Posted by: Whitney | March 4, 2014

CyPix: Cy Meets Satchmo

We all know Cy is one cool cat, but did you know that he once met Satchmo himself, Louis Armstrong?

22-7-D_Cy and Louis Armstrong 1966_1648

Cy with jazz legend Louis Armstrong before a concert, 1966.

Louis Armstrong, in case anyone needs a pop culture history lesson, was a popular jazz musician whose career spanned the 1920s through the 1960s. He’s perhaps best known for his vocal renditions of “What a Wonderful World” and “Hello Dolly,” as well as his various trumpet solos. His performance of “La Vie En Rose” was even used in Disney/Pixar’s Wall-E. He also had a bit of a film career, starring alongside Bing Crosby on more than one occasion. Cy is pretty lucky to have met such a legend!

To see Cy through the years, have a look at our online exhibit, which includes this photo. Our Flickr page also has photos of our favorite mascot. Enjoy!

Posted by: bishopae | February 28, 2014

Happy 100th Anniversary to Iowa DOT!

April 9 of this year marks the end of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s centennial year, and ISU Special Collections has some great material documenting its history! But first, a little background…

In 1904 the Iowa General Assembly appointed Iowa State College (ISC) to act as a highway commission for the state. The charge of the commission was to design highway plans, conduct highway construction demonstrations, and act as an information service for county supervisors. The highway commission remained a part of the college for nine years until on April 9, 1913, the Iowa Highway Commission separated from the college. It was managed by a three-member commission including Anson Marston, Dean of the Engineering Division at ISC; H.C. Beard; and J.W. Holden. In 1975 the Iowa State Highway Commission became the Iowa Department of Transportation.

For more information on the history of the Iowa DOT, check out Iowa DOT’s historical timeline and their 100th anniversary webpage, and the Transportation portion of Iowa Public Television’s interactive Iowa Pathways website.

The following collections here in the Special Collections Department may be of interest.

People associated with Iowa Highway Commission/Iowa DOT:

Portrait of Anson Marston from 1942.

Anson Marston, 1942.

  • Anson Marston Papers (RS 11/1/11) : Professor and Head (1892-1917) of the Department of Civil Engineering and Dean (1904-1932) of the Division of Engineering, Marston also established the Iowa State Highway Commission (Iowa Department of Transportation). This collection contains papers and publications, research, engineering projects, and correspondence.
  • Fred R. White Papers (RS 21/7/33): Fred R. White received his B.S. (1907) in civil engineering from Iowa State College (University). He was Chief Engineer (1919-1952) for the Iowa State Highway Commission. This collection (1900-1974, n.d.) contains newspaper clippings, correspondence, pamphlets, photographs, blueprints, notes, and reports regarding bridge proposals, financing and construction of bridges in Iowa over the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

    Edna C. Mitchell sitting at desk.

    Edna Mitchell, from the Edna C. Mitchell Papers, MS 297, Box 1, Folder 8, Archives of Women in Science and Engineering, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.

  • Edna C. Mitchell Papers (MS 297): Mitchell graduated from Iowa State College (University) in1917 with a degree in nutrition. While a student she also took courses in mathematics and drafting. After 10 years as a homemaker and the breakup of her marriage, Edna went to work as an engineer for the Iowa Highway Commission where she worked for 33 years. Among her responsibilities was the drafting of plans for maps, culverts, and road signs as well as the supervising of other women. This collection (1913-1993) contains biographical information, family genealogies, military records, correspondence, clippings, photographs, and diplomas. The clippings document her career as an engineer at the Iowa Highway Department.
  • John M. Dobson Papers (RS 6/1/52): Dobson joined the staff at Iowa State University as Assistant Professor (1968-1972) in the Department of History. He also served the University in various administrative capacities. This collection (1972-1999) contains materials mostly related to Dr. Dobson’s years as Associate Vice Provost. The collection includes correspondence, reports, and general information documenting, among other things, the Center for Transportation Research and Education at ISU and the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Printed materials:

  • Iowa Highway Map Collection, 1925-1991 (MS 186): The collection (1925-1991) contains Iowa highway and county highway maps. The county maps are marked “prepared by the Iowa State Highway Commission in cooperation with the Federal Works Agency Public Roads Administration.” The county maps represent all 99 counties. The collection includes oversized versions of the county maps from 1991. Also included are state highway maps.
  • Iowa Highway Commission publications in Special Collections (catalog search)
  • Iowa Department of Transportation publications in Special Collections (catalog search)

Community organizations in support of/in opposition to particular highways:

  • 520 First Association Records (MS 504): The 520 First Association, organized in 1970, had as its primary objective the immediate programming and construction of Freeway 520 (United States Highway 20), planned to go from Sioux City to Dubuque, Iowa. The organization’s name echoes their desire that this project be given “first priority.” This collection (1973-1975, undated) includes correspondence, news articles, memorandums, meeting agendas and a slideshow script. Most of the correspondence is between members of the 520 First Association and members of the Iowa State Highway Commission, the governor (Robert D. Ray), and with each other about their campaign to commence building of Highway 520 in Iowa.
  • Farm Land Preservation Association, Inc., Records (MS 108): Organized in 1976 to oppose the construction of a diagonal interstate (I-380) between Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, Iowa, in order to protect and preserve farmland. The collection (1975-1979, undated) contains articles of incorporation, correspondence, court proceedings, environmental impact statements, a route location study done by the Iowa State Highway Commission, and news clippings.


Iowa Department of Transportation’s video “Highway Relocation” on Vimeo.

We hope to see you in Special Collections!

Posted by: Laura | February 25, 2014

CyPix: The New Dining Hall…and George Washington Carver

from Iowa State College (University) student yearbook, 1896 Bomb, page 167

George Washington Carver can be seen in this photograph from the 1896 Bomb, picturing the dining hall in the new women’s dormitory, Margaret Hall.

Although the exact date of George Washington Carver’s birth is unknown, he was born around 1864, which makes 2014 possibly the 150th anniversary of his birth!  As Iowa State’s first African American graduate who went on to become a well-known scientist, George Washington Carver items are frequently requested.  We have digitized a portion of the George Washington Carver Papers and photographs of George Washington Carver.  The George Washington Digital Collection is available through Digital Collections.  A description of the George Washington Carver Papers, a portion of which is available online, can be found here.

For February’s Black History Month, we thought we would highlight the image above, which shows George Washington Carver in the dining hall of the new Margaret Hall.  The photograph is quite striking, since it’s not often one sees an interior image of so many students in one photograph from that time period!  Other photographs of Carver while he was here at Iowa State can be found through Digital Collections.

Posted by: Whitney | February 21, 2014

The “Gilkey Bible”

Once upon a time at Iowa State University, there existed the Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. The head of this kingdom… er… department was Herbert J. Gilkey. Gilkey, educated at MIT, Harvard, and the University of Illinois, came to Iowa State College (University) in 1931 to organize and direct the department. T&AM, referred to by students as “torture and applied misery,” (see Donald Young’s A Brief History of Engineering Mechanics at Iowa State, call number TA350.5 Y68x 2001) later became part of the Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department. He served as head of the department until 1955, at which time he stayed on to teach and conduct research. In the 1930s, Gilkey formulated a set of rules and procedures, published in A Reference Manual of Suggestions and Departmental Practice (1938). This publication is commonly referred to as the “Gilkey Bible.”

Foreword from the "Gilkey Bible," written by H. J. Gilkey in October, 1938

Foreword from the “Gilkey Bible,” written by H. J. Gilkey in October, 1938

Judging by the manual he created, Gilkey was concerned with running a tight ship. At about 90 pages in length with 31 major headings, the manual goes into great detail about expectations of those who worked in the department. Today, the level at which he created these rules and procedures might be called “micromanagement.” Gilkey himself would read and approve all quizzes and final exams. However, his concern with organization and uniformity helped to establish T&AM as one of the most highly regarded mechanics departments in the country.

In the foreword, Gilkey describes his purpose in creating the manual as “an effort to record” decisions and procedures that developed over the early years of the department that every member of the department was expected and accustomed to conform to, advice and suggestions that the employee could choose to accept or reject, and other information collected to benefit new employees which also might have been useful to more veteran employees.

Some of the more interesting and/or (unintentionally) comical items found in the manual include the following:

Item 11.b: “Don’t talk too much or too long. All instructors, young and especially old, need to be constantly on their guard against doing too much of the reciting themselves. When ‘listening,’ student minds, like those of other people, are usually ‘at rest.'” (page 24)

Item 11.i: “Avoid sarcasm but instill pep.  Stimuli there must be; make them tingle or tickle, but don’t let them sting.” (page 25)

Item 18.h: “Excuse for absence. Endeavor to get the student to realize than [sic] an excuse from the Diety [sic] himself can’t remove the necessity for making up the work that he has missed. At some stage in his development the student must be brought to grips with the brutal fact that even a signed slip of paper from mamma, papa or the dean won’t neutralize a technical deficiency.” (page 35)

Item 30.h: “Endeavor to supply a touch of good breeding. Try in every way possible to supply that touch of good breeding that so many of our students lack. There is nowhere in this country a student body that eminates [sic] from a sturdier background, both racially and vocationally, than our own. Coming as they do from a race of honest rural toilers, our students have learned at home many of the basic virtues but less emphasis may have been placed upon the amenities of speech and deportment that are practically indispensible [sic] to one who would enter a professional career.” (page 57)

Item 31.c.2: “Facial alfalfa should be harvested not less than 365 times per annum.” (page 61)

Item 31.c.4: “Onions and garlic should be quarantined in the acute halitosis ward.” (page 61)

Item 31.f: “Speech. …When we can’t spell, that job can be turned over to our stenographers (perhaps) but if we can’t pronounce correctly or speak grammatically, we simply have to fry in our own fat.” Some of the most common grammatical mistakes Gilkey mentions are “he don’t,” “I don’t feel so good,” and “some of we men.” (page 61)

The manual contains a wealth of other such items, several of which occur on page 61, pictured below.

Page 61 of the "Gilkey Bible"

Page 61 of the “Gilkey Bible”

To see what else the “Gilkey Bible” has to offer, come in and see it for yourself in RS 11/7/1, Box 1. More collections involving the College of Engineering can be found here. Also of interest might be the following manuscript collections, which contain a variety of ephemera and documents Gilkey collected throughout the years: Herbert J. Gilkey Airline, Busline and Railroad Schedule Collection (MS-217), Herbert J. Gilkey Postcard Collection (MS-215), Herbert J. Gilkey Travel Brochure Collection (Ms-216), and Herbert J. Gilkey World War I Memorabilia Collection (MS-221). Let us know what you’d like to see, and we’ll be happy to help. See you soon!

Posted by: Whitney | February 18, 2014

CyPix: Iowa State’s First President, Adonijah Welch

In honor of President’s Day, let’s take a look at Iowa State University’s first president, Adonijah Welch.

President Adonijah Welch, undated

President Adonijah Welch, undated

Welch held the post from 1869 until 1883. In addition to presidential duties, he taught classes at Iowa State (at the time known as Iowa Agricultural College) until his death in 1889. Not only was he a significant figure in the design of the campus, he also helped develop the college’s first agricultural and mechanical arts classes and was a supporter of the right for women to a have a college education. For more information on Welch, check out his digital collection or come in and see the physical collection. The photo above and a photo of his wife, Mary Welch, can be found on our Flickr page. Also, be sure to check out our past blog posts involving Welch, like this and this.

Posted by: Stephanie | February 14, 2014

Black History Month at Iowa State: Some Lesser-Known Pioneers

Let’s talk about African American history today, shall we? Partly in honor of Black History Month, which is so visible these days that NBA teams have it as a hashtag on their warm-ups (okay…). But also because here at ISU, we talk a lot about George Washington Carver and Jack Trice. Important men in the history of the university, yes! But let’s give our attention to some different faces in Cyclone African American history.

Ladies first:

Mrs. M.E.V. Hunter and coach H.B. Hucles

Professor Mary E.V. Hunter, image courtesy of History of Prairie View A&M Flickr user

Iowa State’s first African American female student was Mary Evelyn Victoria Hunter. After first earning a B.S. from Prairie View A & M College in Texas, she received a Master’s degree in Home Economics Education (1931).  In Texas, Hunter was one of the first two black agents for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service (1915) and organized an annual, state-wide Home Economics Week. After her graduation from Iowa State, Dr. Hunter became a professor of Home Economics and Department head at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia, a historically black land-grant college. She retired from that university in 1955 and died in Petersburg in 1967.

Dr. Samuel P. Massie, Jr, image courtesy of Massie Chairs of Excellence 

The link between Iowa State and the Manhattan Project is renown and often-discussed; my colleague Amy wrote about newly processed papers regarding the Ames Lab. The project also has a link to a barrier-breaking scientist and Iowa State graduate. Dr. Samuel Massie, who received a Ph.D. in chemistry (1946), was part of the Manhattan Project Research Group from 1943-1946. His participation in the project came about because in 1943, in the middle of his doctoral studies, he was nearly drafted into World War II before Dr. Henry Gilman stepped in. Correspondence between Gilman and Massie is available in the Henry Gilman Papers here at ISU. Massie ended up serving his country in a different capacity; in 1966, he became a professor of Chemistry at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and the first black faculty member there. He remained at the academy for the remainder of his career (1993) and passed away in 2005. More about Massey’s life story can be found in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Bonus trivia: Dr. Massie’s wife, the former Gloria Bell Thompkins, was also a professor. The two met at Fisk University and wed in 1947. Mrs. Massie, who had a Master of Arts in Psychology, helped start the Department of Psychology at Bowie State University, Maryland’s oldest historically black university. Massie worked there from 1971 until her retirement in 1993. Bowie State University named a scholarship in her honor.

Dr. James W. Mitchell, photo courtesy of Howard University

A more recent graduate of Iowa State University’s chemistry Ph.D. program is James W. Mitchell (1970). He completed his undergraduate coursework at North Carolina A&T State University (1965). After earning his Ph.D. in Ames, Mitchell went to work at the famed AT&T Bell Laboratories. During this period, Michell helped found the Association of Black Laboratory Employees and headed up the company’s Analytical Chemistry Research Department. In 2002, Mitchell joined the faculty at Howard University, where he currently serves as a Professor of Chemical Engineering and Dean of Howard’s College of Engineering, Architecture, and Computer Sciences. Over the span of his career, Dr. Mitchell has garnered a number of honors and awards – and he’s not done yet.

This is merely a drop in the bucket of contributions that African American Iowa State graduates and Iowans have made to society. Also, I would be remiss if I did not point to the Cyclones Athletics profiles of a number of notable African American student-athletes in recent history. Their profiles from February 2012 and February 2013 are available online.

If you are interested in exploring the history and journeys of other African American Cyclones and Iowans, a number of resources are available across the state and in the Special Collections. Contact us  or come visit to learn more.

Posted by: Stephanie | February 11, 2014

CyPix: Love in the Time of Glass Plate Negatives

This week is the celebration of Valentine’s Day, or Singles Awareness Day, or Galentine’s Day, or red-heart-candy-on-sale day – however you choose to celebrate. I found a number of images in the Descartes Pascal collection of glass plate negatives  to inspire your Valentine activities.

For the ladies, a pouffy sleeve pairs well with a game of cards; it is too cold to attempt an outdoor game just yet, though.

Girls playing cards

Gentlemen, grab your high collars, hats, and handkerchiefs, and hit the town.

Two dandies

Another option: you, your special someone, and some giant fur gloves make three!

John Pascal's home yard

More information on Pascal and his materials in Special Collections is available here. If your curious about what a glass-plate negative is, an exhibit about the process and more examples are available online here. Even if you’re solo these days, give thanks for whatever photography equipment you have, because chances are it’s much more user-friendly than glass plates.

Posted by: Whitney | February 7, 2014

They Went for the Gold (and Got It): Cyclone Olympians

The Olympics are here! Which makes this the perfect time to highlight our very own Cyclone Olympians, information on and photos of whom can be found right here in the Special Collections Department. Originally I wanted to write about all of our Olympians, but there are just too many – we had four in the 2012 London Olympics alone! So, for sanity’s sake, I’m going to feature only our gold medalists. We have had seven gold medalists over the years, six of whom wrestled for the gold, and one who overcame many hurdles for it (literally). Banners dedicated to them currently hang in Hilton Coliseum. Read on to learn about our Iowa State Cyclone Olympic Gold Medalists.

Glen Brand, 1950

Glen Brand, 1950

Glen Brand (Wrestling, 174 lbs, 1948): Originally from Clarion, Iowa, Brand (1950, Civil Engineering) wrestled for the Cyclones from 1946-1950. During that time, he lettered in 1946, 1947, 1948, and 1950. He placed 3rd in the NCAA Wrestling Championship in 1946, followed that up with 2nd place in 1947, and won the title in 1948. Also in 1948, he earned a spot at the London Olympics and later won gold in the 174 lb. class, returning home as a legend.

Dan Gable, 1969

Dan Gable, 1969

Dan Gable (Wrestling, 149.5 lbs, 1972): Perhaps our most famous Olympian and wrestler, Gable (1971, Physical Education) was one of two Cyclones who won the gold  in wrestling in the 1972 Munich Olympics. He never gave up a single point at the games that year. His college career was stellar as well: he was defeated only once, and that was in the NCAA finals his senior year. Gable came to ISU from Waterloo, Iowa, and wrestled for the Cyclones from 1966 to 1970, becoming a three-time Big 8 Champion (1968, 1969, 1970) and two-time NCAA Champion (1968, 1969). After graduating from ISU, he became head wrestling coach at the University of Iowa, where his star continued to rise as he became the U of I’s all-time winningest coach from 1976-1997.

Ben Peterson, 1970

Ben Peterson, 1970

Ben Peterson (Wrestling, 198 lbs, 1972): Peterson (1972, Architecture) was also a Cyclone gold medalist at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. He later went on to win the silver in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. From Comstock, Wisconsin, Peterson joined the ISU wrestling team in 1968 and wrestled through 1972. During his time here, he became a two-time NCAA Champion (1971 and 1972), a three-time Big 8 Champion (1970, 1972, 1973), and an Olympic gold medalist (1972). He is currently (2014) the only Cyclone wrestler to win 2 medals in the Olympic games.

Nawal El Moutawakel, 1984

Nawal El Moutawakel, 1984

Nawal El Moutawakel (Track and Field, 400 Meter Hurdles, 1984):
Our only non-wrestling Olympic gold medalist was El Moutawakel (1988, Physical Education), who won the top prize in the 400 meter hurdles at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She came from Casablanca, Morocco to Iowa State University in 1984. She ran track at ISU beginning that year until 1987. During that time, she won the 1984 NCAA 400 meter hurdle championship and became the second woman to win the Relays Triple (Texas, Kansas, and Drake relays). She overcame real-life hurdles as well while at ISU, losing her father, losing her coaches in a 1985 plane crash, and suffering a knee injury. On a happier note, however, she was not only the first Cyclone woman to win gold, she was the first African woman, Muslim woman, and Moroccan woman to win it as well.

Kevin Jackson, 1985

Kevin Jackson, 1985

Kevin Jackson (Wrestling, 180.5 lbs, 1992):
ISU’s current wrestling coach, Jackson (1991, Human Sciences), won gold in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Originally from Lansing, Michigan, Jackson started his college career at LSU but when the school dropped their wrestling program, he transferred to ISU as a senior. He red-shirted at ISU during the 1985-1986 season and wrestled in the 1986-1987 season. That season he helped the Cyclone wrestling team win their most recent NCAA championship. Not only is he an Olympic gold medalist, but he is also a two-time World Champion in wrestling. He is one of just five wrestlers in United States history to have three career world-level titles. Jackson took over the head wrestling coach position from fellow Olympic champion Cael Sanderson in 2009.

Cael Sanderson, from the 1999-2000 media guide

Cael Sanderson, from the 1999-2000 media guide, RS 24/12/0/6, Box 1

Cael Sanderson (Wrestling, 185 lbs, 2004):
From Heber City, Utah, Sanderson (2002, Art and Design) joined the Iowa State wrestling team in 1997, red-shirting for that first season. He never lost a single match while wrestling for the Cyclones, breaking Dan Gable’s record. He also became a four-time NCAA Champion (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002) and four-time Big 12 Champion (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002). Sanderson won his gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. After graduating in 2002, Sanderson stayed on with the Cyclones and became head wrestling coach in 2004, leaving in 2009 for Penn State where he currently coaches.

Jake Varner, from the 2008-2009 media guide

Jake Varner, from the 2008-2009 media guide, RS 24/12/0/6, Box 2

Jake Varner (Wrestling, 211.5 lbs, 2012): Varner (2010, Criminal Justice) came to us from Bakersfield, California, in 2005. He red-shirted in the 2005-2006 season, and then wrestled for the Cyclones from 2006-2010. While at Iowa State he became a two-time NCAA Champion (2009, 2010), and a two-time Big 12 Champion (2008, 2010). Varner won his gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, becoming our latest Olympic champion.

With these seven and Iowa State’s many other Olympic athletes – including silver and bronze medalists – the Cyclones have a proud Olympic tradition going. More information on our Olympians can be found in an earlier blog post. We also have an entire blog post devoted to Dan Gable. Want to learn more about Iowa State’s wrestling program in general? We have programs, media guides, news clippings, and various subject files in RS 24/12 for your viewing pleasure. If women’s track and field is more appealing, we have news clippings, media guides, and subject files in RS 24/23. The finding aids for these and other Department of Athletics collections can be found here. Contact us or stop by, and we’ll happy to help you out! In the mean time, go enjoy the Olympics. USA! USA!

Posted by: bishopae | February 4, 2014

CyPix: Bundle Up!

A group of women sets out from a brick building at Iowa State University in the winter of 1915. All are wearing coats and hats, and carying hatboxes. Several of the coats appear to be made of fur (racoon?); others appear to be a heavy wool.

Female students leaving a campus building wearing wool and fur coats and hats, 1915. RS 7/2.

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone around here that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Sunday, predicting 6 more weeks of winter. After weathering two “polar vortices,” and with more snow today, Iowa State students have been having to bundle up this winter. Stay warm and dream warm thoughts of spring!

In this photo, Iowa State students from 1915 are wearing heavy fur and wool coats and hats as they leave a building on campus.

For more historical photos of student life, check out the Student Life photo set on our Flickr page.

Collection of four miniature books in a slipcase, with a quarter for scale.

Collection of miniature books in a slipcase containing printers’ ornament specimens. Published by Alembic Press, Oxford, 1990-1992. Call number: Z250.3 C64x 1990.

Of all the types of rare and collectible books, perhaps miniature books are the most delightful. In the United States, books are generally considered to be miniature when they measure 3 inches or fewer in length or width. Miniature books have been produced since before the invention of printing. In fact, Louis Bondy, in his respected reference book on the subject, Miniature Books: their history from the beginnings to the present day, cites the oldest known miniature “book” as a Sumerian cuneiform clay tablet that dates to somewhere between 2060 and 2058 B.C.E. It measures 1 5/16 by 1 5/8 inches.

Books have been produced in small sizes for years for obvious reasons: portability and hideability. They are also produced as a test of craftsmanship and skill. The smallest of the miniature books are known as ultra-microminiatures, measuring less than ¼ inch in height, such as the ultra-microminiature Bible discovered last year at the University of Iowa Special Collections.

While Iowa State University Special Collections does not have any microscopic miniature books, nor any that are quite as old as a Sumerian clay tablet, we do have a number of fine and interesting specimens in a range of genres.

A popular type of miniature book in the 19th century was the etiquette book, such as ISU’s Routledge’s Etiquette for Ladies, published around 1864. Measuring 10 cm, this is a readable book that a lady might easily have put in her reticule for ready reference on the current rules for paying visits, walking with gentlemen, staying at a friend’s house, and when and under what circumstances to accept an invitation to dance at a ball. You can see below how well-used this particular volume was by the worn cover and detached binding.

Title page and cover photos of Routledge's etiquette for ladies.

Title page and cover of “Routledge’s etiquette for ladies,” ca. 1864. Call number: BJ1872 .R68x.

As with etiquette books, miniature religious books were popular in the 19th century. These included “thumb Bibles,” or Bible summaries in miniature size, books of the Psalms, and even miniatures of the complete Bible, as well as prayer books and devotionals. ISU owns Dew Drops, published by the American Tract Society around 1834, a devotional book of daily Bible quotations. It measures 6 by 4 cm. Here are pages from late January:

Pages from "Dew Drops" showing daily entries for the end of January.

Pages from “Dew Drops” showing daily entries for the end of January. Call number: BS390 D4x.

Three American political miniature books were created in the early 20th century by students at the Kingsport Press in Tennessee, and they are among the smallest books at ISU. These are Addresses of Abraham Lincoln, 1929; Extracts from the Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge, 1930; and Washington: His Farewell Address, 1932. According to Ann C. Bromer and Julian I. Edison in their book Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures, these three books were typeset by hand and then photographically reduced to fit the page size. The final products measure from 21 to 22 mm. They are indeed small works of art! ISU Special Collections owns all three:

Three miniature books: Addresses of Abraham Lincoln; Washington: His Farewell Address, and Excerpts from the Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge.

Addresses of Abraham Lincoln, 1929 (E457.95 .L638a); Washington: His Farewell Address, 1932 (E312.95 1932); and Excerpts from the Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge, 1930 (E792 C615 1930x). Published by Kingsport Press.

What is the smallest book that ISU Special Collections owns? For many years, it was thought to be the Extracts from the Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge from the trio mentioned above, but as I was searching through the collections in preparation for this post, I discovered an even smaller volume. It is possible that there is one still smaller as yet undiscovered, but my candidate for Smallest Book at ISU Special Collections is: American Birds, original illustrations by Amanda Epstein, published around 1979-1982.

Three views of the book American Birds by Amanda Epstein: page of bobolink illustration, cover next to a nickel, title page.

Top left: pages for the bobolink; lower left: cover; right: title page. American Birds, original illustrations by Amanda Epstein, published ca. 1979-1982. Call number: QL682 E67x 1979.

At 20 mm it is definitely the smallest I’ve found!

Miniature books can be found in ISU’s catalog by doing a subject search for “Miniature books — Specimens”.

If you are interested in collecting miniature books yourself, check out the Miniature Book Society.

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