Posted by: Kim | October 20, 2015

CyPix: Late Night Get-together

[Eight home management students catch up on the events of the day.] (1953)(University Photographs box 946)

[Eight home management students catch up on the events of the day.] (1953)(University Photographs box 946)

The University Photographer added this to the back of the above photograph:

Every evening just about 10, you might see a gathering just like this in each of the four home management houses on the campus. For this is the time to get together to talk over the days happening and have an evening snack.  Left to right, seated, are Bonnie Rae Kundel, home economics education senior; Thelma Roos, home economics education, senior, Holland; Phyliis Sliron, textiles and clothing senior, Chicago; Marcia Wagner, home economics education senior, Muscatine; Lois Wilson, Child development senior, Beresford S.D.; and Ruth Littlefield, house advisor. Standing, Eleanor Peterson, household equipment senior, Eagle Grove, and Doris Follett, home economics senior, Nevada.

To learn more about home management houses at Iowa State, check out the collections we have in record group RS 12/5 (Department of Family Environment) and the Home Management House Program administrative files (RS 12/5/5). We’ve also posted previously on home management “house babies” and the establishment of Domestic Economy program.

Popped popcorn. By Paolo Neo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Popped popcorn. By Paolo Neo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

October is National Popcorn Poppin’ Month! Yes, popcorn popping has its own month. Every year around this time, popcorn is harvested, primarily in the Midwest. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio are the leading popcorn producing states. Popcorn is of course one of the most popular snack foods in America, with Americans consuming about 16 billion quarts (popped) per year – that’s about 52 quarts per person! With Iowa being a major producer of the stuff, it should be no surprise that we have records regarding the crop here at the ISU Special Collections and University Archives.

John C. Eldredge, undated. University Photographs, RS 9/9/E, Box 585.

John C. Eldredge, undated. University Photographs, RS 9/9/E, Box 585.

John Crosby Eldredge was an alumnus of Iowa State College (University) (Agronomy, 1915) and a faculty member here from 1921 until his retirement in 1960. He was an agronomist whose specialization was research and development of popcorn hybrids. He is best known for developing hybrids identified with the term “Iopop;” Iopop 6 was grown on about 25,000 acres across many states in 1955, and at the time almost all white popcorn produced was either Iopop 5 or Iopop 7, also developed by Eldredge. (Ames Daily Tribune clipping, RS 9/9/51, Box 2, Folder 11). His research included studying the effect storage conditions have on popping volume and moisture content of popcorn. In 1954, he received the Distinguished Service Award of the Popcorn Processors Association and was an honorary member of the Iowa Crop Improvement Association.

John C. Eldredge (left) being presented a weather instrument by Pete Oleson (right), President of the Popcorn Processors Association. Ames Daily Tribune, 1955. RS 9/9/51, Box 2, Folder 11.

John C. Eldredge (left) being presented a weather instrument by Pete Oleson (right), President of the Popcorn Processors Association. Ames Daily Tribune, 1955. RS 9/9/51, Box 2, Folder 11.

In the March 1949 issue of Iowa Farm Science, Eldredge wrote about the research being done to develop improved popcorn. He stated, “We’ve worked to combine several good qualities – flavor, high popping volume, strong stalks for better picking, high yields and disease resistance.” (Box 1, Folder 18). Iopop 5 was released in 1946, and in 1949 was “rapidly becoming the most widely grown hybrid of the Japanese hulless type in Iowa. It is a white popcorn with excellent plant and popping quality.” He judged white popcorn to be more tender and yellow popcorn to be more flavorful.

Want to know the best popcorn to grow in Iowa? Well, with further developments in hybridization in the last 65 years, it has quite possibly changed since Eldredge’s recommendation in the same article mentioned above from 1949. However, at that time he recommended Japanese Hulless (a white variety) and Yellow Pearl (as the name suggests, a yellow variety). For home growers who are okay with a low yield, Tom Thumb (“an unusual variety”) was recommended for its “extreme tenderness and good flavor.”

Unpopped popcorn. By Bill Ebbesen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Unpopped popcorn. By Bill Ebbesen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Once you grow your popcorn, how should it be stored? Here are some more 1949 recommendations: keep kernels at 14% moisture (best popping results occur at this level). This can be done by storing it outdoors in a corn crib or other shelter – according to Eldredge, a typical Iowa winter “will hold popcorn at about 14 percent moisture.” Artificial drying was also an option, but had to be done carefully. If dried too much, it won’t pop well, if dried too fast, the wet ears will come out too wet and the dry ears too dry. Once the popcorn is uniformly dry at 14%, storing it properly is also important. “For home storage the best method we know is to place the popcorn in airtight containers with cover on tight.” Just make sure to put the cover right back on – the corn can dry out too much within an hour or two if the lid is left off. Don’t worry too much, though! Too-dry popcorn can be moistened by setting it outside for awhile to “let the atmosphere correct the moisture content.” Another option is to put a tablespoon of water in a quart jar of popcorn and stir or shake well, then pour from one container to another to until the moisture is spread evenly – this will ensure more even popping.

Of course, today many of us just buy our popcorn in microwaveable bags, which is a pretty recent phenomenon – microwaveable popcorn bags weren’t invented until the early 1980s. Growing your own popcorn is still an option, though, and if you’re looking for more modern tips, here’s a starting point. For more information on John Crosby Eldredge and popcorn hybridization, come in and see the John Crosby Eldredge Papers, RS 9/9/51. As always, we’d love to see you!

Posted by: bishopae | October 13, 2015

CyPix: Did you say archives?

October is American Archives Month, when archivists around the country spread the word about how exciting, informative, even life-changing archives can be. The two images today are from past events when the Special Collections Department invited people to get a deeper view of what archives are all about.

This first image shows the Special Collections Open House from 1971, only two years after the department opened. Visitors are viewing archival documents in display cases.

Special Collections Open House, October 31, 1971. University Archives Photograph Collection box 2053.

Special Collections Open House, October 31, 1971. University Archives Photograph Collection Box 2053.

The second photo is a little more recent, the History Day event from 2001, where students came from area schools to get the behind-the-scenes tour of what goes on in Special Collections and learn how to do archival research.

Students examining documents from archival collection during the Special Collections History Day, February 22, 2001. University Archives Photograph Collection, box 2047

Students examining documents from archival collections during the Special Collections History Day, February 22, 2001. University Archives Photograph Collection Box 2047.

Wondering how to do archival research yourself? Please check out the new Archives Overview LibGuide created by our department’s Digital Archivist, Kim Anderson! It answers questions like, What are archives? How do I find archival collections? and, How do I care for my own archives?

As always, we would love to see you in our department. Stop by and see us!

Posted by: Kim | October 10, 2015

#ERecsDay 2015

Electronic Records Day logo

October 10th is Electronic Records Day – time to take stock of what we are doing to handle our digital records and time to figure out what help we need to do so.

Electronic records can become unreadable very quickly. While records on paper have been read after thousands of years, digital files can be virtually inaccessible after just a few. – Council of State Archivists, “10 Reasons for E-Records” (2015).

This #ERecsDay you can take a step towards helping your own digital photographs survive into the future – make sure you describe them. Adding tags or other description is a simple step that will help people in the future identify what’s in each file.

For more on personal digital archiving, check out last year’s post on Electronic Records Day 2014.

Posted by: andrewfackler | October 9, 2015

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.

Posted by: Whitney | October 6, 2015

CyPix: Call the Fire Brigade!

This week is Fire Prevention Week. On campus, we have had a few fires over the years, most famously those of Old Main (yes, there was more than one fire in that building). After the first fire in 1900, it was repaired. However, a second fire struck in 1902 that completely destroyed the building. Beardshear Hall was built in Old Main’s place in 1908, and remains there to this day. The photo below shows Old Main on fire in 1900.

Old Main on fire, 1900. [insert collection #]

Old Main on fire, 1900. University Photographs, RS 4/8/I

The circular marks on the photo look to be water damage-related, but I like this version of the photo (there is another in our collections) because not only is the writing much more readable, but the shadowy image of a man in a hat is much more visible here. Most likely it’s a man looking on and the light from the fire created the strange appearance in the photo, but of course my first thought was “ghost.” The most important feature of the image, of course, is the blaze that destroyed the north wing of Old Main. After the building was completed, it was discovered that the building plans contained no provision for water, lighting, heat, or drainage. Poor Old Main was doomed from the beginning.

To prevent something like this from happening to your property, a list of safety tip sheets are provided online by the National Fire Protection Association. Stay safe!

Posted by: Kim | October 2, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Fan-Chi Kung (1926)

Fan-Chi Kung studying in his room, undated. (RS 21/7/49)

Fan-Chi Kung studying in his room, undated. (RS 21/7/49)

Here in Special Collections we have a number of alumni scrapbooks and photograph albums. These materials provide insight to what it was like to be a student at Iowa State University across the decades. Fan-Chi Kung was a Horticulture student (B.S. 1926) originally from Beijing (then Peking). His scrapbook is full of pictures of himself and friends both on campus, around Ames, and travels around the United States.

“Days at Ames” – Fan-Chi Kung and friends posing in front of a house, possibly 410 Welch Avenue. (RS 21/7/49, undated)

Chinese students currently comprise about half of the international student population at ISU. Enrollment and admission statistics were not kept for international students during the time Kung attended, but we do know that ISU’s chapter of the Cosmopolitan Club started forming in 1907. The “Cosmo Club,” as it was known colloquially, was founded to “encourage friendship, respect and understanding among men and women of all nationalities.”

Cosmopolitan Club, 1924. (University Photographs RS 22/3, box 1617) [Bonus: there's some remnants of

Cosmopolitan Club, 1924. (University Photographs RS 22/3, box 1617)[Bonus: there’s some remnants of “Beat Drake” graffiti on the columns behind the group]

While at ISU, Kung was President of the Cosmopolitan Club and President of the Ames Chinese Students’ Club. He held international service roles as Secretary of the Chinese Association for Advancement of Science, American Branch, and the Agriculture Society of China, American Branch.

Kung was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1929. He is buried in the Iowa State University Cemetery. His grave marker reads “Above all nations is humanity,” the motto of the Cosmopolitan Club.

Posted by: Whitney | September 29, 2015

CyPix: An Early 20th Century Ag Engineering Class

A professor teaches a class on a piece of machinery, 1906. University Photographs, RS 9/7/F.

A professor teaches a class on a piece of machinery, 1906. University Photographs, RS 9/7/F.

A lot has changed since this photo was taken, perhaps most noticeably agricultural technology (not to mention the fashions). To find out just how much ag technology has changed over the last 100+ years, come in and have a look at our agricultural engineering and technology collections, and our Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering collections, RS 9/7. Photos are also available in our University Photographs collection. Contact us or stop by – we’re happy to help!

Posted by: Whitney | September 25, 2015

Not Your Ordinary Comic Books: Underground Comix

Today is National Comic Book Day! It may surprise you to learn that we have an extensive collection of comic books here in Special Collections and University Archives. No, we don’t have DC or Marvel, no Batman or Spiderman, but what we do have is pretty amazing. We have a large collection of underground comix (or comics), which are a bit more, shall we say, unconventional. Fair warning: many of them are not for the faint of heart or the easily offended and are meant for a mature audience. These are found in the Underground Comix Collection, MS 636. Just a few examples of the comics we have that may sound familiar: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jonny Quest, and Space Ghost.

Space Ghost, Jonny Quest, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. MS 636

Space Ghost, Jonny Quest, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, MS 636.

If you’re not a comics fan but any of these titles seem familiar, that’s because they were made into TV shows. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became a craze of the late 80s/early 90s and are popular with kids again today. The comics however, are not as kid-friendly – they are darker and more graphically violent – so keep that in mind in case you want to bring a young fan to see them. Jonny Quest was a cartoon in the 1960s and played on Cartoon Network for a time, and Space Ghost also had a series in the 1960s, along with a parody talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast on Cartoon Network from 1994-2004.

A peek into one of the boxes in the collection. MS 636

A peek into one of the boxes in the collection, MS 636.

In addition to the aforementioned comics (and so many more), we also have a piece of underground comix artwork by Reed Waller, creator of Omaha the Cat Dancer, a series of comics that are available in our collection. The artwork is from that series, and it is explicit, so keep that in mind if you plan to view it. This is found in the Reed Waller Underground Comix Artwork Collection, MS 400. Another collection we have regarding underground comix is the Clay Geerdes Photograph Collection, MS 630. The collection consists of photos that Geerdes took of underground comix artists in the 1970s.

Zap by R. Crumb, the inspiration for many other underground comix creators, MS 636.

Zap by Robert Crumb, the inspiration for many other underground comix creators, MS 636.

So, what exactly are underground comix, and how did they come into being? Their origin can be traced back to the 1950s with E.C. Comics – some examples of these are Tales from the Crypt, Tales of Terror, and Weird Science, which can also be found in our collections (see the appendix in the Underground Comix Collection finding aid). They really came into their own in the 1960s and 70s, however, and featured adult themes discussing controversial topics (e.g. abortion, feminism, marijuana legalization) and often mocked conventional society. The comic books were often sold in head shops (shops using book sales as a cover for their actual business of selling drug paraphernalia). Robert Crumb’s Zap is often considered the first real underground comix and inspired many other artists in the genre. The overall culture of underground comix shifted in the late 1980s to include more conventional content by authors who wanted to avoid the restrictions of comic book superpowers like Marvel and DC and create comics with new perspectives.

An assortment of smaller, pamphlet-like comics. MS 636

Not all of the comics are in traditional comic book format. Here’s an assortment of smaller comic booklets that are prevalent in the collection, MS 636.

If underground comix sound like your cup of tea, stop by sometime! There are 63 boxes in this collection, so if you have an idea of what comics you’d like to see, that would be incredibly helpful. You may also be interested in our science fiction collection, which I have written about previously. Come in to our lovely reading room and have a read!

Posted by: bishopae | September 24, 2015

Upcoming: You know you want to #AskAnArchivist

Information desk in Iowa State College library. Ida Robertson, cataloger, helps student look up reference in card file. Kathryn Renfro, cataloger, at information desk looks up some information in a reference book, 1945. University Archives Photograph Collection, box 2046.

Information desk in Iowa State College library, 1945. University Archives Photograph Collection, box 2046.

Have a burning archives question? Always wondered just what it is we do around here, anyway? Want to know how to do your own personal digital archiving or take care of those treasured family documents? Well, you’re in luck because #AskAnArchivist Day is just around the corner!

On October 1, the archivists here at Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives will be joining our colleagues around the country on Twitter to answer your questions about any and all things archives. This day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists in your community—and around the country—to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity.

To participate, just tweet a question and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet. If you want to reach us, include our Twitter handle (@ISU_Archives).

We hope to see you there! It’s going to be awesome!

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