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:
- 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 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.
- 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!