Posted by: Rachel | May 19, 2016

Alpha Zeta Fraternity at Iowa State #TBT

Alpha Zeta fraternity in front of Agricultural Hall (now named Catt Hall) on steps. This photograph was taken on May 23, 1927.

(University Photographs box 1627)

(University Photographs box 1627)

Charles W. Burkett and John F. Cunningham, students in the College of Agriculture at the Ohio State University, founded the Fraternity of Alpha Zeta November 4, 1897. Alpha Zeta is a professional, service, and honorary agricultural fraternity for men and women in agriculture seeking to develop leadership skills to benefit agriculture, life sciences, and related fields. There are over 100,000 members worldwide.

Drop by the reading room and review the Alpha Zeta Wilson Chapter (Iowa State University) Records. We’re open from 10 -4, Monday-Friday.

Special Olympics Iowa Summer Games returns to Iowa State University this week. 1986 was the first year ISU hosted the summer games. This year will be the 30th year the Special Olympics Iowa Summer Games have been held here!

A race during the 1994 Special Olympics Iowa summer games (University Photographs box 21)

This is Special Olympics Iowa’s largest annual event. More than 3,000 athletes participate in the summer games. In 2006, ISU and the City of Ames put in a successful joint bid to host the first Special Olympics National Summer Games.


Awarding medals during the 1994 summer games (University Photographs box 21)

The 2016 Summer Games take place Thursday, May 19, through Saturday, May 21.

Drop by the reading room and check out our files & photographs on the history of Special Olympics Iowa at ISU. We’re open Monday – Friday 10-4.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first Ph.D. awarded at Iowa State University. The Department of Botany holds the distinction of graduating Iowa State’s first Ph.D. student, Leslie Kenoyer in 1916.

1916 commencement

1916 ISU commencement programs (RS 7/9/4/1 box 1)


Today marks the 100th anniversary of the naming of Lake LaVerne. LaVerne Noyes was a member of Iowa State’s first graduating class. He graduated with a B.S. (1872) in general science and was later awarded an honorary Doctorate in Engineering from Iowa State. Noyes enlisted the help of landscape gardener O.C. Simonds to help beautify the campus of his alma mater. This project resulted in the creation of Lake LaVerne on the Iowa State campus.

Iowa State Daily (then Iowa State Student) November 19, 1914

Iowa State Daily (then Iowa State Student) November 19, 1914

The newspaper clipping above is cited by H. Summerfield Day as the first mention of a lake on campus. H. Summerfield Day was the former University Architect (1966-1975) and Planning Coordinator (1975-1980) for Iowa State and competed the history of Iowa State University’s buildings and grounds.

Noyes paid for the lake to be built. Construction began in September 1915  and was completed, with the exception of some plantings, by December 1915. “Lake LaVerne” was suggested as a name for the lake at a Story County Alumni meeting on May 10, 1916 and formally adopted a month later. The dedication of Lake LaVerne occurred on June 6, 1916.

Ice skating on Lake Laverne ca. 1920s (University Photographs box 197)

Swans on Lake LaVerne (University Photographs box 197)

Swans on Lake LaVerne ca. 1930s (University Photographs box 197)

To learn more about the history of Lake LaVerne or review the LaVerne and Ida Noyes Collection, drop by the reading room. We’re open Monday – Friday 10-4.



Day, H. Summerfield, The Iowa State University Campus and its Buildings 1859-1979 (Iowa State University Library, 1980),

Iowa State University Facilities Planning and Management Buildings and Grounds Records, RS 4/8/4, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.


Posted by: Whitney | May 5, 2016

#TBT Graduation Day #cyclONEgrad

This weekend, thousands of students will graduate from Iowa State University, many of whom will attend spring commencement. Iowa State’s first class graduated in 1872. Sadly, we don’t have any photos of that graduation, but we do have some from early 20th century. One of our earliest commencement photos comes from June 3, 1915, below.

Graduation recessional from Beardshear Hall, 1915. University Photographs, RS 7/2/E, Box 447.

Graduation recessional from Beardshear Hall, 1915. University Photographs, RS 7/2/E, Box 447.

To see more commencement photos throughout Iowa State’s history, stop by! We also have photos of alumni from various classes, including members of the class of 1872.

Congratulations to all of our graduates!

The University Library Digital Initiatives unit has completed a major digitization project that’s guaranteed to please a great many people. It’s The Bomb – figuratively and literally! Those of us who work in Special Collections & University Archives are always happy when people make use of the set of yearbooks in our reading room; now researchers around the world will enjoy access to them online, including OCR (Optical Character Recognition) functionality.*

Digital Initiatives Archivist Kim Anderson will send out a press release soon, but here’s an early “heads up” for SCUA blog readers. Special thanks goes to Bill Yungclas, who was primarily responsible for the execution of this six-year project, along with the Digital Initiatives students who worked with him over the years. It was no mean feat, since it involved 109 hefty volumes (1894—1994, the last year of publication).

Bomb 1894

Attractive lettering on the cover, 1894. IAC stands for Iowa Agricultural College.

As you can imagine, The Bomb varied quite a bit during its century of existence. In 1971 it consisted of six separate books and a supplementary 33⅓ RPM phonograph record! You can view and even download The Bomb here, including a digitized version of the recording.

Bomb record

The record is actually round, and has another side. I haven’t listened to it.

*Note that the text generated automatically by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software can look odd and contain errors. When in doubt, read the scanned pages yourself. Some of the yearbooks feature indexes, but most do not. Thankfully, OCR text allows you to search for words or phrases; however, it’s not perfect, particularly when there are special fonts or unusual layouts.

Posted by: Kim | April 28, 2016

#tbt SYMBOL-2R computer

This week is Preservation Week – an annual week devoted to raising awareness about the preservation needs of collections. Since I am the Digital Initiatives Archivist, I thought I would make this week’s throwback thursday about computer history here at Iowa State.

I’ve blogged previously about the Cyclone Computer and Electronic Records Day. Today I’m focusing on the SYMBOL-2R computer. In 1970, when the computer was purchased, people used terminals that connected to a central mainframe rather than each person having their own computer. Simultaneous users at multiple terminals were accommodated by timesharing – the rapid switching of the computer’s attention between different processing jobs. The claim to fame for SYMBOL was its use of specialized hardware processors that negated the need for layers of software. By doing so, it sped up timesharing.

“To prove that many “software” functions could profitably be transferred to hardware, SYMBOL-2R was built as a pure hardware implementation, not only of a high-level programming language, but of a multi-terminal timesharing system; operable in the complete absence of system software.”

– Hamilton Richards, Jr. “Controlled Information Sharing in the SYMBOL-2R Computer System” (doctoral dissertation, Iowa State University, 1976), page 3.

Although the library doesn’t have the actual SYMBOL-2R and has no digital files related to the system, the university archives is preserving the documentation, such as the manual shown above, that can be used to maintain the knowledge required to create the computer. To help preserve this material, the archives replaced the rubber band holding the note cards together with a soft cloth tie. The polaroid shown above was peeling and getting damaged, so we placed it in a protective sleeve. All materials are stored in a cool environment in protective acid-free boxes. If you’d like to learn how to care for your own materials check out “Caring for Your Treasures.”

Learn more about computing history at Iowa State at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and in RS 11/6 in the Special Collections and University Archives Department.

“6/16/79 At the Fish farm, Earl showed visitors the greenhouse and the solar dryer. He said, ‘You’ll have a hard time convincing Earl Fish that you can’t dry grain without propane.’” This comes from records of the Small Farm Energy Project, a research and demonstration project of the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) to show the impact of energy conservation innovations on small farmers.

Notes from farm interviews with Earl Fish. MS 413, Box 104, folder 36.

Notes from farm interviews with Earl Fish. MS 413, Box 104, folder 36.

ISU Special Collections and University Archives holds the records of the Center for Rural Affairs, a Nebraska-based non-profit organization founded in 1973 and dedicated to improving the lives and opportunities of small farmers and rural communities. Among their many projects to improve the welfare of rural Americans, the CFRA has developed projects related to global warming and agriculture, in addition to this and other work in clean energy, which is why I’m highlighting them in honor of Earth Day, which was April 22.

Small Farm Energy Project Sign. From MS 413, box 106, folder 20.

Small Farm Energy Project Sign. From MS 413, box 106, folder 20.

For the Small Farm Energy Project, CFRA targeted low-income farmers with net incomes within 125 percent of the poverty level. Farmers applied to be part of the study. Of fifty total participants, 25 formed a control group that made no changes, but kept detailed records of their energy usage. The other 25 were the innovators, who were exposed to a variety of alternative energy technologies through a series of workshops. Individual farmers chose which technologies to implement based on their individual situations.

Earl Fish was one of the farm innovators, and his success using a solar grain dryer attracted the interest of other farmers in the area. The Small Farm Energy Project Newsletter for December 1977 reads, “Fish, cooperating farmer of the Small Farm Energy Project, used solar energy to dry grain in his 6000 bu. bin equipped with stirrator. Propane had been used in previous years for drying, but not in 1977. …Fish was particularly impressed with the quality of the dried grain using the low temperature process of solar drying compared to higher temperature drying. Another advantage of the system cited by Fish is the fan housing which lowers fan noise levels considerably.”

The Preliminary Report for the project estimates that a “solar grain dryer has the potential to save a farmer $260 a year over a 10-year period when used as a substitute for more energy-intensive batch drying. More than half the farms that could install a solar grain dryer did so” (p. 30, box 106, folder 21).

Portable solar collector has been attached to a grain bin for grain drying, circa 1979.

Portable solar collector has been attached to a grain bin for grain drying, circa 1979.

Check out the Center for Rural Affairs Records (MS 413) to learn more about the Small Farm Energy Project, including construction guidelines  to build your own solar grain dryer (see box 106, folder 18)!

Happy Earth Day!



Farm Interview: Earl Fish. Box 104, Folder 36.

“Innovations Continue as Project Extended.” Small Farm Energy Project Newsletter. Issue 9. December, 1977. Box 104, Folder 22.

Small Farm Energy Project, Center for Rural Affairs. “Preliminary Report January, 1977, through December, 1978 for the Impact of Various Energy Innovations on Energy Consumption and Net Income for 48 Small Farms.” July 1979. Box 106, Folder 21.

Posted by: Rachel | April 21, 2016

Military Circus #TBT @CycloneROTC

The first Military Circus at Iowa State University was held on March 4, 1922. It was held annually, with some exceptions, until approximately 1941.

Boys, Military Service in Armory, March 7, 1925 (University Photographs box 1112)

Boys, Military Service in Armory, March 7, 1925 (University Photographs box 1112)

To learn more about the history of the Department of Military Science, drop by the reading room and check out the Department of Military Science Subject Files and other related collections! We’re open Monday – Friday 10-4.

Posted by: Whitney | April 19, 2016

Notable Women of ISU: Barbara Forker

It’s time for our third installment of Notable Women of ISU! This time we’re going to take a look at physical education expert Barbara Forker. Some of you may know her only as the namesake of the Barbara E. Forker Building, or “Forker” as it’s commonly called. The building, originally the Physical Education for Women (PEW) Building, was renamed in her honor in 1997. Let’s shed some light on why this building was named after her.

Barbara Forker speaking at the Forker Building dedication, 1997. [photo location]

Barbara Forker speaking at the Forker Building dedication, 1997. RS 10/7/13, Box 26, Folder 2

Born in 1920 in Kendallville, Indiana, Dr. Forker earned a B.S. (1942) from Eastern Michigan University, a M.S. (1950) from Iowa State College (University), and a Ph.D. (1957) from the University Michigan. Dr. Forker worked at Iowa State in some capacity from 1948 until her retirement in 1990, beginning as a temporary instructor and eventually becoming Emeritus Professor. She served as Head of the Women’s Physical Education Department from 1958-1974, and was the first Head of the Department of Physical Education (the men’s and women’s departments combined) from 1974-1986.

Barbara Forker, 1955. [photo location]

Barbara Forker, 1955. University Photographs, RS 10/7/A, Box 782

Throughout her career, Dr. Forker was active in many organizations and projects. She served as advisor for NAIADS (synchronized swimming team at Iowa State) and “I” Fraternity (honorary for outstanding women athletes). She was president of the Iowa Association of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (IAHPER), the Central District Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (CDAHPER), and the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAHPER). She was active in several other organizations as well, and was a member of three professional fraternities.

Barbara Forker and President Gerald Ford, signed by President Ford, circa 1977. [photo location]

Barbara Forker and President Gerald Ford, signed by President Ford, circa 1977. RS 10/7/13, Box 25, Folder 2

In addition to presenting over 100 speeches and receiving several awards for her work, Dr. Forker notably worked with the United States Olympics from 1975-1984. She was a member of the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports and in 1977 served as a United States Delegate in the Second Educationists Session at the International Olympic Academy. From 1980 to 1984, she was a member of the United States Olympic Committee Executive Board and the United States Olympic Committee Education Council. In her last year with the Olympics, she was Chairman of the United States Olympic Committee Symposium at the Pre-Olympic Scientific Congress.

For more information about Dr. Forker and her impressive career, come in and have a look at the Barbara Ellen Forker Papers, RS 10/7/13. A couple other items of interest are this online feature from Iowa State University’s sesquicentennial celebration and this Women’s History Month blog post we did four years ago. Stop by sometime!


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