Artifacts in the Archives – Our Favorite Artifacts

Today’s post introduces a new blog series here in Special Collections and University Archives— Artifacts in the Archives. These will be a series of posts that include staff picks for different artifacts. This week’s post lists some of our favorites.

The Death Mask

Death Mask of Margaret Stanton

Death Mask of Margaret Stanton (Artifact 2001-R130)

From Whitney Olthoff, Project Archivist

I might get judged for this, but… I have to go with Margaret Stanton’s death mask. It’s creepy, it’s a bit macabre, and it’s a fascinating artifact. It’s a piece of Victorian history –  this was just one of many kinds of memento mori (items created to remember the dead) that were a popular custom in that era. From my understanding, death masks were never typical in the Midwest, so it’s especially interesting that this one was made here and that we have one at all.

From Becky Jordan, Reference Specialist

My favorite artifact is Margaret MacDonald Stanton’s death mask.  It gives us an opportunity to talk about two people who were here in the early days of the college, and who contributed to keeping the fledgling institution on the right track.  Edgar was the first student to receive a diploma at Iowa State.  He devoted his life to Iowa State, and was a member of the faculty until the day he died.  His memorial to Margaret has become a major symbol of the university.

Because Margaret Hall, the first dormitory specifically for women, was named for Margaret Stanton, we can also talk about early student life, and the changes on Central Campus over the years.  And there is the general creepiness factor, which can work into a discussion of past rituals surrounding death and mourning.

 

Thacher’s Calculating Instrument

Cylindrical slide rule or Thacher's Calculating Instrument

Cylindrical slide rule or Thacher’s Calculating Instrument (Artifact 2009-R004)

From Chris Anderson, Project Archivist

It’s fascinating how the math we now do digitally can be done mechanically. These are such ingenious devices. So much mileage out of a couple of interacting cylinders in a wooden frame. And of course, it’s cool looking!

From Brad Kuennen, University Archivist

My favorite artifact is the cylindrical slide rule (2009-R004). When most people think of slide rules, which I know doesn’t happen often anymore, it conjures up images of flat ruler-sized devices carried around in the pockets of 1950s college students. This cylindrical slide rule is definitely not pocket-sized! At 24 inches long and nearly 5 inches in diameter, I can’t imagine students toting one of these around campus all day. In this day of computers and smartphones we take for granted how much time and sweat was involved in solving complex equations 100 years ago. This device reduced the amount of hand calculations required to solve some of these difficult mathematical problems. The cylindrical slide rule is now a relic of the past, however I still find it fascinating to look at and wonder about its workings. Maybe someday I’ll actually take the time to learn how to use it. And by that I mean typing “cylindrical slide rule” into YouTube to see if there is a video that someone else has posted.

 

Land-features Globe of Mars

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From Matt Schuler, Library Assistant II

I like it because it’s a map and it’s not something you would typically expect to see represented on a globe.  It would be something I’d love to have on display in my house if it wasn’t here.

 

Oliphant P. Stuckslager’s Hammer

 

artifact Oliphant P. Stuckslager’s Hammer, a Stuckslager hammer

Oliphant P. Stuckslager’s Hammer (Artifact 2001-R142.004)

From Laura Sullivan, Collections Archivist

For this post, I’m going to say that my favorite artifact is the Stuckslager hammer.  The hammer was used to construct one of the first buildings here on campus, Old Main.  We have just enough information on the hammer to give a person enough to start imagining all the activities, people, and sites the hammer saw during its lifetime – helping to bring me that much closer to the hustle and bustle which must have been part of the construction of the main building for the State Agricultural College and Model Farm (now Iowa State).

It’s seemingly a regular, common, everyday hammer of today, in look, feel, size and weight – which makes viewing the hammer both familiar and disconcerting.  This particular hammer came to Ames in 1868, brought by Oliphant P. Stuckslager with the specific purpose to help build Old Main.  We even know where Stuckslager and his family lived in Ames – further helping me to go back in time and imagine the life and times of the hammer during its quite active career, which is said to have continued until the death of its owner in 1908.  We know as much information as we do about the hammer in part thanks to a senior research project done on the hammer.  A summary of the student’s findings can be found on an earlier blog post.

The Laundry  Mailer

From Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist

I like the laundry mailer because it reminds me of when I was an undergraduate. Every weekend I returned home and my dad would do my laundry. Once I got my laundry done before I came home and he was disappointed! It’s also my favorite artifact because it reminds me that life was so different not too long ago. For one, students could fit an entire week’s worth of laundry into the mailer. It’s not very large. It is smaller than most carry-on luggage pieces today. I can’t imagine fitting a week’s worth of clothes in the mailer in the winter. I may be able to swing it for the summer, though, it would be a tight fit and it’s likely I’d have to wear some shorts or skirts more than once during the week. Students back then probably didn’t have a change of clothes for every day of the week. Also, I would guess that mostly mothers did the laundry. More research on the details of ISU students’ use of the laundry mailers needs to be done. Did both men and women use the laundry mailers, or did the women have laundry facilities in their dormitories? What years were the mailers in use here on campus?

Below are some links to additional information about the laundry mailer, shared with me by Becky Jordan:

Dance Card from Alpha Kappa Delta Dance

Dance card, a volvelle

Dance card (Artifact #1999-103.29)

From Amy Bishop, Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist

I love dance cards because they are one of those elements from the past that have completely fallen by the wayside. I am a dancer, and I would love to go to a dance and fill up a dance card with my partners’ names. This particular one is my favorite, because it is so inventive and fun. Most dance cards are little booklets, but this one is a wheel with a little paper inside where you write your partners’ names that you can view through a little window. You turn the inside paper to reveal the different names. It works like a star chart. To use a fancy term, it is a volvelle. It is from an Alpha Kappa Delta dance, but there is no indication of the year. It is part of a collection of dance cards from Clarice Johnson Van Zante given to the department as a donation in 1999. Clarice was an ISU alum who attended in the 1920s, majoring in home economics. Later she worked as a school teacher in Ottumwa. The dance card is currently part of a mini-exhibit in the Special Collections reading room called “‘I’ll Pencil You In’: Dances and Dance Cards at Iowa State.”

The Rice Krispies Treat

From Petrina Jackson, Head of SCUA

You are probably wondering why Special Collections and University Archives keeps a Rice Krispies Treat for posterity. It is a good question since it is unusual for repositories to keep food products as collection material. However, this is not just any Rice Krispies Treat. It is a piece of the world record-holding, largest Rice Krispies Treat, weighing in at 2,480 pounds. Members of the Iowa State community created the sweet, sticky snack during VEISHEA 2001 to celebrate the university theme “Strengthening Families to Become the Best,” co-sponsored by the College of Family and Consumer Science (now the College of Human Sciences). The record-holding treat was also made in honor of Mildred Day, a 1928 ISU graduate of home economics, who “was a member of the Kellogg Company team that developed the Rice Krispies Treat recipe in the 1940s.”

 


ISU Archivists visit the State Historical Society of Iowa @IowaMuseum #iowahistory

Yesterday we visited the State Historical Society of Iowa in Des Moines. We were able to visit with a number of librarians, archivists, and curators. We learned about the Iowa Newspaper Project and work being done collecting county records, among many other things. This blog post does not do justice to all of the wonderful things we saw and learned about, so you will just have to drop by and visit the collections yourself!

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The Table’s Tale #Flashback Friday

This Flashback Friday post is about a table that Special Collections and University Archives received in 2008. The bulk of this Friday’s blog post is authored by Becky Jordan, Reference Specialist.

The table was received as a gift in 2008, and was thought to be part of the original furnishings of Morrill Hall.  However, once Archives staff started to do research on the names and other writings on the back side of the table top, it was apparent that it predated the opening of Morrill Hall in July of 1895.  It may have been in use as early as 1884.

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Here is information collected by Becky back in 2008:

Writings on the Back of the Table Top

Scattered across the table are a number of dates:

May 9 ____

May 14 ‘87

May 29 1889

November 10 89

84 (this is etched in—there is also an 84 on the inside edge of the table itself)

 

There are three tic tac toe games.

 

Also scattered are some names:

Orris Roberts—younger brother of longtime faculty member Maria Roberts, he was expelled in 1892 for joining a fraternity after they had been banned by President Beardshear.

Ch_____t______ Esq.  (The name looks as if it was rubbed out—it is smeared, rather than illegible.  The Esq. may not belong to this name)

Grace Axtell—appears in the 1896 Bomb as a class member, but did not graduate.

Rhoda Ryan

 

There are also 14 names grouped together:

Grace Axtell (again)

Daisee Robinson

Louise Hamilton

Loretta Hamilton

Cora Thompson

Ruth or Faith Thompson

Emma McCarthy

Grant Kirtrow or Kertrow

W.S. Dawson

E.E. Smith

R.B. Armstrong

C.S. Lincoln

_. W. Deaver or Driver

W.D. Mason

 

I could find no information for Rhoda Ryan, Ruth Thompson or _.W. Deaver.  Following is what I could find about the rest of these names:

 

Grace Axtell

She is listed in the Catalog as a freshman in the Ladies’ Course in 1893 and a Sophomore Special in 1894.  She was the daughter of Charles P. and Harriett Adelaide (Ada) Miller Axtell.  Her father was a partner in the firm of Ray & Axtell, a dry goods store on the west side of the square in Newton, Iowa.  Grace married Alfred Herschel (Fred) Munn on October 21, 1897.  Fred was a member of the class of 1894 but did not graduate.  His family owned (and still does) the Munn Lumber Company in Ames.  Their son, Hiram Axtell, was a member of the Class of 1922.

 

Daisee Robinson

She is listed in the Catalog as a freshman in 1893 and a sophomore in 1894. Like Grace Axtell, she was from Newton.  Her father, Ralph Robinson, was the editor of the Newton Journal.  Her mother’s maiden name was Fannie Hamilton.  Both parents were from Ohio.  According to her father’s obituary, Daisee’s husband was Mark Evans.

 

Louise Hamilton

She is listed in the Catalog as a freshman in 1891, a sophomore in 1894, and a junior in 1895 in the Ladies’ Course.  She appears as a member of the class of 1896 in the 1896 Bomb.  She is listed in 1895 Census in the Nevada 1st Ward with no occupation, age 20, and in the Ames 1st Ward as a student, age 20.  She was the daughter of Charles and Tennetta Hamilton, with siblings Dora, Ethel, Loretta and Charles Jr.  Both parents were from New York.

She married William C. Boardman, September 29, 1897.

 

Loretta Hamilton

Loretta was Louise Hamilton’s sister.  We have no record of her as a student.  She is listed in the 1895 Census in Nevada 1st Ward with no occupation, age 23 and in Ames 1st Ward as a bookkeeper, age 22.  She married Benton Davis, June 27, 1900.

 

Cora Thompson

Cora May Thompson is listed in 1895 Census in the Nevada 1st Ward, occupation ?her (perhaps teacher), age 20.  Her parents were F.D. and Abbie Thompson, and siblings were Kate, Sylvia, Clayton, and Olive.  We have no record of her as a student.  She married Charles S. Lincoln (Class of 1894) on September 15, 1898.

 

Emma McCarthy

A member of the class of 1885, who did not graduate, Emma McCarthy was the daughter of Ames pioneer Daniel McCarthy and his wife Mary Ann Ross McCarthy.  In the 1894 yearbook (published 1893), she is listed as Iowa State’s assistant librarian.  She attended Iowa State for three semesters (1881-1882) then taught school in Story County for eight years.  She then spent two years at the Ames Post Office, joining the Iowa State staff in 1892.  She married Chaucer G. Lee (Class of 1894) on September 23, 1896.  Lee practiced law with Daniel McCarthy and was the judge of Iowa’s 11th District for eight years.  Emma’s name is very familiar in Ames, because her husband presented a park to the city bearing her name in 1949.

 

W.S. Dawson

He is listed as an Electrical Engineering sophomore in 1893 and a “Special” junior in 1894, but did not graduate.  He was from Nevada.

 

E.E. Smith

Edwin E. Smith was an 1893 graduate in Science.  He is listed in Iowa State College Graduates as being from Sioux Rapids, Iowa, and deceased.

 

R.B. Armstrong

Listed as a “special” from Polk City in the 1894 Catalog and the 1895 Bomb, he did not graduate.

 

C.S. Lincoln

An 1894 graduate, Charles S. Lincoln was the son of James Rush Lincoln, Iowa State’s head of Military Science, 1883-1919.  Charles Lincoln had a distinguished military career, enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1894 and retiring as a Brigadier General in 1936.  He married Cora May Thompson (see above) on September 15, 1898.

 

W.D. Mason

Watson Mason is shown as a member of the Class of 1894 in the 1894 yearbook, but did not actually graduate until 1896.  His degree was in Mechanical Engineering, and he is noted as deceased in the 1912 engineering directory.  His hometown was Toledo, Iowa.

 

Some Explanations:

Until 1925, Iowa State’s yearbook The Bomb was published by the junior class and called by their class year.  Thus, the 1895 Bomb actually came out in 1894.  The last year this was done was 1924.  Then the yearbook staff was opened to all classes and the book was dated with the year it was actually published.  (This is also why there are two 1925 yearbooks).

The “Ladies’ Course” was a basic course of college study which included Domestic Economy.  For example, the first term of the sophomore year included Domestic Economy, German or Latin, History, One Essay, and the choice of two sciences from Botany, Horticulture, Physics or Trigonometry.  The degree received was the B.L. or Bachelor of Letters.

“Specials” were those taking special lines of study.  The 1894 Catalog describes these students as follows:

“Any person of mature age and good moral character, who desires to pursue studies in any department of instruction of the College, and who is not a candidate for a degree, will, upon application to the president, be admitted on the following conditions:  (1).  He must meet the requirements for admission to the freshman class, and pass such special examinations as the professor in charge of the department selected shall deem essential to a profitable pursuit of the work.  (2).  He shall confine his work strictly to the line of study chosen at the time of admission, and shall take enough class work, laboratory and other practice equivalent to work required of regularly classified students.  (3).  He shall submit to the same requirements in daily recitations and in examinations, with students in the regular courses.

Students who have pursued thus a special line of study in the Institution, will, upon application to the faculty, be granted the College Certificate, showing their standing in such studies.”


Collection highlight: L. H. (Lois Hattery) Tiffany Papers

Lois Hattery Tiffany was born on this day, March 8, in 1924, in Collins, Iowa. She received her B.S. (1945), M.S. (1947), and Ph.D. (1950) in plant pathology all from Iowa State College (University). She joined the Botany faculty at Iowa State as an Instructor (1950-1956). Tiffany was promoted to Assistant Professor (1956-1958), Associate Professor (1958- 1965), Professor (1965-1994), and Distinguished Professor (1994-2002). She also served as Chair (1990-1996) of the Botany Department. She retired from the department in 2002 and was named Emeritus Distinguished Professor.

Lois Tiffany (University Photographs box 1036)

Lois Tiffany (University Photographs box 1036)

Tiffany, informally known as “The Mushroom Lady,” taught mycology and botany classes at both Iowa State University and the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory. Her research included studies of fungal diseases of native prairie plants in Iowa, a 10-year survey of Iowa’s morels, and a study of the fungus flora of Big Bend National Park in Texas. She also participated in the Midwestern mushroom aflatoxin studies of both corn and soybeans. Her continuing commitment to research led to the naming of an Iowa truffle in her honor. The fungus, named Mattirolomyces tiffanyae, was discovered in 1998 in several locations of Story County’s oak woods.

 

Tiffany also made great advancements for the place of women in the sciences despite the challenges of sexism in the early years of her career. She was the first woman president of the Iowa Academy of Science, the first woman president of the Osborn Club, and the first woman scientist in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to be awarded the title of Distinguished Professor.

Botanical specimen container used by Lois Tiffany (Artifact collection 2011-197.01)

Botanical specimen container used by Lois Tiffany (Artifact collection 2011-197.01)

Read more about Lois Tiffany in the Ecological Society of America’s recent blog post. We hold her papers here in the University Archives.


Cutting and pasting: alumni scrapbooks

A trip to your local craft store will tell you that scrapbooking is a popular American activity. But this is not just a recent phenomenon. In fact, scrapbooking has been popular for the last century or more, and this is made evident by the number of alumni scrapbooks we have here in the University Archives.

Scrapbooks provide a unique window into the history and culture of a time period. They save many of the things that would otherwise be lost to time, such as newspaper clippings, dance cards, theatre programs, and flyers. Early 20th century Iowa State College students, like many of their cohort around the country, kept scrapbooks to capture their experiences and memories of the fun times they spent outside of classes.

Pages from the Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81, showing dance cards and sports score charts, circa 1913-1919.

Pages from the Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81, showing dance cards and sports score charts, circa 1913-1919.

Scrapbooks also capture the larger historical and cultural environment in which the individuals lived out their lives, such as the scrapbook below from Mary (Graf) Speer, who attended Iowa State College in the 1940s. The first page of her scrapbook includes a newspaper front page headline proclaiming victory in Europe during World War II–obviously a huge concern to the students of the day, who had friends and family members fighting both in Europe and in the Pacific Theater.

From Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, 1945.

From Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, 1945.

Raymond T. Benson’s scrapbook from World War I documents the military activity on campus.

Page from Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.

Page from Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.

Scrapbooks also present unique challenges to archivists in terms of storage and preservation. Because scrapbooks often contain 3 dimensional objects, this can strain the binding, as with Raymond T. Benson’s Scrapbook below.

Cover of Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.

Cover of Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.

While the photograph above shows a scrapbook placed in a box to protect it, other scrapbooks required more extensive housing treatments. Mary Graf Speer’s scrapbook came to the archives missing a cover, so spacers were placed inside the box to keep the individual pages together, while some material was removed to a separate folder.

Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, in box with spacers and separated material in folder.

Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, in box with spacers and separated material in folder.

Sometimes a scrapbook needs special treatment, not because it is in bad condition, but in order to keep it pristine. Lottie M. Rogers, who attended Iowa State College in 1901-1902, created a beautiful scrapbook. Library conservators created a special box to maintain it in its originally beautiful condition.

Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook, RS 21/7/149, circa 1901.

Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook, RS 21/7/149, circa 1901.

Box created to house the Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook.

Box created to house the Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook.

More alumni scrapbooks and other papers can be found in RS 21/7, Alumni and Former Students.


CyPix: moving up

It’s that time of year again! The time for donning caps and gowns if you are a senior, or if not, at least setting aside those textbooks and pencils for a nice …bonfire. A beanie bonfire, to be exact.

Photograph of a large freshman beanie replica burning in the bonfire during the Moving Up Ceremony, 1926. University Photograph Collection box 1702.

A large freshman beanie replica burns in the bonfire during the Moving Up Ceremony, 1926. University Photograph Collection box 1702.

From 1916 to 1934, freshmen at Iowa State College were required to wear “freshmen beanies” or “prep caps”  on campus. After suffering through a year of harassment that the caps brought upon them, freshman were quite happy to ditch them at the end of the year. Beginning in 1923, students held a mock-graduation, the Moving Up Ceremony, during VEISHEA celebrations, at which time seniors became alumni and everyone else moved up a grade. The freshmen burned their beanies in a roaring bonfire. By 1934, the caps were no longer worn and the moving up ceremony faded due to lack of interest.

We’re lucky to have a surviving beanie in the University Archives at ISU. It belonged to Robert W. Breckenridge. Robert saved his freshman beanie from 1918 instead of burning it, and it now resides in the archives.

Freshman beanie belonging to Robert W. Breckenridge, circa 1918. From University Archives Artifact Collection, 2002-189. It even has it's own fancy box and hat stand!

Freshman beanie belonging to Robert W. Breckenridge, from 1918. From University Archives Artifact Collection, 2002-189. It even has it’s own fancy box and hat stand!

More images of the Moving Up Ceremony can be found in the Student Life album on our Flickr page.

(Note: A correction was made to an earlier version of this post. The earlier version had misidentified a felt hat belonging to Iris Macumber (RS 21/7/228) as a freshman beanie. Oops! Freshmen beanies were required for men only. This hat shown above is a true example of the freshman beanie, and the photograph and information has been updated and corrected.)


CyPix: Stress Relief in the Artifacts

Here at Special Collections we have a wide array of materials. Although the bulk of our materials are older and still paper-based, we also have artifacts that came in with our manuscript collections or that form part of the history of Iowa State University.

computer-shaped stress releiver

One of several foam stress relievers we have in our artifacts collection. (Artifact# 2011-048)

Universities produce promotional items and Iowa State University is no exception. We have many types of promotional items created by the University over the years. This one is a computer-shaped foam stress reliever from 2011 inscribed with one of our points of pride: “Birthplace: Electronic Digital Computer.”

We don’t yet have a separate listing of the artifacts online, but artifacts are listed in our finding aids here and here where relevant. If you’d like help locating an artifact, please contact us (archives@iastate.edu) and we’ll see what we can find!

You can learn more about the first electronic digital computer (the “ABC”) in the John Vincent Atanasoff Papers (RS 13/20/51) and the Wallace C. Caldwell Papers (RS 11/6/55).


What’s that? You don’t like 4-H? Are you crazy or something?

This month your usual reporter, Laura, is getting a break. Instead you get to read about the exciting world of the University Archives from me, Brad Kuennen, Library Assistant. Please note: Laura had nothing to do with this blog post other than asking me to do it. She may yet regret that decision.

This week Iowa State welcomes over 1000 teenagers to our campus for the 2012 Iowa 4-H Youth Conference. In honor of their visit I will be sharing my 4-H story, though it is pretty much limited to working with the historic 4-H records that we have here in the archives.

I’ll admit it, I was never in 4-H. I never wanted to be in 4-H. I never much cared for livestock or animals. When I was younger the barns were the one place I used to stay far away from when our family went to the county fair. Maybe it was just the smell, but I always preferred the tractor sheds to the animal barns.

So you can imagine my less than enthusiastic response when I learned that I was being assigned to organize our Iowa 4-H records. That was over two years ago and now that the work is finished I have to admit that I have gained newfound respect for 4-H.

Jessie Field Shambaugh

Jessie Field Shambaugh. In 1904 she brought the idea of boys and girls clubs to her school in Page County, Iowa.

As every good 4-Her knows, 4-H was started in Iowa. Well, not really. Apparently someone in Ohio beat us to the punch, but Iowans played a crucial role in the development of the 4-H movement. Iowans like Cap E. Miller, Jessie Field Shambaugh, and O. H. Benson helped guide the movement of “club work” for rural youth from a local level to one of statewide and national recognition. Even today, Iowa maintains one of the strongest 4-H programs in the country which is definitely something we can be proud of.

In the early years of 4-H in Iowa, the clubs were strictly separated between boys and girls. Boys studied agriculture and girls studied home economics. Boys competed in livestock shows and corn growing while girls competed in baking contests and dressmaking. There may have been some girls who showed livestock, but that was very unusual at that time.

One of the best parts about going through our earliest records is looking at all of the photographs. Each annual report, and there was one report made for boys clubs and one for girls clubs every year, is full of photographs, reports, and programs. Our collection of Iowa 4-H records also includes scrapbooks created by the State 4-H Club Historians. Sorry guys, but the girls tended to do a much better job of scrapbooking than you did. One notable exception is a photo scrapbook created by Paul Sauerbry which provides a wonderful account of 4-H in the 1920s. Sauerbry was a member of the 1928 Iowa delegation to the National 4-H Camp and must have created this scrapbook several years later.

1929 National 4-H Camp Delegation from Iowa

1929 Iowa Delegation to the National 4-H Camp. Paul Sauerbry, who makes a mean scrapbook, stands second from the right.

As I was working with these materials I caught myself thinking about what life must have been like on a farm in rural Iowa. For most kids life was the farm. Sure, there was school to go to, but after school was finished there were a lot of chores to finish on the farm. Socializing with the kids down the road was probably not an option most afternoons. When boys and girls clubs were introduced, it had to be very exciting for the kids. Yes, they were going to learn some useful skills, but the club meetings also provided an opportunity to socialize. At a time when many farms were still without telephones and electricity, the chance to talk with other kids must have been quite a treat! And the trips some kids got to take! A lot of kids at that time hardly ever left their own county, but during the summertime hundreds of kids would gather at Iowa State for the annual convention. And each year several lucky kids would get a chance to attend the National 4-H Congress in Chicago or attend the National 4-H Camp in Washington D.C. In the 1920s and 1930s, that had to be an amazing experience!

Iowa 4-H Girls Convention 1929

Photograph of Iowa girls 4-H members who attended the 1929 annual convention. This formation was created on the lawn in front of the home economics building at Iowa State.

Going through the boxes I came across some other books. These had me a little confused. They looked like scrapbooks, but they were full of project records and some had photos and writings. I was told by our resident 4-H expert (so titled because she was in 4-H as a youngster) that these were record books. As it turns out we have record books of several former members. The James Kearns Papers contain his 1934 award-winning record book along with many of his medals and ribbons.

James Kearns Record Book and Artifacts

A page from the 4-H record book of James Kearns along with his beanie hat from the 1934 National 4-H Congress and other medals and ribbons.

Speaking of medals and ribbons and stuff, the University Artifact Collection also contains dozens of other 4-H items. For example, we have samples of each of the incarnations of the girls’ 4-H uniform through the years. The early dresses were all homemade. Other artifacts in our collections include pins, buttons, belt buckles, mugs… the list goes on and on.

4-H Poultry Club, circa 1920s

4-H Poultry Club, circa 1920s. This image is from the Paul Sauerbry 4-H Scrapbook.

If I have learned one thing about 4-H after spending many hours waist-deep in these records it’s that my perception of 4-H was completely wrong. I always assumed it was just for people who liked to take a nap with farm animals at the county fair. Don’t get me wrong, it is for those people, but for so many others as well. What struck me most was that aspect that has been a part of 4-H since the earliest days–teaching children and young adults about leadership, responsibility, and taking pride in one’s work. That pride is evident on the faces of kids from the 1920s and, I can only imagine, will be displayed just as cheerfully on the faces of kids in the 2020s.

If you have Iowa 4-H records or artifacts you would like to donate to the University Archives, please contact us. We would love to give those materials a permanent home here so that future researchers can look back in time and see what role 4-H played in the lives of Iowa’s youth.


Did ISU have anything to do with the 19th Amendment? Why yes it did!

Today, August 26th, marks the 90th anniversary of the 19th amendment becoming law, giving women in the United States the right to vote.  What might Iowa State have had to do with women gaining the right to vote back in 1920?  Carrie Chapman Catt graduated from Iowa State in 1880 at the top of her class.  Catt worked diligently for woman’s suffrage both in the United States and internationally, and was the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) when the 19th amendment was passed.  In fact, she was president of NAWSA for many years and came back to the presidency in 1915 to reorganize and strengthen the association.  After the 19th amendment became law, she then helped organize the League of Women Voters.

Several archives hold the papers of Carrie Chapman Catt, including ISU and the Library of Congress.  Microfilmed versions of some of these collections are held in the library’s Media Center and can be found by searching the library’s catalog.  The Library of Congress also has some of her papers online.  We also have a collection of her papers, and the finding aid for her collection is online.  Below are some of the highlights from her collection here at ISU, which contains some materials from when she was a student here as well as when she was working for woman’s suffrage.

Pictured here are a couple images from Catt’s botany notebook, which contain careful notes and illustrations in her very neat handwriting.


In 1921, Catt became the first woman to deliver a commencement address at Iowa State.  The collection contains a newspaper article announcing Catt’s visit to Iowa State, and also a copy of her address which was published in The Alumnus.  The news clippings also reveal that Catt maintained ties to Iowa State, visiting her alma mater at least once during the fight for suffrage in 1917.

In addition to the materials in Catt’s Papers, we also have a number of artifacts which Catt once owned.  Most of these are suffrage buttons and pins, a few of which are pictured below.

If you would like to learn more about Carrie Chapman Catt, please visit our finding aid and the Carrie Chapman Catt Girlhood Home and Museum website, which also contains links to other collections of Carrie Chapman Catt materials and an interactive time line.  There are quite a number of online resources related to the suffrage movement, including a fun online scrapbook which contains articles, letters and editorials from The New York Times about the women who fought for and against suffrage here in the United States.