Ames Laboratory Oral History Project

Director, Associate Director and Section Chiefs in the chemical research and development program at Iowa State College (University) which assisted in the World War II Manhattan Project.  Left to Right: Harley Wilhelm, Adrian Daane, Amos Newton, Adolf Voigt, Wayne Keller, C. F. Gray, Frank Spedding, Robert Rundle, James Warf.

The Ames Laboratory began as a chemical research and development program at Iowa State College (University) to assist the World War II Manhattan Project. The program developed an entirely new technology for the conversion of uranium ore to high-purity uranium metal and then used that technology to produce more than 2 million pounds by the end of the war. In 1947, the United States Atomic Energy Commission officially established the Ames Laboratory as a National Laboratory. It is currently a United States Department of Energy research facility operated by Iowa State University. The Laboratory and University share facilities, functions, graduate students, and faculty/principle investigators. After World War II, the Ames Laboratory specialized in rare metals and methods of achieving chemical transformation without the production of toxic waste. The Laboratory has expanded its scope beyond materials research, including research in photosynthesis, hazardous waste analysis, computer programming, quasicrystals, and nontraditional materials.

Fifteen interviews have been completed by independent researcher Sue Futrell and are being transcribed. The finding aid for the Ames Lab Oral History Collection is available online.  Audio portions of the interviews are also available online.

“Little Ankeny” (pictured above) was named in contrast with the large-scale ordnance work located in Ankeny during World War II.  Little Ankeny was a temporary building left over from World War I and housed uranium production on the Iowa State campus from January 1943 until the end of the war. During that time, two million pounds (one thousand tons) of pure uranium metal was made there. Industry came here to learn how to produce the metal, and then the process was turned over to industry. The process was developed and patented by Dr. Frank Spedding and Dr. Harley Wilhelm.  Little Ankeny was located east of the Food Science Building, and a plaque now marks its location.

Dr. Harley Wilhelm developed an efficient way to produce uranium metal for the Manhattan project and was a co-founder of the Ames Lab. The Ames Lab Oral History Collection includes interviews of his family.

A Window into Building the Cyclone Spirit of Years Past: A Football Manual from the 1930s

The plain and simple cover of the 1930s era football manual recently donated to our University Archives – inside is some wonderful insight into the Cyclone football team of that time.

A football manual from the 1930s was recently donated to the University Archives, and may have even been written by George Veenker, the football coach at that time.  In paging through the manual, you only came across a few photographs.  Even so, the manual is itself a wonderful picture of the spirit and advice given to football players years ago!  It is fun to imagine the manual tucked away in the dorm rooms of every football player, being read diligently every night (really – we’re sure they did!).

The manual opened to the first page (Introduction).

The manual contains an introduction which describes the reason for the booklet:

“If after being told by a coach about a certain rule, a play or what to do under certain conditions, each player would know and remember his job, the coaching of football would be a bed of roses.  If, after having it repeated a certain number of times, all would get the instructions, it would still be alright…”  The manual goes on to say that that, however, does not happen on a regular basis and “Some boys will pick it up reading it in the quiet of their rooms quicker than in the hustle and rush on the field…IT IS FOR THIS PURPOSE THIS NOTE BOOK HAS BEEN ASSEMBLED.”  (And yes, this final sentence is in all caps!).

The bulk of the book contains advice and strategies for the game.  When one looks at the photograph below from a 1938 game, one can only wonder how many of those players were following the advice contained in the manual!

1938 football team

One of my favorite sections is the “Rules and regulations on the care and use of this book” in which the manual explains that “There is a lot of valuable dope in this book which, if gotten into the hands of our opponents, would ruin us…It is secret to the extent that it is the way we really are doing things.  It is valuable to them only to that extent and it is plenty.”  Players are not to share the manual with anyone, including their other football players!  The final part of the section explains that the book is to be eventually turned in and not kept by the player – one can only wonder how many Cyclone football players owned this particular manual while on the team…or if it was the coach’s own personal copy!

The manual contains wonderful pieces of general advice, often in found in all-caps.  An example found in the “Morale” section states:  “IT NEVER DOES ONE ANY HARM TO HAVE HIGH AMBITIONS AND IDEALS, IF TEMPERED WITH COMMON SENSE AND ABILITY TO STAND DISAPPOINTMENT” (many of these are great sayings anyone, whether or not a football player, would benefit to keep in mind!).  Another fun section to read through is the “More than Poetry” section.  One paragraph states “Be sure to dance during the season.  You have lots of energy to spare anyhow.”

Jack Trice and his teammates in 1923.

One final part of the book I would like to highlight is the page about Jack Trice, and the entire section could be thought of as equivalent to these sayings found throughout since it is quite clear the author meant for Jack Trice to be an example to current football players.  The manual states “He had the right attitude, the right spirit and a fine sense of loyalty.”  I won’t quote it at length here, but I highly encourage visitors requesting the manual to take a look at this page!  (More information on Jack Trice can be found in the finding aid for his papers and on our Flickr page).

The gym plaque mentioned in the section on Jack Trice.

The manual closes with a March 4, 1933 editorial, “There’s Something to Cyclone ‘Spirit'”, by Harold Ingle, sports editor of Iowa State Student.  One can think that this manual might be one of those “seeds” mentioned in a paragraph of the editorial:  “When we take note of the heroes who are now here and consider what they are doing to remain, we know that there has been planted here a virile seed that cannot die out.  Repeat to us the hardships that our pioneer classes endured to plant this seed, and we will tell you of the proud and courageous children who are carrying on in face of even greater difficulties.”

The football manual came to us in fragile condition, and the library’s Preservation Department did a wonderful job in making sure the manual will be  well-preserved for future generations!  Please take a look at the Preservation Department’s blog post about how the manual was preserved.  If you would like to find out about other records we have in the University Archives about football and other athletic teams, click here for a listing of the various collections’ finding aids.

New Collection: Arthur W. Rudnick Papers and the 1937 World Dairy Congress

It’s June Dairy Month!  We have a number of collections here in the Special Collections Department which relate to dairy, and to name a few those include the Iowa State Dairy Association Records (where you can see the activities and promotional events of past June Dairy Months here in Iowa), various Iowa State University Dairy Science Department Records (under RS 9/11), and the patent for the process of making blue cheese developed here at Iowa State –  and adopted by Maytag Blue Cheese (under RS 23/01/03).

Iowa State College’s (now University) Iowa Blue Cheese. Photograph taken in 1934.

However, this post will highlight a new collection we recently brought into the department, the Arthur Rudnick Papers.  Rudnick was a long time educator and leader in Iowa’s dairy industry.  He worked at Iowa State as a professor of dairying from 1913 through 1970. During much of his career he served as Iowa State’s extension specialist in dairy manufacturing and developed one of the first dairy manufacturing Extension programs in the country. He retired from the Department of Dairy and Food Industry after more than fifty years of service to the University. In addition to his role as an educator, Rudnick also worked to improve the dairy industry by involving himself in other professional opportunities. He served as a delegate to the 1937 World Dairy Congress held in Berlin, Germany. The World Dairy Congress was held August 22-28th and included over 3,700 delegates from 52 countries. In 1951 Rudnick returned to Europe as a member of a team of farm specialists sent to seek out qualified farm families for immigration to the United States under the Displaced Persons Act.

Arthur Rudnick in 1953 (from the University Photograph Collection, 16-3-A, box 1357)

The collection includes a travel diary documenting Rudnick’s 1937 trip to Europe as a delegate to the World Dairy Congress. Rudnick carefully details his trip, even recording the topics of speakers he listened to at the World Dairy Congress. Pasted into the diary are numerous publications he collected on the trip, mostly written in German, about the dairy industry in England, Germany, and other parts of Europe. Also included in the collection is an article (published in 1919 in the Journal of Dairy Science) in which he describes the process of making buttermilk cheese. At that time, Rudnick states, buttermilk was one of the largest creamery by-products and was often an unprofitable product.

Photograph from the 1937 World Dairy Congress in Berlin, Germany.  (RS 16/3/67, box 1, folder 3)

Rudnick’s diary from 1937 forms the heart of this small collection, and can be a fascinating read about the dairy industry in Europe (mainly Germany and England) in 1937. On page 211 of the diary, in which he describes plants he visited in London on September 14, Rudnick quickly skips from discussing infested milk bottles to pasteurization: “One of the peculiar things is that the housewife does not pretend to send the dairy a clean bottle. We were told that it is not at all uncommon for a plant to receive bottles that had maggots. London has about 90% of its milk pasteurized, the rest is for the most part certified…” In this same entry, Rudnick discusses pasteurizers, aluminum bottle caps, the plant’s production line, and London’s Milk Board.

To read more about Rudnick’s 1937 trip, please visit the Special Collections Department. The finding aid for the Arthur W. Rudnick Papers can be found here.

An Iowa State Student’s Letters from 1899

What was life like for students in 1960?  At the turn of the 20th century?  Answers to these questions can be found in a variety of sources, but one of these might be in our collections of former students and alumni, which are listed here.

We recently added a former student’s papers to our collections, and the finding aid has been made available online.  The Robert Jack Sharps Letters (RS 21/7/219) contains letters written by Robert Jack Sharps, and includes a few letters from his family.  All of the letter were written in the fall of 1899 when Sharps entered his freshman year at Iowa State College (now University). The letters range from August, when Sharps first arrived on campus, to November, when Sharps was preparing to finish up his coursework and return home.  Even though the last letters do not indicate whether or not he planned to return to Iowa State, they hint that the family was struggling to finance his education and it is unlikely that he returned.

A photograph from 1899 when Sharps attended Iowa State, showing the Mechanical Engineering Lab (located in the Lab of Mechanics).  Although we do not know if Sharps was ever in the lab, it might be fun to wonder to what extent, or whether, he knew the person in the photograph.

The Lab of Mechanics (in 1902), where the Mechanical Engineering Lab (pictured above) was located.

Although an incomplete set of letters, these letters provide a wonderful window into the life of a first year student here at Iowa State right before the beginning of the 20th century.  In his letters Sharps recounts experiences and concerns which are probably familiar to many current college students, such as anxiety about passing examinations and requests for money from home.  In fact, worries about money and finances run throughout his letters.  A number of the items Sharps describes are unique to the time including the military drills, the banquet he attended in which the freshman class was dubbed the “Erehas” by the sophomores, and Sunday chapel services that students were required to attend at the time.

A page from the 1900 Bomb (student yearbook) which lists the class officers, yell, motto, and colors.

Sharps writes his sister in an August 10, 1899 letter:

“Everyone seems to come here to learn so they all have their lessons. I like it very much here and I dont have such hard studying yet except in german, but things are getting harder every day.”  His concern about money and the costs of college are again revealed near the end of the letter “I believe as you say I can’t get something from nothing so I will stay a while any way and see how it goes here…Please hand Pa’s and Ma’s letter to them and it will save two cents.  Write soon, as I am in a hurry I dont expect you can read this.”

As an archivist who has struggled to decipher the written work of numerous handwritten letters, I was extremely surprised to read that last sentence!  His letters might are very clear and neat examples of penmanship – although as the term continues his handwriting becomes less and less clear!

The 1899 Freshman Class.  If this was taken in the fall of 1899, Sharps may be one of the students pictured here (from the 1900 Bomb, page 62).

From his letters, one sees firsthand how someone from 1899 viewed and described their current student experiences.  For instance, in an August 13 letter Sharps writes his parents about a Y.M.C.A reception for freshmen he attended in which Henry Wallace “of the ‘Des Moines Wallaces Farmer’ gave a short speech.”  This is all he says about Henry Wallace – the Henry Wallace to which he refers was the father of Henry A. Wallace, future Secretary of Agriculture and Vice-President under Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

And, finally, one last passage from an undated letter I found particularly fun to read (especially considering the similarities and differences from our current campus over 110 years later!):

“The campus is a fine place with the short grass and big shade trees the grass is kept about 2 inches high and it is just liking walking on a carpet the college is just like a town with out stores, with big buildings and barns and shops and other buildings then there is a water tower higher than any of the buildings and the main hall is six stories hall.”

The Iowa State campus (circa 1897) as it looked around the time former student Robert Jack Sharps was here.  Old Main can be seen to the left, and Morrill Hall to the right.  The Marston Water Tower, which Sharps mentions in at least one of his letters, can be seen in the background.

If you would like to read more of these letters, please visit the Special Collections Department.  In addition to this collection, other materials in our Department might provide additional information to his descriptions.  For instance, the 1898-1899 catalog includes brief descriptions of the military drills, entrance examinations, courses and other general information about the college.  For information related to the military drills Sharps participated in on campus see the Department of Military Science Records, RS 13/16/1.  The Bomb is also a great resource on student life and activities.

New Collection: Papers of Iowa State alum involved in Stars Over VEISHEA

VEISHEA is fast approaching – in fact, the fun and excitement of the largest student-run celebration in the country will begin next week on April 11.  The Special Collections Department has VEISHEA records documenting former celebrations, in addition to a variety of other resources.  For more information on VEISHEA records you can find here in our department on VEISHEA’s history, visit last year’s VEISHEA blog post.

However, if you are looking for the personal perspective of Iowa State students during VEISHEA, a good place to look are the papers donated by our alumni, and a listing of these collections (however – please note – not all of these necessarily mention VEISHEA!) can be found here under RS 21/7: Alumni and Former Students.  The Special Collections Department recently took in a new collection documenting student life here at Iowa State in the middle of the twentieth century, and the letters in this collection mention VEISHEA. The Donald Elwood Larew Papers (RS 21/7/232) contain letters, theater programs, and Iowa State University memorabilia.  A graduate of Iowa State University, Larew received his B.S. (1963) in applied art with an emphasis in interior design.  For more on Larew’s career in theater design, see the biographical note in the collection’s finding aid.

Pictured above is the 1963 Stars Over VEISHEA production, The Music Man, performed during Larew’s senior year at Iowa State.  Larew helped design the set for this, along with other Iowa State theater productions.

The majority of the collection contains letters Larew wrote home to his parents, which includes descriptions of his involvement with the fraternity Delta Upsilon and as a cast member and set designer for a number of campus theatrical productions.

Page 324 from the 1959 Bomb (ISU yearbook).

Before joining the fraternity Delta Upsilon, Larew was a member of the Bennett House in Friley Hall his freshman year.  The description found here in the Bomb helps one figure out certain references Larew makes in his letters to the activities described above. Click on the image above to read the description.

Larew frequently mentions the theater in his letters home. He mentions plays he appeared in and the ones he helped design sets for.  While at Iowa State, Larew was involved with both the Iowa State Players and Stars Over VEISHEA.  In fact, the first Stars Over VEISHEA production with which Larew was involved was Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew (this year’s Kiss Me Kate is in part based on this Shakespeare play).

From pages 168-169 of the 1959 Bomb (ISU yearbook).

In his letters, Larew mentions being a cast member of the Iowa State Player’s  “Stalag 17” production.  Click on the image to read about the Iowa State Players.

To find out more about Donald Elwood Larew and the papers he donated to Iowa State, please take a look at the collection’s finding aid.

New collection: Team PrISUm Records

1997-1999 Team PrISUM and solar car:  Phoenix

2011 is the third year of President Geoffroy’s Live Green! initiative, and last week was the third annual Symposium on Sustainability here on the ISU campus. Iowa State also has a wide variety of sustainability related research projects, departments and organizations and the University Archives holds the records of a variety of these.

Recently, the Iowa State University solar car team, Team PrISUm, donated their records to the University Archives. You may have seen examples of the solar cars the team has constructed throughout the years displayed at various university events. Now you can visit Special Collections to do research and find out more about the development of these cars and past activities and projects carried out by Team PrISUm!

Team PrISUm constructing a solar car.

Team PrISUm is a student-run organization that started in 1989. The team designs, builds, and races solar powered electric vehicles in the American Solar Challenge (previously known as Sunrayce). Teams have two years between races to design, construct, and test their cars. The team is composed of students from a variety of backgrounds including engineering, design, and business. Team PrISUm also focuses on outreach projects and education to raise awareness about solar energy and efficient transportation and displays the cars at events on campus and throughout the state.

Team PrISUm at the 1997 Sunrayce event with the solar car ExCYtor

The records contain information documenting the activities of Team PrISUm, including news clippings, proposals, design notes, statistics, fundraising information, brochures, solar car and race information, and videotapes. There also hundreds of photographs in the collection documenting the various incarnations of the ISU solar car, solar car construction and racing, outreach projects, and team members. The team’s newsletter, “The Sundial”, consists of valuable information regarding the development of each car. The collection also includes documents relating to Sunrayce and the American Solar Challenge such as correspondence, proposals, race regulations, and route books.

The finding aid for the Team PrISUm Records is available at:

Thanks for following us during our first year!

A new year has begun!  Our departmental blog was started last year (the first post was February 17, to be exact).  Although not strictly a year in existence, I thought it would be fun to start off this new year off with some highlights from last year – including some not announced on this blog.

Posts with the most visits were:

1.  Images of Past ISU and Ames Floods

Hopefully this year we will see nothing even close to last year’s flood here in Ames!  However, I took advantage of being the only one to make it to the office that day by putting together a quick post on past floods.  As you can see, many visited this one!

1918 Flood: the Dinkey and floodwaters again

2. New Collection: Agricultural Machinery Product Literature

This is a wonderful collection of agricultural literature, and although I enjoyed writing most if not all blog posts – I think I had the most fun with this one!  We hope to have even more posts, although perhaps much shorter, on new incoming collections in the future.


Buckeye Mower and Reaper catalog, 1874

3.  Friley Hall images now on Flickr

One of our wonderful students helped describe and put these images up on Flickr, and her work has paid off!  We hope at some point to add more dorm images to Flickr.


A student in his Friley Hall dorm room working on homeworrk in 1964.

Other highlights from last year:

The Library’s new Digital Collections site (using CONTENTdm) was launched.  Many of the original collections on this site are housed here in our Special Collections Department.

During October’s Archives Month, I created a blog version of a tour of our department.  We are hoping to create a video version of the tour to put up on our website.

An image of our collections in storage seen on the "tour."

One of the many excellent donations this year was that given by Professor Emeritus Robert Harvey of ninety-two rare books to our Department.  Back in October we had an after hours open house which highlighted books from this donation and allowed visitors to speak with Professor Harvey and members of our staff, including Preservation.  Many of these books were related to his field of expertise, landscape architecture.  For more information on this donation, please see our Preservation Department’s post.

Several of the books on display at the Open House.

Although not announced yet on this blog, we received the exciting news later last year that the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust is funding $137,000 to support the design and construction of a Special Collections and Preservation classroom on the fourth floor of Parks Library.  Courses, seminars and workshops will be held in the classroom space.  The Trust is a philanthropic foundation in Iowa with assets of more than $250 million and annual grant distributions of over $11 million.  We have a number of classes which visit both our department and Preservation each semester, and we are looking forward to having a much larger and accessible space for presentations, tours, seminars, workshops and class projects with our collections.

Happy New Year to all!  We are looking forward to 2011, and hope you are as well.  Thanks for your readership and support!

New Collection Online: Papers of Iowa Folklorist Earl Stout

Although we have many of our collection descriptions/finding aids now online, we are still in the process of getting our legacy finding aids (available only in our reading room) typed up and put online.  This is the case for both our university archives and manuscript collections.

However, we are working hard to get as many of these finding aids available online for all to see, and new finding aids are added to our website every month!  I am happy to announce that the finding aid of a slightly different kind of collection than our main collecting areas (ISU, agriculture, science, and technology) is now available:  the papers of folklorist Earl Stout.

There are no photographs in this collection, so there will be no photographs accompanying this post!  However, there are a few boxes of Stout’s card files containing proverbs, riddles, autographs and other sayings.  Below is one of the riddles which reads “A house full, a house full, and you cannot get a bowl full. What is it?”  See the image below for the answer:

In addition to teaching, serving as a school administrator, enlisting in the American Expeditionary Force, and working for many years for the Red Cross, Earl Stout also studied as a graduate student and later published on Iowa folklore.  In the 1920s through the middle of the 20th century, Stout collected and studied the customs and beliefs of Iowans.  Folklore is defined as the unwritten, often oral, traditions and beliefs passed down among people.  These beliefs and traditions include riddles, proverbs, music and lyrics, poetry, superstitions, autographs (verses written in books and albums such as yearbooks), and stories.  Stout collected all of these from Iowans in the early part of the 20th century, and this collection is a wonderful window into those beliefs and the variations found throughout the world that were in Iowa at that time.  Some you may recognize and some you may not.

For instance, some may recognize this proverb found in Stout’s research card files – and students, whether you recognize it or not, should take note!:

“Early to bed, and early to rise, makes you healthy, wealthy and wise.”

As a graduate student at the University of Iowa, Stout did personal field work and also obtained the help of high school English teachers who had their students ask their parents and neighbors about the folklore, songs and stories they knew. Letters were sent to Iowa schools enlisting their help in collecting old songs, superstitions, proverbs, and other folklore which had been passed down through families. Letters were also sent to couples celebrating marriages of long standing, and Stout collected material from his family and acquaintances as well. Although the Great Depression ended this educational pursuit, Stout continued to study and write about Iowa folklore, including his book Folklore from Iowa (first published in 1936) .

The card files, one of which is pictured above, are a great resource to look through to find the variety of sayings Stout found in Iowa.  He carefully notes who gave him the saying, and where they are from, on each card.

Above is another proverb found in Stout’s card files.  He also included variations he came across.  The proverb above reads “Experience is a dear teacher but fools will learn the other way.”

The proverb on the card below merely reads “Experience is a wise teacher.”

In addition to the card files pictured above, there are many other sources for Iowa folklore found throughout Stout’s collection, including music and lyrics, one of which is pictured below.

The submissions are often accompanied by a letter from the submitter.  Below is the first page from the person who submitted the music shown above:

If you would like to see more of the Early Jonathan Stout Papers, take a look at the finding aid of his collection and visit us on the fourth floor of Parks Library.  However, please note that we will be closed to the public all day Wednesday, September 29th, 2010.  If you need to make special arrangements for viewing the collections, please contact us at, or 515-294-6648.

New Collection: Papers of an Iowa State Student, Marianne (Crow) Larsen, Now Available!

What was student life like here at ISU years ago?  Every once in awhile, the Special Collections Department will receive the papers of a former Iowa State student, and we recently received a small collection of papers of Marianne (Crow) Larsen.  Marianne attended Iowa State from 1949-1952, studied applied art in the Division of Home Economics, and was a member of the Science Women’s Club.  She later married a fellow high school and Iowa State student, Wesley Larsen.

Most of the materials in the collection are from her time here at Iowa State and include postcards, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, photographs, and dance cards.  The materials are a wonderful but small glimpse into what life may have been like as a female student here at Iowa State during the middle of the 20th century.  Some of the publications in the collection, such as the Freshman Handbook, are also available elsewhere in the University Archives, but were kept with the collection since they help reveal Crow’s interests and activities.

Iowa State dance cards

Included in the collection are two entire folders of dance cards – it is pretty clear that Marianne loved to dance!  The cards are small but wonderful keepsakes from the dances, and often include the name of the dance, orchestra, and invited guests (which often included the president of the university – which up until 1959 was Iowa State College).


First page of the dance card for the 1949 Homecoming dances

Included amongst the dance cards is one for Marianne’s first Iowa State homecoming dance in 1949, and probably one of her first dances at Iowa State.

The collection also includes cards and postcards written to Marianne from family and friends, including her future husband (Wesley Larsen).  The desk calendar in her collection, from 1951, contains brief entries on what she did throughout the year.  She often notes dances she will attend, and what she did with a friend named Bob.  He often walked her home, studied with her in the library, and went to dances and basketball games.  Marianne also often notes when it has been “terribly cold” in the weather report section at the top – something which current students and staff here, come January, will be able to relate to!  Amongst the clippings, fliers, handouts and cards in her scrapbooks are similar jottings of what she did and with whom.

Marianne graduated as Valedictorian from her high school class and wrote the farewell address, which is included in the collection.  In her farewell address, which she uses a theatrical theme, Marianne writes “With the arrival of new teachers we became acquainted with skilled artists in their respective fields.  Just as the amateur actor in a summer colony must learn everything from the bottom up, so must pupils learn everything that goes to make up this complex drama of life.”  Hopefully her time here at Iowa State both continued to inform her about the complexities of life and helped her navigate through it!

If you are interested in seeing what student life was like for Marianne Crow or other alumni, please take a look at her finding aid or the finding aids of other alumni in the University Archives.  If you find something of interest, come on up to the Special Collections Department and request the materials you would like to view.   Please note that not all of the alumni collections document student life here at ISU, although often they do to some extent.  If you would like us to help you navigate through the sometimes complex spectacle of the archives, please do not hesitate to ask for help!

New collection: Agricultural Machinery Product Literature

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Now online is the finding aid of a wonderful new collection of agricultural machinery product literature, the Lawrence H. Skromme Agricultural Machinery Literature Collection (RS 21/7/227).  For anyone hoping for detailed instruction or owners manuals for using these implements, please beware!  The collection does not contain instruction manuals, but instead houses catalogs, advertisement cards, price lists, and other ephemera relating to agricultural implements and machinery.  The earliest item in the collection is from 1838 and the latest from 1999, although the bulk of the collection is from the latter part of the 19th through the early 20th century.  The collection is a great addition to our other collections related to agriculture.


Buckeye Mower and Reaper catalog, 1874

At first glance, one may at first think that the product literature might only be useful for those interested in a particular agricultural implement, such as E. Ball and Company’s World’s Reaper and Tornado Thresher.  However, as I looked through the collection when it first came in, I was struck by the artwork and presentations on the catalogs’ covers.  In addition, the catalogs often contain descriptions of the company and its implements, how they can be used, and sometimes brief histories of the machinery.  The different ways the implements are promoted and advertised throughout the years can also be informative.  For instance, the 1864 catalog for F. Nishwitz’s Monitor Mower and Combined Mower and Reaper contains an extensive list of people who have bought the mower and reaper, and in comparison only a few pages on the item itself.  By 1868 this listing of buyers has disappeared from the catalog.

Adriance and Buckeye Harvesting Machinery catalog cover, 1896

It is also interesting to see how the agricultural implements are presented as the Industrial Revolution progresses.  For instance, the cover image of Adriance, Platt and Company’s Buckeye Mower and Reaper catalog from 1874 pictures an almost idyllic country scene of the horses pulling a farmer calmly along a road next to a wheat field.  The 1896 cover image is quite different.  The farmer is pictured in the middle of his field, stopping briefly while hard at work to wipe his forehead.  Pictured in the background is a shipyard and factories spewing smoke.  The Daniel Webster quote, “When tillage begins, other arts follow.  The farmer therefore is the founder of human civilization,” was placed near the farmer – alluding to the farmer’s important relationship with industry and trade.  Incidentally, the Grant Wood murals located in Parks Library use the Daniel Webster quote.

It is also interesting to note the different audiences some of the product literature is aiming at.  A few of the catalogs are probably for recent immigrants, several in German and Norwegian.  Another fun booklet is “The Oliver Alphabet” from 1889.  The booklet contains lovely decorated letters and illustrations.  Each alphabet’s page describes and promotes an aspect of Oliver Chilled Plow Works, and the text is often in verse.  Was this the company’s way of endearing itself to children, who would one day grow up and faithfully buy Oliver Chilled Plow Works’ plows and other agricultural implements?  The opening page makes it clear the booklet is for both adults and children, for “…Children oft speak unaware / Wise things they scarcely comprehend / And you may find a goodly share / Of wisdom here my worthy friend.”

I’ll end the description here with an advertisement card used by the wagon manufacturing firm of Austen, Tomlinson & Webster Manufacturing Company for their Jackson Wagons.  Both the front and back of the card (which, again, is in verse) seems to imply the changing times and modes of transportation.  I especially like the image of the family in the horse-drawn wagon trying desperately to outrace the oncoming train.  The end of the poem on the other side reads:

. . .

But tastes will change as years go by,

So pass the brimful flagon,

With “Here’s a Health” to all who sell,

“The Good Old Jackson Wagon.”

Even though the company itself saw the end of the horse-drawn wagon, a small part of the Jackson Wagon’s history is preserved here in this new collection, as well as the history and changes of other agricultural implements.

The product literature collection was put together by an ISU alum, Lawrence Skromme.  Skromme graduated with a B.S. (1937) in agricultural engineering from Iowa State College (now University).  After receiving his degree, Skromme began his long and productive career in the agricultural implement manufacturing industry.  During his career, Skromme worked as an engineer at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.,  Harry Ferguson Inc.,  Sperry-New Holland and, finally, New Holland.

For a related collection here in the department, please see the Agricultural Machinery Product Literature Collection (MS-232).