“The Development of the Modern Steer” #TBT

My fellow former 4-Hers and FFAers who showed cattle may appreciate this one. Over the years, the preferred traits of show cattle have changed quite a bit, as this photo illustrates. This photo shows examples of preferences in show steers (castrated male cattle) from 1878, 1900, and 1930. Of course, these preferences have changed since then. I remember looking at my father’s photos from his cattle showing days in the 1960s and noticing how short and stocky the steers were compared to those that I showed in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Show steer preferences in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 1930. University Photographs, RS 9/11/N, Box 656

Show steer preferences in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 1930. University Photographs, RS 9/11/N, Box 656

If you look closely and read the signs in the background, you’ll notice that in 1878, the winning type was 5 years old (far older than today’s steers) and weighed 2600 lbs. In 1900, the winning type was 3 years old and weighed what I think is 2100 lbs (it’s difficult to read). 1930 was much closer to today’s standards with 1 year, 7 months old and 1170 lbs.

For additional photos of show animals and much, much more, stop in sometime!


The Archives — Satisfy your Curiosity

Today’s blog post was authored by Margaret Weber. Margaret is PhD candidate for the Department of History at Iowa State University.

Margaret Weber talking about her experiences in the archives with HIST 195 students in the Special Collections & University Archives classroom in 405 Parks during their class visit to the archives in Spring 2015

Margaret Weber talking about her experiences in the archives with HIST 195 students during their visit to SCUA in Spring 2016 (photograph by Rachel Seale)

Why go to the archives? This is a question that has been asked of me a lot, especially by my students. I have often witnessed many Iowa State students pass the Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA) on the fourth floor of the library.  A few brave souls venture in. Some spare a quick glance at the glass exhibit case and closed door. Most though pass by without another thought. What exactly is behind that closed door? And perhaps more importantly, what can the Iowa State archives offer to its students, faculty, staff, and the public at large? The answer…a place to satisfy your curiosity. For behind that closed door is a gateway to documents and artifacts that magnify our past and help us understand the present.


In a world of digitization and computer screens, what value is there in a stuffy place where old documents exist? Can’t the answer just be found online? Despite many advancements in digital collections in the past several years, those online documents pale in comparison to the type and variation offered at Special Collections across the country, including Iowa State’s. Lots of one of a kind videos, books, pictures, scrapbooks, artifacts, and other archival material can only be found here. There is something special about holding a document in your hands, seeing the text itself. It is a chance to truly get a feel for the quantities of our collective past. To use those documents to create a narrative of your own.


Nowhere else on campus offers such an in-depth look into the university’s history and life. Want to find out what university life was like in the roaring 1920s? Go to the archives to look at dance cards and homecoming pictures. Was there student unrest in the 1960s? Find the answer in the archives by reading through the Daily’s opinion section. Want to locate your grandfather’s or grandmother’s master thesis? It’s here in the archives, along with all of the other theses and dissertations. From the Manhattan Project to Morrill Act, there is lots explore on the fourth floor.

Woman conducting research in the Special Collections & University Archives reading room in the Parks Library.

Margaret Weber conducting research in the SCUA reading room this fall (photograph by Petrina Jackson)

But it is not just Iowa State history documented here. The library’s archives also hold vast collections on technological and scientific advancements, developments in agriculture, political history, and much more. In my own personal research on agriculture in the postwar period, the various non-ISU manuscript collections have proven to be invaluable. Very few other archives cover such a wide range of rural life and the development of America’s food system. All archives, including Iowa State’s, play an important role in preserving pieces of our history.


And finally, while the university is a place to ask questions, its archives represents an opportunity to formulate your own answers. One of the greatest things about academic life is the expansion of the mind, the ability to ask questions, and find possible solutions. Curiosity is the fuel on the fire of learning. And the archives, like its classrooms, computer labs, and scientific laboratories, are just another resource for students to use to satisfy that inquisitiveness.

Chemistry Lab: Where Everybody Knows Your Name #TBT

Bowler hats, handlebar mustaches, lovely updos, and glass bottles – aside from the fact that this photo is not in a bar, it could fit right in with the other photos in the introduction to 1980s TV show Cheers.

Students in a chemistry laboratory, circa 1892. University Photographs, RS 13/6/F, Box 1052.

Students in a chemistry laboratory, circa 1892. University Photographs, RS 13/6/F, Box 1052.

Like the theme song (and this post’s title) suggest, this chemistry lab was small enough that everybody in the class probably did know everybody else’s names. Chemistry has been a part of the Iowa State curriculum since the beginning. The department was established in 1871. Originally taught in Old Main, chemistry courses were taught in the Chemical and Physical Laboratory from 1871 until 1913, when it was destroyed by fire. So, the lab in the photo above no longer exists (and would most likely not be up to current standards anyway). It was located at what is now the south end of Pearson Hall, across from Beardshear Hall (formerly the location of Old Main).

More information on the old Chemical and Physical Laboratory can be found here. Stop by and see some more photos from the early days of chemistry at Iowa State, along with many other departments. We’re always glad you came!

Gloria Steinem’s 1984 visit to ISU #TBT @iowastatedaily @GloriaSteinem

When reading the Iowa State Daily today I was pleased to see an article on Pat Miller and her role in building the ISU Lectures Program. It is a vibrant program and has had as many as 177 lectures in a year. The article mentions Gloria Steinem‘s participation in the ISU Lectures Program. I thought it would be fun to share an article about Gloria Steinem’s first lecture from the Bomb, the Iowa State University yearbook printed from 1894-1994. If you didn’t catch her previous lectures, you are in luck! Gloria Steinem is returning to campus, on October 11.

Pages 92-93 of the 1985 Bomb. The white string vertically crossing page 93 is  a weight. We use weights to gently hold down pages without putting undue pressure on the spine of our books. The pages describe Women's Week '84 at ISU, pictured are Gloria Steinem at her "Everyday Rebellions" lecture, people protesting Steinem's lecture, and the prediction run.

Pages 92-93 of the 1985 Bomb. The white string vertically crossing page 93 is  a weight. We use weights to gently hold down pages without putting undue pressure on the spine of our books. The pages describe Women’s Week ’84 at ISU, pictured are Gloria Steinem at her “Everyday Rebellions” lecture, people protesting Steinem’s lecture, and the prediction run.

Drop by the Reading Room to check out the Bomb! We’re open Monday – Friday from 9-5. You can also view all of the Bombs online, thanks to Digital Initiatives!


#Flashback Friday – Cycles vs. Spartans @CycloneATH @isualum

Tomorrow the Cyclones play the Spartans for the 4th time.

The first game between the two teams was in 1958 and the last game was in 1980. Check out the series information from our 2008 ISU Football Media Guide.

Series record for San Jose State from 2008 ISU Football Media Guide: 3 games, Series record 3-0-0, at Jack Trice Stadium ISU leads 1-0-0; at San Jose State ISU leads 1-0-0, 1958 away game ISU won 9-6, 1959 home game ISU won 55-0, and 1980 home game, ISU won 27-6.

Series record for San Jose State from 2008 ISU Football Media Guide (RS 24/6/0/6 box 5, folder 6)


Here’s an article about the 1959 game from the 1959 Bomb:

Cropped page from the 1959 Bomb, ISU Yearbook, describes ISU & San Jose State game. ISU won 9 to 6. "Coach Clay Stapletons players wrote the final chapter to their season by taking control in the second half, coming from behind and defeating the San Jose Spartans, 9-6. Bob Harden, playing the last game of his collegiate career, led the attack by totaling 70 yards in an early third quarter drive. Cliff Ricks conversion gave the Cyclones a one-point lead. The Iowa State fury exploded before the California crowd of 11,000; and a Spartan fumble in Iowa States end zone, recovered by the Cyclone score. Moe Nichols and Bob Harden accounted for 145 and 118 yards respectively, which the Cyclones gained on the ground while reducing the passing average per game for the Spartans from 183 to yr yards. Photogrpah caption: "And Going in for the Cycylones ... But wait! A new rule, enforcing a two-substitutions-per-quarter-per-man rule, required players to sign in with officials before entering the game."

Cropped page 382 from the 1959 Bomb, ISU Yearbook, summarizing the Iowa State San Jose State game.


Drop by the SCUA Reading Room to dig up more football facts & trivia. We’re open Monday-Friday, from 9-5.

Go Cyclones!

Artifacts in the Archives – Our Favorite Artifacts

Today’s post introduces a new blog series here in Special Collections and University Archives— Artifacts in the Archives. These will be a series of posts that include staff picks for different artifacts. This week’s post lists some of our favorites.

The Death Mask

Death Mask of Margaret Stanton

Death Mask of Margaret Stanton (Artifact 2001-R130)

From Whitney Olthoff, Project Archivist

I might get judged for this, but… I have to go with Margaret Stanton’s death mask. It’s creepy, it’s a bit macabre, and it’s a fascinating artifact. It’s a piece of Victorian history –  this was just one of many kinds of memento mori (items created to remember the dead) that were a popular custom in that era. From my understanding, death masks were never typical in the Midwest, so it’s especially interesting that this one was made here and that we have one at all.

From Becky Jordan, Reference Specialist

My favorite artifact is Margaret MacDonald Stanton’s death mask.  It gives us an opportunity to talk about two people who were here in the early days of the college, and who contributed to keeping the fledgling institution on the right track.  Edgar was the first student to receive a diploma at Iowa State.  He devoted his life to Iowa State, and was a member of the faculty until the day he died.  His memorial to Margaret has become a major symbol of the university.

Because Margaret Hall, the first dormitory specifically for women, was named for Margaret Stanton, we can also talk about early student life, and the changes on Central Campus over the years.  And there is the general creepiness factor, which can work into a discussion of past rituals surrounding death and mourning.


Thacher’s Calculating Instrument

Cylindrical slide rule or Thacher's Calculating Instrument

Cylindrical slide rule or Thacher’s Calculating Instrument (Artifact 2009-R004)

From Chris Anderson, Project Archivist

It’s fascinating how the math we now do digitally can be done mechanically. These are such ingenious devices. So much mileage out of a couple of interacting cylinders in a wooden frame. And of course, it’s cool looking!

From Brad Kuennen, University Archivist

My favorite artifact is the cylindrical slide rule (2009-R004). When most people think of slide rules, which I know doesn’t happen often anymore, it conjures up images of flat ruler-sized devices carried around in the pockets of 1950s college students. This cylindrical slide rule is definitely not pocket-sized! At 24 inches long and nearly 5 inches in diameter, I can’t imagine students toting one of these around campus all day. In this day of computers and smartphones we take for granted how much time and sweat was involved in solving complex equations 100 years ago. This device reduced the amount of hand calculations required to solve some of these difficult mathematical problems. The cylindrical slide rule is now a relic of the past, however I still find it fascinating to look at and wonder about its workings. Maybe someday I’ll actually take the time to learn how to use it. And by that I mean typing “cylindrical slide rule” into YouTube to see if there is a video that someone else has posted.


Land-features Globe of Mars

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From Matt Schuler, Library Assistant II

I like it because it’s a map and it’s not something you would typically expect to see represented on a globe.  It would be something I’d love to have on display in my house if it wasn’t here.


Oliphant P. Stuckslager’s Hammer


artifact Oliphant P. Stuckslager’s Hammer, a Stuckslager hammer

Oliphant P. Stuckslager’s Hammer (Artifact 2001-R142.004)

From Laura Sullivan, Collections Archivist

For this post, I’m going to say that my favorite artifact is the Stuckslager hammer.  The hammer was used to construct one of the first buildings here on campus, Old Main.  We have just enough information on the hammer to give a person enough to start imagining all the activities, people, and sites the hammer saw during its lifetime – helping to bring me that much closer to the hustle and bustle which must have been part of the construction of the main building for the State Agricultural College and Model Farm (now Iowa State).

It’s seemingly a regular, common, everyday hammer of today, in look, feel, size and weight – which makes viewing the hammer both familiar and disconcerting.  This particular hammer came to Ames in 1868, brought by Oliphant P. Stuckslager with the specific purpose to help build Old Main.  We even know where Stuckslager and his family lived in Ames – further helping me to go back in time and imagine the life and times of the hammer during its quite active career, which is said to have continued until the death of its owner in 1908.  We know as much information as we do about the hammer in part thanks to a senior research project done on the hammer.  A summary of the student’s findings can be found on an earlier blog post.

The Laundry  Mailer

From Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist

I like the laundry mailer because it reminds me of when I was an undergraduate. Every weekend I returned home and my dad would do my laundry. Once I got my laundry done before I came home and he was disappointed! It’s also my favorite artifact because it reminds me that life was so different not too long ago. For one, students could fit an entire week’s worth of laundry into the mailer. It’s not very large. It is smaller than most carry-on luggage pieces today. I can’t imagine fitting a week’s worth of clothes in the mailer in the winter. I may be able to swing it for the summer, though, it would be a tight fit and it’s likely I’d have to wear some shorts or skirts more than once during the week. Students back then probably didn’t have a change of clothes for every day of the week. Also, I would guess that mostly mothers did the laundry. More research on the details of ISU students’ use of the laundry mailers needs to be done. Did both men and women use the laundry mailers, or did the women have laundry facilities in their dormitories? What years were the mailers in use here on campus?

Below are some links to additional information about the laundry mailer, shared with me by Becky Jordan:

Dance Card from Alpha Kappa Delta Dance

Dance card, a volvelle

Dance card (Artifact #1999-103.29)

From Amy Bishop, Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist

I love dance cards because they are one of those elements from the past that have completely fallen by the wayside. I am a dancer, and I would love to go to a dance and fill up a dance card with my partners’ names. This particular one is my favorite, because it is so inventive and fun. Most dance cards are little booklets, but this one is a wheel with a little paper inside where you write your partners’ names that you can view through a little window. You turn the inside paper to reveal the different names. It works like a star chart. To use a fancy term, it is a volvelle. It is from an Alpha Kappa Delta dance, but there is no indication of the year. It is part of a collection of dance cards from Clarice Johnson Van Zante given to the department as a donation in 1999. Clarice was an ISU alum who attended in the 1920s, majoring in home economics. Later she worked as a school teacher in Ottumwa. The dance card is currently part of a mini-exhibit in the Special Collections reading room called “‘I’ll Pencil You In’: Dances and Dance Cards at Iowa State.”

The Rice Krispies Treat

From Petrina Jackson, Head of SCUA

You are probably wondering why Special Collections and University Archives keeps a Rice Krispies Treat for posterity. It is a good question since it is unusual for repositories to keep food products as collection material. However, this is not just any Rice Krispies Treat. It is a piece of the world record-holding, largest Rice Krispies Treat, weighing in at 2,480 pounds. Members of the Iowa State community created the sweet, sticky snack during VEISHEA 2001 to celebrate the university theme “Strengthening Families to Become the Best,” co-sponsored by the College of Family and Consumer Science (now the College of Human Sciences). The record-holding treat was also made in honor of Mildred Day, a 1928 ISU graduate of home economics, who “was a member of the Kellogg Company team that developed the Rice Krispies Treat recipe in the 1940s.”


#TBT WWI Military Band

Iowa State has had a military presence on campus since 1870. During World War I, soldiers were trained for the military here, often as auto mechanics, blacksmiths, or machinists. In addition, there was military band. The photo below shows the U.S. Army Training Detachment Military Band, 2nd set (Iowa) in July of 1918.

Military band, 1918. University Photographs, Box 1106

Military band, 1918. University Photographs, Box 1106

What do you notice about this photo? The instruments? The uniforms? The faces? My personal favorite part is this:


I’m not sure which I love more, the dog or the facial expression of the man holding the dog. I’m not sure if he’s smug or amused (or both), but it seems like an appropriate look for someone holding the only dog in the photo. Also, why is there a dog in a photo of a military band? Whatever the reason, it makes this one of my favorite photos in our archives.

If you’re interested in military history at ISU, stop in or contact us to have a look at the Department of Military Science Subject Files, or any of our other ISU military collections!

Go Cyclones! #TBT @CycloneATH

Since this Saturday is the ISU football game against University of Iowa,  this week’s #TBT picture is a photograph of the ISU varsity football team 100 years ago.  Go Cyclones!

Iowa State varsity football team. In the background are State Gym, Marston Water Tower, and engineering buildings, 1916, taken by D.A. Davis.

Iowa State varsity football team. In the background are State Gym, Marston Water Tower, and engineering buildings, 1916, taken by D.A. Davis (University Photographs RS 24-6)


For more football pictures from Special Collections & University Archives, check out our Football album on Flickr and our YouTube playlist of ISU Athletics films.

You can also drop by our reading room. We’re on the 4th floor of the Parks Library and open from 9-5, Monday-Friday.

Notable Women of ISU: Mary B. Welch

Welch is a name with strong ties to Iowa State University. Welch Avenue is a well-known street in Campustown, and Welch Hall is a residence hall on campus. The former was likely named after ISU’s first president, Adonijah Welch, but the latter is named for his wife, Mary Beaumont Welch. Mrs. Welch is not known merely as the president’s wife, but rather as a pioneer in home economics education.

Portrait of Mary B. Welch, [date]. University Photographs, Box [#]

Portrait of Mary B. Welch, undated. University Photographs, Box 50

Mary B. Welch was born in 1841 in Lyons, New York. After the death of her first husband, George Dudley, she met and married Adonijah Welch in 1868. Shortly after, the Welches moved to Ames, Iowa, so that he could serve as Iowa State University’s (then the Iowa Agricultural College) first president. Mrs. Welch attended various institutions to prepare for her time as a domestic science instructor at Iowa State. These included Elmira Seminary in New York, the New York School of Cooking, and The National Training School for Cookery in South Kensington, London. Of her time in London, she had this to say:

“Many amusing incidents of that London experience might be told. The only object of the school there was to train cooks for service. It was incomprehensible to the English mind that a woman, apparently a lady, whose husband was, as my letters of introduction proved, at the head of an important institution of learning, should be anxious either to learn or to teach cooking. The question was often asked me what family I was engaged to work for when I received my certificate.” ~ The Alumnus, Vol. 18, No. 5 (reproduced from an earlier issue)

Photo published in The Alumnus, Vol. 8, No. 5, 1923. RS 12/3/11, Box 1, Folder 1

Photo published in The Alumnus, Vol. 8, No. 5, 1923. RS 12/3/11, Box 1, Folder 1

All of this experience in addition to self-study and other life experience played into her teaching. Mrs. Welch organized and became head of the Department of Domestic Economy in 1875, one of the first such programs in the nation. She developed a curriculum around the properties of chemistry, botany, physiology, geology, and physics that applied to domestic science.

In 1881, Mrs. Welch expanded her teaching to outside of Iowa State and taught a class to women in Des Moines. This is considered the first extension work in home economics at a land grant institution. In addition to teaching, Mrs. Welch wrote a cookbook titled Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook, along with writings that appeared in various periodicals.

Cover of Mrs. Welch's Cookbook, 1884. TX715.W441.1884

Cover of Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook, 1884. TX715.W441

After her resignation in 1883, Mrs. Welch continued to lecture to various clubs, colleges, and the YWCA. She passed away in 1923 at her home in California, leaving behind a legacy that continues today within the College of Human Sciences. In 1992, she was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.

More information on Mary B. Welch can be found in her collection in the University Archives, and some items from that collection can be found in Digital Collections.

#TBT Art Class @ISUDesign

Students practice their skills in a drawing class, 1934. University Photographs, box #.

Students practice their skills in a drawing class, 1934. University Photographs, box 2081.


Although the College of Design at Iowa State is relatively young (est. 1979), art classes existed on campus long before that. This photo from 1934 illustrates – so to speak – just that. More information on art and design at ISU can be found in the College of Design collections, and additional photographs can be found in University Photographs, RS 26. Come in and have a look!