It’s road trip season and here in Special Collections we have a variety of interesting materials pertaining to highway travel and the development of road infrastructure in Iowa.
“Before her yet lay her most hazardous journey, to undertake which required the cool, calculating bravery of a heart not insensible to fear, but inspired by that sublime determination which risks danger when duty calls…. Along the high approaches of open timber work, and over the body of the river, thirty feet above its roaring current, she must make her way, stepping from tie to tie. A single misstep would be fatal, and to add to the horror of her terrible venture, just as she reached the bridge her flickering light went out, leaving her in total darkness. Providence must have guided the footsteps of that intrepid girl, for she made her way over in safety.” (Kate Shelley Papers, MS 684, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library, Box 1, Folder 14)
Thus did an 1881 newspaper capture the hazards eighteen-year-old Kate Shelley faced as she crossed the Des Moines River on a trestle bridge to warn the Moingona, Iowa, depot of a washed-out bridge further down the tracks.
If you grew up in Iowa, you probably heard the story of railroad heroine Kate Shelley in elementary school. I did not grow up here, so I was excited to hear this nineteenth century teenager’s story and learn that we have her papers here in Special Collections (MS 684).
It was the night of July 6, 1881. A strong storm was blowing through central Iowa where Shelley lived on her family’s farm on Honey Creek near Moingona in Boone County. Heavy flooding of the creek had weakened the railroad bridge crossing it near the homestead. A pusher engine, used to push trains up steep inclines, had been sent to check the tracks for damage. While crossing Honey Creek, the bridge collapsed, sending the engine and its four-man crew plunging into the creek. Two men died, and two men were left stranded in the creek.
Shelley was at home when she and her mother heard the collapse of the bridge and the men’s cries for help. A regular express train, she knew, was scheduled to come through later that night, passing through Moingona, then over the Des Moines River and on to the collapsed bridge over Honey Creek. Against her mother’s protests, she decided she had to get to Moingona to warn the station. She first made her way down to the collapsed bridge and called down to one of the crewmembers, saying that she would get help. She then followed the train tracks to the Des Moines River bridge.
After the harrowing crossing, she did successfully reach the depot and gave the warning of the collapsed bridge. A rescue party was sent out to save the two men in the creek, Shelley once again leading the way to find a safe crossing to reach the men.
Stirring accounts of Shelley’s heroic deed, such as the one quoted from above, were printed in newspapers across the country, and she became a household name. She received many letters from admirers, especially from other young women, requesting photographs, information, and correspondence from this suddenly famous teenager.
One such writer, a J. M. Noble, writes in a letter dated “October 10, ’81” from Tupper’s Plains, Ohio, “Dear Madam:- It is with timidity that I request of you the pleasure and honor of your correspondence. I enjoy the society of a lady far more than that of a gentleman, and deeming you to be a lady of more than ordinary endowments I should feel proud to consider you as one of my lady friends.” Later in the letter, she provides references, in case Shelley is in doubt of her potential correspondent’s reputation: “In regard to my character, you can address Mr., or Mrs. M. Bowers the teachers at the Plain’s Seminary, or a young lady (whose name I will give if you desire) whom I have been intimately acquainted with for about two years, she will be married soon and is going to Kansas but she can give you more information, perhaps, that any one else, concerning my standing in society.”
The Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway Company was, of course, indebted to Shelley for the deed, for which they presented her with a watch and chain. Our collection includes this letter from E. O. Soule, Train Master in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
He writes, “The enclosed ‘watch & chain’ you will please accept on behalf of ‘Valley City Division, NE 318, of the ‘Order of Railway Conductors’ as a sleight [sic] testimonial of our appreciation of your brave and noble deed of July 6th, and I wish to assure you that the name of ‘Miss Kate Shelley’ and the remembrance of her bravery will ever be cherished in the memory of every member of ‘Div. 318.'”
In 1901, the bridge that Shelley crossed was replaced by a new iron bridge, named the Kate Shelley High Bridge. Here is a picture below.
The Boone County Historical Society runs the Kate Shelley Memorial Park and Railroad Museum, marking the site of the original Moingona depot.
ISU Special Collections has several collections about Iowa railroads. Stop by to check out these great collections:
- Iowa Train Photograph Collection, MS 604
- Albert Parks Butts Reminiscences, MS 185
- Iowa Central Railway Company Timetable, Ms 245
- Guyon Whitley Papers, MS 148
- Herbert Gilkey Airline, Busline and Railroad Schedule Collection, MS 217
- Railroad Blueprints, MS 571
Another collection is now available for research in Special Collections and University Archives! The National Agri-Marketing Association Records, MS 540, contains the administrative files, conference and event materials, and chapter files of the non-profit professional organization. The collection includes correspondence, meeting minutes, committee records, directories, clippings, conference records, newsletters, chapter reports, photographs, negatives, slides, videotapes, an audio reel, and audiocassettes.
One of the biggest roles of NAMA (est. 1957) is to put on conferences and other professional development events for its members – agri-marketing professionals and students. Their first seminar, “Farmarketing,” was held in 1960 in Chicago, back when the organization was called the Chicago Area Agricultural Advertising Association. Since then, the Agri-Marketing Conference has been held every year all around the United States. Other events they have held include the Outlook Conference, the Marketing Management Conference, the Issues Forum, and various tours and short courses, information and photos of which can be found throughout the collection (see Series 2 in the finding aid).
More information can be found in the collection, along with images, audio, and video. Related collections include National Agri-Marketing Association. Iowa Chapter Records (MS 57), National Agri-Marketing Association. Midwest Chapter Records (MS 64), National Agri-Marketing Association. Missouri/Kansas Chapter Records (MS 83), and National Agriculture Day Records (MS 66), all of which are worth seeing if this new collection strikes your fancy. Stop by sometime!
We’ve arrived at the end of Jazz Appreciation Month, so I thought it would be nice to draw attention to the Floyd Bean Papers (MS 55). Bean was a jazz pianist from east central Iowa (Ladora and Grinnell). His first professional gig was playing with fellow Iowan, Bix Beiderbecke. However, his big break came in 1939 when he joined Bob Crosby’s band full-time. Throughout the rest of his life, Bean played and recorded with many other jazz musicians as well as composed his own music.
Below is an image of a jam session Bean (not pictured) had with two members of the Duke Ellington orchestra.
“Trickey Sam” & Johnny Hodges – Help make Duke Ellington’s Band – Just before “Pearl Harbor” “41”.. Floyd was on Piano – Panther Rooom – Chi. Jam Session – (Harry Lim sponsor)
[all sic] – transcript of the note on the back of the “Tricky Sam” photo (bottom)
The collection contains Bean’s own arrangements and musical compositions, photographs of Bean and other jazz musicians (including personally addressed photos from Cleo Brown, Sidney “Big Sid” Catlett, and Earl Hines) and a variety of other kinds of materials documenting jazz and jazz musicians. It’s a great resource for Jazz Appreciation Month. We’d love to have you stop by and take a look! Also, be sure and listen to Iowa State’s own jazz band some time.
“I have sprung my heavy door aside
so that the sun will not be hindered
sweeping its pattern and its warmth into my room.”
So begins the poem, “The Open Door,” by Helen Sue Isely in her book The Moon is Red. April is the month to swing open Iowa doors to the growing warmth of the sunshine after the snows of winter. (Never mind this week’s rain!) April is also the time to celebrate “poetry’s vital place in our culture” during National Poetry Month. Iowa State may best be known for its agriculture and science programs, but it is not without its contributions to poetry, one of which is Isely.
Helen Sue Isely was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 1917, but she moved to Ames in 1945 with her husband Duane Isely, ISU Professor of Botany, and spent the rest of her life here. She published more than 800 poems in over 200 literary journals and magazines, including such well-known titles as Southwest Review, Antioch Review, and The McCalls Magazine. Her book of poems, The Moon is Red, was published by Alan Swallow in 1962, and won the first place award for poetry from the Midland Booksellers Association. Her other honors for poetry include those from the Iowa Poetry Association (1955-1958, 1961-1963), the Georgia Poetry Society (1954), and the South West Writers Conference (1956, 1959). To learn more about Isely and read her poems, check out the Helen Isely papers, MS 352.
Richard Gustafson and Poet and Critic
In 1964, ISU Professor of English Richard Gustafson revived the literary journal Poet and Critic, publishing it through the Iowa State University Press. The journal had been founded three years earlier by William Tillson of Purdue University. Unable to keep it up with multiple demands on his time, Tillson ceased publishing it after only a couple of years. With the aid of a grant from the President’s Permanent Objectives Committee, Gustafson took the journal under his wing and revived it. The magazine’s rebirth was greeted with enthusiasm by those who had been familiar with it under Tillson’s editorship, and many supporters sent in letters of support, such as this beautifully illustrated note from Menke Katz, editor of Bitterroot, a quarterly poetry magazine.
The note reads,
“Dear Editor Richard Gustafson, staff and supporters,
“Delighted to know Poet and Critic is living again. Knowing Poet and Critic when William Tillson was editor, I am certain it will again be an inspiration to everything which is just and beautiful in poetry. I certainly feel refreshed to hear the good news! Good luck to you! I enclose $3 for a year subscription and will do all I can to influence others to do the same.
The text around the flower, reads, “A flower for Poet and Critic from Menke Katz.” (Poet and Critic Manuscripts File, RS 13/10/0/5, Box 1).
Poet and Critic had a unique mission, not only to promote the work of lesser-known poets, but also to encourage better craftsmanship among the poets, and to do this, they encouraged the contributors to comment on each others’ work. Each poem published in the magazine was followed by one or two short critiques, thus opening up a conversation around the poem. This explains the title, as well as the journal’s tagline, “magazine of verse/a workshop in print/a forum of opinion.” Contributors include the well-known poet Robert Bly, Ted Kooser, Leonard Nathan, Colette Inez, Robert Lewis Weeks, and the aforementioned Helen Sue Isely.
A discussion of ISU poets would be incomplete without mentioning Ted Kooser. An ISU alum (1962), Kooser served as Poet Laureate for the United States (2004-2006) and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2005 for his book Delights and Shadows. He teaches as a Visiting Professor of English at University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Gustafson and Kooser, both poets, also both edited literary magazines. Copies of Kooser’s The Salt Creek Reader can be found in the Richard Gustafson Papers, RS 13/10/53, Box 1/Folder 7. The Reader contained a single poem per issue and was printed initially as a broadside, or a single sheet printed on one side, and later as a postcard. The first issue of the journal, published 1967, contained a poem by Gustafson titled “Tornadoes, Earthquakes, Plagues and Sultry Deaths.”
As you celebrate National Poetry Month, feel free to stop by Special Collections to examine these and other collections. Happy reading!
Perry Albert Westrope was a self-taught ornamental penman who lived in Iowa for many years. An avid penmanship enthusiast, he traded samples with other penmen and mounted both his own and others’ samples into a penmanship scrapbook. The above bird was made when Westrope was 70 years old. He noted next to it “Some of my best at 70.”
Westrope clipped an article from The Business Educator (1912) about himself and his brother, another penman:
When the love for penmanship gets a good grip on young persons, it is usually retained for life, no matter in what lines of work they may engage. That fact is exemplified in the Westrope brothers, P.A. and N.S. The former, now a bond salesman residing in Denver, Colorado, and past sixty, still swings a very skillful pen, and never loses an opportunity to see a penmanship scrapbook.
Come to Special Collections to view the rest of the scrapbook in MS 613.
It’s officially spring! The world may still be brown and gray, but we’re that much closer to green grass, verdant trees and shrubs, and rainbows of flowers all around. Excuse the flowery language, but what’s more perfect for a spring post? The lantern slides below, from the Warren H. Manning Papers (MS 218), offer a “before” and “after” example not unlike the one we’ll see soon.Manning was an influential landscape architect in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The lantern slides above show an example of his work and the dramatic difference landscape architecture can make (although I think the house itself is beautiful too). If these slides have piqued your interest, we have an array of landscape architecture collections available for your research needs (or wants). Other blog posts on landscape architecture can be found here and here. Curious about the landscape architecture program at ISU? We have some collections on that, too!
On the upcoming spring days, take a stroll through campus and come up and visit us on the 4th floor of Parks Library! Not only will you get a lovely view of campus, but you might find something inspiring in our collections.
Today (March 3rd) is World Wildlife Day – a day in which we can “celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora, recall the privileged interactions between wildlife and populations across the globe, and raise awareness of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.” (UN General Assembly)
March 3rd was selected in honor of the adoption of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The goal of CITES is to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten the species’ survival.
This is an image of a Greater Prairie Chicken collected by the Iowa Ornithologists Union (IOU) Records Committee. The males of the species are known as “boomers” because of the booming call they make. The birds have an area, known as a lek, where the males gather to dance and “boom.” The collection (MS 166) documents the committee’s work in acquiring reports of bird sightings around the state and assessing the validity of the submitter’s identification of the species. Six Greater Prairie Chicken sightings were reported to the IOU in 1994. Prior to these sightings, only 10 or so Greater Prairie Chickens had been seen since 1960.
Greater Prairie Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) were once abundant in Iowa, but per the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) their numbers declined due to habitat loss and market hunting. Should you see one, the DNR would like to hear from you! The Greater Prairie Chicken is listed in CITES Appendix II – “species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.” It is listed as “vulnerable” in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
Aside from the IOU records (MS 166), Special Collections has many collections with ornithology content. We also have collections on natural history and the environment. You can also search for “birds” here to check for words in our manuscript finding aids. The papers of Walter M. Rosene, Sr., one of the founders of the IOU, are also available (MS 589) and we’ve posted previously on Frederick Leopold’s papers (MS 113).
The next time you’re outside, see if you can spot some local wildlife. If being indoors is more to your liking, come on over to Special Collections where you can view field notes, reports, and images of birds and other wildlife.
“Dirt Farm Editing,” perhaps it should be called for I try to tamp my stories full of dirt but never to dish it out. Clean dirt, the kind that grows your bacon and eggs, the “dirt farmer” sort of dirt, including muck, mire, mud and manure, but just the same the soil and soul of the nation.
– Ray Anderson. “My Stories are Full of Dirt! An All-American Farm Editor Gives Low Down on His Job.” The Quill, April 1928. (MS 61, box 1, folder 3)
Ray Anderson, former farmer, was best known for his work as a journalist. From 1927-1944 he served as Farm Editor for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. His regular columns included “Fence Drift: Caught in the Woven Wire” (observational poetry) and “SHUCKS! Let’s Talk It Over” (news and observations). In 1944 he left the Gazette to join the staff of Farm Journal as an Associate Editor. Calling Anderson “America’s greatest farm reporter,” Farm Journal Editor Carroll P. Streeter, described Anderson as possessing the “liveliest reportorial curiosity I have ever known. Nothing pleases him so much as striking out to go new places, see new things, meet new people, encounter new ideas. He will never outgrow this if he lives to be 100.” (MS 61, box 1, folder 11).
Sunshine, at last.
* * *
Puts color in the corn.
And happy in the heart of the farmer.
* * *
‘Twas ever so, in Iowa.
Gloom never aught but temporary.
* * *
Soil, rain, sunshine, the man on the acres.
Reasons why we live in the center of the world.
– Fence Drift: Caught in the Woven Wire.
Undated. (MS 61, box 1, folder 4)
- Neal Black Papers, MS 78 – Finding Aid
- Wayne Darrow Papers, MS 21 – Finding Aid
- Newspaper Farm Editors of America, MS 633 – Finding Aid
- James V. Risser, Jr. Papers, MS 438- Finding Aid
- Charles Walters Papers, MS 588 – Finding Aid
As always, we are happy to help you with your research. Give us a call or email!
We’re back! Classes don’t start for another week, but we are here and ready to go. Let’s start the new year off with an image from the Descartes Pascal Papers, MS 91:
This glass plate negative shows a group of gentlemen posing for the camera while out ice skating somewhere in rural Iowa. The cold didn’t stop these guys from having fun! This photo and several other from Pascal can be found on our Flickr site, and more information on photographer, farmer, and seed corn breeder Pascal can be found in this online exhibit. And, of course, this image and many others are available in our department, so stop in, warm up, and have a look!