up the fight to keep her honor bright.”

"Iowa" by Meredith Willson, featured by Bing Crosby, 1944

“Iowa” by Meredith Willson, featured by Bing Crosby, 1944

Last to be featured here, but by no means least, is “Iowa,” written by Iowa’s own Meredith Willson, 1944. As many from this state know, Willson, who came from Mason City, wrote and composed the Broadway and cinematic hit The Music Man. The song pictured above was performed by none other than Bing Crosby. Here is the introduction and first part of the chorus:

“Ioway Ioway

That’s how they sing it in the Tall Corn Song

Other people call it I-“O”-WA

And they’re both just a little bit wrong.

[Chorus] I-O-WA, it’s a beautiful name

When you say it like we say it back home

It’s the robin in the willows,

It’s the post-master’s friendly hello.

I-O-WA, it’s a beautiful name

You’ll remember it where ever you roam;

It’s the sumac in September,

It’s the squeak of your shoes in the snow.”

Yet another song that harkens back to an earlier song on this list! Several of the songs in the collection use “Ioway” as a pronunciation, though of course no one today pronounces it that way. Mr. Willson has the right of it. And again, there is a hint of homesickness in this song. Oh, what papers could be written on this subject (hint, hint).

Keep in mind that this is only a small selection of the songs in the Iowa Sheet Music Collection. To see more, as well as songs not about Iowa but by Iowa songwriters, stop in and see us sometime!

Posted by: Whitney | April 11, 2014

CyPix: VEISHEA Cherry Pies!

It’s finally here: VEISHEA! And soon those treats most synonymous with the celebration will be available – cherry pies. In fact, the cherry pies are a tradition that came about even before VEISHEA in the early 1920s.Started by the Division of Home Economics, the cherry pie sale is now run by the Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management (formerly Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management). Originally, they were sold in February to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. Today, they are a staple of our annual college celebration. More information on these delectable desserts can be found here.

Making pies for VEISHEA, 1954

Making pies for VEISHEA, 1954

The acronym, VEISHEA, stands for Veterinary Medicine, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics, and Agriculture, all of which were the divisions that were in existence in 1922 when VEISHEA began. Iowa State College (University) didn’t become a university until 1959, so until that time it consisted of “divisions” rather than “colleges.” Today, VEISHEA continues to be a celebration of each of the colleges and the university as a whole.

For more information on VEISHEA and cherry pies, see this online exhibit, our digital collection, or come and look through through any one of our VEISHEA collections! Be sure to check out more photos of VEISHEA (including more involving cherry pies) here. Also, we’ve had several blog posts on the subject over the last couple of years, so read on!

Have a fun (and safe) VEISHEA, everyone!

Graduation image

Born a slave, George Washington Carver received two degrees from Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University), and gained an international reputation during his career at Tuskegee University. Although the exact date of Carver’s birth is unknown, he was born around the year 1864 and many are celebrating this year as the 150th anniversary of his birth.

As an agricultural scientist, Carver’s research resulted in the creation of 325 products from a variety of food items such as peanuts, sweet potatoes, and hundreds more from a dozen other plants native to the South. These products contributed to rural economic improvement by offering alternative crops to cotton that were beneficial for the farmers and for the land.

The George Washington Carver Collection in the University Archives holds information on his life and work. In addition, Digital Collections at the Iowa State University Library maintains a digital collection which includes a selection of materials from the University Archives documenting his time here at Iowa State (primarily images) and his correspondence with Iowa State colleagues after he was at Tuskegee: The majority of correspondence is to Carver’s mentor, Dr. Louis Pammel, on a variety of scientific topics.

Only a portion of the George Washington Carver collection housed in the Special Collections Department is represented in the digital collection. The finding aid for the complete list of Carver materials available through Special Collections can be found here:

Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be hosting a George Washington Carver Life and Legacy Symposium on April 23, 2014 which will focus on encouraging future “George Washington Carver” students at Iowa State. The Special Collections Department will be participating in the Symposium, creating a booth which will highlight a selection of the diverse students who followed in Carver’s footsteps here at Iowa State. For more information about the Symposium, see

Posted by: Stephanie | April 1, 2014

CyPix: Bring Back Bruce Jenner

It’s April 1, so you may think this is a prank, but nope: the famous (notorious?)  Kardashian stepdad appeared in the VEISHEA parade in 1977.

Parade-1977-Bruce Jenner


Through a generous grant from the Silos & Smokestacks Agricultural Heritage Internship Grant Program, the Special Collections and Preservation Departments of the Iowa State University Library are offering a summer internship. The Silos & Smokestacks Agricultural Heritage Internship is a full-time, 10-week project position to develop a digital collection on Iowa State’s early Extension movement and create content for an interpretive website.  We will be accepting applications through Friday, April 18th.  For more information, please visit our website:

Cover bound in gray cloth showing mountain peaks with white-stamped highlights against a gold-stamped background with title lettering stamped in gold.

Front cover of A Search for the Apex of America by Annie S. Peck, published in 1911. F3423 .P36

Today when you buy a book at a bookstore, you expect it to come already bound from the publisher. But that wasn’t always the case. Before 1830, when you purchased a book from a bookseller, you were presented with a number of options. You could choose among more or less expensive leather bindings to suit your taste and budget, or you could even buy the book unbound in sheets or in temporary “paper over boards” so that you could commission your own binding.

Book bound in blue cloth with stylized letters and elaborate pictorial gold stamping.

Cover of Against Fate by Mrs. M. L. Rayne showing gold stamping. Published 1876. PS2679.R28 A33x 1876

That began to change around 1830. As literacy increased, there was an increasing demand for more affordable books, and publishers started to look for more economical ways to bind books than individually-crafted leather bindings. The result was edition-binding, or wholesale binding by the publisher for the mass market. Publishers developed book cloth that was much less expensive than leather but could be decorated in similar ways, such as with blind stamping and gold stamping (more on that later).

Most mass-market books from the 1830s through the 1910s were bound this way, often referred to as publisher’s bindings, after which they began to be replaced by paper dust jackets, which are still used today. Throughout the decades, the styles of these bindings have changed to reflect the social periods and artistic movements of their eras.

Here is a selection of some publisher’s bindings that can be found in the stacks of ISU Special Collections.

A book bound in blue cloth with a blind stamped central floral pattern inside a frame.

Blind stamped front cover showing a central floral vignette inside a frame. Poetry of Observation and Other Poems by William Asbury Kenyon. Published 1851 by Wm. Crosby and H. P. Nichols. PS2164 K4 P6x

This 1851 copy of Poetry of Observation and Other Poems, by William Asbury Kenyon is an example of the use of blind stamping. Stamping impressed a pattern into the surface of the binding, and “blind” means that there is no gold or color added to the surface. The next picture shows the use of gold and black stamping together.

Front book cover bound in brown cloth with black and gold stamping, showing the use of the diagonal and asymmetrical design.

Front cover of 1877 volume Edgar Allan Poe : A Memorial Volume showing characteristics of Eastlake style. PS2635 R35x 1877

The Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Volume, published in 1877, shows common characteristics of 1870s bindings, especially the influence of the British architect and furniture designer Charles Eastlake. Eastlake style can be seen here in the asymmetrical design and the use of strong diagonals.

Elaborate Victorian publisher's binding uses green cloth and gold, brown, and orange stamping showing a pictorial design.

Front cover used in the “Five Little Peppers” series, first published 1880, shows a very Victorian use of elaborate design and multiple color stamping. Shown here: Phronsie Pepper: The Last of the “Five little Peppers” by Margaret Sidney. PZ7 L913p

This binding is a good example of a Victorian binding from the 1880s with its  elaborate use of stamping, colors, and images. This particular cover appeared on the first edition of Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and continued with other books in the series, including this copy of Phronsie Pepper: the Last of the “Five little Peppers”.

Book cover bound in blue-gray cloth, title lettering stamped in silver  with silver scrollwork decorations above and below lettering and along spine.

Cover designed by Sarah Wyman Whitman showing her characteristic simplicity and elegance and her particular letterform. Dorothy Q by Oliver Wendell Holmes. PS1959 .D6 1893a

The 1890s was a period known for binding designers. These were usually professional artists, often associated with a particular publishing house. One of these designers was Sarah Wyman Whitman, whose design of the book Dorothy Q, Together with a Ballad of the Boston Tea Party & Grandmother’s Story of Bunker Hill Battle by Oliver Wendell Holmes is shown above. In contrast to the lavish designs of the Victorian 1880s, Whitman’s designs featured simple and elegant forms and her own distinctive lettering style.

This gives just a taste of some of the artistic styles to be found in publisher’s bindings. If this whets your appetite for more, check out these excellent online exhibits:

Publisher’s Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books by the University of Alabama, University Libraries, in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries, provides extensive galleries and historical, literary and artistic essays.

Beauty for Commerce: Publisher’s Bindings, 1830-1910 by the University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries, Rare Books and Special Collections is organized by decade and provides a good overview of the development of the publisher’s binding over time.

And check out an earlier Parks Library Preservation blog post from our Conservator Melissa about her trip to the Rare Book School a few years ago to learn more about the 19th century publisher’s bindings in our collections.

As always, we hope to see you in Special Collections to look more closely at our fascinating rare book collections.

Posted by: Whitney | March 25, 2014

CyPix: Spring at ISU

It’s official – spring is here! The weather may not be cooperating, but the season has to win out eventually, right? In the meantime, enjoy this photo taken during Iowa State’s favorite spring tradition – VEISHEA. Here, the swans are taking advantage of an ice-free Lake LaVerne.

The swans at VEISHEA, 1936

The swans during VEISHEA, 1936, RS 22/12/G

Two of these swans are (presumably) the original Lancelot and Elaine, who were first introduced at VEISHEA in 1935. VEISHEA, for those not in the know, is a long standing tradition at Iowa State which this year will be held the second week of April. We’ll have more on this annual celebration in a few weeks. For more information on traditions at Iowa State, see our collection on traditions and legends, 00/16, which can be found in our subject guide. We also have collections devoted entirely to VEISHEA, including our digital collection, along with an online exhibit. And of course, tons of photos, including several featuring our swans, can be found on our Flickr page! This should all help pass the time while you’re waiting for the weather to catch up with the calendar.

Norman Borlaug, 1961

Norman E. Borlaug, near Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, northern Mexico, 1961. Photo courtesy CIMMYT.

March 25, 2014, marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Norman Borlaug, one of the most famous plant pathologists of the 20th century. It also marks the unveiling of a statue of Borlaug in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, where two notable figures from each state are on display.

Borlaug was born in Cresco, Iowa, and raised on a family farm. He received his degrees from the University of Minnesota, a B.S. in forestry in 1937 and a Ph.D. in plant pathology in 1942. After two years as a microbiologist with E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company – commonly known as DuPont – Borlaug spent 16 years in Mexico as the Rockefeller Foundation’s Associate Director of Agricultural Sciences. He later worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, also known by its Spanish language name Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trago (CIMMYT). In later years, Borlaug joined the faculty of Texas A&M University and established the World Food Prize, a Nobel-like award that recognized innovation in food production that advance world peace. The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates is located in Des Moines.

Borlaug’s litany of prizes for his efforts is a long one. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work developing high-yield, disease resistant wheat. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and a Congressional Gold Medal in 2006, the highest civilian awards in the United States. The National Science Board presented him with the Vannevar Bush Award for lifetime achievement in 2000. Upon his death on September 12, 2009, figures as varied as several United States presidents, Indian prime minister  Manmohan Singh, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan paid tribute to Borlaug’s vocation of reducing world hunger. Locally, the Borlaug Learning Center on Iowa State University’s Northeast Research Farm honors Iowa’s native son.

MS 467, Box 13

A crowd of men, possibly in Lebanon, learn farming operations through an interpreter. MS 467, box 13, folder 55.

Here at Iowa State’s Special Collections and University Archives, we hold 28.6 linear feet of Borlaug’s correspondence, with a small amount of photographs and lecture materials.  More information on MS 467, the Norman E. Borlaug Papers, is available online. Borlaug’s alma mater, the University of Minnesota, has digitized its holdings of his papers, available online here. Still more records are available at Texas A&M University, including recordings of oral history interviews with Borlaug, and at the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Considering his global vocation, it comes as no surprise that Norman Borlaug’s records exist in a number of locations as well.

The next time you’re in the nation’s capital, pay a visit to Dr. Borlaug in the Capitol; the next time you’re in Ames, pay a visit to his collection.

Posted by: Stephanie | March 18, 2014

CyPix: Mathematics and Community

Since Pi Day (you know, 3.1415926…) was on Friday, I figured I would dedicate this week’s photo to something mathematics-related, possibly from one of our collections regarding the Department of Mathematics or its current and long-time home, Carver Hall. However, in doing research, I stumbled upon the papers of Edward and Minne Allen (RS 13/14/51) and could not resist sharing a little slice of their lives.

RS 13/14/51, Allens

The Allens with unidentified people, on the steps of Steiner Hall, Grinnell College, circa 1960-1962.

Edward Allen was a native of Kansas City, Missouri, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at Harvard University. From 1921 to 1985 – more than 60 years – Allen was a Professor of Mathematics at Iowa State. Minne Allen, a native of Sondershausen, Germany, also taught here in the subjects of economics and sociology until the early 1930s, when Iowa State passed a law forbidding family members to be employed simultaneously. Together, the couple were active members of a small Religious Society of Friends (also referred to as Quaker) group here in Ames. The pair was also very involved in the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, which they helped found in 1935; Edward also served as president for three terms. Edward wrote about his work in peace and civil liberties, vocations shared with Minne, in his 1977 book Freedom in Iowa. Minne passed away in 1980, and Edward in 1985.

So, if you missed Pi Day, cut yourself a slice of pie and toast to the communities in Ames and in Iowa that flourished under the care of mathematician Edward and sociologist Minne. And when you’re done eating, come and check out their papers, RS 13/14/51, in the archives. The records consist of lecture materials, Iowa Civil Liberties Union materials, publications, course materials from Edward’s time at Harvard, and biographical information – including items in German.

The department recently received a letter, pictured below, that has now been placed in the Woman Suffrage Collection, MS 471.


Letter from Mary Safford to Mrs. E. N. Mann, 1912; MS 471, box 1, folder 6

Letter from Mary Safford to Mrs. E. N. Mann, 1912; MS 471, box 1, folder 6

Letter from Mary Safford to Mrs. E. N. Mann, 1912; MS 471, box 1, folder 6

This letter, written on October 14, 1912, was addressed to Mrs. E. N. Mann of Boone, from Mary Safford, President of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association. Rev. Safford wrote urging Mrs. Mann to accept a position on the Board of Directors of which she was elected after having left an unnamed convention. Rev. Safford wrote:

In any event, I wish to congratulate you on the honor conferred, tho [sic] you may think yourself more in need of sympathy. That is understood, at all times, on my part.

In her effort to persuade Mrs. Mann to take the position, Rev. Safford added the following:

I urge all this for the sake of our common cause, and wish to add my personal urgent request that you do not permit anything to cause you to refuse to serve.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know how this turned out, and what convention this was. The following remark makes me even more curious (the words in brackets are educated guesses – the letter is a bit worm-eaten):

I greatly admired your [action] in [the] Convention and wish to express my personal appreciation of your womanhood as manifest by your frank statement.

What was this “frank statement?” What exactly went on at this convention? Perhaps someday we’ll know more about all of this, but in the meantime we have many other women’s rights-related collections that are worth viewing. These include Iowa State University. University Committee on Women Records,  the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers, and the collections within the Archives of Women in Science and Engineering. Also see the Women’s Collections subject guide. If you’re at all curious about the history of women’s rights in Iowa, come in and read the rest of the letter and have a look at any of these great collections!

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 245 other followers