Pride in the Underground (Comix)

The cover for Gay Comix number 6.

Chances are, if you know anything about underground comix (occasionally “comics”) at all, what comes to mind is something along the lines of R. Crumb: male-dominated, drug-influenced, heavily heterosexual counterculture comics from the 1960s and 70s, critical of the materialism and manners of mainstream post-war society, populated by dropouts, burnouts, leering men, and exaggeratedly sexual women. You’re not wrong, and you can certainly find those in the Underground Comix Collection (MS 636), including some issues of ZAP, considered an outstanding example of the form.

Underground comix, however, are a medium, not a genre, and one which marginalized creators from a range of backgrounds and countercultures embraced as a way to express themselves free from the editorial oversight of commerical publishers and Hays-code style censorship of the Comics Code Authority. These presses started as early as the late 1950s and some of them ran well into the 1980s and 1990s: some comics bounced from press to press, or went through periods of being entirely creator-produced; some presses collapsed and were reopened, or only managed a few issues before folding. The history of underground comix is long, complicated, and rich, reflecting a diversity of opinion and experience that’s often absent or erased from the mainstream form of the medium.

No surprise, then, that there are a few flashes of rainbow among the boxes and folders of the Underground Comix Collection. These comics date mostly from the 1970s and 1980s, and provide a look at what gay men, lesbians, and others in the LGBT community (as these creators identified themselves and their community) were thinking, reading, and doing between the watershed of Gay Liberation in the late 1960s and the mass mobilization in response to the AIDS epidemic. They run the gamut from raunchy to goofy to angry: from multi-page stories to single-panel cartoons, these comics were created by and for LGBTQ+ people, unconcerned with a straight audience (and excluded from mainstream publishing by virtue of their subject matter). They talk about sex, both before and after AIDS, about coming out, starting new, building community, breaking up, grocery shopping, and getting hassled.
As much as could be written about the LGBTQ+ comics in the collection, though, it’s probably better to let them speak for themselves.

Looking for more LGBTQ+ comix in ISU’s collection? Check out No Straight Lines, a hardcover compilation published in 2012 which features excerpts from four decades of gay, lesbian, and queer life, in America and around the world.

The images in this post were sourced from:

  • Come out Comix
  • Gay Comix and Super Gay Comix
  • Gay Heartthrobs
  • Homo Patrol
  • Rainbow Funnies
  • Strip AIDS USA
  • Wimmin’s Comix

COVID-19 Stories: Hansen’s Dairy, Hudson, Iowa: Feeding Our Community during the 2020 Pandemic

This post is part of the COVID-19 Stories: Agriculture, Food, and Rural Stories project. This submission is from Jordan Hansen of Hansen’s Dairy.

We’d love to hear from you! Please visit the COVID-19 Stories webpage for more information about our projects and to participate.

Woman standing next to an open trailer with seats for people to sit in that is attached to a tractor. In the background is a farm with two silos and other farm buildings.

Jordan Hansen. Image provided by Jordan Hansen.

My name is Jordan Hansen, and I’m telling the story of how Hansen’s Dairy, a small dairy farm in Hudson, Iowa, adapted to business changes during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

My family’s farm is designated a Heritage Farm, and the land has been in our family since 1864. Dairy cows have been milked here since the 1950s. In the early 2000s, Jay and Jeanne Hansen and their four sons decided to add value to the operation by beginning their own on-farm creamery. The first gallon of milk was produced and sold to the public in 2004. Our product line now includes milk, butter, heavy cream, cheese curds, ice cream, egg nog, and beef. We opened two retail stores, Hansen’s Dairy Waterloo (2006) and Hansen’s Dairy Cedar Falls (2007), where we sell our own products plus a variety of food and goods from other local farmers and entrepreneurs. We also offer farm tours, where we teach visitors how milk gets from the cow to their table. In 2019, we welcomed 9,100 visitors, a record high.

Farm with silos and farm buildings surrounded by empty fields form the background and middle-ground. In the foreground is a sign reading "Hansen's Dairy Tour Center" and a tractor pulling a trailer loaded with people in seats.

Hansen Dairy Tour. Image provided by Jordan Hansen.

In 2020, that will look very different.

Mid-March was very unsettling as COVID-19 became the main news story. The World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic on Wednesday, March 11; I knew things were serious when the NBA and NCAA suspended their basketball seasons on March 12. States began to lock down and shelter in place. That weekend, people all over the country began hoarding groceries.

Gallon-sized milk cartons being filled and capped by factory machinery. Cartons have label indicating Hansen's Dairy skim milk.

Hansen Skim Milk. Image provided by Jordan Hansen.

While Hansen’s Dairy milk is available at Fareway and Hy-Vee grocery stores in the Cedar Valley, people were quickly finding that panic buying left dairy shelves empty in those stores. That led to customers either rediscovering or visiting our stores for the first time, looking for milk. We enjoyed a surge in demand for our milk as people stocked up on essentials. Being that our business is vertically integrated — and the cows don’t stop producing — we were able to keep processing milk and distributing it without issue. Things were chugging along.

A week later, things had ground to a halt. By March 17, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds had ordered bars and restaurants to close. Being that we supply dairy products to restaurants and coffee shops, that part of our business began to see reduced demand. Eateries had to decide if they would continue to stay open with carry-out and delivery only, or temporarily shut down. Schools in Iowa also closed.

As unemployment soared, so did the need for food assistance. Unfortunately, this was also about the time that word spread across the country that some dairy farmers had to dump their milk and fruit/vegetable growers had to plow under perfectly good produce because there was no way to get it to consumers. There were two primary reasons for this break in the distribution chain:

  • Production employees couldn’t — or wouldn’t — work due to a virus outbreak or fear of outbreak.
  • Processing plants who typically supply restaurants and schools suddenly had no buyers for their end product and couldn’t easily change their production capabilities to retail sales.

Most of the time people don’t think about the path food travels to get to their table. The ability to get food from the farmer to the American consumer has become so consolidated, streamlined and efficient that it’s usually taken for granted. But when there’s a crack in that process, things also go downhill quickly. Suddenly, Americans were seeing how interconnected the food system is, and how a broken link in the chain has a rippling effect. Plants that typically supply schools or the food service industry package foods differently than they would for retail sale. These specialized production lines are tweaked and calibrated for maximum efficiency. They can’t just flip a switch and change their packaging and distribution to go to retail buyers instead of commercial buyers. Who wants 5 pound bags of mozzarella cheese, 8 oz cardboard cartons of milk, or individual pats of butter in their homes?

Here at Hansen’s Dairy, we feel fortunate that we process our own dairy products and have an established history and loyalty with our customers. Our plant is diversified enough that while our restaurant demand diminished a bit, we were able to put more products on the retail shelves and accommodate a different demand. Sometimes a small producer has an advantage over large-scale facilities — the ability to adapt quickly.

Another way we quickly improved our services was to offer online purchasing through our stores. Since we sell groceries, we were able to stay open as essential businesses. But as people became hesitant to venture out of their homes, we wanted to provide online grocery delivery and curbside pickup options. We were able to get our 200-plus items online and offer these services at both stores by March 30.

Meanwhile, our tour season would have opened April 1, but people were not permitted to gather in groups, so we delayed the opening until June 1.

A person wearing a face mask stands in the back of a delivery truck and hands a gallon carton of milk and another product to another person standing on the ground who is also wearing a face mask. The truck appears to be in a parking lot within a town.

Truck sale. Image provided by Jordan Hansen.

As quarantine measures ramped up and people were being told to “just stay home,” we had another idea. Instead of customers coming to us, why not go to them? We decided to take our delivery truck to small towns in the area and sell groceries off the truck. We sold all of our dairy products and beef, plus eggs, ground chicken, potatoes, onions and yogurt from other local producers. We parked in a large parking lot in each town and used a drive-through format, allowing customers to stay in their cars and pay via credit card for a contactless experience. We wore masks and gloves, as did many of the customers who pulled up. The benefits of these events went both ways: The sales would provide additional income to make up for the tours we weren’t allowed to host, and customers would have a convenient, safe way to get some of those perishable essentials between larger grocery trips. The small towns and neighborhoods we visited — Grundy Center, New Hartford, Wellsburg, Jesup, Dike, Buckingham and Sunnyside Country Club in Waterloo — were very appreciative, and the community exposure rejuvenated interest in our brand.

I believe this pandemic was an eye opener to consumers, and hopefully people are now better able to connect the dots between the farmer and their table. ​When COVID-19 becomes a distant memory, I hope people will remember how we small producers rose to the occasion. When the large meatpacking plants shut down and meat became more scarce, people went to small hog and cattle farmers to inquire about buying directly from them. The pandemic illustrated that while the U.S. has one of the most efficient food systems in the world, problems can arise faster and hit harder when large, consolidated plants fail. They certainly have their place in feeding the world, but I hope people remember that during the pandemic, we small producers were out there feeding our neighbors.

Family portrait of 3 generations wearing color coordinated Hansen’s Dairy t-shirts showing nuclear families. In the center at the back are a man and woman (grandparents) with their adult children and spouses on either side. Seated in front are 16 children.

Hansen family 2018. Image provided by Jordan Hansen.

Manuscripts Miscellany: Illuminated Book of Hours Leaf

Illuminated manuscripts. What could be more exciting than a sheet of parchment with Latin text in a Gothic script and intricate illustrations?

Medieval manuscripts are not a major collecting area at ISU Special Collections and University Archives. However, we do collect a few leaves to aid our teaching of the history of the book. Featured here is a leaf from a medieval book of hours from Northern Italy, probably Ferrera, created around 1470.

Books of Hours are the most common type of Western medieval manuscript book surviving today. They are a Christian devotional book, containing the prayers and passages of scripture to use during the canonical hours, or the specific times throughout the day marked for prayer in the monastic practice of Christianity. Books of hours enabled lay people to imitate the monastic life. These books were commissioned by wealthy families for personal use, especially among women, and each one is unique, containing varying verses from the Psalms, along with hymns and prayers, and decorated to greater or lesser degrees of ornateness, depending on the wealth of the commissioner.

Page of Gothic script in 13 lines. Left margin and top of page decorated with a floral design in red, green, and blue inks with gold leaf. Capital letter D is contains a floral motif in three colors on a gold ground. Capital letter A in blue and red ink.

Recto (or front side) of the leaf from a Book of Hours in ISU’s collections.

On the page shown here, there is an illuminated three-line initial “D” that begins the Hours of the Virgin, Hour of Sext. These prayers would have been said at noon. The D begins the word, “Deus” (God). Below the D is a 2-line initial “A” in blue and red ink. This begins Psalm 122 in the Vulgate (Psalm 123 in the King James Version), “Ad te levavi oculos meos…” (I lift my eyes…).

Page of Gothic script in 13 lines. Four illuminated initials. Two are in burnished gold leaf with intricate violet penwork and two are deep blue with red penwork. These alternate down the page.

Verso (or back side) of the leaf from a Book of Hours in ISU’s collections.

On the other side of the page, a 2-line illuminated “N” burnished gold begins Psalm 123 (Psalm 124 KJV) with “Nisi quia diis erat in nobis dicat nunc Israel…” (If it had not been that the Lord was with us…).

The images here have nothing to show scale. The leaf is quite small—96 x 70 mm, or just under 4 inches x roughly 2.5 inches. These were small enough to carry in a pocket and fit comfortably in a hand.

You may be wondering, if this leaf came from a book of hours, where is the rest of the book? It is not common practice today, but in earlier decades, some booksellers took apart manuscript books and sold individual leaves to purchasers who might not be able to afford entire books. This practice also enabled the book seller to make a much larger profit in the end by selling the leaves piecemeal. This profit, however, comes at a great cost to scholarship when the entire book is dispersed, and the context of the entire work is lost. Some booksellers that broke up manuscript books in this way argued that it enabled a wider range of purchasers to have access to these magnificent cultural objects who otherwise would not be able to afford an entire manuscript book. While acknowledging that owning and purchasing such objects is ethically problematic, I still make use of these objects in our collections for the purpose of instruction and am happy to be able to share it with a broader audience here.

This Book of Hours leaf comes from MS-0030, Manuscript Leaves and Ephemera Collection, box 1, folder 4.

#MediaMonday – Borden’s Condensed Milk Book of Recipes

Welcome back to another #MediaMonday! This week we will be taking yet another look at my favorite collection, MS-0381: Food and Household Product Advertising Guides and Publications collection.

The subject of today’s post is a Borden’s Eagle Brand Book of Recipes, published by Borden’s Condensed Milk Company. This specific booklet is undated but the company was established in 1857, as noted on the pages shown below.

  • Borden's Eagle Brand Book of Recipes. Borden's Condensed Milk Company est 1857. "Leader of Quality" New York.
  • Borden's Eagle Brand Book of Recipes. Borden's Condensed Milk Company. Established 1857. "Leader of Quality" New York.

My last few posts from this collection have been about recipes and cooking guides because the idea of companies releasing these guidebooks with all the uses for their product, products that are so common now, is fascinating to me. Unsurprisingly, all of the following recipes require Borden’s condensed milk.

  • Fruit Salad Recipe. 1 cup green apples. 3 oranges. 1 cup pineapple. 1/2 cup nut meats. 1 bannana. 8 leaves lettuce. 3/4 cup salad dressing. Cut fruit in small slice, mix with salad dressing, and arrange on lettuce leaves. Number served, 8 persons. (For salad dressing see page 22).
  • Bread and Muffins. Rye and oatmeal bread. Rye Muffins.
  • Recipes for "Graham Muffins", "Cornmeal Muffins", "Cornmeal Parker House Rolls", and "Fruit Rolls" on page 5.

Would you try any of these recipes? If so, which one(s)? Let us know in the comments. Or, if you end up trying one out, take a picture and tag us on Facebook!

All materials in pictured this post can be found in MS-0381 Box 1.

Manuscripts Miscellany: Native American Task Force of the Rural Coalition

One of our manuscripts collections is the Rural Coalition records (MS-0368), a national alliance of regionally and culturally diverse organizations concerned with rural issues, formed in 1978 to provide a national, unified voice for rural people and their communities. In its early years, the organization began a relationship with representatives from American Indian communities in the United States, leading to the founding of the Native American Task Force (also, variously called the American Indian Task Force by internal documents), one of the five task forces that guided the work of the Rural Coalition in the mid-1980s.

A number of documents in the collection record the steady development and growing momentum from the task force’s beginning as the spark of an idea, through its initial organization and development.

In a letter dated June 3, 1985, Kathryn Waller, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Rural Coalition, outlined the history and beginnings of the task force:

I am writing to you about an exciting development that emerged at our just completed 1985 Annual Meeting of the Rural Coalition. A number of Native American representatives attended the Meeting and met extensively and fruitfully with our leadership. The result is that we have unprecedented opportunity to develop a strong positive relationship between Native Americans and other constituencies in the Rural Coalition. This relationship stands in contrast to the many conflicts between Native Americans and other rural people in the past. [new paragraph] There are a number of steps that need to take place in order to firm up the potential of the budding development. The first steps have already been taken and affirmed by the Rural Coalition Board of Directors on May 22nd. These steps include: (1) the establishment of a Native American Task Force within the Rural Coalition; (2) a commitment from the Board and national staff to assist in furthering the development of the Task Force; and (3) initial provision of fundraising, logistical and staff support to the Task Force.

Selection from a letter from Kathryn Waller to J. Benton Rhoads, June 3, 1985, from Rural Coalition Records, MS-0368, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Box 15, Folder 33.


After the initial meeting between Native individuals and the Rural Coalition leadership, the Native American Task Force held its inaugural meeting a year later, June 12-15, 1986, in Rapid City, South Dakota. The roster of participants includes twenty-four people from twelve states, including people from the Yakima Nation, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Oyate Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, as well as representatives from non-profit organizations and individuals.

A few months after the task force’s first meeting, they issued a “Statement of Principles — Statement of Purpose” document, dated September 1986. This statement consisted of eight points:

  1. We will work to insure a safe environment for our children and future generations;
  2. We are dedicated to the survival of the Indian Nations;
  3. We will stand together to fight for the protection of our land and resources;
  4. It is our intention to uphold and enforce our treaty rights and the inherent rights of Indians;
  5. We will advocate tribal sovereignty;
  6. We will devise many ways and means to educate and inform Indians and non-Indians to the immediate and to the far-reaching concerns of Indian country;
  7. We will work to promote economic self-sufficiency without exploitation for Indian tribes, Indian groups and Indian persons;
  8. We will look to the confirmation of international recognition of Indian nations and Indian inherent rights.

The following year, in October 1987, an official one-page prospectus of the task force outlined specific areas of focus (“Indian Water Quality, Native Lands, Indian Agriculture”) and activities (“lobbying for specific legislation, research and policy analysis, advocating public policy positions, training and technical assistance to selected Native communities and educating non-Indian rural Americans and others on Indian issues”), with a call at the end for more members.

[On Rural Coalition letterhead] American Indian Task Force of the Rural Coalition. [New paragraph] Formed in 1986, the American Indian Task Force is one of five standing task forces of the Rural Coalition, a national alliance of some 140 memberorganizations banded together to advocate policies to benefit rural people. The Task Force currently has projects on Indian Water Quality, Native Lands Indian Agriculture and other program areas. Task Force members and professional staff design and carry out these projects which involve lobbying for specific legislation, research and policy analysis advocating public policy positions, training and technical assistance to selected Native communities and education non-Indian rural Americans and others on Indian issues. [new paragraph] The Task Force currently has 14 members drawn from all segments of Indian communities. Its membership includes elected Tribal officials, Tribal staff, representatives of non-profit organizations, professionals from several fields and people from both newly-recognized and non-federally-recognized Tribes. [new paragraph] Mr. Pat Bellanger (Chippewa) and Mr. Pat Moss (Cherokee) Chair the American Indian Task Force. Ms. Bellanger is also Vice Chair of the Rural Coalition's Board of Directors. Other Coalition Task Forces are Agriculture, Natural Resources, Jobs, Community Development and Military Issues. [new paragraph] The American Indian Task Force is expanding in 1987-88. Those interested in possible Task Force membership or more detailed information should contact George Coling, Rural Coalition, 2001 S Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20009, 202/483-1500. October 1987

One-page prospectus on the American Indian Task Force of the Rural Coalition, October 1987. Rural Coalition Records, MS 368, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Box 24, Folder 30.

Indian Water Quality was one of the initial programs of the Task Force. In May 1988, the task force issued a program report, covering the period from July 1, 1987 – April 20, 1988. The program was funded with a $50,000 grant from the Public Welfare Foundation. The goal of the program is “to improve the environmental health of American Indians living on reservations,” and in order to meet this goal, it outlines specific, measurable objectives. The first of these objectives was “to deliver on-site technical assistance on water quality assessment and program options to tribes and other Native American organizations.” The report spends a considerable amount of space detailing the work on this objective, which revolved around “developing a multi-reservation and single reservation model for delivering technical assistance.” The initial work began with the South Dakota Sioux reservations, including the publication of a study Groundwater Quality for Nine Reservations in South Dakota, followed by the organization of a meeting of the Great Sioux Nation, called the Mni Wiconi Conference held in Rapid City in February 1988, to distribute the information and initiate follow up consultation with individual tribes.

Cover page of a report: Program Report to Public Welfare Foundation, Rural Coalition Indian Water Quality Program, July 1, 1987 - April 30, 1988, May 1988, Contact: George Coling, Co-Director 202/483-1500, Ted Means, Associate Director 605/867-5855"

Cover page of the Program Report on the Rural Coalition Indian Water Quality Program, May 1988. Rural Coalition Records, MS 368, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Box 14, Folder 15.

The Rural Coalition records in our holdings include a large number of subject files in which is collected background information on a number of issues of interest to the task force, including groundwater issues as well as a number of other issues, including Indian airspace, gaming legislation, Native American Fisheries, treaty rights, and economic development, among others.

These Rural Coalition records in our holdings currently end at the year 1990, but these records give insight into a growing area of focus for the organization.


Native American Heritage Month: Historical Photos of the Meskwaki

November is Native American Heritage Month, and our post for today features two sets of photos from within larger manuscript collections that offer glimpses of Meskwaki life from late 19th and early 20th century Iowa.

It bears mentioning that, while we are always seeking to diversify our collections, Iowa State University is not, and by its very nature will never be, the best resource for learning about Native American people’s histories and cultures — even those directly adjacent to us. This is because Native American nations keep their own records. If, therefore, you want to learn more about the Meskwaki Nation, which is located in Tama County, about an hour’s drive from ISU, I strongly recommend that you go directly to the source by visiting their website, their cultural center and museum, and/or by getting in touch with the museum’s historic preservation staff (contact information at the bottom of the linked page). They will be able to tell you more about themselves than our archives, or even coursework in ISU’s excellent American Indian Studies Program (AISP), ever could.

I also want to point out that the photographs in this post are, to the best of my knowledge, the creation of white, European-American photographers, who were outsiders to the Meskwaki culture. This is significant because it suggests that what we are actually seeing in these photos is (sometimes obvious, but always decidedly one-sided) documentation of encounters between two very different cultures, rather than internal elements or perspectives of Meskwaki life. It does not, at least in my opinion, make the images any less interesting or historically valuable; it is simply important context to bear in mind, particularly as our collections do not contain the counterpart, which would be documentation of such interactions that centers a Meskwaki point-of-view.


These photos are among the oldest I know of in our collections that contain glimpses of people from what was then, at least to English-speakers, known as the “Sauk and Fox” tribe. The images are contained in a 6″ x 8″ photo album, which documents rural life in central Iowa at the end of the 19th century, though it is unclear who the creator was or why so much of the album remains empty.

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MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album. Album cover.

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MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album. Last page in album, identifying the manufacturer.

I have scanned the relevant page spread in its entirety but will zoom in on the three individual images, as well. Each is a black-and-white, thumbnail-sized picture inserted into a photograph sleeve with four-windows and then captioned and dated by hand.

KIC Image 0002.2

MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album.

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MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album.

According to an Encyclopedia Brittanica article, THE Black Hawk (Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kai-kaik), a Sauk warrior famed for leading three allied Iowa tribes (Sauk, Meskwaki, and Kickapoo) through the 1832 “Black Hawk War” against the U.S. government, died in 1838. This means that the man pictured above must be another, younger leader who went, or at least was know to local Anglo settlers, by the same name.

KIC Image 0002.3

MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album.

It is too bad that the photographer neglected to ask and/or recall these individuals’ names. It is, unfortunately, also not clear whether any of them had consented to be photographed in the first place. The fact that they are walking away from the camera suggests that they did not.

KIC Image 0003.3

MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album.

Although these individuals are identified as being “from Tama Reservation,” it is not entirely clear whether they would have belonged to the Meskwaki Nation as it currently defines itself. “Sauk and Fox” seems to have been a catch-all term designated by the U.S. government for at least two distinct tribes, both of which it sought to forcibly relocated to Kansas in the decades following the Black Hawk War. The Meskwaki have also never referred to themselves internally as the “Fox”; this is an anglicization of a name conferred on the tribe by French fur trappers more than a century before. The “reservation” in Tama county, where a number chose to remain and/or return, was also not technically a government reservation, as the Meskwaki had purchased this land for themselves in 1857.



These pictures were taken at an annual Powwow festival, which, according to the Meskwaki website, is typically held in either August or September and modeled after a traditional harvest-time social event known as the “Green Corn Dance.” Photographer Walter Rosene, best known for his prolific local bird photography, featured in the Avian Archives of Iowa Online, took these pictures, presumably while attending a Meskwaki Powwow with family or friends.

KIC Image 0007

MS-0598, Box 17, Folder 5. Meskwaki Powwow.

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MS-0598, Box 17, Folder 5. Meskwaki Powwow. The kids posing for this photo afford us an excellent view of their fancy outfits. The little one on the left, though, looks like he’s ready to scamper off to re-join the festivities!

KIC Image 0009

MS-0598, Box 17, Folder 5. Meskwaki Powwow. It is unclear whether this photo was taken at the Powwow or sometime before or after. There is no additional information on the back, but I am guessing that the people in this photo were all spectators. I personally also find the symmetry and contrasts interesting — for example, the plaid in both the little white girl’s dress and in the Meskwaki woman’s shawl, and the way the woman and children in the foreground are the only ones both not wearing hats and seemingly absorbed in something other than Rosene’s camera.

I did locate photos within a few more collections, all of them RS collections, which is more of what I typically work with. But I realized belatedly that the boxes I needed from each of these are stored off-site and that I wouldn’t have time to request them. Perhaps they will become their own blog post someday.



Manuscripts Miscellany: Old-time Campaign Photograph

In this season of political campaigning, especially here in Iowa, my attention was caught recently by a photograph I came across while looking through the Walter M. Rosene papers, MS-0589. Rosene was a birder, and most of his photographs are of birds, nests, and landscapes through which he traveled to go bird watching. So, I was surprised to see a photograph of a politician, addressing a crowd from the back of a train car:

Kansas Governor Alf Landon won the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1936. He was running against Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had been in office for one term at this point. Roosevelt won with a landslide victory. But before that, Governor Landon made a campaign stop in Boone, Iowa, speaking from the platform of a train car. He was engaging in a whistle stop campaign, making brief speeches at a number of small towns along a train route. Judging by the crowd of people in the photograph, Iowans were as engaged in politics in the 1930s as they are today.

“Our trip…will long be remembered”: Following the Trail of a Bird Watching Road Trip

Last Thursday our new exhibition, “Our trip…will long be remembered”: Following the Train of a Bird Watching Road Trip, opened. This exhibition follows the route of birders Walter M. Rosene, Sr., and Walter Bennett during their 1924 trip from Sioux City, Iowa, to East Central North Dakota as documented in Rosene’s travel journey. Detailed notes taken on the trip represent some of the earliest observations of birding areas that are now well-known for their value to ornithological study. The exhibition will be available now through fall 2020 in Parks Library Room 403.

Detailed bird observations and poetic descriptions of fascinating accounts enable visitors to see the beauty of nature through Rosene’s eyes. Excerpts from his journal are complimented by photographs and hand-colored lantern slides taken on the trip, and maps and supplemental materials place the road trip in the larger context of environmental and social concerns of the Great Plains in the early 20th century.

Rosene, the first president of the Iowa Ornithologists’ Union, and Bennett, a biological investigator and bird life lecturer, dedicated most of their lives to conservation and bird study, and their 1,600-mile journey remained a memorable and important experience throughout their birding careers.

Many of the documents and photographs are from the Walter M. Rosene, Sr. Papers and are available digitally as part of the Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn) – a newly launched web portal of Iowa ornithological primary sources supported by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The avIAn project documents nearly 100 years of bird study in Iowa and includes materials from some of the Midwest’s most prominent conservationists.

Pictured above are staff from Iowa State University Printing and Copy Services installing the window decals for the new exhibition.

Join us at the exhibition reception to learn more

What: Following the Trail of a Bird Watching Road Tip: A Curators’ Journey

When: 7-8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 24

Where: Ames Public Library Farewell T. Brown Auditorium, 515 Douglas Ave, Ames IA 50010

Join us to learn behind the scenes details about the creation of the exhibition and its connection to the recently completed Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn). Attendees will have the unique opportunity to hear from exhibition curators Erin Anderson and Amy Bishop as they discuss their findings and the impact it has on local and national communities.

This talk marks the opening of the exhibition. Admission is free and hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served.

We would like to give special thanks to the following exhibition partners: Iowa Young Birders, Iowa Ornithologist’s Union, Ames Historical Society, the ISU Department of Natural Resource Ecology & Management and Wild Birds Unlimited of Ames

Contact information

Rachel Seale, University Library Special Collections and University Archives Outreach Archivist ­­515-294-5311 or

Nacuya Rucker, University Library External Relations Director 515-294-2155 or

Manuscripts Miscellany: William Rankin Civil War Letters

This post offers a peek at a new collection. In 2017, Special Collections purchased a collection of letters from William Rankin, a young Iowan from a farming family who appear to have lived in or near Waukon or Dundee in northeast Iowa. Rankin volunteered in the summer of 1864 for the Union Army as a “Hundred Days Man.” The Hundred Days Men were volunteer troops who served for 100 day enlistment periods during the height of the Civil War. They were intended to serve non-combat support roles in order to free up the veteran units for combat. Rankin served as a Corporal in Company F of the 46th Regiment, Iowa Infantry. His regiment was assigned to guard the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, located near Collierville, TN, a town just outside of Memphis.

The collection includes 30 letters addressed to “Folks at home.” He talks about daily life in camp, rumors from the front lines, news about fellow Iowa soldiers, and the area they were stationed in. He was apparently starved for news from home, as each letter ends with a plaintive appeal that his family answer every one of his letters.

In a letter dated “Coliersville Tenn July 6th 1864,” he describes his experience on picket guard on the 4th of July:

…it was my turn to stand on picket guard so all the fourth of July I stood under a big tree in Tennessee and at night I lay behind a log and watched for rebs but nary a reb did I see. About ten o’clock we heard two guns go off on the other side of the picket line, and in a short time the long roll was sounded. The we heard the officers yelling at the men to fall out and form into line. We could hear the colonel’s voice swearing at the men for not getting out quicker and we had (that is the pickets) to lie still. We lay for about an hour and then we heard the boys going back to bed.

In another letter, dated July 12th, he describes the punishment for some men that were caught sleeping while on guard duty:

Every night the officers of the day and guard go to every picket post to see that every thing is all right. It is called the grand rounds. The other night they found six men and a corporal asleep so they have to sleep in the guard house every night & every morning at four o’clock the guards wake them up. The corporal of the squad has to take a board that is fixed like a banner & on it is written “Sleeping Squad.” The guards then take them out of the guard house & march them to the different companies and they have to carry 6 pails of water for each Co. The corporal has to march ahead with his banner and they have to do this for 8 days.

“Sleeping Squad” written in Rankin’s letter dated July 12, 1864.

He also shares news from the front lines. His letter from August 22, 1864 contains this story:

Yesterday Memphis was attacked by about fifteen hundred cavalry. They dashed into the city and captured Gen. Washburn’s headquarters and about five hundred of our boys. They also took a battery. We heard the firing very plainly but could not find out what it meant for some time for the wire was cut on both sides of us. About ten o’clock they got the wire fixed & then we began to get the news. They were chasing them. They had recaptured the battery. Last night they were fighting at White’s Station which is about half way to Memphis from here. We expect them here about tomorrow morning. They will find us ready. We were called out last night about two o’clock and had to stay up till sunrise. We didn’t like it very well. We expect to have the same thing to do tonight.

The entire collection of letters can be read in Special Collections and University Archives: MS-0711, William Rankin Civil War Letters.