National Teach Agriculture Day

It is no secret that Iowa State University takes a lot of pride in our agricultural programs. Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences ranks among the best in the world– ranking in the top 4% of worldwide programs of agriculture and forestry programs by the QS World University Rankings.

News clipping photo showing a man with a semi truck, titled "Agriculture Day"
News Clipping on National Agriculture day. Can be found at MS- 0066, Box: 1, Folder: 2. Special Collections and University Archives.

Seeing as today is National Teach Agriculture Day, there is no better way to celebrate than to learn more about Iowa Agriculture and to become more acquainted with the industry!

According to the National Association of Agricultural Educators, “National Teach Ag Day is designed to encourage others to teach school based agriculture and recognize the important role that agriculture teachers play in our schools and communities.” They also stated that in the United States, there are 11,000 middle and high school agriculture teachers, and agriculture curriculum is taught in all 50 states!

At Iowa State University, there are 28 majors in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, ranging from Dairy Science to Dietetics. You can view the full list here.

In the Manuscript Collection at the archives, we have multiple boxes stuffed with correspondences, newspaper clippings, and fact sheets to lobby for National Agriculture Day becoming a national holiday in the United States.

From the National Agriculture Day collection (MS-0066), it was said in 1973 that “Agriculture is this nation’s greatest asset” and that “Agriculture is American’s one industrial effort in which we will never be overtaken by a competitive nation. It is an area of technological, scientific, and productive superiority which will never be surpassed by another country. It is an American resource which continually increases in productivity and quality” (“Agriculture Day is Established.”, MS-0066, Box: 1, Folder: 8).

Additionally, I was able to find these infographics to be taught to elementary students in 1973 that are much different today:

Graphic reads: "Enough milk for 75 4th grade lunches = 1 day of milk production from 1 cow"
Infographic regarding milk production in a cow. Can be found at MS- 0066, Box: 2, Folder: 4. Special Collections and University Archives.

According to the Compassion in World Farming USA, today the average dairy cow produces 7.5 gallons of milk per day. This multiplied by 128 ounces in a gallon, divided by the 8 ounces per average school milk cartridge per day would be enough milk for 120 4th grade lunches- nearly doubling in production over the past 47 years!

Graphic reads "Corn consumed by 1 steer = weight of 60 4th graders"
Infographic regarding weight of a steer. Can be found at MS- 0066, Box: 2, Folder: 4. Special Collections and University Archives.

This graphic describes that in a year 1 steer will consume the equivalent of 60 4th graders (at 50 pounds each) in corn. Today, I found that the average steer eats 16.5 lbs of grain per day. This number multiplied by 365 days in a year, divided by 50 lbs per 4th grader would double the number to the equivalent of about 120 4th graders!

As agriculture continues to grow and change, we are happy to have days like today celebrating our agricultural educators.

Excerpt reads:
"The most sensible shortcut to a solid ag future is the educated child
Agriculture in the classroom?
Yes. NOW is the time to infiltrate the national School Systems with Agri-Eduction...
Urban areas
Suburban areas
Rural communities...
Excerpt describing the importance of agriculture education. Can be found at MS- 0066, Box: 2, Folder: 4. Special Collections and University Archives.

As a member of the agricultural industry myself, I find the most fascinating aspect of agriculture to be the community and pride in their work of feeding the world. Certainly this is a subject worth teaching about for generations to come, happy National Teach Agriculture Day!

Father of the Peanut

September 13th is National Peanut Day, and we would be remiss to not utilize this national holiday to acknowledge and honor the famous Iowa State alumni, George Washington Carver. Amongst a wide array of accomplishments, Carver is well known for his invention of over 300 uses and products from the peanut plant. For this reason, George Washington Carver is often dubbed the ‘Father of the Peanut’.

Comic book title page graphic depicting George Washington Carver, alone with the many uses of the peanut with the title "The Story of George Washington Carver"
Comic book title page that illustrates the life of George Washington Carver. Found in RS 21/7/2 Biographical, 1895-2006, undated, 1, Box: 1, Folder: 1

George Washington Carver’s upbringing was riddled with adversities. Carver was “born of slave parents on a Diamond Drove, Missouri Farm. George Washington Carver rose from a childhood of hardships and little formal education to the status of one of the world’s greatest scientists.”

Despite Carver’s difficult upbringing, he went on to pursue years of education. Carver began at Simpson college in 1890 to study piano and art, then transferred in 1891 to Iowa State. By 1894, Carver received his Bachelor of Agriculture from Iowa State and was appointed to a member of faculty, going on to later receive his Master of Agriculture Degree at Iowa State in 1896.

Most notably, October 8th of 1896 Booker T. Washington personally invited George Washington Carver to serve as the Director of Agriculture at Tuskegee University- where Carver would stay for the rest of his life. (“Miscellaneous Data Regarding Dr. George Washington Carver.” George Washington Carver Collection, RS 21/7/2, Box 1, Folder 1).

News paper clipping picture of George Washington Carver in a science lab
News paper clipping picture of George Washington Carver in a science lab. Found in RS 21/7/2 Biographical, 1895-2006, undated, 1, Box: 1, Folder: 1

George Washington Carver’s most notable achievement in the field of science is the plethora of uses for the peanut plant he discovered. Carver found over 300 uses, and has numerous patents to his name. Some of the uses Carver found include: caramel, vinegar, mock meat, cocoa, laundry soap, cherry punch, hand lotion, face cream, paints, and plastics. You can find a comprehensive list of Carver’s uses here.

An oil painting of George Washington Carver and a plant painted by Betsy Graves Reyneau in 1942
An oil painting of George Washington Carver and a plant painted by Betsy Graves Reyneau in 1942. Found in RS 21/7/2 Biographical, 1895-2006, undated, 1, Box: 1, Folder: 1

Along with George Washington Carver’s impressive list of uses for the peanut plant, Carver accumulated numerous other accomplishments for science and his passions.

During his time at Iowa State, Carver did some of “the best work in the field” of mycology and collaborated with the USDA’s mycologists for forty years.

.Additionally, in Carver’s first few years at Tuskegee, he developed new methods of cotton cultivation that lead to an increase in the yield of more than 150% and “showed farmers how they could increase their yield in sweet potatoes by more than 600%”! (“The Gift of Service.” George Washington Carver Collection, RS 21/7/2, Box 1, Folder 1.)

In addition to his scientific triumphs, George Washington Carver was always an appreciator of the arts and created his last artwork, “The Yucca”, in 1939 just four years before his passing. Carver’s artworks received numerous awards, and in 1893 had paintings exhibited and received an honorable mention at the Chicago World’s Fair (“Miscellaneous Data Regarding Dr. George Washington Carver.” George Washington Carver Collection, RS 21/7/2, Box 1, Folder 1).

George Washington Carver’s contributions to the field of science do not go unnoticed at Iowa State University. Today, our Carver Hall is named after George Washington Carver and we have boxes of files on Carver in the archives including correspondences with Carver, biographical data, newspaper clippings, and more. Be sure to stop by that archives and sift through these files to have a better understanding of the importance and legacy brought to us by George Washington Carver, the Father of the Peanut.

George Washington Carver’s graduation photo from the Bomb Yearbook at ISU in 1894. Image call number: RS 21/7/A.Carver.V-01-01

The Victory Bell

Sketch drawing of the College/Victory Bell in its housing behind Beardshear Hall.
Victory Bell Sketch from Campus Sketches by Velma Rayness. Gerard and Velma Rayness papers, MS-0059 Box 16 Folder 8.

The first bell on the ISU campus was purchased in 1868 at a cost of $184.11 and was installed in the belfry of the Main Building (Old Main). The bell would be used as a morning wakeup call at 6:30 am, call for breakfast at 7:00 am, prayers at 8:00 am, lunch at 1:00 pm, work at 2:00 pm, supper at 6:00 pm, for study at 7:00 pm, and light outs at 10:00 pm. A salary of $75 was paid to a student to ring the bell daily during the school year.  

It appears within a few years the bell was moved from the belfry in the southeast corner of Old Main to a bell house south of the building. Alumnus O.H. Cessna, in a letter to the Alumni Association in 1924, claimed that the bell had damaged the belfry tower and was moved to the ground around 1870. In the same letter Alumnus Charles H. Kegley claimed that the bell house was moved between the wings of Old Main (west side of building) around 1876.  

Photo of the College Bell in its housing. This would have been located to the west of the Main Building.
College Bell c.1892. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 215
This photograph was taken in 1897, looking southeast from the balcony of Iowa State College water tower. Note the "Victory Bell" location, a material distance due west of the middle of the Old Main.  University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 209.
This photograph was taken in 1897, looking southeast from the balcony of Iowa State College water tower. Note the “Victory Bell” location, a material distance due west of the middle of the Old Main. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 209.

Sometime during the Fall 1890 school year the original bell was damaged and a new one was needed. A new bell was acquired from the Meneely Bell Company out of Troy, New York. The old bell was exchanged in-part for the new one, and a balance of $140.13 was also approved to cover the remaining cost owed to Meneely. In May of 1891 the Board approved $73.42 for a new bell house. 

1890 November Meeting 1890
The following bills were presented:
A bill in favor of the Meneeley Bell Comany of Troy N.Y. for $140.13 for balance due on exchange of the old bell for a new one. 
Allowed and ordered charged to the contingent expense account.
Ayes Boardman, Jones, McElroy, Saylor, Van Houten, Secor, Wood, Yeomans and Mr. Chairman.
Board of Regents Minutes, Vol 2. RS 1-8.

In 1895 after the passing of Margaret Stanton, her husband Edgar approached the Board of Trustees with the idea of him purchasing a set of bells if the College would fund a tower to house them. This resulted in the funding of the Campanile, which would house a clock and the bells. The construction was completed in 1899 with the bells arriving from England that October. The bells would first chime on the evening of February 16, 1900, ending the use of the bell behind Old Main.  

Panoramic photo of the Athletic field during the November 23, 1907 Iowa State-Iowa game. Fans surrounding the field and in the background you can see Morrill Hall, The Hub, Beardshear Hall, Alumni All and Marston Hall.
Athletic Field, Iowa State vs. Iowa, Nov. 23, 1907. University Photograph Collection, RS 24-6-G mapcase.

After the Campanile made the old bell obsolete for its original use, it came to be used as the “Victory Bell” to celebrate ISU football wins. It is not exactly known when the tradition of the “Victory Bell” began though. Looking through materials here in the archives, a safe hypothesis would be sometime around 1902-1903. Prior to the 1902 season the Iowa State football team had a few rough seasons finishing 5-4-1 (1899), 2-5-1 (1900), and 2-6-2 (1901). In 1902 the team finished 6-3, with a win over Grinnell College in Ames. Grinnell was considered a major rival and in the history of football, the Cyclones had only beaten them once prior to that season. The following season they went 8-1, and declared themselves as the State Champions. The location of the home football field during this time also probably helped in assist in the rise of the ringing of the bell, as it was located approximately where Parks Library sits today. The old bell behind Beardshear would be a short run from the field following victories.  

Photo of fans ringing the Victory Bell after a football win.
Victory Bell, 1945. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 215

After moving to Clyde Williams Stadium and poor performances from the Cyclones, support of the teams started to wane. This in turn resulted with the bell being rung less and less. By the 1940s students were carrying radios to know the ending of the game and to be the first to ring the bell. In 1955 there was talk of moving the bell to a “more central location” on campus, so that it would be more likely to be rung after Iowa State victories, but it would 20 years before the Victory Bell would move to a new home.  

Photo of the Victory Bell after it had been relocated to the north side of Jack Trice Stadium.
Victory Bell c. 1976. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 215

In August 1975 a decision was made to move the Victory Bell from its location behind Beardshear Hall to the north entrance of the new football stadium and the pep squad became the ringers of the bell after a victory.  The bell received a cleaning and restoration in 1980 by the campus service department of the ISU Physical Plant. 1998 saw a campaign to raise funds for new practice fields, which would be named in honor of Johnny Majors. Once the fields were constructed, a plaza was created on the west side of the Olsen/Jacobson Building to honor the names of donors to the project and the plaza became the new home of the Victory Bell. 

Additional information can also be found with in the Iowa State University. Facilities Planning and Management records (RS 4/8), Box 43.

Literacy Matters

In light of September 8th being International Literacy Day, we are looking back on past Iowa State Associate Professor of Child Development (1979), Rosalind Engel. As a faculty member, Engel published multiple papers regarding the importance of childhood literacy and programs to help develop those skills in children. Engel gained experience from teaching elementary students for over 20 years, and was named the Iowa State Faculty Member of the year in 1971.

Headshot of Rosalind Engel
Headshot of Rosalind Engel from Rosiland Engel Papers RS 12/4/55
 File — Box: 1, Folder: 39

In Rosalind Engel’s papers, she emphasizes the importance of childhood literacy and advocates for reading in the classroom. In one of Engel’s most published works, Literature Develops Children’s “I’s” for Reading (1976), she explains that literature can help children discover their sense of self. Engel’s title for the essay is a play on words regarding that by age 6 a child’s eyes are not yet fully developed, and neither is their sense of self; their “I’s”. Therefore, it is important to read to children and help them better understand themselves and the world around them.

quotation reads: "Six sticky feet -- that's why a fly can walk upside down. Two smooth feet -- that's why you can't."
A small quotation in Engel’s paper taken from Why Can’t I? by Jeanne Bendick explaining a common question from children in a fun way, but still scientifically correct. From Rosalind Engel Papers RS 12/4/55 File — Box: 1, Folder: 23
Quotation reads: Wherever you go, you'll see lots and lots of children... all kinds of children... little children... big children... busy children... lazy children... children jumping rope... children flying kites... children building forts... children planting seeds... or sailing boats... or selling lemonade... or chasing cats... or even children sitting very still... But try as you may, you will never, never, never find another child that is quite like you, because you're the only one in the whole wide world that is you.
A passage from Joan Walsh Anglund’s Look Out the Window quoted in Engel’s paper exhibiting the way that literature can help a child better understand themselves and how unique they are. From Rosalind Engel Papers RS 12/4/55 File — Box: 1, Folder: 23
Scan of title of paper by Rosalind Engel. "I think I can read! by Rosalind Engel" "What better way to get a child started on reading than with books that tell him how very special he is?"
Title page from one of Engel’s papers I think I can Read! (1978) From Rosalind Engel Papers RS 12/4/55 File — Box: 1, Folder: 19

In Rosalind Engel’s paper the Importance of Children’s Literature in Training Programs for Teachers of Young (1984), Engel outlines 10 ways that literature helps children grow, including that it aids in language development, stimulates imagination, and provides opportunities for human insight and understanding, but that “If there were no other reason for sharing literature with children, enjoyment would be reason enough.”

To further encompass the idea that literacy is essential for children, as well as adults, Engel quotes C. S. Lewis that “a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.” As we celebrate International Literacy Day, be sure to reflect on your experiences with literature and to be thankful for those who educated you from a young age and cared about the importance of childhood literacy, like Rosalind Engel.

International Literacy day was “founded by proclamation of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, in 1966 ‘to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights'”, as stated by You can find more information about International Literacy day from their site here.

ISU & UFOs: Two Alumni Who Shaped 1960s UFO Study

The June 2021 intelligence report to Congress on UFO sightings (now referred to as “unidentified aerial phenomenon” or UAPs) has revived interest in a topic that, since the 1960s, had been relegated almost exclusively to the realm of science fiction and presumed delusion. And this revival has raised questions. If such sightings have indeed been so common, and so well documented by sources as reliable as the US military, and the technology they display does indeed pose a security threat, particularly given UAPs’ unknown origins (are they spyware from China or Russia? are they truly visitors from another world? who knows?), then what has prevented us, as a nation, from studying or discussing them in any serious manner for so long?

Interestingly, two ISU alumni from the 1950s might have been able to answer some of these questions. Both were involved in shaping the conversations that we have (and haven’t) been having about UFOs/UAPs for the past half-a-century.

James E. McDonald, circa 1950, University Photograph Collection, RS 13/20/A, box 1178
I was unable to locate a headshot of Craig, but this photo of a 1948 chemistry lab in Chemistry Hall (renamed Gilman Hall in 1973) gives a sense of the environment in which he would have completed some of his work as student. University Photograph Collection, RS 13/6/F, box 1052

Both Roy Craig and James Edward McDonald received their undergraduate degrees elsewhere (and McDonald served as a lieutenant in the navy during World War II) before completing their PhDs, within a year of each other, at Iowa State. They would likely not have crossed paths at ISU, however, as they studied with different departments. Craig, class of 1952, completed a PhD in Physical Chemistry (see his dissertation in the ISU Digital Repository here), while McDonald, class of 1951, completed his PhD in Physics (see his dissertation in the ISU Digital Repository here).

A mixture of typed information fields and hand-written answers cover the entirety of the form. They read as follows:
Personnel File
Information Services
Morrill Hall
Iowa State College
Date: 6/26/51
Name: McDonald, James Edward
Position on Staff (Title): Research Assistant Professor
Place of Birth: Duluth, Minn.
Date of Birth: May 7, 1920
Education (degrees, dates and places conferred):
B.A. 1944 University of Omaha
M.S. 1945 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
PhD. 1951 Iowa State College
Date of appointment to Iowa State College staff: Jan. 1946
Date of appointment to present position: Jan 1950
Previous positions on Iowa State College Staff, and approximate dates of each: Instructor 1946-1949. Asst. Proff. 1950.
Positions held prior to Iowa State appointment, and approximate dates of each: U.S. Navy 1942-1945.
Leaves granted to serve other institutions, government projects, foreign missions, or like. (approximate dates): None.
If research worker, your field of specialization: Meteorology (micro-meteorology, cloud physics)
Outstanding accomplishments or results of your research work: -
Membership in honorary or professional groups, offices held: Sigma [illegible], American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union.
Membership in other national organizations, offices held: United World Federalists, Am. Civil Liberties Union, Am. Veterans Committee
Part of McDonald’s personnel file from his time as an Assistant Professor at Iowa State, right after he graduated from his PhD program. RS 13/20/2 Box 2, Folder 48.
Handwritten text in the top left-hand corner of the document reads "Iowa SC AL ISC-309." A black inked stamp in the right-hand corner of the document reads "The John Hopkins University." Crossing over this text, a red inked stamp reads, "Withdrawn from the John Hopkins University Libraries."
The text of the tile page itself reads as follows:
United States Atomic Energy Commission
Absorption of Aliphatic Alcohols and Acids from Binary Aqueous Solution by Non-Porous Carbons.
Roy P. Craig
Rober S. Hansen
March 1953
Ames Laboratory
Technical Information Service, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
The front page of an Ames Lab report that Craig co-authored during his time at Iowa State. RS 12/1/0/5 Box 2, File 30.

Our collections do not contain extensive documentation of either scientist’s time at Iowa State, but we do have a letter/memo providing notice of McDonald’s resignation, when he moved on to a more prestigious appointment at the University of Arizona in 1954, along with a typed draft of a research paper he wrote.

Text of this memo reads as follows:
For release Tuesday, March 23, 1954.
Information Service, Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa.
ISC Accepts Resignations of Three Staff Members.
Ames, Iowa, March 23 -- Resignations of three members of the faculty of Iowa State College have been accepted by the State Board of Education.
Dr. James E. McDonald, assistant professor of physics, has resigned to accept a position as associate director of the Cloud Physics Project and associate professor at the University of Arizona. He will be engaged in a project which seeks more rainfall for the state of Arizona.
J.T. Miles, assistant professor of animal husbandry (dairy husbandry) leaves to join the staff at Mississippi State College, and Saul Altshuler, associate in physics also leaves the ISC staff.
- 1954 -
McDonald’s resignation letter from Iowa State College, 1954. RS 13/20/2 Box 2, Folder 48.
Pencil markings at the top of the page read, "April, 1959. File of J. E. McDonald."
Text, presumably typed on a typewriter, below this reads as follows:
McDonald - Physics
Research on shape of raindrops

Is a raindrop streamlined?
The answer to this rather curious question would be in the affirmative if one could accept the conventional notion of a raindrop as being nicely rounded on its lower surface and tapering to a sharp upper point. However, this common conception of the shape of raindrops is quite incorrect, as it has been proved by taking photographs of freely falling drops using very high illumination and exceedingly short exposure times. Such photographs have revealed that large raindrops have a quite nonstreamlined form, flattened on the bottom and smoothly rounded, not pointed, above. No aerodynamicist would ever design such a shape if he wanted to cut down air resistance.
To understand why drops become so oddly deformed is of considerable interest in connection with he process of rain formation, both natural and artificial, and is also closely related to some problems in thunderstorm electricity; but the exact reason why big raindrops assume their characteristic shape has been a puzzle for some time. Dr. J. E. McDonald, a member of the Department of Physics of Iowa State College, has been studying this and certain other problems in cloud physics during the past year with the support of the Office of Naval Research. He has found that each individual raindrop that falls during a shower is the seat of some surprisingly complex physical processes.
First of all, the phenomenon of surface tension, which makes a liquid surface behave rather like an elastic membrane, would tend to pull a raindrop into a perfectly spherical shape if no other forces acted on the drop. In the case of a very tiny drizzle . . . [here the text on the first page cuts off]
Draft of a research project authored by McDonald. RS 13/20/2 Box 2, Folder 48.

It is unclear exactly what career path Roy Craig took immediately following graduation. However, he was shortly thereafter recruited to the famous government Colorado Project, also known as “The Condon Committee”, by Edward Condon himself to serve as chief field investigator of UFO sightings and reports, which had already been pouring in from numerous sources for decades. The Colorado Project, founded in 1966, constituted the final stage of Project Blue Book , a study created by the United States Air Force in 1947 (perhaps not coincidentally the same year as the mysterious and much-mythologized “Roswell Incident” had occurred) and which had sought, not only to investigate the validity and/or cause of UFO sightings themselves, but to assess any potential national security threat posed by these incidents.

Craig, while reportedly fascinated by the concept of UFOs and their potential to open the public imagination, maintained a firmly skeptical position on their extraterrestrial origins throughout his time with the project. Indeed, his influence at the helm of this committee may have been among the factors that closed the project so quickly. In 1969, he and his fellow investigators released the Condon Report, concluding that there was nothing to be gained from further study on this topic, which led the Air Force to close the project on December 17th of that same year.

ISU’s SCUA unfortunately does not hold any of Craig’s professional papers from his time spent researching UFOs, but Texas A&M University does, and the finding aid for this collection can be found here. Craig also authored a book about his experience working with The Colorado Project in 1995, entitled UFOs: An Insider’s View of the Official Quest for Evidence. It is still in print, and copies can be accessed through Parks Library General Collection TL79 .C86 1995 (see the catalog entry and online version access here).

Cover of Roy Craig's book entitled "UFOs: An Insider's View of the Official Quest for Evidence." The cover is blue and yellow, overlaid with black line drawings of speeding aircrafts and an official-looking license that names Roy Craig a member of the "unidentified Flying Objects Project." Cover of Roy Craig’s book. Link redirects to University of North Texas Press, where it was published.

What Craig and several of his colleagues seemed to view as an open-and-shut case, however, was, in fact, hotly contested amongst the scientific community of his day even before the Condon Report officially dismissed the concept of UFOs’ extraterrestrial origin. And none other than fellow Iowa State alum James. E. McDonald, then a physicist at the University of Arizona, made a name for himself in the public eye by criticizing the Condon Committee’s methods and findings.

According to the July 26, 1968 issue of Science magazine (Vol. 161, No. 3839, pp. 339-342, article accessible via JSTOR at the following link), McDonald was, at that time, also a full-time UFO investigator and had, in conjunction with Air Force chief UFO consultant J. Allen Hynek, expressed concern directly to the National Academy of Sciences in April 1967 about (unspecified)evidence that the Colorado project had and had not taken into account. While the Science article quotes Edward Condon as claiming that “McDonald doesn’t know a damn thing about what we’ve done,” two of Condon’s own Colorado project team members, David R. Saunders and Norman E. Levine, seem to have sided with McDonald’s criticisms and were fired shortly after the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) caught wind of the objections McDonald and Hynek had raised.

A follow up article in Science’s January 17, 1969 issue (Vol. 163, No. 3864, pp. 260-262, JSTOR access available here), which was written after the release of the Condon Report, suggests that Saunders, at least, continued actively publishing criticism of the project even after he was fired from it. His 1968 book UFOs? Yes! Where the Condon Committee Went Wrong is also still available, and its entry in WorldCat indicates that UI, UNI, and Drake all hold copies in their general collections that ISU students could request through interlibrary loan, if interested.

Even more curiously, though, James E. McDonald was found dead in the middle of the desert, north of Tucson, Arizona, in June of 1971, less than two years after the Condon Report had been released and the Colorado project had been closed. The local press coverage of his death (of which we have a photocopy in McDonald’s alumni files, see image below) states that authorities named the cause as “apparent suicide,” which conclusion, at least in my mind, raises more questions than it answers. If nothing else, possibilities for cinematic plotlines abound.

Photocopy of an article from a newspaper called the Tuscan Daily Citizen, Tucson, Arizona, Monday, June 14, 1971. The headline is "UA Physicist Found Dead in Desert." The text of the article reads as follows.
James E. Mcdonald, 51, a scientific voice in the wilderness on controversial issues ranging from UFO to SST, was found dead in a desert area north of Tucson yesterday.
[handwritten in red pen, someone has added the date June 13, 1971].
McDonald, of 3461 E. 3rd St., was a senior physicist specializing in clouds at the University of Arizona's Institute of Atmosphereic Physics.
His death was apparently a suicide, according to sheriff's deputies. An autopsy was performed, but no report was immediately availab.e
Sheriff Waldon V. Burr said a note and a .38 revolver were found beside the body. There was a bullet wound in the head.
Frank Flores, of 127 E. Lee St., told investigators that he and his children were hiking about noon yesterday when they found the body at Caonyon del Oro near Ina Road on Interstate 10.
McDonald reportedly left the Veterans Administration Hospital on South 6th Avenue, where he was being treated for visual problems, yesterday morning by taxi.
McDonald was blinded when he shot himself in the head on April 9, according to police reports, but only last week he began going to his office several hours a day.
Mcdonald came to the UA in 1954 after serving as a research physicist at the University of Chicago. His doctorate was from Iowa State.
UA President Richard A. Harvill said that McDonald was an "exceptionally able teacher" and "well-known throughout the United States as a brilliant scholar."
[there is inserted a headshot of Mcdonald captioned with his name].
Louis J. Battan, associate director of Institute of Atmospheric Physics, said that during the past 10 years McDonald made many important contributions to the advancement of cloud physics and weather modification research.
A member of the National Academy of Sciences, McDonald jumped into the national spotlight with his stand on unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
McDonald was bluntly outspoken in his opposition to the Air Forces' so-called "Condon Report," in which most UFO sightings were linked to satellites, balloons, clouds, birds and other explainable objects. The report was named for Dr. Edward U. Condon, who conducted the study for the Air Force.
After the Condon Report was issued in 1969, McDonald embarked on a speaking crusade against it.
He said the Condon Report was not a high-caliber scientific study.
McDonald's criticism of the report and the Air Force explanations of the UFOs was based on several years' study in which he concluded that UFOs were real -- and probably extraterrestrial -- surveillance craft.
Nor di McDonald confine his dissent to UFOs.
He was active most recently against the SST, branding the project "socially insane." He suggested that chemical reactions to exhausts from a fleet of SSTs could cause 10,000 new cases of skin cancer a year.
In the early 1960s, McDonald accused the Air Force of making mistakes in the location of Titan intercontinental missile sites around Tuscon.
McDonald and the committee he formed among Tusconians reasoned that the missile sites would become prime targets, and prevailing winds from west to west could expose thousands to nuclear fallout.
The group suggested that the titan sites all be placed to the east of Tucson.
Like so many of McDonald's battles, he lost. The Air Force stuck to its original plan and Tucson was ringed with 18 Titan missile sites.
Happily, in the decade since, McDonald's theory on nuclear fallout has never been tested.
Alumni Files, RS 21/7/1

Roy Craig, on the other hand, did not pass away until 2004, when he lost a battle with cancer. You can read the online version of the Iowa State Daily article here, or see the first page of a print-out version imaged below.

Photocopy of a print-friendly format of an Iowa State Daily article (linked above) from March 24, 2004, entitled "UFO investigator, ISU alumnus dead" by Scott Rank.
Alumni Files, RS 21/7/1

As is frequently the case with fascinating historical mysteries, we may never know the full truth of what the Condon Committee did or did not discover, or did or did not obscure. But we do know that the voices and perspectives of these two Iowa State alumni played a critical role in shaping, not only the current mythology of UFOs, alien contact, and secret government conspiracies in the public’s imagination, but also two sides of an ongoing conversation about what is and is not worth the application of scientific study, military resources, and the attention of everyday citizens so barraged with information (and so frequently lacking information literacy) that we already scarcely know who or what to believe, or why.

Welcome Back Cyclones

Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA) welcomes students, faculty, and staff back to campus. Our current hours are Monday thru Friday, 9 am–5 pm, appointments are not required but you are always welcome to let us know when you’ll be here.

Face masks in gold and red graphic design, text: Face Masks Encouraged (But Not Required). Iowa State Vaccinates
Face masks encouraged (but not required). Iowa State vaccinates

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loss and preservation

We are sad to hear of the passing of a close friend and colleague, Pat Miller. From 1981-2018, she led the ISU Lectures program. A shrewd negotiator, fund raiser, and storyteller, Pat attracted an incredibly diverse array of leaders, politicians, scientists, authors, activists, and entertainers to ISU. The fruits of that labor thankfully have been preserved in our collection of Lecture recordings, which now include more than 1,000 online items thanks to a recent grant from the National Recording Preservation Foundation (NRPF). In preparation for the grant, Rosie and I reached out to Pat to get more information about the recordings and her work, which led to several great stories and the obvious need to sit down for an in-depth oral history. Sadly, our first session didn’t last long as Pat’s voice gave out, as it was prone to do given the complications of ALS. A second session was scheduled but canceled due to her health. We decided it might be best for her to write out her experiences and share that way. Unfortunately, the final touches on manuscript remain unfinished. Nevertheless, I though it would be nice to share what we do have from that first session together. What follows is a transcript of our talk on December 18th, 2020. You can also listen here.

DH: This is Daniel Hartwig an interviewer for the Iowa State University Oral History Project. Today is December 18th, 2020. I’m interviewing Pat Miller via Zoom. Good afternoon.

PM: Good afternoon Daniel.

DH: Please begin by talking about your background and what drew you to Iowa State.

PM: I began working at Iowa State in April of 1981 after graduating in 1980 from Iowa State. I had always been active in public events and political events and the Lectures program was a natural fit, which consisted of planning for a main speaker, the finances, and all the logistics of an event. So was a natural fit even though I had no background before that in an actual university lectures program other than attending speakers like Germaine Greer, feminist scholar, activist comedian Dick Gregory, activists Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, and even Scotty of Star Trek fame in 1980, my senior year.

DH: How did you work with the lectures committee and what goals did the lecture committee or the program set?

PM: The lectures program was founded by the Shakespeare scholar and English professor, James Lowry, twenty-five years before I came on the scene. So they were helping him transition to retirement and so they brought me in as a non-faculty manager of the program. There was a faculty chair of a committee made up of, and they still operate this way, it’s a very large committee of eleven students appointed by student government and then faculty representing each of the colleges and individual staff folks from student affairs, honors, and other areas. So there is broad expertise in every topic and speaker under the sun. And so I managed their selection process and worked in the office to develop contacts and information and suggestions and help folks who made requests to the committee because their other charge was funding student organizations requests for speakers. So, for example, you have Engineers Week over the years we hosted Grant Imahara, the engineer who worked on Star Wars movies, and Bill Nye, The Science Guy. I would manage maintaining contact with potential speakers, as well as the agents working with speakers, and managing the student organizations requests from the committee.

DH: Talk a little bit about the nitty gritty or the behind the scenes details in terms of these negotiations. What were some of the challenges, the hardest parts of scheduling and doing other logistics?

PM: Well, being able to, you know somebody will complain about people going off on a tangent and I’ve always described that as my job description because you had to be able to stop and pivot to a topic that would work. For example, students would come in, I had engineers week come in five years in a row requesting Bill Nye, The Science Guy. So much so that I would say OK here’s the financial arrangement. You put that together. Here’s the case for them and make that presentation to the committee and the committee will approve it. We know because they’ve been trying to get Bill Nye, The Science Guy, themself and is very hard to book. So I would call the agent and say hello it’s us again. The Engineers Week would like to have Bill Nye, The Science Guy and the fifth year I just joked about it because I assumed we have that turned down again. But you have to keep trying, make sure to check the door, make sure the door might open this year. And I said to the agent. Hello it’s Pat Miller and it’s April and so it’s time to make that request for a Bill Nye again. And guess who’s here? The engineers are here. And she started laughing. The agents started laughing and said put this together and I’ll make him take it. So that’s the year he finally came–the fifth year. But my favorite story of the longest time it took is Margaret Atwood, who I took twenty-five years to bring her to campus finally in 2016. So that’s my longest one. Part of the process is finding a key for somebody like Margaret Atwood, the writer of The Handmaid’s Tale, if any of your listeners don’t know that. Finding a key to catch their eye when they’re in demand. And I would say that to students and faculty alike that this person could be in a hundred different places when you want him or her. And so why should he or she come here instead of going someplace else that would be more convenient? Because above all, Iowa is in the flyover land unless you’re running for president and so it’s harder for them to get here. So Margaret Atwood I wrote her. I have the oldest letter I sent her the first one, 1987. And then 1988. And we started. She was a bird watcher, so I would throw in migrating birds at Redrock or something she could see a bird that was in the area. And then one year in the 1990s, I threw in and if you can come early in the year, the students would take you to the Iowa State Fair, where you could see a sculptured, 3,000 pound butter cow. I left that at the end of the letter and signed off. And then she happened to come to the University of Iowa Writers Workshop in the fall and I called them and asked if they would introduce me to her. We’re trying to get her to lecture at Iowa State. And they said sure come on in. And so I always give this as an example to students saying say one memorable thing and then the invitation will stick in their brain. And so they took me up after it to talk during a book signing and cut me in to the table where she was signing books. I said hi, I’m Pat Miller from Iowa State. Our faculty and students would love to have you come to campus. She shook my hand and looked up at me and said ‘Ah, the butter cow.’ So it’s always important to have something like that.

DH: Picking up on that a little bit, if it wasn’t necessarily a known location or name were there other challenges say financial or…

PM: Oh, financial. Always financial. We have a good budget but nothing is ever enough. I mean the speaker is a very expensive once they get famous. We literally have had speakers prices go up elsewhere in negotiating. So once had a Washington D.C. agency over the border in Virginia say to me once we had negotiated for a speaker and got what we had she said to me you know you’re a very good negotiator. And I said no, that’s all the money we had. So if you’re you don’t get obnoxious about it you just say what I would do is call an agent and say or a speaker and say I’m sorry this is what we have funding available for. You know, you understand if they decline, but there are a number of speakers out there who are over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Yeah it’s it’s crazy. So you have to say to the students, ok, you be extra charming at dinner. You be extra enthusiastic at the introduction to the speaker. That’s one of the things we do have is, if possible, a dinner with students and usually they are charming and informed and articulate and the speaker gets energized and I can’t tell you how many we’ve had come in and say, ‘explain this political caucus situation to me. The presidential caucus process.’ Then I still remember sitting there at at Aunt Maud’s with a number of African-American students who were part of Black Student Alliance. And we had the Editor of the magazine, Essence, who was sitting back and looking at the students with a smile on their face and they were from St. Louis, Chicago, not Iowa, and they had obviously studied the intricate details of the presidential caucus system here in Iowa. And he was clearly impressed with their connection to the whole process and their expertise in the area. That kind of thing is wonderful. For example, with Ambassador Joe Wilson, you may recall he served the under the Bush administration. He was brought in as a consultant on whether or not yellow cake, the pre-nuclear waste, the substance that prove somebody was making nuclear weapons. He was brought in to analyze that. He has quite the sterling ambassadorial resumé. We had nine students at dinner with him. I finally just said, ok we’re going to give you a moment to eat your dinner while the students explain how they’re going to save the world. Each one of them will speak and tell you their major and how they’re going to save it all. So it made for a wonderful exchange because the students are surprised that they’re going to save the world, but then are always up to the task at hand. We have very impressive students.

DH: Most if not all of the lectures were recorded, correct?

PM: Many are recorded. I wouldn’t say most. More than half. More than half are recorded. People who have contractual media agreements and can’t be recorded. And then people who don’t wish to be recorded because they’re giving the lecture multiple places. I had Helen Thomas, former White House reporter call me and say please don’t put it online because I’m giving the same talk for other places and I don’t want the word getting out. And then others who have had bad experiences. For example, Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard paleontologist who was a major speaker came in and did not want to be recorded because he had had a university in New England sell his videotape to a public radio station and so he wouldn’t sign anything. It’s interesting. So the process is interesting. Some people just don’t want to be recorded.

DH: Was there any lecture that you wish had been recorded that was so profound or interesting that it was a real shame that it didn’t?

PM: Oh many of them. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Stephen Jay Gould. I’m I’m really disappointed in that one because he was remarkable. But then we have Noam Chomsky and many, many that were recorded. Margaret Atwood didn’t wish to be recorded either. So it’s amazing.

[recording stopped]

Unfortunately, that’s all we were able to record that day, having only just scratched the surface of her fascinating life and work. Nevertheless, circumstances like this reassure us in our work dealing with loss and the importance of preservation. We’ll miss you Pat but your legacy lives on.

An obituary for Pat is available on the Adams Funeral Home website.

Silver Bat

Base Ball drawing, The Bomb, 1903, LD2548 Io9b

Sports have been engrained in college life in the United States since the early 1860s, and in those early years the sport of choice was baseball. It was no different on the Ames campus where games were played between classes, students and faculty, and exhibitions with other Iowa colleges.  

In March 1892 Iowa Agricultural College (Iowa State University), the State University (University of Iowa), Grinnell College, and Drake University joined together to form the Iowa Intercollegiate Baseball Association (IIBBA), and a year later Cornell College joined the league. A $40 silver bat was purchased to keep the competitive spirits burning with each yearly state champion to temporarily retain the bat, and permanently if a team kept it for three consecutive years.  

Silver Bat, ca. 1892, Artifact Collection, 2005-R010

The inaugural season of the IIBBA in 1892 saw IAC capture the silver bat, through wins over Grinnell 8-5, Drake 20-1, and State University 10-2. They also played two games against Highland Park College of Des Moines, winning both. The 1893 season started with IAC visiting Mt. Vernon for a game against Cornell College, which IAC won 20-5. Their next two league games saw losses to Grinnell (16-4) and UI (5-4) before finishing out league play with a 16-2 win versus Drake. Additional research shows that all of the teams in the league suffered two losses, with the exception of Grinnell who appears to have only lost to Cornell. Grinnell additionally made claims that the Drake and UI teams brought in ringers; pro players who had not been enrolled in college classes. Interestingly though, league officials couldn’t decide on a league champion, and the bat stayed with IAC. 

Close up of engraving of Silver Bat, ca. 1892, Artifact Collection, 2005-R010

The 1894 season only saw IAC play one league game as they struggled to field a team after losing most of the starters from the previous season, and were soundly beaten by Grinnell 29-8. Grinnell having won all other league games obtained the silver bat. It would be 10 years before it would return to Iowa State’s possession. The 1903 season saw Iowa State and Grinnell both enter the season finale with 4-1 records, but rainy weather prevented a game to be played. Initially it was agreed that a game would be played in the fall to decide the conference champion, but Grinnell pulled out of the agreement under the premise that the players were committed to the football and couldn’t be torn away to play a baseball game. They ended up playing a championship game in May 1904 with Iowa State winning 11-0. The 1904 season would see Iowa State go undefeated in league play and retain the bat.  

By spring of 1905 tensions in the IIBBA were starting to surface again. At a manager’s meeting in February University of Iowa representatives suggested conference rules, which prohibited professionalism. Specifically, UI officials were looking at Iowa State ace pitcher and team captain Charles “Buster” Brown, who like many other players during those days played semi-pro or pro ball during the off-season. Ironically there were a number of U of Iowa players who had professional ties, but they felt these players were not at the level of Brown, who was believed to have Major League potential (in fact, he would go on to play with the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, and Boston Braves). UI threatened to withdraw from the league if Brown were allowed to play, following through before the season started, joined by Cornell. Ironically, Brown missed much of the season battling an illness.  

Charles “Buster” Brown, The Bomb, 1907, LD 2548 Io9b

With the essential folding of the IIBBA, and with Iowa State having been the holders of the bat from the previous season, the bat remained in Iowa State possession. Questions arose on the owners of the bat, and it was placed in a vault in Beardshear Hall by Treasurer Herman Knapp. For close to the next 30 years, the bat was lost to the annals of history until a story in the April 1935 issues of The Alumnus brought the bat back to light, though it again soon slipped from the collective memory. In 1980, work began on the installation of an automated filing system in the vault, and the silver bat was unearthed and eventually made its was to Special Collections and University Archives.  Additional information can be found in the Iowa State University Baseball records (RS 24/4).

Engravings on Silver Bat: 

IAC 1893 

IAC 1894* 

SUI 1895 

Grinnell 1896 

Grinnell 1897 

Cornell 1898 

Grinnell 1899 

SUI 1900 

SUI 1901 

Grinnell 1902 

* The 1894 engraving does not match up with the historical record, which shows that Grinnell won the bat that year. Additionally, the 1892 and the 1903-1904 champions are missing from the bat.  

1,000+ ISU lectures now online

The Iowa State University Library is pleased to announce the completion of a grant project funded by the National Recording Preservation Foundation (NRPF) to digitize and provide online access to 991 recordings from the ISU Lecture Series. The recordings, which span the 1970s-1990s, were selected based on their significant cultural, historical, and aesthetic value, as well as timeliness with respect to topics that our country is grappling with today, which include race, gender, and sexuality—just to name a few. In selecting the content for this project, we join calls across the country to center and magnify these voices and movements, and to affirm ISU’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Select highlights from the project include: 

For a complete list by topic click here

The lectures, accessible via Aviary, have been captioned and can searched full text or synced with transcripts. As a land grant institution, ISU wholeheartedly supports the mission of sharing knowledge beyond the campus borders. Adhering to this mission requires a further commitment to digital accessibility and the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, digital content by people with disabilities. By providing highly accurate captions for lectures, including online delivery that syncs searchable captions and audio, we expand access to this content for all online users in accordance with WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility guidelines. 

This project is part of the Library’s ongoing work to provide access to all Lecture Series recordings in its holdings. From 2018-2019, thanks to support from the Lennox Foundation, the ISU Library migrated 3,000+ optical discs from the Lecture Series. In addition, we have reformatted 290 reel-to-reel and audiocassette recordings based on patron requests and available funding. As a result, 3,000+ lectures are now available via our YouTube channel. What remains are approximately 1,160 reel-to-reel and audiocassettes and 141 born-digital recordings. 

Special shout out to those whose hard work made this project possible:  

  • Heather Campbell, Chris Dieckman, Leonard Kluck, Wesley Teal, Harriet Wintermute (Metadata) 
  • Laura Sullivan, Scott Marron (Digital Scholarship & Initiatives) 
  • Rosie Rowe (Preservation) 
  • Greg Bailey, Rosalie Gartner (Special Collections & University Archives) 

About the ISU Lecture Series 

Designed to stimulate thought and promote new ideas, the ISU Lecture Series intends to document a broad range of topics with significant cultural, historical, and aesthetic value, including political debates; academic forums; and cultural events (e.g., musical performances, art and dance programs, and films). While appeal to the student population is a primary focus, the lectures also present topics and issues which may not necessarily be in the mainstream but may broaden students’ awareness. 

The ISU Lecture Series consist of over 5,000 audiovisual recordings in a multitude of formats dating back to 1958. Committed to the philosophy that the function of the university is to provide “a market place of ideas,” the Lecture Series has brought to the ISU campus a broad spectrum of talks: political debates; academic forums; and cultural events, including musical performances, art and dance programs, and films. In addition, since 1966, ISU has hosted annual series devoted to national affairs and world affairs.  

Thank you to our Student Workers

Every year, our student workers graduate and I am reminded of just how much work they do for the department. Students are often the ones who are entering folder lists into finding aids, labeling boxes, pulling anything requested by researchers, reshelving boxes, creating inventories of material, data cleanup and entry and so much more. If you’ve ever used any of our resources, you’ve benefited from the work these awesome employees do.

This year, all 3 of the processing student workers graduated. I asked them all what they enjoyed most about working here, and what they plan to do next. Read on to see what they had to say!

Lauren Brousseau

Lauren, standing in front of our rare books.

Lauren joined SCUA in January of 2019. In her 2+ years here, she helped process many collections, worked on a very long term project to inventory the university photo collection, helped with data cleanup for a migration, and taught us all a lot about trains – one of her passions!

Lauren’s favorite thing about working in SCUA was the access to some really old and neat items. She thought it was amazing being able to see a book from 1475, as it is not everyday you get to view a book that old. Lauren graduated in May, and her post-graduation plans were inspired by her job here in SCUA. She is planning to take a gap year, and then hopefully attend the University of Iowa, where she will get a Masters in Library Science with a focus on archives and preservation.  She has always enjoyed working in libraries, but had never really considered it as a career choice until working for Parks Library. 

Delaney Kennedy

Delaney, enjoying a vacation in Italy.

Delaney also joined SCUA in January 2019. She has worked on several inventory projects, including the university photo collection and MS-0005, the Hugh Shepard papers. We only had a typed list of folder titles printed out, so Delaney’s work ensured this collection of 160 boxes was much easier to search. She also cataloged artifacts, which is a very detailed process using a notoriously difficult software.

Delaney’s favorite part of working in SCUA was the hands on work and actually being able to work with the materials in the department, such as cataloging the photographs and seeing photographs from the late 1800s. Also seeing the rare books such as St. Thomas Aquinas’s book from 1475. What she is most proud of is learning how to use PastPerfect software which is what other museums, archives, and institutions use to catalog their artifacts. Learning how to use the software made her feel like she was gaining experience that will help her be successful in her career and understand some of the tools archivists use. 

After graduation, Delaney has been searching for work in the Chicago area.

McKenzie Reimer


McKenzie joined SCUA in August 2020, and transferred from the Media department when they closed due to COVID. She helped complete many inventories and process collections, and did so wonderfully given the strange situation that brought her to SCUA.

According to McKenzie, she’s loved every part about working for SCUA, but if she had to choose one thing to be her favorite part, it would probably be the fact that she got to be surrounded by history all of the time! She really enjoyed getting to see the different collections and the historical significance it has for ISU. Not all of it was always the most interesting, but she could respect the importance it held for the college. Plus, SCUA just has some really cool historical items that were fun just to look at! [Its true folks, we really do!]

This fall, McKenzie will be attending Simmons University for graduate school. She will be earning a dual master’s degree for library science and history. 

SCUA wouldn’t be able to provide access to nearly as many resources without the help of our student workers, and we send a heartfelt thank you to all past student workers. If you are interested in joining the department this fall, please fill out an application for the Library.