The Athletic Fields of ISC

Panoramic photo of State Field during the 1907 Iowa State-University of Iowa game. Both sidelines are lined by bleachers filled with fans, The endzones are also lined with fans. Campus buildings in the background are Morrill Hall, The Hub, Beardshear Hall, Alumni Hall, Engineering Hall (Marston Hall), and Marston Water tower.
ISC-Iowa Football Game 1907, University Photographs, RS 24/6/G.

Long before Jack Trice Stadium, Cap Trimm Field, Forker Tennis Courts, and the Cyclones Sports Complex, Iowa State hosted its inter-collegiate sports on what were known as the “Athletic Fields.” These fields were home to the baseball team, football team, track and field team, and tennis team.

Organized athletics on the Iowa Agricultural College campus started in Fall of 1882 with the creation of the Gymnasium Association in the hopes of establishing a regular exercise program for students. In May of 1884, a Base Ball Association was established to coordinate games between classes, town clubs, and rival colleges, and was championed to the young men of the campus for its “lusty and vigorous exercise.” By 1888 sports were becoming more of an interest at the college, and there was a call in the student newspaper Aurora for the development of an outdoor sports program with the thought that inter-collegiate games would foster even more interest. In the fall of 1889 a “field day” was arranged by Professor of Military Science Captain J. R. Lincoln and Professor of History and English Literature A. C. Burrows devoted to all matter of athletic sports.

The following April, the College joined fifteen other Iowa colleges to form the Iowa Inter-Collegiate Athletic Association with the purpose of an annual state field day. The increased interest in sports meant that a need for athletic grounds at the college was becoming evident. Land was set aside for “Athletic Grounds” to the west of the Main Building that would feature a circular track for distance events bisected by a straight line track for sprint and hurdle events. These grounds would be short lived as events in 1892 would lead to the call for more space.

Map of College grounds c. 1891. Just left of center is an area identified as Athletic Grounds. A circle identifies a track for distance running events while a straight line bisecting the circle is for sprints/hurdle events.
1891 Map of College Grounds, Iowa State University. Facilities, Planning, and Management records, [RS 4/8/0/7].

In March 1892 the College joined the State University (University of Iowa), Grinnell College, and Drake University to form the Iowa Intercollegiate Baseball Association, marking the beginning of varsity baseball at Iowa Agricultural College. The following fall saw the creation of the first varsity football team at IAC. Additional space was needed for these new varsity sports, and expansion of the Athletic Grounds was hampered by its location in proximity to a railroad spur. During the September 1892 Board of Trustees meeting the Board approved the assigning of “…a strip of ground north of the railroad as far as the orchard fence” to the Athletic Association for Athletic Grounds. This eight acres of land was north of the previous Athletic Grounds and to the west and northwest of Morrill Hall. The Board would also appropriate $200 in December 1892 to aid in the fitting up of the grounds, and in May 1893 authorized President Beardshear to use portions of the Public Ground Fund for improving the Athletic Grounds and to use the Farm and Horticulture teams for the same purpose when not interfering with the work of the departments. A house and barn was located on this tract of land and the College spent $643.30 to purchase, repair, and move both structures. Due to financial constraints, work on the track was delayed, and it wouldn’t be until May 1894 that it would be completed. That same spring the College joined eight other Iowa colleges in the formation of the Iowa Inter-Collegiate Tennis Association, formalizing tennis as a varsity sport after it had grown in popularity on campus.

This new Athletic Grounds would feature a baseball diamond, football field, 1/3 mile track, and 4 dirt tennis courts. The baseball diamond was located in the northwest corner of the grounds, the tennis courts at the southwest corner, the football field occupied the eastern portion, and the whole area was ringed by the track. Field sports like pole vault, shot put, and hammer throw were located on the southeastern portion of the grounds.

Photo showing the layout of the Athletic Grounds. Tennis courts are on the left side of image with people playing tennis, baseball diamond is at the top of photo with a game being played and fans in the bleachers, the track ringing the grounds with people running in the distance, while you can also see the pole fault stand toward the bottom right of the image.  Also visible are a set of goal posts for football toward the center of the image.
Athletic Fields c. 1910, University Photographs, [RS 4/8/I], Box 223.

Additional improvements were not made to the grounds until 1900. At this time the grounds were fenced in and bleachers were added. This allowed the the Athletic Association to begin producing revenue at sporting events. The grounds would eventually become to be known as State Field.

Within a few years relocating the field was already being discussed as recorded in the Biennial Report of the College for 1903-1905:

“The development of the College has been such as to necessitate the early removal of the athletic grounds from their present location near Engineering Hall to the Southwest corner of the campus. Quite extensive grading will be necessary to put the grounds in shape.”

The athletic fields wouldn’t be moved until 1914, a year after the completion of State Gymnasium. Baseball, football and track would have a new home just south of State Gymnasium at “New State Field,” and eventually talking the name “State Field.” The football field would be named in honor of its from head coach (1906-1919) and athletic director, Clyde Williams, in 1938. Tennis courts would be created just across West Street (now Union Drive) to the north of State Gymnasium.

Information for this post was gleaned from a number of sources including: maps from Facilities, Planning and Management records [RS 4/8/0/7], Iowa Board of Regents Minutes [RS 1/8], University Photograph Collection, Aurora [LD2541.8 A97x], Biennial Report of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts [LD2531 Io9r], and The Iowa State University Campus and its Building [LD2543 I6 D39x].

J. Robert Oppenheimer Lecture at Iowa State

Following the death of Physics Professor John Franklin Carlson in April of 1954, his friends and colleagues decided to fund a lecture series in his honor that would bring to the Iowa State College campus “…an outstanding scholar to lecture on some aspect of physical science, its philosophical implications, and its relation to human affairs.” The Lecture Series was chaired by Gordon Danielson, a Professor of Physics at ISU. 

Black and white photo of John Franklin Carlson.
John Franklin Carlson, University Photographs, RS 13/20/A Box 1177

The first speaker in the series was renowned physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer; mentor, colleague and friend of Carlson. Carlson studied under Oppenheimer while obtaining all three of his degrees at University of California – Berkley, and Oppenheimer would direct Carlson in the writing of his doctoral thesis. Carlson and Oppenheimer would publish articles in 1931, 1932, and 1937.  Oppenheimer is often referred to as the “father of the atomic bomb” for his work as director of Los Alamos Laboratory on the Manhattan Project.

J. Robert Oppenheimer Lecturing in Great Hall of the Memorial Union.
J. Robert Oppenheimer Lecturing in Great Hall of the Memorial Union, Gordon C. Danielson papers [RS 13/20/52].

After graduating in 1937, Carlson went on to teach at Purdue University until 1942. During World War II he worked at the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and in 1946 he joined the faculty at Iowa State.  

Oppenheimer was scheduled to speak in Physics Hall on May 17, 1955 on his return trip to the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey after speaking at institutes along the west coast. The day of the lecture, it was announced that the location was changed to the Great Hall in the Memorial Union after it was determined that interest in the lecture made it impractical to host it in Physics Hall.   

J. Robert Oppenheimer writing on a chalk board during his lecture in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union
J. Robert Oppenheimer writing on a chalk board during his lecture in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union, Gordon C. Danielson papers [RS 13/20/52].

His 70-minute lecture “The Description of Analogy of the Electron Theory” was received by an overflow crowd, estimated to be around 1,000 people. Oppenheimer gave a highly technical lecture, using a blackboard to write equations, but interspersed bits of humor throughout. You can listen to the entire lecture below, which has been digitized and is currently on our YouTube Channel.

Oppenheimer Lecture Part 1
Oppenheimer Lecture Part 2
Oppenheimer Lecture Part 3

The Carlson Lecture Series would go on to host a number of renowned physicists including; Percy Williams Bridgeman, Niels Bohr, Philip Morrison, George Ohlenbeck and Victor Weisskopf. The series would end in 1970.     

To learn more about the John F. Carlson Lecture Series check out the John F. Carlson Lecture records [RS 13/20/4] and the Gordon C. Danielson papers [RS 13/20/52].  

Emergency Hall

About 3:30am on December 8, 1900 a fire broke out in the boiler room in the basement of the Main Building. The fire quickly spread to the north staircase and soon after the north wing and north tower were in flames, forcing students to flee the building and leaving most of their possessions behind. The fire was extinguished, with the help of the Boone fire department, before the center section was completely destroyed and before it had reached the south wing.  

Old Main after fire on December 8, 1900 with people viewing the destruction. Building is still smoking.
Old Main December 8, 1900. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 275

After an assessment by the State Architect, it was reported that the north wing was entirely destroyed and should be razed (torn down).  While the central section had been gutted by flames, the walls were deemed safe, and the south wing had only smoke and water damage. He recommended that a simple roof be added to the central section and doors, windows, and plaster be replaced at a minimal expense, with the building only being used as a temporary housing unit.  

Old Main after the fire and minimal repairs made. The razing of the damaged north wing is in process.
Old Main December 8, 1900. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 275

Finding new classroom space became imperative, and the College’s Board of Trustees asked the State Executive Council for $20,000 from the emergency fund for repairs to Old Main and to erect a temporary building for classrooms and offices. On December 21st the Executive Committee appropriated only $10,000 for a temporary building.  

H.W. Schleuter Construction out of Chicago was awarded the contract after a bid of $8,000 was accepted by the Board on January 5, 1901 for the erection of Recitation Hall. Construction started shortly after and was completed in early March. The wooden building was 170 feet long and 52 feet wide and contained ten rooms, seven for classes and three for offices, was heated via Old Main, and was wired for electricity.  

Single story wood structure known as Emergency Hall.
Emergency Hall c1901. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 189

It came to be known as Emergency Hall, as it had sprung up out of necessity following an emergency and had only been in use for a little over a year when catastrophe struck again. On the morning of August 14, 1902 another fire broke out in Old Main, causing complete destruction of the remaining sections of the building. Efforts by students, faculty, and staff resulted in the saving of furniture and a large portion of the botanical specimens.  The cause of the second fire was believed to be arson, but was never proven.

Old Main engulfed in flames on morning of August 14, 1902. All wood aspects seem to have burned at this point and can only see brick surrounded by flames.
Old Main August 12, 1902. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 275
Collapsed brick façade of Old Main following the second fire.
Old Main August 12, 1902. University Photograph Collection, RS 4-8-I Box 275

A contract was quickly awarded to Schleuter Construction for $4675 to expand Emergency Hall with eight additional classrooms and $150 for two offices, but in the end only six classrooms were added. The building was considered far from satisfactory as was pointed out in the Biennial Report of the College. It was overcrowded with almost 2,800 students enrolled in courses in the building and an average of 600 gathered in the hall between classes. This caused confusion and disturbances of classes in session, leading to strain on the patience of instructors and students. There was a call to get the new central building constructed as soon as possible.  

It wasn’t until March of 1906 that the new Central Building (Beardshear Hall) was complete, and Emergency Hall was razed.  

Poem from Iowa State Daily - 
Last of "Old Emergency"
No announcement will be more pleasing to 04s, 05s, and 06s than to hear that "Emergency" hall exists only in memory. Before long, fresh green grass will be growing where the temporary structure stood and where so man who love I.S.C. gained a great part of that culture which goes to make up a college education. We're glad "Old Emergency" is gone; however we will always remember it with charity. The following lines express our feelings at this juncture:
To "Emergency" Hall
Let others sing of marbled halls,
Of oaken stairs and picture walls;
But dearer far it is to me,
To praise despised "Emergency."
Long and narrow, worn and low,
With its windows all arow,
There it stood, the scorn of all
Waiting for its down-fall.
Daily thru its echoing halls,
We've heard the voices and foot-falls,
Of Seniors wise and Freshmen green,
Of Juniors, and Sophomores serene.
Here Seniors met to walk and talk,
And Sophomores went to get their "chalk,"
Juniors, to lecture and debate,
And Freshmen, to learn to demonstrate.
You tell me it has only served its day!
I know it, and you may have your way;
But remember this if you are wise, 
"Great men from Emergencies arise."
-An Alumnus
Last of “Old Emergency”, Iowa State Daily, September 10, 1906.

Wounded Veterans at ISC Following World War I

With today being Veterans Day, I thought I would take a look at how Iowa State worked with wounded Veterans following the Great War.  

Group of men standing on the steps of a building on the Iowa State campus. Some men are visibly missing limbs.
A group of disabled ex-service men trained along different lines in Agriculture. Each took over a farm of some kind on March 1, 1922. These farms varied in acreage from two to two hundred, Iowa State University. Department of Military Science, [RS13/6/1]. Box 7, Folder 14.

After the United States entered the war in 1917 the American Red Cross founded the Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men, but was soon overwhelmed by the number of veterans who had survived the war and had been disabled in some form. A year later in June 1918 the Veterans Rehabilitation Act (Smith-Sears Act) passed Congress and would provide federal funds to assist disabled veterans and the promotion of vocational rehabilitation with the goal to return these men to civil employment. The plan was to assist disabled veterans, both physically and mentally wounded during the war.  

Administered by the Federal Board of Vocational Education, the program looked to schools (many of them Land Grant institutes like Iowa State) to administer the training. Iowa State College had years of experience running vocational programs and Veterans could receive training in things like dairy manufacturing, beekeeping, mechanic work, corn breeding, welding, orchard management, floriculture, poultry husbandry, seed analysis, drafting, and meat cutting.  If students exhibited the skills and desire, they were given the option to enroll as full time students and pursue a bachelors degree.

The one of the first disabled veteran students who arrived for the Spring 1919 semester was Frank Paladin of St. Louis, Missouri.  Paladin was wounded while in combat at Chateau Thierry by an exploding shell that left shrapnel is his left leg and torso and caused him to lose his left arm just above the elbow. He studied drafting and would serve as president of the Government Students Club, an organization to form close fellowship among the disabled veterans and to aid in gaining financial support from the Federal Board for Vocational Education.  

Man standing at a table with drafting instruments and vehicle part. Man has a prosthetic left hand.
Frank Paladin, first Veterans Bureau student to arrive at ISC. Lost left arm in France, Iowa State University. Department of Military Science, [RS13/6/1]. Box 7, Folder 14.

Iowa State would see over 2000 Veterans go through the program, with the peak being in 1921-22 with 819 enrolled. The program ended when the Iowa State Office of Veterans Bureau closed on July 1, 1925, and the last veteran from the program left in March 1926 when he moved to his own little farm.  

To learn more about the WWI Veterans who participated in the rehabilitation program access the Iowa State University. Department of Military Science records [RS 16/16/1].

1930’s Mascots of Iowa State

Cy has been the Iowa State University mascot since 1954, and his origins are well known. While Cy the cardinal is beloved by Iowa Staters, this was not the first mascot of Iowa State to don the name Cy. In 1931 Pi Epsilon Pi, pep fraternity, adopted a golden brindle Great Dane as a mascot for the College and called him Cy. The dog belonged to Ames resident Vivian Snook, who had bought the seven-generation pedigree Great Dane in 1930 from F.D. Kerr, Great Dane Editor of The American Kennel. Durban von der Gartenstadt, as the dog was named, stood 36 inches high at the shoulder and weighed 160 pounds.  

Seven male cheerleaders standing with "Cy" sitting in front of them.
Image from 1933 Bomb yearbook.

A monster pep rally on November 6, 1931 would be Durban’s first appearance as “Cy.” At 6:30pm three shotgun blasts signaled the start of the Pep Rally, and more than 2,000 students arrived from dormitories, sorority houses, fraternity houses, and boarding houses in campus town. Led by the college band, the crowd moved eastward to downtown Ames. Wearing a cardinal and gold custom-made blanket that sported lettering of “Iowa State,” “Cy,” and “Pi Epsilon Pi,” Durban was introduced to the crowd.  

Over the next two seasons, “Cy” would grace the sidelines of Clyde Williams Stadium during football games with the cheerleaders. Sadly, in late September of 1933 Durban von der Gartenstadt suddenly became sick and was admitted to the Iowa State Veterinary hospital and passed away within a few days.  

Old Cheering System on Way Out; Templeton Steals Show. Huge Parade Planned Night Before Nebraska Game; Placards to Be Used in Stands; Will Adopt New Mascot.
The first card of the "New Deal" for Iowa State pep was dealt at a gathering of more than 100 students in Memorial Union yesterday afternoon. The new plan calls for an entirely new cheering setup. It will retain only the best feature of the old pep organization. The high spot of the meeting came when Harold Templeton, star Cyclone end for the last 2 years, who was forced to quit football because of a knee injury, expressed the feelings of the players on the field when the grandstands cheer. Students Cheer New Plan. Thunderous clapping acclaimed Templeton's speech. Announcement of the plan also was greeted with cheers. The basis of the plan is the formation of a unified group of 400 students who will be present at all football games. This group, it was explained will constitute the nucleus of the cheering section in the West Stadium around which the entire student body present will congregate to form Iowa State's cheering section. To Use Placards.
Cardinal and gold placards will be used by the group of 400 in forming letter combinations in the stadium. Each of the 400 will be equipped with cardinal and gold banners to add color. Steps from the west stadium to the football field will be built, enabling this group to put on a snake dance or some other variety of "show" between halves of the game. A special skit at this time appears probable. A new group of cheer leaders will be elected next week, it was announced. Fraternity men were asked to get all men who possess ability as cheer leaders to the tryouts. Templeton has announced his decision to try out for one of the cheer leaders. "Stormy Weather" Is Forecast. In addition, a new mascot, a goat owned by Kenneth Ruggles, last year's cheer leader, will be adopted. The mascot will be named "Stormy Weather" and will escort the team to Iowa University and Drake as well as appear at the three home games.
Iowa State Daily, Page 1, September 30, 1933.

Around the same time, there was a push to reorganize how cheering took place at athletic events. The changes included having a core group of 400 students to be at every home football game, selecting new cheerleaders, using placards to spell out letter combinations, and finding a new mascot. The mascot selected was a goat named “Stormy Weather” who belonged to a cheerleader from the previous season, Kenneth Ruggles.  For the 1933 season “Stormy Weather” was scheduled to attend away games versus Iowa and Drake, and home games against Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas State. “Stormy” only lasted one season as the mascot at Iowa State. After the football season ended, he ran amok of his living accommodations on campus by annoying his living mates and chewing up a number of items. This led to an unceremonious end! 

Stormy Weather, Cyclone Mascot, Meets Career's End Under Knife.
Stormy Weather is dead. The white goat who last fall became the new mascot of the Iowa State college football team has run berserk. Now his hide will adorn the home of Kenneth Ruggles of Ames, Cyclone cheerleader who contributed Stormy Weather to the team last fall. After the close of the football season, the goat developed into a problem. At the sheep barn he soon became unpopular. At the hog barn he chewed up rope, buckets, and fork handles. When he began to eat thru the side of the barn, Stormy Weather's career came to an abrupt end under the butcher's knife. The goat was given to Leon Ruggles, young brother of Kenneth, about two years ago by an older brother, Arthur Ruggles of St. Charles. Last fall Kenneth bought the goat to use for a mascot.
Ames Daily Tribune and Times, Page 6, January 18, 1934.

Additional information on the history of Cy, both the cardinal and dog, can be found in Iowa State University. Student Organizations – Recreational and Special Interest Groups records. Pep Council. RS 22/7/0/6.

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.

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 team 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.  

CoEducation at Iowa State University

Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm, now Iowa State University, was officially established by the Iowa General Assembly on March 22, 1858, but classes were not held until 1869. In 1868 the Board of Trustees began touring the United States and visiting Agricultural Universities and Colleges on observe how they were organized, the course of instruction, and rules and regulations governing them. They also toured a number of institutes that had been coeducational since their inception as they weighed the option in making the new college coeducational. 

Board of Regents Minutes, Volume 1, Page 246 (RS 1/8, Board of Regents Minutes)

Paragraph 2 Transcription

We also visited Antioch College at Yellow Springs, Ohio, one of the best and most successful Colleges in the country, in which girls have been admitted from the time of its organization. The plan has given the most entire satisfaction, and many of the young ladies stand at the head of the regular college classes.

The Board concluded that it would be beneficial to all that women be admitted to the College, pending they meet admissions standards, for the first session, which was slated for March of 1869.  All Board members were also in agreement that they had no grounds not to admit women to the new college, as funding of the college came from state tax-payer monies.

Board of Regents Minutes, Volume 1, Page 248 (RS 1/8, Board of Regents Minutes)

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Again – we hold that we as Trustees have no right to exclude girls from the benefits of our State Agricultural College. The funds for the purchase of the Farm, and the erection of buildings , are derived from the tax-payers of the state and upon what principle of justice can we declare that only those who have sons shall enjoy its benefit. The general government has appropriated a vast tract of the public domain for the endowment and support of these industrial institutes, and what right have we to exclude the girls and young women of our state from any share in its beneficiaries

The two days following the opening of the college, applicants for admission were given exams in local geography, arithmetic, English grammar, and reading and spelling.  Those who proved proficient were enrolled in classes, while those who fell below the required standard but were deemed sufficient with a year of study were entered into the preparatory department. The first semester saw 93 students enrolled as freshmen and 80 in the preparatory department. Of those 173 students 16 women were admitted to the freshmen class, and 21 to the preparatory department. 

Third Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the State Agricultural College and Farm (LD 2531 Io9r, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives)

The Iowa State Agricultural College held its first commencement on November 13, 1872. Out of the original 93 students enrolled, only 26 graduated. Two of those were Fannie H. Richards and Mattie A. Locke, the first female graduates of Iowa State University.

Commencement Program 1872 (Office of the Registrar Records, RS 7/9/4/1, Box 1, Folder 1, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives)
Photo of Mattie A. (Locke) Macomber (University Photograph Collection, RS 21/6/A, Box 1547)
Photo of Fannie H. (Richards) Stanley (University Photograph Collection, RS 21/6/A, Box 1547)
Commencement Program 1872 (Office of the Registrar Records, RS 7/9/4/1, Box 1, Folder 1, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives)

Tell Your Story – Natalie Kelly

Today’s post is from Natalie, the forth and final post in her series of the “Tell Your Story” project.

This past week I celebrated my 22nd birthday, which was something I have been looking forward to since our world was thrust into this pandemic. While restaurants and retail locations have been open here in Minnesota since the beginning of June, I decided to spend that day outdoors and ordering takeout for dinner. I always make sure to wear my mask and respect social distancing guidelines, but something about wearing a mask on my birthday just didn’t seem ideal, so I decided to stay home and enjoy the comfort of my family! I went for a walk around the Minneapolis Rose Gardens, where a plethora of roses, peonies, and other gorgeous plants were blooming. It was a friendly reminder that there are still beautiful aspects of life in a time of such stress and unease. Spending my birthday this year with my close family and boyfriend reminded me to be grateful for the people I have in my life, and to appreciate everything that I have.

I have been on a bit of a nature kick recently, and traveled to Willow Falls State Park in Wisconsin to go for a hike. I am still living at home with my parents, and still deem gathering in large areas/indoor spaces a risk as my father is immune-compromised. Finding new spots to explore outdoors has been great for my mental and physical health, and I have gotten to see some pretty amazing places I would have never visited before because of the COVID-19 outbreak. I have been able to stay on track with my fitness goals, and have come a far way in terms of strength since the beginning of ‘quarantine’, and I am very proud of that. My experience with weight training and eating healthy has made me a much more disciplined and motivated person, and I am thankful for the time that quarantine has given me to reach these goals.

Tell Your Story – Mason Porter

Today’s post from Mason in the “Tell Your Story” project is the twelfth and final post in his series.

June 29, 2020 through June 30, 2020

I woke up on Saturday mid-morning. My sister and I went to our parents’ house to continue working on the records. After lunch with our dad, we finished getting the rest of the records that we had sorted into letter-based piles filed into the proper boxes. After that, I worked on last week’s blog post. After a while, I took a break for supper. After supper, my sister and I went home, and I got back to work. After I finished working, I continued watching that TV show. I went to bed a little before nine in the morning. 

On Sunday, I woke up at three in the afternoon. I spent the whole day watching that TV show. I went to bed a little before four in the morning.  

I woke up at noon on Monday. I continued watching the TV show until a little after six at night. That is when my parents showed up. My sister and I invited them over for supper. They left around ten, and I went back to watching that TV show. I went to bed just before one in the morning. I tossed and turned most of the night and barely got any sleep.  

I got up on Tuesday at six in the morning. I did this because I am starting a new job on Wednesday and my shift starts at seven, and I wanted to try and get in the groove of getting up that early. I watched the TV show until ten in the morning. After that, my sister and I got ready to go back to our parents’ house to continue to work on the records. After lunch with our dad, we sorted the rest of the unsorted records into letter-based piles. When that was done, we took a nap. Once our parents’ both got home from work, we had supper and then went home. Once I got home, I started working on this blog post. After I finish this, I plan on watching more of that TV show until I go to bed around ten or eleven.  

This experience has been unforgettable. Both going to school and working during this pandemic has been a unique and incredible experience. As a history major, it was fascinating to be able to live during this worldwide catastrophe. Doing this blog has also been an unforgettable experience. Having to pick apart everything that I did every day was both challenging and interesting. At first, I dreaded having to do this, but after a while, I started to enjoy it. Doing this kept me alert and attentive during a time where I probably would have just sunk into an endless expanse of doing nothing otherwise. This was an amazing experience. For the last time, that is all for today.  

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