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.

 


“Alice Doesn’t Day” by Research Assistant Amanda Larsen

The following post was written by Amanda Larsen, who is working at SCUA this year as an Undergraduate Research Assistant (URA). Her project revolves around historical feminist activism on the ISU campus. Regarding today’s article, note that the Monday after next, exactly two weeks from today, will mark 43 years since the “Alice Doesn’t Day” strike.

-Rachael Acheson
Assistant University Archivist


Alice Doesn’t Day

October 29th, 1975 was one of the first days to show the nation how much women contribute to society. The National Organization for Women (NOW) created a national strike day for women in order to emphasize how important women are for society. They called it “Alice Doesn’t Day,” a reference to the 1974 film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.  NOW called for every woman to refrain from work or spending any money. The alternative for women who could not skip work was to wear an armband and discuss its purpose.

On campus, the Government of the Student Body (GSB) was asked to support the strike by on campus women’s organization. The bill to support Alice Doesn’t Day was sponsored by Roxanne Ryan, a student in sciences and humanities.

Image of Roxanne Ryan with members of her residence hall, Miller. Image from the Bomb 1975, page 308.

Roxanne Ryan with members of her residence hall. Image from the Bomb 1975, pg. 308.

Various groups scheduled programs supporting Alice Doesn’t Day on the Iowa State campus according to news articles. For those who wished to participate in the event, the YWCA had seminars on women’s health, practical consumerism, pampering ourselves, and women and the law. If the participants had young children, there were male-run daycare and babysitting services provided. GSB passed the bill supporting Alice Doesn’t Day, to the dismay of some. In the community, Ames Mayor William Pelz showed support for Alice Doesn’t Day by signing an official proclamation naming October 29th as “Alice Doesn’t Day.”

Not everyone supported Alice Doesn’t Day. The Iowa State Daily’s “Point of View” section notes that some believed calling for women not to go to work was not the best tactic for showing women’s roles in society. While it might have shown how much women contribute, it could also have shown unprofessionalism and little regard for their work. Others felt that women should double their efforts on the 29th with the same goal of showing how much they can contribute to society. A group opposed to Alice Doesn’t Day vowed to wear pink dresses and call for the firing of any woman protesting. In terms of students, most told the Daily that the reason they could not participate in the strike was that they had classes and “school is more important than my ethical views.” Since they could not miss classes, many of the women interviewed said they would refrain from spending money that day.

Cartoon on student activism (or lack thereof). The Bomb 1975, pg. 504.

Cartoon on ISU student activism (or lack thereof). The Bomb 1975, pg. 504.

Rosl Gowdey, one of the publicity workers for the project, stated that the goal of the day was to “focus on what happens to the women who participate, than on the number of participants. If only one or two women get something out of it, then that’s great, and we’ve accomplished our purpose.” While most think that the day was a failure, others viewed the event as successful because of the awareness: “In terms of awareness and talking about women’s contributions, it was successful,” said by Susan Newcomer, the president of the Ames chapter of the National Organization for Women.

If you or anyone you know has any information about women activist from 1960-1979 here at Iowa State, please feel free to contact Special Collections to discuss preserving the material.

Image from page 19 of the Ames Daily Tribune, October 25th, 1975.

Image from page 19 of the Ames Daily Tribune, October 25th, 1975.

 


Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month: HASU of the 1980s

Did you know there used to be an Hispanic American Student Union (HASU) on campus? Did you know that the group (for, indeed, it was a student group, not a building) was around for at least a full decade? And that it hosted a high-profile, multi-day, annual symposium with funding from the Government of the Student Body (GSB) for at least seven years in a row? And that this symposium created a unique space for American students with Hispanic/Latinx heritage to celebrate and share their culture, create dialog around social issues, converse with prominent activists, and voice to their own experiences?

You didn’t? Don’t feel bad: neither did I.

Neither did any of the SCUA staff, in fact, until a few days ago. This is because scarcely a whisper of such a group exists in our archives. We have no collections of meeting minutes from HASU secretaries, no photographs, no write-ups in the yearbook (a staple in research on ISU student life). Virtually nothing.

So how did I find out about it?

Well, I stumbled by chance across an article, not in a campus publication, but in the public library’s digitized copies of the local Ames Tribune while trying to answer a reference question.

Text of an article from the Ames Tribune, entitled, "Symposium brings issues to campus" by Mark Smidt. Ames Tribune, March 14, 1985, page 20.

Article from the Ames Tribune, March 14, 1985, page 20

I think it was the detailed nature of the article that peaked my interest, the inclusion of the full schedule for the benefit of community members wishing to attend. How could something like this have slipped so completely under our radar? Especially when none of the archivists had even heard of HASU, and it did not appear in any of our indexes or subject guides.

With an exact date to go off of, the University Archivist managed to track down a recording of the lecture delivered by Arnaldo Torres. But this turned out to be less helpful than we’d hoped, as the lecture is recorded in an older tape format and has not yet been digitized. So my curiosity remained unsatisfied.

I am particularly interested in the past and present (aka “future history”!) of student organizations on campus, and I know that this kind of detective work — the business of hunting down ghosts — while frustrating, can also be really fun. So I decided I was going to learn something about this mystery organization. As a side note, I didn’t carry the investigation very far, as I was really only hunting for blog post stories. But I wanted to share some of my methodology in this post so that any of you readers who find yourselves interested in this, or similarly under-documented histories, can replicate the steps and make your own discoveries.

Since I found the group in a news article, I decided to move my search to newspapers. Fortunately, my first stop, the Iowa State Daily, produced results. One is not always so lucky.

Unfortunately, the Iowa State Daily back issues are not digitized or keyword searchable prior to the 1990s. This means, in order to find anything, you have to scroll through miles of microfilm. And the microfilm is not housed in SCUA (on the 4th floor of Parks), either. It’s housed in the Media Center which is located (yes, you guessed it) in the basement of Parks. Naturally.

For those of you who have never used a microfilm reader before, this should give you an idea.

Microfilm reader in the Parks Library Media Center.

Microfilm reader in the Parks Library Media Center.

Microfilm reader in the Parks Library Media Center.

Look at all the gears and gadgets!

Essentially, then, a microfilm reader is a cross between a giant sewing machine, a film projector, a microscope, and a really old, bulky desktop computer. If that sounds off-putting to you, don’t worry: the staff at the desk are all trained to help, and you get the hang of it pretty quickly.

The real draw-back to microfilm, though is that, while it’s easy to find articles by date, it’s less easy to search for them by subject matter. For a limited date-range, though, the archives does have a printed subject index for Iowa State Daily articles, and this helped me out a ton.

Iowa State Daily Index 1986-1987, Call #PARKS Spec Coll: Archives AI21 I8x.

Iowa State Daily Index 1986-1987, Call #PARKS Spec Coll: Archives AI21 I8x.

So, using the index, and then searching the dates it gave me on microfilm, I found a few articles pertaining either to HASU or to their annual Hispanic Symposium in Daily issues from 1985, 1987, and 1990. And because the first mention of the symposium billed it as the “fifth annual” event, I could tell right away that HASU had existed and been active from at least 1981-1990. As to whether it continued beyond that, who can say? However, if I had decided to continue my research beyond this point, the date range would have provided an important clue.

Anyway, here are some of the articles I found on HASU and their annual Hispanic Symposium. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope they inspire you to do your own archival research. You never know what you will find with a little persistence.

And please, if you are an alumnus, and you remember participating in HASU in the 1980s, do get in touch with me. We’ll do what we can to help you tell the story of your group more fully for the benefit of future researchers.

Advertisement for the "Fifth Annual Spring Hispanic Symposium," Iowa State Daily, March 21, 1985, page 14

Advertisement for the “Fifth Annual Spring Hispanic Symposium,” Iowa State Daily, March 21, 1985, page 14

ISDaily_19850322_p1_PastImmigrantsTodaysBigots

“Past immigrants are today’s bigots,” Iowa State Daily, March 22, 1985, page 1

ISDaily_19870220_p15_HispanicPlayTakesOnStereotypes

“Hispanic play takes on stereotypes” and “1987 Hispanic Symposium,” Iowa State Daily, February 20, 1987, page 15


Rare Books Highlights: Telling the story of wood betony in a book

Portrait in dark tones of a man seated in a chair with long hair, a black shirt and a high white collar.

Nicholas Culpeper. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Nicolas Culpeper. Oil painting. Published: – Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The best booksellers are storytellers. They make the book leap off the catalog page and into the imagination, as authors, printers, or book owners are brought to life as vividly as any character in a novel. A well-crafted description, like a bird’s brightest breeding plumage, can take a book from “that’s an area we collect in” to “I’ve got to buy this book!!!”

Take, for example, my recent purchase of a 1656 copy of Nicholas Culpeper’s The English Physitian Enlarged. Culpeper, trained as an apothecary, was noted for his efforts to aid the poor, treating patients for free in his pharmacy near Spitalfields in London. He wrote this book as a resource for people to treat themselves, and–unlike other herbals from the time–included only those plants that grew in England, so that people would not expend valuable time and resources trying to find herbs that were not available.

Two leaves with small rounded lobes and long stems encapsulated in clear plastic.

Leaves identified as wood betony found pressed between pages 162 and 163 of the book. They have been encapsulated in mylar to preserve their excellent condition.

The heading for the catalog description immediately points out a unique feature of the book, “With Wood Betony Pressed between its Pages.” Preserved botanical matter certainly adds interest to the book, but the shrewd cataloger at Pirages pursued the trail of the leaves even further. Noting that the book’s entry for “Wood Betony” appears to be particularly well-used, the entry draws an intriguing connection between the medicinal uses of the plant and the year during which an early owner inscribed his name. I’ll let the catalog entry speak for itself:

One hopes the present copy was of use to former owner Richard Hill, who inscribed his name in it in 1666, the “annus horribilis” that saw both the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London. The two leaves pressed between two pages here appear to be wood betony, an herb protective against epidemical diseases; its entry in this text bears the marks of frequent consultation.

Opening of a book.

Entry for “Wood betony” shows ink and dirt stains indicating that it was seriously consulted.

Thank you, Pirages, for this ready-made story to delight and horrify my audience when I show the book!

Single page of book shows index with owner's inscription at bottom of page.

Owner’s inscription at the bottom of the last page of the book reads, “Richard Hill his Bowk 1666.”

Culpeper, Nicholas. The English Physitian Enlarged. London: printed by Peter Cole, at the sign of the printing press in Cornhil, neer the Royal Exchange, 1656. Call number: R128.7 .C857 1656


Unusual Finds from the Knowles Blunck Architecture collection

Today’s blog post is a highlight into a new collection currently being processed by Ashley, one of the many wonderful student workers SCUA has working behind the scenes to make sure  we are able to provide access to as many collections as possible. Our student workers help with just about any task you can imagine; if you’ve ever been to SCUA then you’ve benefited from all the work they do!

This collection came to us late 2016, and is very large – about 60 boxes. The architectural firm that donated it, Knowles Blunck Architecture, has many connections to ISU and we hope that the students studying in the Department of Architecture will benefit from the many projects and years of experience documented in this collection. The Collection contains images of sites during all phases of the design and build process, award submissions, floor plans, and much more.

Once this collection is fully processed and available for researchers, we’ll post again with more details!

Rosalie Gartner
Lead Processing Archivist


At the beginning of May, I started working on MS 703, a collection donated by an architecture firm called Knowles Blunck Architecture. This Des Moines based firm donated materials chronicling their various projects through documents, slides, photos, and negatives. My previous project largely contained only paper records, so I was excited to work with new formats. When I was first assigned this project I was informed of two things: all the materials were organized into binders and this collection could contain dirt from the firm’s job sites. Since then I have gone through many boxes filled with binders and the dirt is not actually the strangest material I have discovered in this collection. While processing the collection I have found wallpaper, photos with speech bubbles drawn in, and even homemade panoramas.  These materials stuck out to me, so I decided to focus on them in this blog post.

Dirt from various job sites can be found in some of the binders.

Knowles Blunck Binder with Dirt

This picture shows how much dirt from a work site came out of a binder.

 

 

These swatches of wallpaper were taken during a renovation Knowles Blunck completed in the East Village in Des Moines, Iowa. They were in a building located at 420 Locust Street and are undated.

Wallpaper samples taken out of 420 Locust St, Des Moines, IA during renovation.

 

When Knowles Blunck was Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck, the firm worked on an addition to Drake Legal Clinic in which they added a mock court room which can be seen in this homemade panorama. This collection has contained many photos taped together to show a larger range of certain rooms.

Knowles Blunck Panorama

This shows the full layout of the panorama they created by taping together 15 individual photographs.

 

KB Panorama

Another view of the panorama shot.

 

This photo is also from the addition at Drake Legal Clinic. It was taken in a room containing audio visual equipment. This photo is not the only photo I have discovered with writing on it, but it is the only one I have seen with a speech bubble.

SpeechBubble

This shows one of the doodles added to a photograph in this collection.

 

I am still processing this collection, but once I have finished I will write a blog post announcing that it is open to researchers. Also, be ready for an upcoming post sharing Knowles Blunck’s connection to Iowa State University, including our very own Parks Library.

 


Rare Book Highlights: Volvelles

I’ll confess: I love a book with moveable parts. I mean, who doesn’t? Who can resist the marvels of a pop-up book, or forgo exploring the many forms that artists’ books can take? In our library’s collections, with our focus on science and agriculture, I may not encounter too many pop-up books, but to my immense joy, early scientific books used a variety of strategies to communicate complex information, including different types of moveable parts. (See, for example, see my earlier post on an early 20th century French technical encyclopedia.)

The latest purchase in this category is a book with volvelles. A volvelle is “‘A device consisting of one of more movable parchment or paper discs rotating on string pivots and surrounded by either graduated or figured circles. With its help problems concerning the calendar, tide tables, astronomy and astrology could be solved’ (H.M. Nixon)” (Carter 218). It is a type of movable chart, round in shape with two or more layers. If you think of a star chart, the round kind with a little window that lets you see the stars visible in the sky during a certain time of year, you get the idea of a very simple, modern version of the volvelle.

Video courtesy Amy Bishop

In the days before computers and modern calculators, volvelles provided scientific readers with the means of making specific calculations. The earliest known surviving example of a volvelle is found in a 13th century manuscript by Ramon Llull, Ars Magna, which is held by the British Library. The first printed volvelle appears in 1474 in Johannes Regiomontanus’ lunar calendar (Karr 101).

Earlier this year I purchased Calendrier perpétuel rendu sensible et mis à la portée de tout le monde, published in Paris in 1774, which assists readers with calendar-related calculations, specifically those related to the liturgical calendar of the Catholic church, including saints’ days, moveable feasts, and dominical letters. Read on for a detailed look at the volvelles in this book, with the caveat that I am not a volvelle expert! Any comments and corrections from those with more knowledge are welcome.

This particular book includes three volvelles. The first page includes 2 volvelles on one page. The top one reads, Concordance perpetuelle du cycle solaire avec les lettres dominicales.

Round, movable chart of two discs. Outer disc includes a sequence of letters. Inner disc has the sequence of numbers from 1 to 28.

Top volvelle on page with two matches solar years to dominical letters.

The outer edge of the large disc is inscribed with boxes of dominical letters. Dominical letters are used to determine the day of the week for any given date. The letters A through G are assigned to the days in the week, beginning with A for January 1. The dominical letter for any given year indicates the letter that is assigned to Sunday for that year. For leap years, two letters are assigned because throughout January and February, Sunday will fall on a particular letter. After February 29, Sunday will fall on the next letter in the sequence.

The inner disc on the top volvelle is outlined in numbered boxes from 1 to 28. This corresponds to the solar cycle (cycle solaire), the 28-year cycle of the Julian calendar. There are 7 possible days to start a leap year, and leap years occur every 4 years, thus creating a 28-year sequence of days on which the new year will begin. So, this volvelle appears to match up the year in the solar cycle with the dominical letter for that year.

The bottom volvelle reads, Concordance perpetuelle des nombres d’Or avec les nombres d’Epacte.

Outer disc has a sequence of numbers, not in numberical order. A separately rotating layer gives the label, "Nombres d'Epacte" The inner disc is labelled, "Cycle Lunaire ou Nombres d'Or, and lists a sequence of numbers from 1 to 19.

Bottom volvelle of page with two seems to be used for calculating the date of Easter.

The larger disc appears to give the epact numbers (nombres d’epacte), or the number of days’ difference between the solar and lunar calendars. The inner disc lists numbers 1-19, to indicate a year’s golden number (nombres d’Or), or its position in a 19-year Metonic cycle. The Metonic cycle refers to the period of 19 years after which the new and full moons will return to the same days of the year. These are used to determine the dates of moveable feasts, notably Easter.

The recto, or reverse side of the page, has a third volvelle.

Base disc is encircled by names of months (often two listed together) matched against a letter A-G. Second disc is outlined the days of the week matched against its corresponding astrological sign.

Volvelle matching months/dominical letters against days of the week and astrological signs.

The base disc has dominical letters A-G matched up against the names of their corresponding months. The second disc has the days of the week along with their matching astrological sign. This, I imagine, helps the reader to calculate the day of the week that begins each month in a given year. I assume this is for common years only, rather than leap years.

Aren’t your fingers just itching to move those discs?

Sources

Carter, John. ABC for book collectors. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1997.

G.S.H. Calendrier perpétuel rendu sensible et mis à la portée de tout le monde. Paris: P. Fr. Gueffier, 1774.

Karr, Suzanne. “Constructions Both Sacred and Profane: Serpents, Angels, and Pointing Fingers in Renaissance Books with Moving Parts.” Yale University Library Gazette 78, no. 3/4 (2004): 101-127.

 


Newly Processed Collection Highlight – the John D. Pusey Collection

The John D. Pusey Collection (MS 241) is a collection I’ve been excited about processing since I started here at SCUA back in November. The first time I opened the boxes, I was greeted by beautiful drawings, notes with artistic doodles, and intriguing scrapbooks. Unfortunately, I was also greeted by fragile materials that were difficult to handle and in disarray. Because so much of it was in poor shape, we had to restrict access until the collection could be sent to the Preservation Department, where it is currently being stabilized for use. Once all the items in the collection have been stabilized, the finding aid will be finalized, and it will be made available to researchers.

Paperclip1 Edited

A paper clip from the collection causing damage to the papers it holds.

John D. Pusey was a native Iowan, born in Council Bluffs in 1905. His entire life and career as both artist and military man read like a story book. Thankfully, we have this collection to help tell his story! Right after he graduated from high school, he set off on a grand adventure to pursue a career in art. He attended multiple schools, finally earning an art degree from Yale before moving to France to study art at the Musee du Louvre and the Musee du Luxembourg.

ScrapbookpgYale Edited Closeup

A 1925-1926 class photograph of the Yale School of Fine Arts featuring John Pusey.

Pusey returned to the U.S. before the Great Depression began. He was fortunate to be commissioned by the Public Works of Art Project to create murals in public buildings in Iowa City, which he did under the supervision of a well-known artist by the name of Grant Wood. Under Wood’s supervision and guidance, Pusey further developed his artistic style.

ScrapbookpgPeterson_WPA

This photograph found in a scrapbook shows Pusey painting for the Public Works of Art Project during 1933-1934.

After he was done with the W.P.A., Pusey found work in a variety of ways; he spent two years painting a mural in the home of the wealthy Eli Lilly, worked as a set designer for Universal Studios, and painted murals at the San Francisco World Fair in 1939.

ScrapbookpgPeterson_Worlds Fair

This photograph taken from the same scrapbook, shows John Pusey posing with one of the murals he created for the San Francisco Worlds Fair in 1939.

 

At this point, John Pusey enlisted in the military to serve in WWII. His military career was equally as fascinating as his art career. Shortly after enlisting, he was transferred to the Army Corps of Engineers where his skill as an artist was put to use designing camouflage patterns, in addition to diffusing bombs! He served in WWII as well as the Korean War. We have many personal photos taken while he was in Korea, and his notes taken during his military training are full of doodles in the margins.

After retiring from the military, Pusey returned to his life as a painter. Much of his artwork is represented in this collection through photographs, as well as a few of his sketches. This collection was an absolute delight to process, and I look forward to researchers using it. I’ll leave you with one final photo from the collection: a picture of Pusey’s friend Christian Petersen sculpting Pusey’s bust, which resides in the Christian Petersen Art Museum at Iowa State University.

Peterson Bust

A photograph from a scrapbook that shows Christian Petersen sculpting the bust of John Pusey, taken in 1934.

 

 


The Butter Cow Lady Comes to Ames

As the year comes to a close, it is not unusual to reflect upon the events of the past year and give thanks for the gifts that were received. This can be important for archivists to do as well. In fact, many archives, including this one, rely heavily upon the generosity of our donors. At Iowa State, faculty offer their teaching and research files, campus units transfer administrative records, and others donate cherished materials from when they or their loved ones were students at Iowa State.

I have met and worked with many people this past year and as I think about those experiences, there are several memories that come immediately to mind. One that stands out for me was actually initiated over a year ago when I received a phone call from the son of Norma “Duffy” Lyon. For those readers not familiar with that name, you would probably recognize her if I referred to her as the Butter-Cow Lady. For decades, Norma’s butter sculptures were the star attractions of the Iowa State Fair.

Norma Lyon sculpting a butter cow

This picture shows Norma “Duffy” Lyon sculpting the 1998 Iowa State Fair butter cow. (Norma Lyon papers, RS 21/7/280, unprocessed)

Norma passed away in 2011 and, after several years of contemplating what to do with the materials she left behind, the family made the difficult decision to donate them to the archives at Iowa State University. I met with the family last year to gather items belonging to Norma and learned about the woman whose materials were being given to our care. As I reviewed the donation, her son and his wife shared memories of Norma and related stories of Norma’s youth that they had heard over the years. Then, this past summer, the family donated additional materials. The collection is not a large one, but it does include a wide variety of items such as original artwork, sketchpads, photographs, clippings, and ephemera.

Norma showing a horse

Norma Stong as a college student showing a horse during the late 1940s. (Norma Lyon papers, RS 21/7/280, unprocessed)

One of the more interesting items donated was a binder of photographs. These photographs showed the entire process that Norma used to create the 1998 Iowa State Fair butter cow. Another wonderful piece in the collection is a book containing college ephemera from Norma’s time as a student at Iowa State. I discovered that she graduated in 1950 with a degree in animal husbandry (one of the first women to receive that degree from ISU) and had a love of art. As a student she took classes from Iowa State’s sculptor-in-residence, Christian Petersen. After graduation, Norma was able to combine those two passions and do something wonderful with them. The collection is not yet open to researchers, but during the coming year it will be processed and prepared for people to view.

One of the great joys of this profession is to be able to share unique collections like Norma’s with the public. The staff here in Special Collections and University Archives takes a lot of pride in our work, but the work that we do would be impossible without the support of our donors. If you are curious about materials you have and whether they are appropriate for the archives, feel free to contact us. We would love to hear from you.


Rare Book Highlights: Pop Up! The Technical Encyclopedia Edition

Henri Desarces. Nouvelle encyclopédie pratique de mécanique et d’éelectricité. 4 volumes. Paris: Librairie Aristide Quillet, 1924. (TJ163 .D47 1924)

Okay, so it is not technically a pop-up book. But as a non-scientist and non-engineer, I find myself drawn most to the illustrations in scientific works. Plates with moveable layers are just gravy. (Look below for videos!)

And yet, scientific illustrations are more than just pretty pictures. They communicate complex concepts both to other experts in a highly specialized field, and also sometimes to general audiences.

This newly-purchased encyclopedia is clearly speaking to experts, as you can see by examining a few pages from any volume:

Two pages show technical text in French along with several scientific and mathematical diagrams.

Opening in vol. 1 of Nouvelle encyclopedie.

This encyclopedia uses a number of different illustration techniques, including half-tones, blueprints, and chromolithographs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And finally, the 4th “Atlas” volume contains chromolithographic plates with several layers of overlays that are just seriously cool:

The Nouvelle ecyclopédie is a comprehensive guide to the state of mechanics and electricity (volume 3 is entirely devoted to electricity) post-World War I. It was compiled by Henri Desarces, an engineer at École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris. He first published the work under the title Grande encyclopédie practique de méchanique et d’electricité in 1913. For this second revised and updated edition, Desarces collaborated with many other French engineers who were specialists in various fields. The French publisher Quillet was a well-known publisher of illustrated and accurate technical encyclopedias.

This is a wonderful addition to our engineering books, and I am excited to share it with classes and researchers!

Here’s a bonus video:


Rare Book Highlights: Railroad tourism to Iowa lakes

Nichols, C. S. Spirit Lake and the Okobojis. Steubenville: Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Ry., 1901.

Cover of the pamphlet, Spirit Lake and the Okobojis. Notice the Native American paddling a canoe through reeds in the green below the title.

During the summer, I love to spend time at a lake. Clear Lake in north central Iowa is a favorite of mine because it is the closest natural lake to where I live in Iowa. People have been leaving the heated cities behind to spend summers at lakes for a long time. Before the car made the Great American Roadtrip commonplace, the early tourism industry was greatly promoted by railways, as one of our recent acquisitions makes clear. The Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway published a travel guide in 1901 for Spirit Lake and the Okobojis, a group of glacial lakes in northwestern Iowa that is sometimes referred to as “Iowa’s Great Lakes.”

Crandall’s Lodge, Spirit Lake, North Shore

This 31-page pamphlet gives plenty of information for the potential traveler who might be considering these Iowa lakes for their summer destination, including a description of Spirit Lake, information on where to stay, points of interest, and things to do. Here is its description of Crandall’s Lodge, “the most noted” resort on Spirit Lake: “There are none of the restraints of a fashionable summer restort at Crandall’s Lodge, but visitors here come to have a good time, unhampered by anything that will prevent the fullest enjoyment. …The beach facing the Lodge is the finest on Spirit Lake. It is quite wide, floored with clean white sands, dipping so gently into the water that bathers can go out a great distance before getting beyond their depth. This is the most popular pastime at this resort, and the merry shouts of children in play upon the sand or sporting in the water are heard from morn till night. …The rooms are large, well furnished and comfortable. The table is supplied with an abundance of well cooked and well served food. The cream, milk and butter come to the table fresh from a herd of thirty-six thoroughbread cows, and the supply is never in the least stinted. The vegetables are fresh from its own garden, which is the especial pride of Mr. Orlando Crandall, the founder of the Lodge. The rates here are most reasonable. Transients are charged $2.00 per day or $10.00 per week, with special rates to families.” The Lodge is a good 6 1/2 miles from the railway station, but the proprietor will meet visitors at the station for the scenic drive along the lake to the lodging. A family friendly swimming beach, large rooms, local foods, and reasonable rates…what more could even a modern tourist ask for?

The young “bathers” look a little different from today, don’t they?

Where did these visitors come from? The B.C.R. & N. railway “has a direct line from Chicago, Peoria and St. Louis to Spirit Lake. It maintains a double daily service between Chicago and St. Paul and Minneapolis….”

Map of the Spirit Lake/Okoboji area showing the railway and attractions.

Now, who’s ready to join me at the lake?