It’s officially summer, and gardens are in full bloom. With the heat that we’ve had lately, aren’t you glad that dresses like the one below are no longer in fashion? Tulips typically bloom around May in Iowa – in fact, there are festivals devoted to the flower in Pella and Orange City during that month every year. Hopefully it was an unusually cool late spring/early summer day in this photo, otherwise that dress had to be stifling.While it’s far too late to plant tulips for this year and too early for next year, the sight of tulips in bloom over the last month or so might have you considering them as an addition to your own garden. If that’s the case, ISU Extension has some tulip planting tips. Happy gardening!
Happy summer solstice! Today’s post will highlight different collections available online that show off some historical summer fashions.
Here are some summery fashion plates from the Fashion Plates Digital Collection. This collection contains plates of general fashion dating back to the 18th century. This digital collection stems from the Mary Barton Fashion Illustration Collection located in Special Collections and University Archives. Mary Barton (1917-2003), an alumna (Class of 1942) from Ames, was a quilt historian who had gained a national reputation for being able to judge a quilt’s age and origin by careful examination.
The videos are from the Special Collections and University Archives YouTube channel. They don’t solely deal with summer fashions but do include dresses I think are pretty summery. These videos were part of the series “Couture Close-Ups with Charles Kleibacker” produced by the Iowa State University Extension Service. In the series, New York fashion designer Charles Kleibacker demonstrates how he designs women’s clothing using various fabrics and construction techniques.
Check out other fun online collections from the University Library Digital Collections and the Special Collections and University Archives YouTube channel.
Or drop by the reading room to look at our collections in person. We’re open Monday-Friday from 10-4.
If you are interested in researching clothing and textiles, you should check out the ISU Textiles and Clothing Museum.
Dairy science students at ISU have been getting practical experience working with dairy cattle throughout the history of the program.
Here is a picture of students at the Iowa State Dairy around 1905-6:
Students were involved in everything from herd development, to milking, to feeding trials.
The image below shows two students, George Gast of Osage and John Cavitt of Des Moines, that started a herd for the Iowa State College dairy farm in the 1940s.
According to the caption on the back of the photograph, “The men, taking part in the class in Farm Operations, had to do the planning, investigation and buying of the herd to the satisfaction of the rest of the class. The actual operation of the dairy herd, soon to get underway will provide a project for still other members of the class.”
Stop by to check out more photos of Dairy Science students at Special Collections and University Archives!
Today’s blog post highlights both a member of the Special Collections and University Archives staff, Becky Jordan, and some items from the Marie Hall Papers (RS 21/7/51).
Becky Jordan is the Reference Specialist here. She has worked in the department the longest and has graciously answered a few questions about herself.
How did you get started in Special Collections & University Archives at Iowa State University?
I had worked in the Library as a student, and so was somewhat familiar with the University’s Merit System jobs. Several months before I graduated, I took the test for Secretary I over at Human Resources in Beardshear Hall (I was an English major, so I had excellent typing skills). It happened that there were two secretarial jobs open in the Library, and I interviewed for both during final week of my last quarter—we were still on the quarter system then. I graduated on Saturday, March 1, 1975, and was offered the secretarial job in Special Collections the next Monday. My first day was the following Friday, March 7. I’ve never left!
What do you do?
I handle reference requests relating to the collections in the department. Most are from people off-campus and can cover any topic, from aircraft design to the 1895 football team. I regularly do tours of the department, for classes and other groups. I also spend at least six hours a week at our public desk in room 403 of the Parks Library.
Why’d you pick this collection/item to highlight?
This is Marie Hall’s college “Memory Book” from the Marie Hall Papers (RS 21/7/51). Marie entered Iowa State in the Fall of 1916 and graduated in the Spring of 1920.
The scrapbook begins with a letter to the incoming freshman class and the Iowa State College Handbook, and ends with the invitation to the 1920 Commencement. In between, she saved what looks like everything—dance cards, newsclippings, programs from events, invitations, greeting cards and photographs. I like to use this for class tours, because it includes “General House Rules for Young Women of Iowa State College.” I read them off and ask the students if they think they could follow the rules today. We lose them right away with the 10:30 bedtime.
Becky’s last comment about working in Special Collections and University Archives: “I’ve always enjoyed working here, because we learn something new every day.”
Drop by the reading room to check out other collections documenting the history Iowa State University!
This month is a great time to celebrate children’s television programming in the State of Iowa. After all, Iowa Public Television is debuting their new IPTV Kids Clubhouse with host, and personal friend of yours truly, Dan Wardell. If you have kids (or you are a kid at heart) I would recommend checking it out.
Of course, any discussion of children’s programming in Iowa eventually leads to talk of WOI-TV and America’s longest-running children’s program (who am I to argue with Wikipedia?)–The House with the Magic Window. Originally called The Magic Window, this program aired in central Iowa on WOI-TV from 1951 until 1994 and for nearly 40 years was hosted by Betty Lou (McVay) Varnum. Betty Lou became a fixture in most central Iowa households and almost anyone growing up here during this time could tell you who Betty Lou was and name each of her puppet friends that regularly appeared on the show.
However, Betty Lou was not the first host of The Magic Window. Other hosts included Virginia “Ginny” Adams, Joy (Ringham) Munn, and Arjes “Sunny” Sundquist. Each of these women hosted the show for a year or so until Betty Lou took over permanently. Special Collections and University Archives has kinescope (16mm film) recordings of some of the earliest episodes of The Magic Window in our collections, but sadly we only have one recording, dating from 1955, of Betty Lou as host of The Magic Window!
Something most people may not be aware of is that WOI-TV produced a second children’s program in 1954 called Window Watchers (I see a theme here). This program was sponsored by the National Educational Television and Radio Center, later known as the Public Broadcasting Service. Window Watchers was hosted by Arjes Sundquist and featured a format very similar to that of The Magic Window.
To view some of these early children’s programs, visit our YouTube Channel!
For more information on WOI-TV during the time it was owned and operated by Iowa State University, read through some of the finding aids listed on the Special Collections and University Archives website on this page.
For this installment of Notable Women of ISU, we’re going to highlight Catherine (also spelled “Catharine”) MacKay. Born in Canada in 1871, MacKay eventually became the first dean of the Division of Home Economics at Iowa State College (University).
At the young age of 16, MacKay took over the maternal role in her large family after her mother died, leaving education behind. Eventually she returned to school and received her Master’s degree from Drexel Institute in Boston in 1905. She also attended the Boston Cooking School as well as Teacher’s College, Columbia University.
MacKay joined Iowa State in 1911, at which time she worked as an assistant to Domestic Science department head Virgilia Purmort. The following year, MacKay took over as head of the department and was named dean when it became the Division of Home Economics in 1913. During her tenure at Iowa State, the Division for Home Economics saw a significant increase in student enrollment, as well as an increase in faculty and staff. MacKay also initiated the use of “practice houses,” which you can read about in this blog post.
Over the course of her career, MacKay was involved in a number of other things. She served as a consultant for the New Housekeeping department of the Ladies’ Home Journal, was a member of the Iowa Equal Suffrage Association, served as president of the American Home Economics Association, and worked with the United States Food and Drug Administration, to name a few. She was awarded an honorary Master’s degree in 1917 by the Drexel Institute.
Dean MacKay died at her brother’s home in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1921 after a long illness. She was greatly missed by the Division of Home Economics, as evidenced by this passage in an August 23, 1921, article from an Ames newspaper (possibly the Student [now the Iowa State Daily], but it’s not labeled):
“Home Economics at Iowa State without Miss MacKay will seem much like the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out. She was the heart and soul of the division for so long that she came to personify it. It stood for her and she stood for it.” (RS 12/1/11, box 1, folder 9)
With words like that, it’s no wonder the Home Economics building was later named after her.
For more information, come in and see the Catherine J. MacKay Papers. As always, we look forward to seeing you!
Freshman Orientation kicked off this week. Let’s celebrate the arrival of future Cyclones with a picture from the past! The photograph below is from Freshman Days in 1946. “Freshman Day” was first instituted at Iowa State College (University) during the fall quarter of 1926. The next year the program was expanded to three days.
In 1960, two significant changes occurred in regards to Freshman Days. One was the change of name from Freshman Days to Orientation Days. The other was the creation of a summer orientation program. The summer program was in addition to the fall program. The summer orientation program eventually became the main orientation program for students in the coming years.
Drop by the reading room to check out other historical University Photographs! We’re open Monday-Friday 10-4.
A few months ago I took a phone call from a farmer in another state. The man and his son were restoring a piece of farm equipment made in the 1890s. His dilemma was not knowing what color(s) to paint the machine. His research led him to our website, where he found an inventory for a collection of agricultural literature, including advertisements and brochures put out by the manufacturer of the machine being restored. I told him I would get back to him soon, hopefully with evidence of the machine’s original paint-job.
I began examining the companies’ ephemera. Most of it was illustrated in black and white: nice, precise work, probably supplied to the printer as engravings. The brochures, pamphlets, etc. were very wordy by modern advertising and marketing standards, but none of them mentioned the products’ color. Everything imaginable was detailed, except color and finish!
Later, I was relieved to find a few cards featuring color illustrations (shown above; the backs carry text). The farmer was pleased with the information I gave him. I thanked him for pointing me in the right direction at the outset; the work had gone quickly. Now he had at least some evidence to consider when painting his piece of 1890s farm equipment. Ephemera in an archive had been the key.
Archives collect and preserve ephemera, among other things. It’s a pretty word that, outside of archives, I’ve encountered most often as the adjective “ephemeral.” It comes to us from the Greek for “lasting only a day.” There are ephemeral things that literally last one day; for example, an old medical text refers to “that Feaure [fever] which we call Ephemera, not exceeding foure and twenty houres.” Nowadays the noun form is typically used the way archives use it, and for this, Wikipedia gives an adequate definition: ephemera is “any transitory or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved.”
A crucial distinction, then: it is the ephemera’s intended use or purpose that is ephemeral. The item itself could be saved indefinitely. But why would someone save “such things as a bus ticket, a circus poster, a Christmas card or a Valentine, a police summons, […] a train timetable, or a travel brochure,” after their intended purposes are fulfilled?
The most general answer is that human beings repurpose things. It’s nice to know why something was made, by whom and for what purpose—we can’t fully understand the thing without such knowledge—but we’re free to use things (and ideas) differently. We decide what’s significant and how; we decide what it all means.
Perhaps most ephemera should be recycled. So much ephemera is produced that saving it all is not an option, but where do we draw the line?… I’m raising questions that I cannot begin to answer. I do know that experts are best-prepared to assess the significance of ephemera related to their areas of expertise. I know that ephemera is never enough in itself. A historian, for example, needs other sources, sound methodology, and a great deal of creativity. That being said, ephemera is indispensable.
The subject is a deep one that I plan to explore further. I hope to have inspired you to think about the ephemera in your life. You don’t have to save it, but what if you did? What could it be used for, other than the obvious?
(Except as noted, quotations are from Ephemera: a a book on its collection, conservation and use by Chris E. Makepeace. 1985.)
This past Wednesday the Special Collections & University Archives staff went on a tour of the Campanile. Our tour guide was Cownie Professor of Music and University Carillonneur Tin-Shi Tam. We were lucky to have Professor Tam play a few songs for us.
The bells first rang in 1899 and were donated by Edgar W. Stanton, an Iowa State University alumnus, who graduated with the first class of ISU graduates in 1872. When Stanton’s first wife, Margaret McDonald Stanton, the university’s first dean of women, died in 1895 he wanted to establish a bell tower with 10 bells as a monument. Upon Stanton’s death in 1920, his will provided for a second memorial. At the request of his second wife, Mrs. Julia Wentch Stanton and their children, an additional 26 bells and a playing console were installed in 1929 and the musical instrument became the Edgar W. and Margaret McDonald Stanton Memorial Carillon. Read more about the rich history of the Bells of Iowa State here.
Ira Schroeder was the University Carillonneur from 1931-1969, making him ISU’s longest-tenured carillonneur.
Drop by the reading room to learn more about the history of the Campanile. We’re open Monday-Friday 10 am-4 pm.
During Memorial Day ceremonies at Gold Star Hall in the Memorial Union on ISU campus, 1954.
In November of 1919, almost a year after the end of World War I, Iowa State students, alumni, and faculty formed a committee to plan a memorial to honor the men and women of Iowa State who gave their lives during the war. Memorial Union opened in 1928 and included Gold Star Hall, where the names of men and women who died in World War I were carved into the walls. Additional names were added over the years to honor Iowa Staters who gave their lives in subsequent wars.
For more information on the history of Gold Star Hall, see the Memorial Union Records, RS 21/5/1, in the University Archives.