Where there’s smoke, there’s fire insurance maps

Prior to this week, I had never cataloged maps or atlases. My favorite thing about being a cataloger is learning new things — unfamiliar subject matter, but also how resources differ, and why those differences matter. Cartographic materials contrast greatly with the books and periodicals I normally encounter on the job. As a child, I was fascinated with maps and plans; sometimes I would draw maps of imaginary places, or cross-sections of fantastic buildings and caves. As an adult, however, I did not pursue cartography, geography, architecture, or any of the other professions that involve graphical representations of our natural and built environments. As a cataloger, I work with symbolic representations of primarily textual materials, so I faced a learning curve in cataloging Sanborn maps.

The Library of Congress maintains the world’s largest Sanborn Map Collection, which includes “some fifty thousand editions of fire insurance maps comprising an estimated seven hundred thousand individual sheets.” I recommend you read the linked essay, which is more interesting than I expected it to be, and provides a depth of context that’s not possible here, even if I knew the topic well.

Insurance maps of Des Moines, Iowa. New York: Sanborn Map Company, c1920.

Insurance maps of Des Moines, Iowa. New York: Sanborn Map Company, c1920. (Gift of Jerry J. Jennett, June 2016.)

One day I was hard at work, minding my own business, when along came three big books. You could have heard a pin drop: these bad boys are just over two feet square, and heavy. I ended up describing them as “1 atlas in 3 loose-leaf volumes (ca. 310 sheets).” In other words, it’s a huge map of Des Moines divided into a grid on about 310 sheets. If you’ve used road maps, then you know the basic format — once the map is too big to fold, it gets broken up. Breaking up these maps introduces the need for indices and “key maps,” without which the user would be lost.



V. 1 KEY MAP (DETAIL). Insurance maps of Des Moines, Iowa. New York: Sanborn Map Company, c1920.

Above you see a small portion of the key map (scale: 1:12,000). Each numbered shape corresponds to one of about 310 “sheets” (scale: 1:600 or sometimes 1:1,200). As we’ll see further on, the 1:600 scale sheets are rich in details that the fire insurance companies valued.

Confusingly, Sanborn “sheets” are printed on both sides of the leaves (at least in this format). It’s tempting to think of these “sheets” as the pages of a folio, but the similarities are superficial. The distinction is a subtle one that I have struggled to describe. Documents have different structures; consulting a reference work is very different from reading a linear, unidirectional text. The Sanborn atlases are graphical reference works for a very particular audience. Numbered sequences — whether of pages, leaves, or other elements — are a feature of resource types that are in other ways dissimilar. Looking at our three-volume map of Des Moines, I can see why some owners would choose to disassemble it (or not acquire the whole set). It’s not surprising that the Library of Congress collection includes a great many “sheet maps” that are not bound into loose-leaf volumes like ours.


A TYPICAL SHEET (DETAIL). Insurance maps of Des Moines. New York: Sanborn Map Company, c1920.

Here we have a city block represented in a specialized manner. Notable are (1) the nature of the details, and (2) the evidence of revision.

(1) Annotations like “fire proof construction” and “paints & oils” were obviously of interest to the fire insurance companies that bought these maps. What is not clear from this closeup is that the buildings are color-coded: a brick building is shown in pink, a stone building in blue, etc. The insurance companies were also very interested in doors, windows, elevators, and certain other features; you’d need the key to understand the relevant symbols. Not shown above: notes on building security. Important buildings had one or more night watchmen who were noted on the map. Regular patrols might be tracked with watchclocks; “approved clock” is a favorable map note, “no clock” is a bad one indicating that the watchman could muck up his route or skip patrols altogether.

(2) Look closely — see where littler pieces of paper were pasted over the original sheets? These maps were originally issued in 1920, but they were revised many times. Sanborn employees would revise your maps and note the changes in a log. Sometimes they removed whole sheets and replaced them with new ones. An index might get an addendum, or it might be completely pasted over with a new one. The big changes are not mysterious — they are labelled or logged. The little changes are impossible to nail down. Did a Sanborn representative do them?… All I know is that our copies were altered at least twice a year, 1934 through 1937. The sheer number of little paste-overs is mind-boggling!

You can see these books at Special Collections and University Archives, ISU Library. Here they are in the online catalog. 



70 Years On: Significance of the Army-Navy “E” Award

In late 1945, Iowa State College (University) was bestowed an honor for service in World War II that some today may not expect: the Army-Navy “E” Flag for Excellence in Production, an award usually given to industry for excellence in production of war materials during times of great need. With the 70th anniversary of Iowa State’s reception of this award coming up, and Special Collections’ recent discovery of photo-negatives from the event, it’s interesting to look back on the significance of receiving this award, and try to understand the context in which Iowa State participated in the war effort.

The once-secret Manhattan District (Project), commanded by Major General Leslie Groves throughout much of the war, was a collaborative research and developmental project between the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to produce the first atomic bombs in WWII. It began in 1939 with the discovery of atomic fission, and with that, research, manufacturing, and testing sites began to be utilized in secret locations and laboratories across the three countries, with one of those sites being Iowa State and what would become the Ames Laboratory.

A view of the ceremony held for receiving the award. The event was put on in the Iowa State College (University) State Gym. (Negative #118174, University Photographs)

A view of the ceremony held for receiving the award. The event was put on in the Iowa State College (University) State Gym. (Negative #118174, University Photographs)

The connection to Iowa State began in 1941, when Frank H. Spedding, a Canadian chemist and Iowa State professor who specialized in rare earth metals, was asked to work on research regarding the fledging Manhattan Project for the purpose of producing high-purity uranium from uranium ore. Spedding accepted and ended up directing the Ames Project for the rest of the war. The greatest achievement under Spedding’s direction was associate project director in the metallurgy division Harley A. Wilhelm’s perfection of what is now known as the Ames Process. The Ames Process used a uranium purification method patented in 1895 by German chemist Hans Goldschmidt that had previously been extremely costly and inefficient, but Wilhelm discovered a way of tweaking it to produce large ingots of pure uranium from uranium ore with hugely reduced production costs. This allowed for Iowa State’s “Little Ankeny” plant to produce more than 1,000 tons of metallic uranium for the Manhattan Project over the course of two and a half years before industrial companies took over at the conclusion of the war.

Flag received at the ceremony. Figure holding the flag on the left is Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves. Each star represents six months worth of meeting assigned production of war materials. (negative #118186, University Photographs)

Flag received at the ceremony. Figure holding the flag on the left is Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves. Each star represents six months’ worth of meeting assigned production of war materials. (Negative #118186, University Photographs)

Although one of the smaller sites important to the Manhattan Project, Iowa State’s research and production of rare metals was paramount to success in the undertaking into nuclear technology. The Ames Process ended up being a key manufacturing process used to obtain high-purity uranium in a number of other outlets and research sites, and made it possible, after it’s perfection, to produce more for significantly lower cost. This greatly sped up the war effort on the atomic front and may have led to the United States truly being ready to utilize nuclear weapons when it did.

When Iowa State was presented with this award, it was rare for a university or college to receive it, as it was usually given instead to industrial companies that showed a great aptitude for manufacturing of war materials. But even under the guise of secrecy with no presumption of ever being recognized for their efforts, Iowa State’s scientists showed outstanding performance in production of materials vital to Allied success in WWII, thus granting us the Army-Navy “E” Award that now firmly stands to cement Iowa State into the history of one of mankind’s most dangerous yet bold achievements.

Émelie du Châtelet, Voltaire, and Newtonian physics: one woman’s contribution to Enlightenment thought

ISU Special Collections has added a new title to its Archives of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). The WISE Archives seeks to preserve the historical heritage of American women in science and engineering, and to complement it is a growing rare book collection. The newest addition is Institutions de physique by Gabrielle-Émelie Du Châtelet, a first edition of the work, published in 1740.

"Gabrielle du Châtelet (1706-1749)." Image courtesy of Mathematical Association of America, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

“Gabrielle du Châtelet (1706-1749)” by Mathematical Association of America is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Born Gabrielle-Émilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil (1706-1749) in Paris to a family of minor French nobility, du Châtelet lived a colorful life. She was married at 18 to Florent Claude, marquis Du Châtelet, a military man who was frequently away from home for long periods of time, leaving her free to pursue her scientific interests.

1733 was an important year for du Châtelet for two reasons. First, it was the year she began studying advanced mathematics under Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis and Alexis-Claude Clairaut, two prominent mathematicians and members of the French Academy of Sciences. Second, it was in that same year that she met the important French writer and philosopher Voltaire, who became her lover and lifelong companion. Significantly, considering du Châtelet’s later work, all three of these men were supporters of Newtonian physics, the legitimacy of which was considered questionable at that time in France, where the Establishment favored Cartesian physics.

Voltaire came under fire from the French authorities after the publication of his controversial work Lettres Philosophiques in 1734, which included a letter detailing Newton’s natural philosophy. With a warrant out for his arrest, Voltaire took refuge with du Châtelet at her husband’s estate of Cirey and lived there with her until her death. While at Cirey, Voltaire wrote another work on Newtonian physics, Elémens de la Philosophie de Neuton, published in 1738, with substantial help from du Châtelet.

Meanwhile, du Châtelet began work on her own contribution to Newtonian physics (and ISU’s recent acquisition), Institutions de Physique, published in 1740. This text provided a metaphysical basis for the natural philosophy of Newton, revealing her high-level understanding of math, and it is frequently regarded as a work of original and innovative thinking. The book was expanded in a second edition, published 1742.

Her other major work is a French translation of Newton’s Principia, including a 287-page commentary and mathematical addendum. Begun in 1745, it took four years to complete. During this time, she had begun a new love affair with the poet Jean-François de Saint-Lambert, after Voltaire had begun an affair with his niece Madame Denis in 1744. Discovering that she was pregnant in February 1749 at age 42, she expressed concern to a friend that she would not survive the pregnancy, and so by April she was working at the feverish rate of 17 hours a day to finish the mathematical addendum to her translation. She gave birth to a daughter on September 10, 1749, and died ten days later. Her daughter lived for only about eighteen months before also dying.

Special Collections is excited to acquire the work of this significant woman and Enlightenment thinker! Stop by to learn more about women’s contributions to science and engineering.

Announcing the Leo C. Peters Papers


Portrait of Leo Charles Peters, undated. (RS 11/10/51, box 3 folder 10)

We are proud to announce that a large expansion of the Leo Charles Peters Papers (RS 11/10/51) is now available for research. Dr. Peters was a staple of the Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1961 until his retirement in 1996.

Born in Kansas, he got his start in engineering at Kansas State University with a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering (1953). Peters worked as an engineer for much of the 1950s at the John Deere Tractorworks in Waterloo, Iowa with the exception of the two years he spent in the 839th engineering battalion of the Special Category Army with Air Force during the Korean War. Peters left John Deere to take up a position as Instructor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering and complete his graduate education, earning both his M.S. (1963) and his Ph.D. (1967) in mechanical engineering and engineering mechanics from ISU. Peters was quickly promoted to Associate Professor, earning full Professor in 1978. He remained with the University until his retirement in 1996. Materials in the collection document Peters’ transition from student to professional to faculty member and provide insight into engineering curriculum development and university-industry partnerships. A significant portion of this collection concerns teaching activities and curriculum for engineering courses.


ISU SAE entry into the SAE mini baja competition, 1983. ( RS 11/10/51, box 1, folder 49)

Part of Peters’ lasting contribution to ISU was his initiation of an ISU student branch of the Society of Automotive Engineers (ISU SAE) in 1968. The branch’s first year was very successful – earning a personal visit from F. B. Esty, the National President of SAE and culminating in the presentation of a branch charter for formal induction into SAE. Other notable guests of ISU SAE were Phil Myers (former president of the Society of Automotive Engineers), Andy Granatelli (Chief Executive Officer of STP), and Jacques Passino (Director of Ford Motor Company’s Special Products Division). Peters’ love of advising and working with students was recognized multiple times via awards for outstanding teaching and advising.

A sketch of the layout for a Moot Court workshop. RS 11/10/51.

A sketch of the layout for a Moot Court workshop. (RS 11/10/51, box 2 folder 29)

Drawing on both his formal education and experience as an engineer, Peters was an expert in product safety and product liability issues. He published in these areas and taught “moot court” workshops at engineering conferences where participants explored product liability and the law. He also worked as an independent consultant and expert witness specializing in patent infringement, products liability, and failure analysis.

One of the special features of this collection is the series of diaries that Peters kept from 1959 to 1969. Scattered throughout notes on classes, tough mechanic jobs at John Deere, thesis due dates, and class exams are hints of his rich family life – “Mark’s First Communion (May 8, 1966)” and “Sue’s 7th and 8th graders bought and gave her a bassinett for a going away gift (January 17, 1958).” Peters was devoted to his family and, along with wife (and ISU alumna) Suzanne Gordon Peters, raised nine children. This collection gives us a glimpse into the many facets of a scholar’s life.

A portion of Peters' 1959 diary.

A portion of Peters’ 1959 diary. (RS 11/10/51, box 2, folder 55)

Suzanne Peters, a birth announcement, and a newspaper account of family in attendance at Peters' doctoral graduation. RS 11/10/51

Suzanne Peters, a birth announcement, and a newspaper account of family in attendance at Peters’ doctoral graduation. (RS 11/10/51, box 3 folder 10)

This collection adds to our steadily growing body of materials on ISU engineering faculty (see Henry M. Black and Anson Marston). Our other engineering collections include: Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), the records of the College of Engineering, and our materials on agricultural engineering and technology.

The Leo Charles Peters papers are now available for research (RS 11/10/51) at our reading room on the fourth floor of the Parks Library. Please come by and take a look – there’s a lot more than we can include in a single blog post!

Harvey Library of Landscape Architecture: How it was collected

Special Collections would like to announce the recent acquisition and cataloging of an additional resource related to the Robert Harvey Rare Book Collection of rare landscape architecture publications. Robert R. Harvey, Professor Emeritus of the Landscape Architecture Department at Iowa State University, donated nearly 100 volumes from his library to Special Collections in 2010.

Title page of Harvey's book.

Title page of Harvey’s book.

Earlier this year, Special Collections received Robert Harvey’s self-published essay Collection Development: How the Library of Robert R. Harvey Was Assembled, giving background on Harvey’s work in landscape architecture and the experiences that influenced his book collecting. Many of the books were purchased while living and working in England and cannot be easily found in the United States. Harvey developed his book collection for personal research and teaching needs, and as his career developed, so did the subject matter in his library. Throughout the essay he describes the influences and experiences that led to his purchase of specific titles.

Scattered through Harvey’s essay are personal anecdotes, which make it an amusing, as well as informative, read. For example, he describes a time when he was teaching at Thames Polytechnic School of Architecture, Hammersmith, London, during the 1970s. His daughter Suzanne was two years old, and he would often carry her on his back in a baby carrier while he was shopping in London book stores. One day, the family was “headed for the entrance to the Tube at Tottenham Court [when] I felt a sharp bump on the back of my head. Suzanne had thumped me with a book. When [wife] Ann and [daughter] Beth examined the baby carrier on my back she had about three books in the pack…. It turned out that when I leaned over to examine books on a lower shelf she probably had helped herself to books on the shelf above me. They were books on architecture and art. At least she had the right subjects in mind” (22). They returned the books to the bookseller and had a good laugh about it.

Some books of note from the Harvey Collection include…

One of the engravings from Venturini.

One of the engravings from Venturini.

Le Fontane ne’Palazzi e ne’Giardini di Roma, con li loro prospetti et ornamenti (1675) by Giovanni Venturini.

Harvey was offered the Venturini book by the descendants of a friend, Professor Phillip Elwood, which “contained engraved pages that an unscrupulous dealer could break up and sell as individual prints for framing,” in order to make more money (36).


Plate XXXII from McCormick's Landscape Architecture, Past and Present, show the pergola feature of the Walden estate.

Plate XXXII from McCormick’s Landscape Architecture, Past and Present, show the pergola feature of the Walden estate.

Landscape Art, Past and Present by Harriet Hammond McCormick.

Harriet Hammond McCormick was married to Cyrus McCormick, Jr., a wealthy businessman and president of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, who owned a large estate called Walden in Lake Forest, Illinois. Walden was designed by the renowned landscape architect Warren Manning, whose papers reside here in Special Collections. The copy of McCormick’s Landscape Art, Past and Present donated by Harvey appears to be Cyrus McCormick’s own copy, with his calling card inserted into the front endpaper of the book.

Calling card inserted into front endpaper of McCormick's book. Reads, "Mr. Cyrus H. McCormick, 50 East Huron Street"

Calling card inserted into front endpaper of McCormick’s book. Reads, “Mr. Cyrus H. McCormick, 50 East Huron Street”

For a complete listing of books in the collections, see the Robert Harvey Rare Book Collection webpage.

For more information on the collection and the conservation work done on many of its volumes, see the Parks Library Preservation blog post on the Robert R. Harvey Rare Book Open House.

For more information on landscape architecture, check out the following collections: Warren H. Manning Papers (MS 218), Landscape Architecture Photographs (MS 392), the American Society of Landscape Architects, Source File, Women in Landscape Architecture Printed Materials (MS 598), the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation Records (MS 618), and the Department of Landscape Architecture record series (RS 26/5) in the College of Design.

CyPix: Coming soon…

Later this week, I will be bringing you stories related to Iowa State alumnus Dwight Ink, whose collection has recently been made more accessible. Ink, who was raised in Madison County, Iowa, worked in a variety of federal government positions under seven consecutive presidential administrations, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan.

Dwight Ink

Dwight Ink, getting some work done on the road, circa 1958-1965 (Box 2, Folder 13)

In addition to his formal positions within federal agencies such as the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the General Services Administration, Ink also held short-term roles on other pan-governmental bodies. Notably, he spent six months in 1964 as the executive director of the Federal Reconstruction and Development Planning Commission for Alaska. This group, also known as the Alaskan Reconstruction Committee, was formed by President Lyndon Johnson in the wake of a 9.2 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter between Anchorage and Valdez. This earthquake, known as the Good Friday Earthquake since it fell on the Christian commemoration of Good Friday that year, remains the second-largest earthquake ever recorded.

Come on back Friday, where we’ll be discussing the Dwight Ink Papers, RS 21/7/241, in further detail.

Women’s History Month: New Addition to the Woman Suffrage Collection!

The department recently received a letter, pictured below, that has now been placed in the Woman Suffrage Collection, MS 471.


Letter from Mary Safford to Mrs. E. N. Mann, 1912; MS 471, box 1, folder 6

Letter from Mary Safford to Mrs. E. N. Mann, 1912; MS 471, box 1, folder 6

Letter from Mary Safford to Mrs. E. N. Mann, 1912; MS 471, box 1, folder 6

This letter, written on October 14, 1912, was addressed to Mrs. E. N. Mann of Boone, from Mary Safford, President of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association. Rev. Safford wrote urging Mrs. Mann to accept a position on the Board of Directors of which she was elected after having left an unnamed convention. Rev. Safford wrote:

In any event, I wish to congratulate you on the honor conferred, tho [sic] you may think yourself more in need of sympathy. That is understood, at all times, on my part.

In her effort to persuade Mrs. Mann to take the position, Rev. Safford added the following:

I urge all this for the sake of our common cause, and wish to add my personal urgent request that you do not permit anything to cause you to refuse to serve.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know how this turned out, and what convention this was. The following remark makes me even more curious (the words in brackets are educated guesses – the letter is a bit worm-eaten):

I greatly admired your [action] in [the] Convention and wish to express my personal appreciation of your womanhood as manifest by your frank statement.

What was this “frank statement?” What exactly went on at this convention? Perhaps someday we’ll know more about all of this, but in the meantime we have many other women’s rights-related collections that are worth viewing. These include Iowa State University. University Committee on Women Records,  the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers, and the collections within the Archives of Women in Science and Engineering. Also see the Women’s Collections subject guide. If you’re at all curious about the history of women’s rights in Iowa, come in and read the rest of the letter and have a look at any of these great collections!

Student Life at Iowa State and After: Alumni Papers at the University Archives

Commencement 1936

Commencement 1936

With Commencement taking place a few weeks ago, and orientation beginning this week, Iowa State has been experiencing both the beginning and ending stages of a student’s life here on campus.  As an archivist, we might wonder how many of these Iowa Staters are carefully saving records documenting their experiences here at Iowa State?  How many of those pictured above in the 1936 Commencement carefully saved those dance cards, VEISHEA programs, photographs of fellow students, and other memorabilia from their life here at Iowa State?

The University Archives receives the papers of former Iowa State students on an annual basis, and each documents their experiences here at Iowa State, and sometimes their life after, in different ways.  Below are brief summaries of just a few alumni collections which we have either received recently, or which we have recently put the finding aids for their collections online. The collections cover a variety of topics including student life at Iowa State, 4-H, the temperance movement, and service during World War I.

Austin Robert (Bob) Koch (1915-2008) was born near Ida Grove, Iowa. A. Robert Koch received his B.S. (1940) in agronomy from Iowa State College (University). He later worked for the United States Department of Agriculture for 33 years in various supervisory positions within the Farm Security Administration, later known as the Farmers Home Administration. This collection contains biographical information, college coursework, photographs, and class reunion materials for the Iowa State class of 1940. Koch’s college coursework includes reports, notes, and exams in botany, geology, crop breeding, animal husbandry, soil science, and bacteriology.  The finding aid for his papers can be found online:  http://www.lib.iastate.edu/arch/rgrp/21-7-214.html


A Golden Diploma given to Austin Robert Koch in 1990 by the ISU Alumni Association “in recognition of many years as a loyal alumnus of Iowa State University”.

Susan Carberry Drtina was born in 1957 and raised in Newhall, Iowa. She joined 4-H as a member of the Eldorado-Ettes and, later, the Eldorado Early Birds in Benton County. This collection includes Drtina’s 4-H record book and other memorabilia documenting her time as a member of the Eldorado Early Birds 4-H Club. The finding aid for her papers can be found online:  http://www.lib.iastate.edu/arch/rgrp/21-7-243.html


Drtina’s Benton County 4-H Home Economics blue ribbon (first place) (RS 21/7/243).

Della Neal was born on November 22, 1862 in Hamilton, Pennsylvania. She earned her B.S. (1882) from Iowa Agricultural College (Iowa State University). Neal eventually completed training in nursing and became active in the state and national temperance movement. This collection includes some of Neal’s writings, including college course work and writings on the temperance movement.  The finding aid for her papers can be found online:  http://www.lib.iastate.edu/arch/rgrp/21-7-28.html

21-7-28 neal

A letter noting the influence of young girls on young men.

R. E. McCurdy was born in Cass County, Iowa on Octber 15, 1887. He received his undergraduate education from Iowa State College (University), graduating with a B.S. (1916) in civil engineering. These reminiscences were written by McCurdy and describe events as they unfolded in his life, including his service in World War I. McCurdy also writes about his many engineering jobs that took him around the world.  The finding aid for his papers can be found online:  http://www.lib.iastate.edu/arch/rgrp/21-7-27.html


The first page of McCurdy’s reminiscences in which he describes his first memory, the morning of his third birthday.

Virgil D. Kirby of Sioux City, Iowa, was born in 1895. He received his B.S. (1917) in mechanical engineering from Iowa State College (University). As a student, he was a member of the Colonials (Theta Delta Chi), the Delphian Literary Society, and the Mechanical Engineering Society. This college scrapbook (1913-1917) was compiled by Kirby while at Iowa State. The scrapbook contains 222 black and white photographs, campus postcards, dance cards, and other college memorabilia. There are a significant number of images of classmates, fraternity brothers, and the interior and exterior of the Colonials’ fraternity house at 217 Ash Avenue. Other materials include picture postcards of campus buildings and scenery, football team photographs, homecoming souvenirs, literary society programs, picture postcards of St. Patrick’s Day parades, and several photographs of the band on the field at the University of Nebraska football stadium.  The finding aid for her collection can be found online: http://www.lib.iastate.edu/arch/rgrp/21-7-248.html


Two 1926 postcards from Ames and London. Catt Hall (in 1926 known as Botany Hall) can be seen in the top postcard.

Mary E. (Graf) Speer was born and educated in Elkader, Iowa. She received her B.S. (1946) in food and nutrition from Iowa State College (University) and became a consulting dietitian with small hospitals and nursing facilities throughout Central Iowa. This collection consists of loose scrapbook pages of memorabilia compiled by Speer during her college years at Iowa State. These materials include newspaper clippings, dance cards, athletic programs, concert programs, VEISHEA programs, Frisbie Fellowship Club materials, travel brochures, and her membership certificate for joining Sigma Eta Chi. The newspaper clippings cover various topics including student life, women’s fashion trends, the integration of blacks into Big 6 athletic competitions, and World War II. The finding aid for her collection can be found online: http://www.lib.iastate.edu/arch/rgrp/21-7-250.html


Mary E. Speer’s 1946 senior prom dance card (RS 21/7/250)

Interested in seeing more of the alumni papers above, or perhaps other papers of Iowa State alumni we might hold?  Please feel free to visit our department on the fourth floor of Parks Library (M-F, 10-4).  Additional alumni papers held by the University Archives can be found listed here:  http://www.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/arch/inventories/21alumni.html

New Collection Documenting the Black Family and Henry M. Black, Veteran and Engineering Professor at Iowa State

The Special Collections Department is lucky to have some wonderful students working here, and they do a lot of work processing our collections. Rachel Kleinschmidt, a graduate student in History, recently processed the Henry Montgomery and Bernice Bernard Black Family Papers (RS 21/8/12) and has written the blog posting below.  Since the 68th anniversary of D-Day is coming up in a few weeks on June 6, and Memorial Day is today, we thought this would be a good time to highlight this collection.

On Memorial Day, we think about the sacrifices that men and women have made by serving in the military. The Special Collections Department is home to the collections of many important ISU alumni and veterans, including Henry M. Black.

Henry M. Black (above), member of VII Corps Headquarters, 9th U.S. Army, receives oak leaf cluster to his bronze star medal from Lt. Gen. J. Lawton Collins, commanding general, VII Corps, at a ceremony in Leipzig, Germany (photograph from Box 16, Folder 4).

Henry Montgomery Black was an Iowa native, born in Reinbeck, Iowa in 1907. He attended Iowa State University (then Iowa State College) from 1925-1929, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He then furthered his education with a Master’s degree from Harvard University in 1934.

Following his time in college, Henry Black served in the United States Army. His experience as an engineer was put to use by the Army Corps of Engineers, and Henry served as the chief engineer of the Utah Beach landing during the Normandy invasion in 1944. His service was rewarded with a Bronze Star, a Legion of Merit, and a Croix de Guerre (pictured below).

Henry Black’s Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, and Croix de Guerre (Artifact number 2010-214.001-003)

Henry would eventually retire from the army at the rank of Colonel. In the meantime, he returned to his alma mater (Iowa State) to serve as the Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department from 1946-1972. Because of his impact on the Iowa State Engineering Department and campus (he was instrumental in helping build the university’s mechanical engineering program into one of national prominence), a building was named in his honor. Black Engineering Building was named in 1987.

Henry Black in front of Black Engineering Building (photograph from Box 18, Folder 1)

Henry Black was not the only member of his extended family to have a distinguished military career. His father-in-law, Ransom Drips Bernard, served in World War I in the Army medical corps, eventually attaining the rank of Captain. Ransom was not an Iowa State graduate, but his wife, Bernice Corlette Bernard graduated with the class of 1904.

Ransom Drips Bernard (photograph from Box 40, Folder 10)

Both Henry and Ransom documented their service through letters to family back home.  These letters, along with many photographs and artifacts like those mentioned above, can be found in the Henry Montgomery Black and Bernice Bernard Black Family Papers, RS 21/8/12, in the Special Collections Department. The collection documents several generations of the Black and Bernard families through artifacts, photographs, scrapbooks, and correspondence.

Bernice Black Durand (left) and Rachel Kleinschmidt (right) going through the Henry Montgomery Black and Bernice Bernard Black Family Papers (RS 21/8/12), which Bernice donated to the department and Rachel processed.

Rachel (right) showing Bernice (right) the processed Henry Montgomery Black and Bernice Bernard Black Family Papers in the storage area.

Interested in finding out more about the collection?  You can read the finding aid online, and then come visit the Special Collections Department (open M-F, 9-4) and let us know which boxes you would like to see!

2011 Collection Highlights

Welcome to the new year of 2012!  With the close of another year, we would like to take the opportunity to highlight just a few of the collections whose finding aids went online last year.  We receive hundreds of linear feet of new collections each year, and in addition to these new collections we also work on getting our older paper-based finding aids retyped and up online as well!  Throughout this month, we’ll highlight a few of these new collections and re-typed finding aids finished this past year, but for now take a look at the list below of some of the collections we will not be able to highlight.  Clicking on the collection’s title will bring you to its finding aid.  In addition to letting you know a little about the collections we worked on last year, the list will hopefully give you an idea of the wide variety of collections available here in the Special Collections Department!

Veteran Civilian Conservation Corps Camp #2725 Scrapbook, MS 674

The Veteran Civilian Conservation Corps (VCCC) Camp #2725 was constructed in 1935 in what is now Stone State Park near Sioux City, Iowa in the Loess Hills. Members of the camp were unemployed World War I veterans who helped with construction of the camp and projects designed by the camp technical staff.

PrairieFire Rural Action Records, MS 313

PrairieFire Rural Action was founded in 1985 and based in Des Moines, Iowa. Organized during the 1980s farm crisis, PrairieFire Rural Action assisted Midwestern farmers and their families, and provided advocacy on behalf of farmers.

Milton Sage Robertson Films, MS 325

Milton Sage “Robbie” Robertson pioneered work in crop dusting, inventing a rotary brush atomizer (later known as ICD Rotors) for crop spraying in 1930. The methods used for crop dusting at this time were problematic, and Robertson developed a liquid spraying technique with a rotary brush. Robertson eventually ran his own business, and between 1931 and 1934, Robertson put together film of every known phase of crop dusting and spraying for promotion and to teach pilots the techniques of the business. Robertson used this film as an advertising tool, showing it to farmers and growers during sales meetings. A selection of these films are available on our YouTube channel.

Louise A. Carson and Lucia St. John Cook Papers, MS 314

Louise A. Carson was a resident of Burlington, Iowa during the middle of the 19th through the middle of the 20th centuries. Lucia St. John Cook (born in 1830) was a friend of Louise Carson. This collection contains journals, letters, correspondence, clippings, financial records, and photographs.  Some interesting entries of Cook’s diaries were made in 1850-1851 when Cook describes her journey alone from Farmington, Iowa to Arkansas to teach. Cook discusses meeting African Americans on her trip, her teaching experiences, and educational differences between the North and the South.

Bob Kisken Photographs, MS 596

Robert (Bob) Kisken is a retired teacher from Michigan and now does ranch and farm photography as a hobby. This collection contains photographs taken by Kisken of barns in the Midwest but also includes some from other states and Canada. The barns cover a variety including kit barns from Sears, Roebuck, and Company; red barns; white barns; cantilever barns; German style barns; round barns; brick and wood barns. Also included are rural scenes including homesteads, grain elevators, prairie scenes, and silos.

Women’s Helpful Birthday Club Records, MS 201

The Women’s Helpful Birthday Club originated as a group of farm women in north Grant Township, Story County, Iowa. Begun in 1904, the club was formally organized June 12, 1907, at the home of one of the founders, Mrs. J. I. (Rena) Mather. Rena Mather thought the club should be established so that neighborhood women would have a time to meet and provide more social contacts and cultural activities. In addition to the meetings which often included educational programs, club members also often had a picnic each year and conducted philanthropic activities.

Lauren Soth Papers, RS 16/3/54

Agricultural economist and editor at the Des Moines Register and Tribune. Lauren Soth was in charge of economic information at Iowa State from 1934-1947 and was an editorial writer for the Des Moines Register and Tribune (1947-1954) and editor of the newspaper’s editorial pages (1954-1975) until his retirement. Soth received a Pulitzer Prize (1956) for editorial writing encouraging a U.S.-Soviet agricultural exchange. The collection contains material documenting the U.S.-Russian agricultural exchange of 1955 and Soth’s U.S.S.R. trip the same year, speeches and talks on the Wolf Ladejinsky affair, the oleomargarine controversy at Iowa State University during World War II and agricultural economics. There is correspondence about farm policy in the 1970s and 1980s, and material on agricultural issues such as animal rights, food and export policy, and land usage.

One of many photographs in the collection, above is pictured a few images from the United States farmers trip to Russia in 1955 (found in box 12, folder 5).

Sally J. Pederson Papers, RS 21/7/198

Consultant, editor, and former Lieutenant Governor of Iowa, Sally Pederson was born in 1951 in Muscatine, Iowa. She was senior food editor for Better Homes and Gardens and an executive with the Meredith Corporation. Pederson was elected to two terms as Lieutenant Governor (1999-2007) of Iowa under Governor Tom Vilsack. While in office, she was an advocate for people with disabilities.

Black Cultural Center (Ames, Iowa) Records, RS 7/5/4

In 1969, the Black Student Organization at Iowa State began planning for a Black Cultural Center to be located near campus and operated by a non-profit organization. The purpose of the Black Cultural Center is to provide a place for the Ames and Iowa State community to interact and gain a better understanding of black culture and to act as a home away from home for African American students attending Iowa State University. These purposes are carried out through a variety of social activities, cultural events, and lectures. The BCC is home to a library and the Iowa African-American Hall of Fame and it also publishes the student magazine Uhuru (Archives call no. LD2546 U38x).

Frank Robotka Papers, RS 13/9/55

An educator and specialist on agricultural cooperatives, Frank Robotka (1889-1975) worked for many years at the Agricultural Extension Service (1920-1961) of Iowa State University where he became involved with agricultural cooperatives. Robotka continued his study and research on cooperatives at Iowa State until his retirement in 1961. Throughout his career as a Professor of Agricultural Economics, he produced numerous journal articles and topical studies concerning the cooperative movement. (2012 is the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives; if you are interested in taking a look at our other collections related to cooperatives, please take a look at this subject guide)

LaVerne and Ida Noyes Collection, RS 21/7/235

LaVerne Noyes enrolled at Iowa Agricultural College (Iowa State University) in 1868 and graduated with a B.S. (1872) in general science as a member of Iowa State’s first graduating class. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Engineering from Iowa State for the success of his inventions and the promotion of higher education. Ida Noyes received her B.S. (1874) from Iowa Agricultural College (Iowa State University). Following her graduation Ida became a teacher. Ida and LaVerne married on May 24, 1877. LaVerne’s achievements include running a hay-tool business, starting a book holder manufacturing company (his Noyes Dictionary Holder sold modestly well), patenting farming machinery, and starting the Aermotor Company in Chicago, Illinois. The Aermotor Company  manufactured some of the first steel windmills and became the leading manufacturer of windmills in the country. During his successful career as an inventor and businessman, Noyes was able to acquire a modest fortune. Noyes enlisted the help of landscape gardener O.C. Simmonds to help beautify the campus of his alma mater, Iowa State. This project resulted in the creation of Lake LaVerne on our campus.

Charles A. Goetz Papers, RS 13/6/17

Charles Goetz attended the University of Wisconsin (1926-1931) where he studied agricultural bacteriology and chemistry and received his B.S. (1932), M.S. (1934), and Ph.D. (1938) in chemistry from the University of Illinois. Goetz pursued his interests in analytical chemistry, electrochemistry, and in fire extinguishing by carbon dioxide. Goetz worked at several corporations, where he invented and received patents for a number of important and useful ideas including the aeration process for whipped cream which allows it to be dispensed from pressurized containers. He also patented a number of fire extinguishing processes and devices for outdoor use on large fires. Goetz was a professor at Iowa State in the Department of Chemistry from 1948 until  his retirement in 1978.

E. Robert Baumann Papers, RS 11/5/55

E. Robert Baumann earned a B.S.E. degree (1944) in civil engineering from the University of Michigan, and a B.S. degree (1945) in sanitary engineering, an M.S. degree (1947) in sanitary engineering, and a Ph.D. (1954) in sanitary engineering all from the University of Illinois. Baumann served as a teacher and researcher during his time at the University of Illinois and then worked at Iowa State University(1953-1991) until his retirement. Baumann’s research centers on water filtration and waste water treatment. He published several books and hundreds of journal articles, research reports, trade magazine articles, and conference papers on diatomite filtration and municipal sewage treatment. His vast experience in sewage systems and filtration led to his work as a civil engineering consultant to cities and private companies throughout his career.

Fred W. (Frederick William) Lorch Papers, RS 13/10/54

Frederick William Lorch, born in Germany, received his B.A. (1918) from Knox College and his M.A. and Ph.D from the University of Iowa. He joined the Iowa State College (University) staff in 1921 as an instructor in English, was promoted through the faculty ranks, and served as Department Head (1942-1959). Lorch was the author of more than 30 scholarly articles and a national authority on some aspects of Mark Twain’s career. He edited several textbooks, including The Trouble Begins at Eight-Mark Twain’s Lecture Tours (call no. PS1338.L6). This work was published posthumously and won the Iowa State University Press Annual Award for the most outstanding manuscript by an Iowa author.