Posted by: Whitney | August 12, 2014

CyPix: WOI in the 1920s

January 12th 1925

Two men in the WOI recording studio, January 12, 1925

The 1920s: age of jazz, flappers and sheiks, the Charleston, and Prohibition. It was also arguably the decade in which the Golden Age of Radio began. At the very least, radio started to become quite popular during this time. The dapper gentlemen in the photo look as though they’re getting ready to go on the air in the WOI recording studio. WOI first went on the air on April 28, 1922, with market news as its first regular feature. The station began broadcasting Cyclones football games in fall of 1922. Two long-running radio programs began in this era, Music Shop (originally introduced by Andy Woolfries) and The Book Club. The former began in 1925 and ended in 2009, while the latter began in 1927 and ended in 2006. More information on WOI radio can be found in the WOI Radio and Television Records, the WOI Radio and Television Biographical Files, these other related collections, and more photos can be found on our Flickr site.


Posted by: Laura | August 8, 2014

Iowa State Alumni and the Iowa State Fair


1928 Champion Club Lamb at the Iowa State Fair (from University Photographs, box 1332)

Yesterday was the first day of the 2014 Iowa State Fair, and I’m sure quite a number of people are eagerly awaiting visiting the fairgrounds in the coming days!  The Special Collections Department here at Iowa State University has numerous collections which include the Iowa State Fair, such as images in the University Photographs and records in the University Archives documenting how Iowa State and Iowa Staters have been involved in the Iowa State Fair.

For this year’s state fair display, titled “Adventurous Iowa Staters Making Iowa Greater,” the university and ISU Alumni Association have put together an alumni wall display, which has the names of 97,002 living alumni who are currently working in Iowa.  More information on the alumni wall and other features at this year’s Iowa State display can be found in Inside Iowa State and an article by the Ames Tribune.

1948 Iowa State Fair display (from University Photographs, box 1329)

1948 Iowa State Fair display (from University Photographs, box 1329)

Interested in finding out more about Iowa State alumni?  The University Archives collects the papers of alumni, both past and present.  The contents of alumni collections contain a variety of material, including items documenting their lives before, during and after their time here at Iowa State.  These collections can contain scrapbooks, photographs, correspondence, speeches, publications, news clippings and Iowa State ephemera.  A listing of these collections, including their finding aids, is available on our website.  In addition to these larger collections, we also maintain reference files on alumni.  The reference files generally contain a folder with news clippings and other material about the alum.  Wondering if we have any folders on the alumni featured at this year’s Iowa State Fair exhibit?  Yes, we do.  These alumni include Lori Chappell, Kelly Norris, Scott Siepker, Sarah Brown Wessling, and Steve Zumbach.


Suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt was an 1880 graduate of Iowa State.

Unable to attend the Iowa State Fair or visit the Special Collections Department?  Then take a look at our Digital Collections, which includes digitized materials of several alumni, including the George Washington Carver Digital Collection and images of the Carrie Chapman Catt suffrage buttons.

Interested in learning more about materials in the Special Collections Department related to the state fair?  Search our website for collections, or the blog for previous posts about state fair related collections.  One of these previous posts was about theatrical performances at the state fair.


Posted by: Stephanie | August 5, 2014

Harry Beetison, “King of the Hoboes”

It came to my attention recently that Britt, Iowa, is home to the annual Hobo Convention. Britt has a Hobo Museum, as well, which displays materials collected by hobos and is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. The convention includes a parade and a crowning of a King and a Queen of the Hobos and seems to be quite a crowd-drawing event and has earned press from sources as varied as NPR, Buzzfeed, The Economist, and The New York Times. Special Collections does not offer up much regarding the hobo culture of the Midwest, but I did find a vivid photograph and interesting history related to the Hobo Convention in the Wayne O. and Gayle Carns Burchett Papers (MS 355).

Meet Harry C. Beetison, one-time King of the Hobos.

Harry Beetison, aka King David 1

Harry Beetison, also known as King David 1, was voted King of the Hobos in the late 1930s

According to commentary provided by Ann Burchett Barton, the Burchetts’ daughter, Mr. Beetison crossed paths with her mother Gayle around the time of the Great Depression. Gayle’s parents, Francis and Lucille Carns, and the rest of the family met Beetison through their generosity to the hobos who rode the rails across the U.S. in search of work.  The collection also includes a few newspaper articles about Beetison that paint the man as a colorful character. His platform for Kingship, for example, included edicts such as: “to make bumming easier, to cover box car floors with straw and hay, and to give every hobo a better chance to have a place in every town and city throughout the nation where they can rest up…” (article circa 1937). According to another article, Beetison – a native of Ashland, Nebraska – once campaigned for a seat in the state legislature before earning his hobo title. Other clippings include a poem by Beetison and tales of his travels through a number of states; in 1945, Salt Lake City’s Deseret News called him a “gallivanter par excellence.”

There is some mystery around Beetison: the clippings refer to him as King David I but the list of hobo kings and queens refers to a King David II. King David II shows up again on the list in the 1960s – did Beetison return to reclaim his crown?  We know he’s buried in his hometown, Ashland, but there’s no telling where he went in between. I’m planning on making the trip to the Hobo Convention this year, so maybe the museum will hold some clues as to the Burchett family friend’s life. In the meantime, this small slice of family history offers a glimpse of Iowan and U.S. history as well.

Posted by: hahollinger | August 1, 2014

An Update from the Silos & Smokestacks Intern

The Silos & Smokestacks Extension project is progressing well – it’s really starting to take shape now. Most of the final selections have been made for the collection, and the materials were recently digitized and formatted for the digital exhibit. I even got to do the preservation treatments, which was even more fun than I’d hoped it would be. Digging through boxes and finding the highlights has been an engaging process, but I’m also excited to see it start to come together as a tangible item.

The collection will be composed of various reports, photographs, personal reflections, and a large handful of rather unique items. I wanted to be able to capture the early Extension work from several perspectives – the farmers’ and administration specifically. One of my favorites is a set of notes, handwritten by Ralph K. Bliss for several of the short courses he led. His specialties included the care of livestock (swine, cattle, sheep, and horses), as well as the proper judgment of these animals when presented in show. Farmers in these short courses would have looked to this content and instruction for guidance, whether they had a desire to learn which grains were best to feed the horses or the characteristics that determined the best animal in a group.

The notes outline the courses as Bliss would have taught them, but they also provide insight to the time period and the work that was being done by the College. Information that is now common knowledge (or at least easily Googled) would not have been at the time. The notes not only show a stage in the evolution of agricultural progress, but they also serve as a reminder that the wide dispersal of information used to be even more of a luxury than it is now.

I hope this snippet of insight has generated some excitement! Another update will be coming soon.

Hillary H.

Posted by: Whitney | July 29, 2014

CyPix: Glass Blowing in the Chemistry Department

On the heels of my last post, I’d like to share this photo found on our Flickr site:

Wayne "Breezy" (or "Breezey") Jones and Harry Svec creating glass vials, beakers, and tubes for the ISU Chemistry Department, 1955

Wayne “Breezy” Jones and Harry Svec creating glass vials, beakers, and tubes for the ISU Chemistry Department, 1955. RS 13/6/F

Wayne “Breezy” Jones was a technical glassblower for the Chemistry Department here at Iowa State University, taught and trained by Harry Svec. Even though Svec is without his characteristic bow tie in this photo, it most certainly is him. Svec learned his glassblowing craft from George Pickel of John Carroll University, who learned the craft in Europe, and Ed Thomas, who learned his skills at St. Louis University. After arriving at Iowa State in 1941, Svec took over as the glass technician, replacing George Harrison, who left for another job. Later on, Svec trained Jones, a house painter who became adept at the technique of joining metal elements to glass. He, in turn, trained another technician, who then trained the next generation. Svec liked to say that all of the glass technicians at Iowa State are direct descendents of Pickel and Thomas.

For more information on Svec’s glassblowing journey, see the Harry J. Svec Papers. The Department of Chemistry collections may have a additional information as well. Happy researching!

Posted by: Whitney | July 25, 2014

Harry J. Svec: Devoted Chemist and Cyclone

Forty-two years of involvement with Iowa State University is impressive in itself, but add in the fact that those years included work on the Manhattan Project, being a founding editor of a scientific journal, being the namesake of scientific reference material, extensive research and awards for that research, and an ever present bow tie, and those 42 years become even more remarkable. Dr. Henry J. Svec did just that, all while getting married and being father to nine children. He must have had excellent time management skills!

Harry J. Svec, 1975

Harry J. Svec, 1975. RS 13/6/53, box 19, folder 36

Svec was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1918. After graduating magna cum laude from John Carroll University, he went to graduate school at Iowa State College (University) in 1941, where he studied chemistry. During this time, he became the glassblower for the Chemistry Department, creating diffusion pumps and other items for research. Two of these diffusion pumps are included in the collection.


Glass mercury diffusion pump made by Svec, 1941. Artifact 2003-203.002

Before long, the US entered World War II, and Svec was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project under Dr. Frank Spedding. Information on the Manhattan Project at Iowa State can be found in previous blog posts here and here. After that project, Svec was appointed to the Ames Laboratory/Institute for Atomic Research and earned his Ph.D. in 1950, at which point he gained faculty status. He served as Chemistry Department faculty until his retirement in 1983, when he was granted Professor Emeritus status.

Over the course of his career, Svec taught classes, conducted and published research, and was actively involved in professional organizations, such as the American Society for Mass Spectrometry. He was a Fellow of what is now the Royal Society of Chemistry, and was a founding editor of the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry and Ion Physics (now the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry). Mass spectrometry was his main area of study, and in fact Svec was an early contributor to the field of laser mass spectrometry. He even built the first mass spectrometers at Iowa State, components of which are included in the artifact collection. Mass spectrometer blueprints are also included in his collection in a map case folder.

add something here

Left: main components of a mass spectrometer, undated; Right: a complete mass spectrometer, undated. RS 13/6/53, box 10, folder 17

After his retirement in 1983, Svec finished writing a history on Iowa State University’s Chemistry Department, which was published by that department in 2006. He also received the American Chemical Society’s Zimmerman Award for Environmental Science in 1984 for his work in developing the resin extraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) methods for removing organic pollutants in water. He certainly had a productive career, of which anyone would be proud.

All of this and much more information can be found in his collection, the Harry J. Svec Papers, RS 13/6/53. Be sure to check out the artifacts too, including an early twentieth century Christian Becker Chainomatic two-pan balance not unlike these (top of the page, with dials). Curious about the Ames Laboratory or the Chemistry Department in general? Come see our collections on them! We’ll be happy to help.

Posted by: Stephanie | July 22, 2014

CyPix: Anniversaries

It is official – the three Project Archivists who arrived last summer will all be celebrating a one-year work anniversary at Special Collections in the next month or so. To celebrate the occasion, I give you a photo from this March 1948 luncheon celebrating the 90th anniversary of Iowa State College (University)’s founding. For more information on the 90th Anniversary collection, see its finding aid.

The University celebrates its 90th anniversary in 1948

The University celebrates its 90th anniversary in 1948  (RS 0/11/5, University Photographs Collection)

Our one-year anniversary is not quite as noteworthy as the University’s 90th; we will probably commemorate ours with high-fives. But we have been hard at work here and would like to share some of our accomplishments.

The Project Archivists’ primary duty is processing collections, which is to say, arranging, describing, and housing collections and creating finding aids and other outputs that allow people to find items in our collections more easily. In the past year, we have worked with 28 collections and have processed approximately 960 linear feet of materials. To imagine this more clearly: a banker’s box sized carton equals 1.3 linear feet. So we have handled roughly 740 cartons of materials this year. Whew!

When processing, we frequently rehouse materials to condense them or weed items that are present in duplicate or have minimal research value in order to free up space for new collections. So far, we have “found” 150 linear feet through processing; 115 record cartons can now fill that space. And more “found” room is on its way as we continue our work! Archivists get very excited about shelf space, so this is a coup for Special Collections.

Bennett, Bishop, Olthoff - the Project Archivists

Stephanie Bennett, Amy Bishop, and Whitney Olthoff in the Special Collections Reading Room


In addition to our processing duties, the Project Archivists have also published nearly 75 posts on this blog; tallied around 600 hours on the reference desk helping patrons; attended a Midwest Archives Conference meeting together; and presented at an ISU librarian meeting.

Now on to year two! Since we are acclimated to the administrative processes involved in our work and have become more conversant in Iowa State’s subject areas and institutional history, it promises to be another banner year. Watch this space for more posts about the wonders that our collections contain and the work we’re doing to make them more accessible to the university community, Iowa, and the world.

Posted by: bishopae | July 18, 2014

Rural electric cooperatives in Iowa

Turned on a light recently? If you live in a rural area, chances are you have an electric cooperative to thank!

Two men stand on top of the metal scaffolding of an electric substation, while a large piece of equipment is lilfted on a wire by a crane. Ten men work or watch from below.

Construction of a substation near Creston, Iowa. Box 38, folder 27. Iowa Rural Electric News, June 1962.

In 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act (REA) to provide federal loans to rural communities to cover the cost of developing their own electrical distribution systems. Commercial power companies by that time had provided electricity to the majority of city dwellers, but they felt that it was not cost-effective to run electric lines through the rural areas. Because of this, farmers were not able to take advantage of electrical power in their work. Nor were their wives able to use the newly burgeoning market of electrical appliances for the home.

Rural communities in Iowa joined thousands of others across the country in developing power cooperatives with the help of REA loans. Members jointly owned and ran the cooperatives and shared the benefits. In 1942, the Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative Association was founded to represent the state’s rural electric cooperatives, and later changed its name to the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives (IAEC). The IAEC came to represent 41 cooperatives throughout the state of Iowa and is still operating today. I recently processed the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives Records (MS 40), and you can check out the finding aid here.

The IAEC supports its member cooperatives in a number of ways, including legislative representation at the state and national levels, safety programs, education and training programs, electrical promotion programs, and youth activities. To learn more about the IAEC, stop by Special Collections.

Posted by: bishopae | July 15, 2014

CyPix: ISC Bicycle Club 1898

With RAGBRAI less than a week away, it seems like a perfect time to take a look at bicycle riding at ISU. Say hello to these dapper members of the 1898 Bicycle Club of Iowa State College, posing in front of Morrill Hall.

Two rows of men and women standing with their bicycles.

Iowa State College Bicycle Club, 1898.

The 1890s saw a bicycle craze in America, with Iowa State students–both men and women–joining in. Makes you want to grab your bike and take it for a spin, doesn’t it? To find out more about other student organizations, check out their collections page, or peddle on over to Special Collections.

Posted by: Stephanie | July 11, 2014

Dwight Ink, a Man of Many Hats

As promised, we’re talking here on the blog today about ISU alumnus Dwight Ink. This is not his first time in the spotlight, even in Iowa State-created publications. In 2010, the Iowa State Daily wrote a three-part series about Ink’s roots in Iowa, his relationship with Iowa State, and his long government career. The ISU Alumni Association’s magazine VISIONS, as part of its two-year tour of Iowa, met up with Ink in 2013 at his Virginia home and wrote a two-piece series about their conversations. Since so much has recently been written about Dwight Ink’s life and career, this blog will focus on aspects of Ink’s more than 40-year career that might escape public notice in 2014.


Dwight Ink pictured with wife and parents after being sworn in as First Assistant Secretary for Administration at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, circa 1966 (from box 7, folder 19)

One of my favorite parts of the collection is a bit esoteric – records relating to nuclear-powered ships and submarines that were commissioned in from 1958-1965, a period that saw the build-up of the “Nuclear Navy.” My parents were both officers in the U.S. Coast Guard so I’ve attended a number of events like these, but I did not spend time examining the invitations or programs. After seeing this collection, though, I wish I had paid more attention. As a staff member at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Ink received a number of items from ceremonies launching new vessels. These act as colorful advertisements for the new members of the Navy’s nuclear fleet, as you can see in the photograph below. While naval-centric items make up a small portion of materials from Ink’s twenty years at the AEC, they are a colorful and informative memento of the military’s relationship with alternative power sources.

A program introducing a new nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt (from box 2, folder 23)

A program introducing a new nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt – it includes information about the design and its weaponry (from box 2, folder 23)

Ink’s papers also document more calamitous moments in American history. I mentioned the Good Friday earthquake in Tuesday’s preview post, but it bears more in-depth examination. On March 27, 1964, Good Friday in the Christian liturgical calendar, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Alaskan coast between the city of Anchorage and the town of Valdez. This earthquake, which remains the second largest in recorded history, was so powerful that it set off a tsunami that damaged Japan’s Pacific coastline; Ink kept tabs on damage to the town of Niigata and made a trip there, which is documented in the collection. In April 1964, President Lyndon Johnson selected Ink as the Executive Director of the Federal Reconstruction and Development Planning Commission, and he spent six months coordinating emergency relief and rebuilding efforts in the towns that populate Alaska’s southern coastline. This experience led Ink to write about emergency relief in the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the perceived mismanagement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and lessons from Alaska’s 1964 reconstruction that could be applied to modern relief practices. Documentation of the earthquake’s aftermath, economic and engineering rebuilding efforts, and overall coordination of relief efforts are all included in the Dwight Ink Papers and provide insight into just how profound the damage and resulting rebuilding efforts were.

Ink’s career hopped from nuclear power to emergency management to… public art pieces. For three months, March to June 1985, Ink was the Acting Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) while the next Administrator was being confirmed by Congress. It is merely a quirk of timing that Ink came to play a role in a controversy surrounding Tilted Arc, a sculpture that was installed in a courtyard in front of the Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building in New York City. The sculpture, by artist Richard Serra, was commissioned by the GSA in 1979, assembled in front of the Javits building in 1981, and contested in a three-day hearing in 1985. After years of court battles, Tilted Arc was removed and put in government storage in 1989. As acting Administrator, Ink had the final word in removing the work, and so was named in Serra’s lawsuit to keep the artwork in place. Tilted Arc‘s removal was hotly debated in the pages of The New York Times as well as People magazine.

The Dwight Ink Papers contain something for nearly everyone since they document 40 years working in approximately eleven public administration-related roles within the federal government and the education sector. Ink, who will celebrate his 92nd birthday this September, is currently working on a memoir that I, for one, would love to read. In the meantime, check out the finding aid for RS 21/7/241, the Dwight Ink Papers, and come visit Special Collections to learn more.

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