New Collection Documenting the Black Family and Henry M. Black, Veteran and Engineering Professor at Iowa State

The Special Collections Department is lucky to have some wonderful students working here, and they do a lot of work processing our collections. Rachel Kleinschmidt, a graduate student in History, recently processed the Henry Montgomery and Bernice Bernard Black Family Papers (RS 21/8/12) and has written the blog posting below.  Since the 68th anniversary of D-Day is coming up in a few weeks on June 6, and Memorial Day is today, we thought this would be a good time to highlight this collection.

On Memorial Day, we think about the sacrifices that men and women have made by serving in the military. The Special Collections Department is home to the collections of many important ISU alumni and veterans, including Henry M. Black.

Henry M. Black (above), member of VII Corps Headquarters, 9th U.S. Army, receives oak leaf cluster to his bronze star medal from Lt. Gen. J. Lawton Collins, commanding general, VII Corps, at a ceremony in Leipzig, Germany (photograph from Box 16, Folder 4).

Henry Montgomery Black was an Iowa native, born in Reinbeck, Iowa in 1907. He attended Iowa State University (then Iowa State College) from 1925-1929, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He then furthered his education with a Master’s degree from Harvard University in 1934.

Following his time in college, Henry Black served in the United States Army. His experience as an engineer was put to use by the Army Corps of Engineers, and Henry served as the chief engineer of the Utah Beach landing during the Normandy invasion in 1944. His service was rewarded with a Bronze Star, a Legion of Merit, and a Croix de Guerre (pictured below).

Henry Black’s Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, and Croix de Guerre (Artifact number 2010-214.001-003)

Henry would eventually retire from the army at the rank of Colonel. In the meantime, he returned to his alma mater (Iowa State) to serve as the Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department from 1946-1972. Because of his impact on the Iowa State Engineering Department and campus (he was instrumental in helping build the university’s mechanical engineering program into one of national prominence), a building was named in his honor. Black Engineering Building was named in 1987.

Henry Black in front of Black Engineering Building (photograph from Box 18, Folder 1)

Henry Black was not the only member of his extended family to have a distinguished military career. His father-in-law, Ransom Drips Bernard, served in World War I in the Army medical corps, eventually attaining the rank of Captain. Ransom was not an Iowa State graduate, but his wife, Bernice Corlette Bernard graduated with the class of 1904.

Ransom Drips Bernard (photograph from Box 40, Folder 10)

Both Henry and Ransom documented their service through letters to family back home.  These letters, along with many photographs and artifacts like those mentioned above, can be found in the Henry Montgomery Black and Bernice Bernard Black Family Papers, RS 21/8/12, in the Special Collections Department. The collection documents several generations of the Black and Bernard families through artifacts, photographs, scrapbooks, and correspondence.

Bernice Black Durand (left) and Rachel Kleinschmidt (right) going through the Henry Montgomery Black and Bernice Bernard Black Family Papers (RS 21/8/12), which Bernice donated to the department and Rachel processed.

Rachel (right) showing Bernice (right) the processed Henry Montgomery Black and Bernice Bernard Black Family Papers in the storage area.

Interested in finding out more about the collection?  You can read the finding aid online, and then come visit the Special Collections Department (open M-F, 9-4) and let us know which boxes you would like to see!

2 thoughts on “New Collection Documenting the Black Family and Henry M. Black, Veteran and Engineering Professor at Iowa State

  1. Pingback: Veterans in the Archives: Learning More about Henry Black | Special Collections Department Blog, Iowa State University Library

  2. Pingback: Announcing the Leo C. Peters collection | Iowa State University Library Special Collections Department Blog

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