#TBT Jalap, the Horse of Horses

Jalap_prizewinning_Percheron_stallion_1919

Meet Jalap, a Percheron stallion who was purchased for Iowa State College in 1915.  Jalap was nationally successful in livestock shows.  According to the Iowa State College Alumnus in 1930, just one year before his death at the age of 21, he was “given the rating of the second best living Percheron sire.” He was once described as “the proudest horse in horsedom” in The Iowa Agriculturalist (1927, Vol. 27, No. 10).

It was hotly debated whether Jalap was the horse in the picture Dignity and Impertinence; but most evidence leans toward that being a different draft horse.

To learn more about Jalap, including an “interview” with the famous horse, request RS 9/11/1 box 1 at the Special Collections and University Archives.


Howard P. Johnson donates World War II letters

As the University Archivist, I frequently hear from loyal Iowa Staters from across the country who inquire about donating materials to the University Archives. Often people are trying to find an appreciative home for some Iowa State memorabilia or seeing if there is any interest in a future donation of materials. This past fall I received a call from an Iowa State alum and former ISU professor regarding a small collection of materials in his possession that he was ready to part with.

Portrait of Howard P. Johnson in his military uniform, 1943

Howard P. Johnson, 1943 (Box 8, Folder 95 of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

Howard P. Johnson, three-time graduate of Iowa State University (we were just a College at the time he received his degrees) and former Professor and Head of ISU’s Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department, was contacting me regarding some World War II letters that he had. Dr. Johnson explained that he grew up on a farm near Odebolt, Iowa, and in 1943 was inducted into the military like many young men at that time. He served as a technician in the 69th Infantry Division and entered the war in Europe at the end of the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945. All during his military training and his service in Europe, young Pfc. Johnson wrote to his family back home in western Iowa–often several times a week–and his family wrote back. Howard would describe his daily routine, the duties he was assigned during training, and his experiences in Europe. His parents and siblings would respond with stories of family and community events, activities on the farm, and, of course, the weather.

Letter from Howard Johnson to his folks, June 12, 1944.

Letter from Johnson to his parents dated June 12, 1944. In this letter he writes home about some of his training experiences in Mississippi–including accidentally sleeping through a first aid training session. (Box 7, Folder 51 of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

As Dr. Johnson was explaining this to me over the phone, he questioned whether anyone would be interested in this collection of letters–nearly 400 in total. Although I recognized that these letters would not hold the same meaning to others as they do to him, I assured Dr. Johnson that people will certainly be interested in reading these letters for generations to come.

Letter from Howard P. Johnson, May 20, 1945

This note, written on a piece of birch bark that Johnson found near his encampment on May 20, 1945, provides a brief description of his location.  (Box 8, Folder 43, Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

It is not every day that I am privileged to speak with a World War II veteran, nor is it often that such a complete collection of letters with so many connections to Iowa State and rural life in Iowa are offered to the department, so I was thrilled to accept the donation. The Johnson family letters offer an intimate snapshot of one Iowa farm family’s experience during a major turning point in American history. Similar stories played out thousands of times across the state and the country, but relatively few of those stories are so well documented.

Today, as we mark the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings in France, it is important to reflect upon those men and women who bravely served in World War II. Some names, like Eisenhower and MacArthur, will forever be associated with  winning the war for the Allies. There are many more thousands of names, names like Howard P. Johnson, whose contributions are often overlooked. At least in this case his story will be preserved in the archives.

The Johnson family World War II letters are part of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15, located in the Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives. The department is open to researchers from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday. Part of our mission is to preserve the history of Iowa State University and the stories of its faculty, staff, and alumni. If you have questions about whether we are the right home for your Iowa State story, give us a call, we would love to hear from you.


Celebrating 100 Years: Iowa’s State Parks

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Thanks to the efforts of Iowa leaders over 100 years ago, including people here at Iowa State, state parks were established within the state of Iowa just a few years after legislation for national state parks was passed.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of Iowa’s General Assembly passing state park legislation. The Special Collections and University Archives is excited to announce a new reading room exhibition to celebrate this achievement:  “This movement for a more beautiful Iowa”: The Early Years of Iowa’s State Park System.” Iowa’s landscape of native prairie, forests, and wetlands was rapidly disappearing by the early part of the 20th century due to an expanding population and growing agricultural operations. Individuals from across Iowa advocated for the legislature to set aside land to conserve Iowa’s dwindling natural landscapes, resulting in the passage of Iowa’s state parks bill on April 12, 1917. Iowa State played a central role in establishing the state park system and the state of Iowa soon became a national leader in the state park movement.

Louis Pammel (far left), Iowa State botany professor and leader in Iowa’s state park movement, with students at Ledges State Park.

The exhibit highlights Iowa State’s role in the state park movement, and includes individuals such as botanists Louis Pammel and Ada Hayden, forester G. B. MacDonald, and landscape architect John Fitzsimmons. A brief history of the work to establish state parks in Iowa opens the exhibit, followed by background on Iowa’s first state parks. The exhibit concludes with examples on how Iowa State has used state parks throughout the years, up until the present day – including a current student’s field notebook.

Why was this exhibit theme chosen?  In addition to celebrating an anniversary, it was a great way to highlight the work of Iowa State individuals in ways they are not often mentioned.  In fact, I was surprised to learn that a number of Iowa State administrators were involved – in addition to faculty and staff in botany, forestry, and landscape architecture. The quote from the exhibit’s title is from May H. McNider’s article “Women Want Iowa Scenery Preserved,” published in the 1919 Report of the State Board of Conservation. MacNider, who would later become president of the Board of Conservation, was a civic leader in the town of Mason City, Iowa.

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The development of exhibitions involve a variety of components, including staff from throughout the library.  This one was no exception.  The primary areas of responsibility for the exhibition’s curators (Becky Jordan, Brad Kuennen, and myself – Laura Sullivan) were: developing the exhibition’s themes, researching their assigned areas, selecting exhibition items, writing the exhibition’s text, designing the case layouts, and installing the exhibition.  In addition to the three curators who developed the exhibition, the preservation department helped on a variety of levels including conducting a preservation assessment, digitizing, and building the labels and display supports. We also received support for communications and the window display panels.  Digital initiatives is currently designing an online exhibit, which will be ready in a few weeks.

General Plan for the Landscape Development of Backbone State Park (Iowa’s first state park), 1925 (RS 13/5/13, tube 73)

In conjunction with the exhibit Heidi H. Hohmann, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, will be giving a presentation on Tuesday, June 6th at 7 p.m. in the Farwell T. Brown Auditorium at the Ames Public Library. Hohmann’s lecture, “Designing State and National Parks,” will focus on Iowa State and the Department of Landscape Architecture’s influence and role in the development of national parks and Iowa’s state parks.

Whether you’re looking for summer excursion ideas, would like to immerse yourself in the history of state parks here in Iowa, or would like to take a look at the exhibit for any other reason – please visit us on the 4th floor of Parks Library. Most of the exhibit is located within the reading room, but if you’re only able to stop by after hours, the window displays and a few exhibit cases are available for viewing after the department is closed.  The exhibit will run through the end of 2017.

 

 

 

 


Rare Book Highlights: Carver’s Travels

Title page of Carver’s Travels through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768.

Carver, Jonathan. Travels through the Interior Parts of North America, in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768. London, 1781. Call number: F597 .C32 1781x

This month I would like to highlight one of our recent acquisitions. For those of us living in the Upper Midwest, this book gives a glimpse of the region just before the time of the American Revolution.

Portrait of Jonathan Carver from the fontispiece of his Travels.

Jonathan Carver was born in Massachusetts in 1710 when it was still an English colony. He joined the Massachusetts militia in 1755 and fought in the French and Indian War. At the end of the war, he set out west to explore the new territory that the British acquired as a result of the war.

He traveled into modern day Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas, finding his way to the headwaters of the Mississippi River and traveling around the Great Lakes.

His book is part travelogue, part natural history text. He describes not only the land he passes through, but also the native peoples he meets, including their customs and way of life. The second half of the book describes the animals and plants he discovers along the way.

Colored illustration of a male Native American on the left, dressed in a loin-cloth and leggings and carrying a musket and ax, with a woman and child on the right. The child is nake, and the woman is wearing a white dress with a pink skirt underneath.

Colored plate depicting “A Man and Woman of the Ottagaumies.”

In the text, Carver describes coming upon “the Great Town of the Saukies,” or Sauk people–one of the Native American tribes that moved into Iowa in the 1700s. This particular town was located on the Wisconsin River (“Ouisconsin River”) in that what is now Wisconsin, but perhaps it gives a sense of how these same people may have lived in Iowa (through the lens, of course, of a European colonial of the time). He writes,

“This is the largest and best built Indian town I ever saw. It contains about ninety houses, each large enough for several families. These are built of hewn plank neatly jointed, and covered with bark so compactly as to keep out the most penetrating rains. Before the doors are placed comfortable sheds, in which the inhabitants sit, when the weather will permit, and smoak their pipes. The streets are regular and spacious; so that it appears more like a civilized town than the abode of savages. The land near the town is very good. In their plantations, which lie adjacent to their houses, and which are neatly laid out, they raise great quantities of Indian corn, beans, melons, &c. so that this place is esteemed the best market for traders to furnish themselves with provisions, of any within eight hundred miles of it” (46-47).

Detailed view of map showing Carver’s planned travel area. In the lower right quadrant of the image is shown “Saukies Chief Town.”

Carver also describes the animals he encountered, including the “Tyger of America,” which, he says, “resembles in shape those of Africa and Asia, but is considerably smaller. Nor does it appear to be so fierce and ravenous as they are. The colour of it is a darkish fallow, and it is entirely free from spots” (442). Which American cat is he describing, do you think? My guess is the bobcat.

Colored image shows the stalk, leaves, and flowers of the tobacco plant, as well as the caterpillar that feeds on the plant.

Although there are no plates illustrating the animals listed in the book, there is a colored plate illustrating the Tobacco Plant.

In addition to describing the native plants and animals of the region, Carver also describes the starchy plants that the Native Americans grew or harvested, including maize, wild rice, beans, and squash. The New England colonists may have been familiar with corn from their early interactions with the natives in the area, but for Carver’s audiences in England, the plant was likely still a strange exotic. Given its importance to the Iowa economy, it may be interesting to see how he describes this early species of “MAIZE or INDIAN CORN.” The stalks grow “six to ten feet high.” The kernals he calls “seeds,” describing them as “large as peas, and like them quite naked and smooth, but of a roundish surface, rather compressed. One spike generally consists of about six hundred grains, which are placed closely together in rows to the number of eight or ten, and sometimes twelve.”  “This corn is very wholesome,” he continues, “easy of digestion, and yields as good nourishment as any other sort” (522).

Wouldn’t Carver be surprised to see Iowa today with its acres and acres of corn fields?

This book was purchased with funds from the Margaret Mae Gross Memorial Endowment.


#TBT Living Mannequins

Ladies in cabinets-1926

University Photographs, 12/10/F, Box 1006, 1926

Today’s TBT photo was taken in 1926 as part of the coursework for the Department of Textiles and Clothing (now part of the Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management). Two students are in cabinets, modeling design work. In between them are three dolls, also wearing student designs.  As you can see, they are wearing designs that greatly predate 1926, so perhaps the students were tasked with designing historical costumes.  To learn more, check out our history of costume collection or our files from the Department of Textiles and Clothing (12/10).


Spotlight on the J. Stuart Russell Papers #TravelTuesday

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA)  “collects, preserves, and shares documentation of the experiences, achievements, and memories of people and organizations reflecting the university’s major research areas, with a special commitment to documenting the history of the university” (SCUA’s mission statement). The bulk of our collections are from within the state of Iowa. However, sometimes we’re treated to collections that document other parts of the world. The J . Stuart Russell Papers (MS 12) is one of those collections.

J. Stuart Russell was a Grinnell College graduate (1913) and Iowa farmer until he joined the U.S. Army in 1918. While serving, he operated a weekly newspaper in Sac City from 1920-1925. In 1925, he became Farm Editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune and held this position until his death in 1960. From 1925-1960, Russell was affiliated with numerous farm oriented organizations. He also traveled abroad several times to report on food and agricultural conditions in other country.

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Drop by to learn more about this collection or any of our collections. We’re open Monday – Friday from 9-5.

 

 

 

 



History of the Library, Pt. 2

This is the second in a series of posts about the history of the library at Iowa State.

When we left off in 1914, the library was in Beardshear Hall, and the collection was bursting at the seams.  As early as 1911, money was allocated by the legislature to build a library building.  However, the process was slow-going, especially when it was discovered that in order to build a building of adequate size, much more funding would be needed.

Finally in 1923, construction on the new library building was started, and the first cornerstone was laid on October 11.  Construction was complete in 1925, though not all books were moved until early 1926.  One of the major benefits of the new library was that the materials were consolidated into one space instead of being spread out between Central (Beardshear), Agriculture Hall, Chemistry Building, Engineering Hall, and the Veterinary Building.

SELibrary1925

Southeast view of the library, 1925, University Photograph box 313

The building had space to store 200,000 books.  At the time of opening, the library had “about 160,000 carefully selected volumes” (Catalogue, 1927-1928).

The library hours during regular sessions were:

Monday-Friday 7:50 am-6pm and 7-9:30pm
Saturday: 7:50am-2 and 1-6pm
Sunday: 2-5pm (no procrastinating until Sunday night!)

RS-4-8-H_Library_146-01-04

South end of Periodical Room, 1927 University Photographs box 146

Periodical_Room_Main_Reading_Room_1925

Periodical Room (Main Reading Room), 1925, University Photographs box 170

In 1925/6, the library offered 4 courses; classes in library usage specifically for agriculture, home economics, and industrial science students, and a course in bibliographic research.    A 5th course in library methods had been added by the next year.  The dean of the library was Charles Harvey Brown. Brown served as dean of the library from 1922-1946.  In 1927, the library had 10 staff members and 12 assistants listed in the catalogue (compared to today’s 143 staff between librarians, support staff, and students).

The Alumnus had a rather interesting take on the new library building in their November 1924 issue:

“Officials say that the library will be ready for occupancy some time in January.  Some time early in the year, six libraries will be consolidated into one, and the amorous youth will no longer wend his away to Central, but to the new white structure beyond it, there to seek out his fair bibliophile and divert her affections to something more substantial than books.” (RS 4/8/4, box 12)

Sounds like the library staff had their hands full!

1925 Library Staff

Library Staff 1925, University Photographs box 2040

From 1925 to the present the library has been in the same location but has grown.  Join us for the next installments to see how the library has expanded in the last (nearly) century!