Iowa State University at the Iowa State Fair

During the next two weeks, hundreds of thousands of people will converge on Des Moines for the annual spectacle that is the Iowa State Fair. As usual, there will be all kinds of activities and exhibits at the fair, but the main attraction continues to be Iowa’s agricultural enterprises. Considering the prominence of agriculture at the fair, it probably comes as no surprise that Iowa State University has been participating in the State Fair for well over a century–back when the school was known as the Iowa Agricultural College.

State fair display, 1924

This image shows part of the Iowa State College exhibit at the state fair from 1924. (Iowa State Fair scrapbook, RS 0/10/4, Box 1)

In a written account of the 38th annual state fair held in 1891, the exhibit presented by the Iowa Agricultural College highlighted the three departments of entomology, botany, and civil engineering. The purpose of the exhibit was to:

“…acquaint the public with their friends and foes of field and garden, the best methods of preserving and destroying them, the noxious weeds and various diseases of plants, with methods of treatment, and to illustrate some of the work pursued in the college curriculum.” Annual Report of the Board of Directors, Iowa State Agricultural Society, 1891.

Even though members of the college saw the state fair as an opportunity to educate the citizenry about important research going on at the school, it was also clear that they recognized the benefits of advertising at the fair.

Annual Report of the Iowa State Agricutural Society, 1891

Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Iowa State Agriculture Society, 1891. Starting at the bottom of page 140 is the description of the Iowa Agricultural College exhibit.

By the 1920s, Iowa State’s presence at the fair had expanded greatly. Many departments, even those outside of the field of agriculture, were highlighted in the exhibits. Photographs from that era show exhibits sponsored by engineering, home economics, as well as the traditional agriculture programs. One portion of the 1924 exhibit featured a chemical engineering exhibit next to a promotion for a young college radio service called WOI. In 1930, Iowa State’s exhibit included a display from the women’s physical education program featuring two young women demonstrating ping pong on a rather undersized table–at least by today’s standards. You never know what you will see at the fair!

Iowa Stae College exhibit at the 1930 Iowa State Fair

Iowa State College exhibit at the 1930 Iowa State Fair featuring the Women’s Physical Education program. (Iowa State Fair scrapbook, RS 0/10/4, Box 1)

Over the years, the University’s state fair exhibits became more professional-looking and more elaborate. By the 1990s, the Office of University Marketing took charge of planning Iowa State’s exhibit at the fair. University Marketing staff determine a theme for each year’s exhibit emphasizing different aspects of the University. Sadly, visitors are not likely to see college students giving demonstrations as happened in the past, but they are sure to run into the friendly faces of ISU employees, faculty, alumni, and friends that staff the exhibit.

2005 Iowa State University state fair exhibit featuring Reiman Gardens

This image shows part of the Iowa State University state fair exhibit in 2005. This exhibit featured Reiman Gardens. (University Relations images, digital files for the State Fair)

Just as it was in 1891, the Iowa State Fair is still a great opportunity for the University to advertise itself and to share at least part of the story of Iowa State with the tens of thousands of people from around the country that stop by the exhibit. So when you visit the Varied Industries Building to pick up ISU athletics posters and temporary tattoos at this year’s ISU exhibit, take some time to read and learn about some of the great things currently going on at the University. And, of course, if you are more interested in seeing images of the ISU state fair exhibit from years past, stop by Special Collections and University Archives. We would love to see you!


#TBT Registration

7-2-E_Registration 1946_box449

Registration 1946, University Photos box 449

Check out how Iowa State students registered in 1946.  Looks a lot different than signing up on your laptop from the comfort of your apartment or dorm room!

To see more about student life throughout Iowa State’s history, stop by the archives from 9-5, Monday-Friday or check out our digitized collection of the Bomb, the ISU yearbook.

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#TBT Forty-year-old Fashions

In the 1977 Bomb there are local advertisements scattered throughout the yearbook. Here’s a fun advertisement from what I believe is a clothing store.

Here’s a page from our 1977 Bomb advertising women’s clothes from a store called Bobby Rogers.

 

Drop by and peruse our yearbooks! We’re open 9-5 Monday -Friday. Or, you can view The Bomb online. All of our yearbooks have been digitized and are available online at the following link: http://digitalcollections.lib.iastate.edu/bombs.

 


History of the Library, Pt. 3

This is the third in a series of posts about the history of the library at Iowa State.  Want to catch up? Read the first and second posts!

The library has been through many expansions through the 20th century to meet the demands of a growing student population. Iowa State had a new library in 1925, but as quickly as 1930 the collection was too large for the bookshelf space. In 1940, an off-site storage facility was built to handle some of the overflow that had been stored in the Memorial Union and the Engineering Exhibit Hall.

Lois_Johnson_Smith_1948

Lois Johnson Smith checks a request for books, University photos, box 2046

While the collection already exceeded the size of the library, there were other pressures put on the library space starting in the mid-century. The university experienced a great period of growth after WWII due to the GI Bill and the Cold War, when the government was eager to fund the scientific research done at Iowa State.  This period of growth was exacerbated by the incoming Baby Boom students.  All of these factors put great pressure on the amount of study space in the library.

To address these issues, the first expansion opened in 1961. The new addition had 5 floors and added 52,000 square feet. One big innovation for this addition was open stacks, allowing students to browse the shelves and pick out books themselves. A glass rotunda was built for the new entrance on the south side of the building complete with staffed circulation desk to make sure materials did not make their way out of the library without being checked out.

1961LibraryEntrance

Students check out materials by the new South entrance, 1961, University photographs, box 147

Even brand new, the expanded library could only accommodate 75% of the 520,000 volume collection and did not contain the amount of study space recommended for the size of the student population. Tellingly, even as they were building the addition, it was referred to as the “First Addition”, which brings us, inevitably, to the Second Addition.

This addition was started in 1967 and completed in 1969. This expansion more than doubled the space for storing books and for users to work.*

In the 1969/70 school year, the library offered 7 courses. There were 4 undergraduate courses, each designed for students in different areas of study: home economics, sciences and humanities, engineering, and agriculture. Additionally, there were 3 courses, each aimed at different groups of graduate students.

Library_staff_1960

Library staff, 1960, University photos, box 2043

Be sure to follow the blog to see the library further expand and get a name!

*Post written with the help of “A Short History of the Iowa State University Library 1858-2007” by Kevin D. Hill.


Did you know…? #Friday Facts

Did you know that a student group called the “Six Foot Club” once existed at Iowa State University with a requirement that members be at least six feet tall? The group counted ISU President Albert Boynton Storms (pictured below) as a member.

Portrait of Albert Boynton Storms (University Photographs RS 2/6).

Drop by the Reading Room to discover other interesting facts about Iowa State University. We’re open Monday-Friday from 9-5.


Back to the 1960s – The Story of Don Smith

Several months ago I reached into the archives and pulled out an address from 1967 by President W. Robert Parks that emphasized the importance of practicing tolerance on the university campus. Across the country, the late-1960s was a period of significant generational change and Iowa State was not immune to these events. Interestingly, the address by Parks was prompted by an unlikely event–the ISU student government election of 1967. 

News article announing Smiths and Lifkas intentions to run for GSB office

Don Smith and Mary Lou Lifka announce they are entering the Government of the Student Body election. This article appeared in the April 20, 1967, issue of the Iowa State Daily. (W. Robert Parks papers, RS 2/11, box 35, folder 8)

Donald R. Smith, often described in the papers as a member of the New Left (and often called far worse things by editorial letter writers), was elected president of the student body alongside running mate Mary Lou Lifka. Their platform included the elimination of university oversight into the private lives of students and the formation of a student federation to oppose high rents in Ames. Smith strayed from the image of the typical college student that was normally elected student body president at Iowa State: he was bearded with long shaggy hair, he rarely wore socks let alone a suit and a tie, and he didn’t much care for rules. In fact it was the elimination of rules that he was most passionate about, including eliminating student curfews, loosening campus drinking policies, and essentially getting rid of any campus policies that affected students when they were outside the classroom. He supported ending the war in Vietnam, legalization of marijuana, and access to contraceptives.

Smith stated one of his goals was to bring the University “kicking and screaming into the 20th century.” It seems he felt his main opposition would come from the administration, as they were largely the rule-enforcing body. In large part the administration remained silent, even though Smith’s election made headlines from New York to San Francisco. President Parks remained remarkably quiet on the issue considering he was receiving numerous letters from irate citizens and legislators who worried Iowa State was becoming the “Berkeley of the Midwest.”

Newspaper photo of Don Smith hung in effigy on the steps of Beardshear Hall in 1967

This image of Don Smith hung in effigy on the steps of Beardshear Hall appeared in the April 8, 1967 issue of the Iowa State Daily (W. Robert Parks papers, RS 2/11, box 35, folder 8)

Perhaps what Smith didn’t realize was the level of resistance he would receive from his fellow students. Just weeks into his presidency the Iowa State Daily published an article claiming that Smith had attended a party in which marijuana was consumed. When Smith admitted that he had indeed smoked pot on numerous occasions, calls for his impeachment started to build momentum. Smith resigned before the student senate was to vote on his impeachment and withdrew from Iowa State shortly thereafter. His tenure lasted all of 40 days. 

Don Smith’s resignation letter, April 1967. (Government of the Student Body records, RS 22/1/3, box 2, folder 24)

Don Smith did return to Iowa State the following year to finish his mechanical engineering degree. However, just his formal request to re-enroll at Iowa State caused more headlines. Smith obtained graduate degrees from the University of Iowa and eventually moved to California where he became a very successful wind energy consultant and engineer. Donald R. Smith passed away in 2010, but he was welcomed back to the Iowa State campus on several occasions before his death to talk about his experience during those tumultuous years.

For his part, President Parks tried to let the students work out who they were going to have represent them. After Smith resigned, President Parks did assert that the University would continue to maintain rules governing student conduct outside of the classroom, but emphasized that administration was willing to listen and work with students to update student conduct rules.

If you would like to dive into the life of Donald R. Smith a little more there are several collections worth looking into. Materials from the papers of former President Parks and the records of the Government of the Student Body are cited above. The archives also holds files on former students and alumni (collection RS 21/7/1), largely composed of news clippings. The file on Don Smith contains a significant number of articles during his college years, but also after his graduation and up until his death. Clearly, Don Smith left an impression on the people of central Iowa.  

 

 


Spotlight on the Presidents’ Papers – James H. Hilton Papers

James H. Hilton (University Photographs, box 59).

James Hilton was the president of Iowa State from 1953-1965. He is also the only ISU president who was also ISU alum. I have used his papers in several primary source instruction classes and workshops. During Hilton’s tenure as president, the university grew immensely. As a result, his papers contain interesting materials that I like to include in in my instruction sessions. His collection, spanning from 1938-1982, contains:

biographical information, addresses and speeches, Board of Regents’ materials, correspondence, minutes, and printed materials.  The records document the programmatic relationship of Iowa State with the other Regents’ Universities, student activities such as military participation, and agricultural research and other projects undertaken by the various Colleges within the University.  Also included is information regarding Iowa State’s participation in national academic organizations, such as the Association of Land-Grant Colleges (James H. Hilton Papers, RS 2/10).

Below is a postcard written to James Hilton after the students rioted after Homecoming in 1953.

The documents below are in a folder titled “Civil Defense” and include information on surviving a nuclear attack. There are other materials in the Hilton Papers that document how the Cold War affected Iowa State University.

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If you are interested in conducting research, drop by and see us. We’re in room 403 Parks and open Monday-Friday from 9-5.



#TBT Jalap, the Horse of Horses

Jalap_prizewinning_Percheron_stallion_1919

Meet Jalap, a Percheron stallion who was purchased for Iowa State College in 1915.  Jalap was nationally successful in livestock shows.  According to the Iowa State College Alumnus in 1930, just one year before his death at the age of 21, he was “given the rating of the second best living Percheron sire.” He was once described as “the proudest horse in horsedom” in The Iowa Agriculturalist (1927, Vol. 27, No. 10).

It was hotly debated whether Jalap was the horse in the picture Dignity and Impertinence; but most evidence leans toward that being a different draft horse.

To learn more about Jalap, including an “interview” with the famous horse, request RS 9/11/1 box 1 at the Special Collections and University Archives.


Howard P. Johnson donates World War II letters

As the University Archivist, I frequently hear from loyal Iowa Staters from across the country who inquire about donating materials to the University Archives. Often people are trying to find an appreciative home for some Iowa State memorabilia or seeing if there is any interest in a future donation of materials. This past fall I received a call from an Iowa State alum and former ISU professor regarding a small collection of materials in his possession that he was ready to part with.

Portrait of Howard P. Johnson in his military uniform, 1943

Howard P. Johnson, 1943 (Box 8, Folder 95 of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

Howard P. Johnson, three-time graduate of Iowa State University (we were just a College at the time he received his degrees) and former Professor and Head of ISU’s Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department, was contacting me regarding some World War II letters that he had. Dr. Johnson explained that he grew up on a farm near Odebolt, Iowa, and in 1943 was inducted into the military like many young men at that time. He served as a technician in the 69th Infantry Division and entered the war in Europe at the end of the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945. All during his military training and his service in Europe, young Pfc. Johnson wrote to his family back home in western Iowa–often several times a week–and his family wrote back. Howard would describe his daily routine, the duties he was assigned during training, and his experiences in Europe. His parents and siblings would respond with stories of family and community events, activities on the farm, and, of course, the weather.

Letter from Howard Johnson to his folks, June 12, 1944.

Letter from Johnson to his parents dated June 12, 1944. In this letter he writes home about some of his training experiences in Mississippi–including accidentally sleeping through a first aid training session. (Box 7, Folder 51 of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

As Dr. Johnson was explaining this to me over the phone, he questioned whether anyone would be interested in this collection of letters–nearly 400 in total. Although I recognized that these letters would not hold the same meaning to others as they do to him, I assured Dr. Johnson that people will certainly be interested in reading these letters for generations to come.

Letter from Howard P. Johnson, May 20, 1945

This note, written on a piece of birch bark that Johnson found near his encampment on May 20, 1945, provides a brief description of his location.  (Box 8, Folder 43, Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15)

It is not every day that I am privileged to speak with a World War II veteran, nor is it often that such a complete collection of letters with so many connections to Iowa State and rural life in Iowa are offered to the department, so I was thrilled to accept the donation. The Johnson family letters offer an intimate snapshot of one Iowa farm family’s experience during a major turning point in American history. Similar stories played out thousands of times across the state and the country, but relatively few of those stories are so well documented.

Today, as we mark the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings in France, it is important to reflect upon those men and women who bravely served in World War II. Some names, like Eisenhower and MacArthur, will forever be associated with  winning the war for the Allies. There are many more thousands of names, names like Howard P. Johnson, whose contributions are often overlooked. At least in this case his story will be preserved in the archives.

The Johnson family World War II letters are part of the Howard P. Johnson papers, RS 9/7/15, located in the Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives. The department is open to researchers from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday. Part of our mission is to preserve the history of Iowa State University and the stories of its faculty, staff, and alumni. If you have questions about whether we are the right home for your Iowa State story, give us a call, we would love to hear from you.