It’s African-American History Month and it’s past time that we featured Frederick Douglas Patterson (’23 and ’27) – an alumnus who had a significant and continuing impact on educational funding and college attainment. He is most known for his work with the Tuskegee Institute (now University) and as the founder of the United Negro College Fund (now UNCF).
Vaudeville is a type of theatrical entertainment consisting of variety acts that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Student-produced vaudeville shows were popular at Iowa State during that same time period, such as the one shown in the photograph below.
This is from the college’s fourth-annual student vaudeville performance in 1926, called “Going Down.” It followed the round-the-world flight of a high-powered plane, “Daphne,” which visited Alaska, the Indonesian island of Java, and Cairo in Egypt, before finally ending in Spiritland. It featured a ballet and several other musical and dance numbers along the way.
The performance was a hit. According to the 1926 Bomb, the ISU yearbook which was published from 1893 to 1993, the show played to capacity houses for each of its two performances. It raved, “‘Going Down’ has been acclaimed the greatest student vaudeville staged at Iowa State College.”
To browse through copies of the Bomb, or to learn more about student activities throughout ISU history, stop by Special Collections!
In preparing for an event taking place next month which will showcase our natural history texts, I had the opportunity to find out about a book I had no idea we held: The Conchologist’s First Book: or a system of testaceous malacology, arranged expressly for the use of schools…, by Edgar Allan Poe. I was a little surprised to learn that Poe had published far outside of the genres of detective stories and science fiction for which he is well-known! The Conchologist’s First Book has an intriguing story all its own, and sold more copies during Poe’s lifetime than any of his other publications.
The author of a book on shells had asked Poe to put together a less expensive version of his own book. As editor, translator, and arranger of the requested version, Poe made a number of contributions. He did not follow more traditional ways of arranging the illustrations of the shells, but rather decided to organize the shells from the simplest to the most complex. This was done before Charles Darwin had published his theories on evolution. The publisher of the original book would not allow the author’s name to be on the book in fear that it would reduce the sales of the original, and therefore Poe’s name was used for the first three editions. Curious to learn more? The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe has an interesting description here. This was not the only book which provides us with Poe’s scientific thinking. For his final book, Eureka, Poe writes a prose poem containing his ideas on the nature and origin of the universe.
Interested in seeing our first edition copy of The Conchologist’s First Book (QL405.P752c)? Please feel free to visit us on the fourth floor of Parks Library (M-F, 10-4). We also have a few other books related to Poe (including an 1885 copy of A Defense of Edgar Allan Poe. Life, Character and Dying Declarations of the Poet. An Official Account of His Death), and a variety of books on conchology and shells. This includes Thomas Brown’s The Conchologist’s Text Book (QL403 .B81c), which the original author of Poe’s textbook had based his book.
Ever wonder what the ISU Library was like in the early days? Well, I’m about to shed some light on that mystery with the photo below.
Originally, the Library was located in Old Main. In 1891, it was moved to Morrill Hall, where it resided on the first floor, south of the central stairway. In 1914, it was relocated to Beardshear Hall, and the Agricultural Extension Offices and Document Room took its place in Morrill. Construction of the Library’s very own building began in 1923. It was dedicated in 1925, and is still there today. Of course, it looks quite a bit different now due to renovations and additions.
This information and more can be found in our online exhibits, Morrill Hall: A Brief History and From Prairie Sod to Campus Cornerstones: Building Our Campus History. Also have a look at RS 4/8/4, Buildings and Grounds Records, for more information on the buildings in which the Library has resided. The photo above can be found on our Flickr site along with other library photos!
Tonight Orchesis I, ISU’s modern dance company, presents Barjche, the company’s annual modern dance production. The performance has a long history at ISU. Let’s see what we can find in the archives about it, shall we?
The first production
First things first. What’s up with the name?!? Barjche (pronounced “bar-shay”), came from combining the initials of the officers of the Women’s Dance Club in 1944, the year of the inaugural performance. The dance was initially performed as part of the VEISHEA celebrations, though later on it became a separate event, performed at different times over the years during winter quarter. The first production included two original dance-dramas, “The Shakers” and “This Life.”
In a letter to the editor of The Iowa Stater from May 1987, Trymby Calhoun Stickels, the president of the dance club in 1944, describes her contributions to the production:
“I was a better writer than a dancer, so Miss Moomaw [the club’s advisor] asked me to write a story line and she did the choreography for one of our big numbers. It was based on the Shaker religious group, and, of course, had all the drama that a strict religious theme could offer. Men and women were forbidden to have any contact with each other so we had a forbidden love story and a big tragic ending. It was great fun!” –Stickels, Trymby (Tim) Calhoun. “The ‘c’ in Barjche.” The Iowa Stater May 1987: 9.
One person who has had a significant impact on Barjche is Betty Toman. Toman came to ISU in 1948 as a dance instructor and later became a professor in the Department of Physical Eduction. She served as Barjche’s director for 22 years, eventually expanding the production to include students from three departments: theater, dance, and music. In 1965, she took over advising the dance club, which became known as Orchesis. Orchesis I continues to produce Barjche today.
Although most of the dance pieces in Barjche were choreographed by students, over the years Betty Toman also brought in well-known professional dancers as guest choreographers. One of these was Bill Evans, who was commissioned to choreograph a piece for Barjche 1975 called “Salt Lake City Rag.”
More information about Barjche and Orchesis I can be found in the Orchesis Records, RS 10/7/3, and in the Betty Toman Papers, RS 10/7/51. Stop by Special Collections to check them out!
Here at Special Collections we have a wide array of materials. Although the bulk of our materials are older and still paper-based, we also have artifacts that came in with our manuscript collections or that form part of the history of Iowa State University.
Universities produce promotional items and Iowa State University is no exception. We have many types of promotional items created by the University over the years. This one is a computer-shaped foam stress reliever from 2011 inscribed with one of our points of pride: “Birthplace: Electronic Digital Computer.”
We don’t yet have a separate listing of the artifacts online, but artifacts are listed in our finding aids here and here where relevant. If you’d like help locating an artifact, please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll see what we can find!
The following post was written by former student employee Samantha Koontz before she finished up her work with us at the end of last semester. This post accompanies the exhibit she created. Stop by Special Collections to view the exhibit!
In 1914 Fredrica Shattuck, head of Public Speaking at Iowa State, founded the Iowa State Players so that students could participate in public performances. She also founded “The Little Country Theatre” which performed at the Iowa State Fair from 1921 to 1926. She was instrumental in obtaining a laboratory theater workspace for students to practice and perform in. The Theater Workshop, formerly a campus sheep barn, served as the home of the Iowa State Players for many years. It was renamed Shattuck Theater in 1960. Shattuck relinquished her position as department head in 1931 but remained on as a teacher at Iowa State College.
As the years progressed, many department heads came and went, each bringing something new to the department. ISU Theatre has performed works by Shakespeare, musicals, comedies and student produced works. In the department’s early years, the Iowa State Players performed in Curtiss Hall Auditorium and The Theater Workshop, later renamed the Shattuck Theater. Throughout the years, students and professors alike have put their blood, sweat and tears into productions here at Iowa State in an effort to tell the best story they could. Currently the department pursues this with great vigor and performs their works in Fisher Theater along with the Student Produced Show in Pearson Hall.
Here at Special Collections there are many scrapbooks containing news clippings, photographs and playbills of productions for each season up in to the 1980s (see Kathryn Eames Papers, RS 13/23/52). These scrapbooks show how theater was done in the past and are great reminders of the history of the department. The archives also contain correspondence from Fredrica Shattuck, information on other faculty members of the department as well as playbills and information on the shows that were produced throughout the years (see Fredrica V. Shattuck Papers, RS 13/23/51 and the Theatre Production Records, RS 13/23/3). Two of the most performed shows here at Iowa State University are Our Town and Crimes of the Heart, each of which was performed 4 times. Crimes of the Heart just closed on the Fisher Theater stage in November 2014 after its 4th run.
This year, for the 100th anniversary of ISU Theatre, the season looks to highlight the past, present and future of ISU Theatre. They have selected shows they have performed in the past such as Crimes of the Heart, Love and Honor: Iowa in the Civil War and A Christmas Carol. To honor the present, shows that have never been performed here will hit Fisher Theater’s stage, including Les Miserables, On The Verge, and Spring Awakening. With the gala performance on November 15th, the department celebrated both its past and its future. Alumni and students came together to perform – showing people what theater has been with the alumni and what it will become with the current students.
To see more from the ISU Theatre Program Records, stop by Special Collections!
“Dirt Farm Editing,” perhaps it should be called for I try to tamp my stories full of dirt but never to dish it out. Clean dirt, the kind that grows your bacon and eggs, the “dirt farmer” sort of dirt, including muck, mire, mud and manure, but just the same the soil and soul of the nation.
– Ray Anderson. “My Stories are Full of Dirt! An All-American Farm Editor Gives Low Down on His Job.” The Quill, April 1928. (MS 61, box 1, folder 3)
Ray Anderson, former farmer, was best known for his work as a journalist. From 1927-1944 he served as Farm Editor for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. His regular columns included “Fence Drift: Caught in the Woven Wire” (observational poetry) and “SHUCKS! Let’s Talk It Over” (news and observations). In 1944 he left the Gazette to join the staff of Farm Journal as an Associate Editor. Calling Anderson “America’s greatest farm reporter,” Farm Journal Editor Carroll P. Streeter, described Anderson as possessing the “liveliest reportorial curiosity I have ever known. Nothing pleases him so much as striking out to go new places, see new things, meet new people, encounter new ideas. He will never outgrow this if he lives to be 100.” (MS 61, box 1, folder 11).
Sunshine, at last.
* * *
Puts color in the corn.
And happy in the heart of the farmer.
* * *
‘Twas ever so, in Iowa.
Gloom never aught but temporary.
* * *
Soil, rain, sunshine, the man on the acres.
Reasons why we live in the center of the world.
– Fence Drift: Caught in the Woven Wire.
Undated. (MS 61, box 1, folder 4)
- Neal Black Papers, MS 78 – Finding Aid
- Wayne Darrow Papers, MS 21 – Finding Aid
- Newspaper Farm Editors of America, MS 633 – Finding Aid
- James V. Risser, Jr. Papers, MS 438- Finding Aid
- Charles Walters Papers, MS 588 – Finding Aid
As always, we are happy to help you with your research. Give us a call or email!
Special Collections is closed today as the University participates in the national recognition of the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King. The holiday, celebrated the third Monday in January, is officially called “Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.” as the original proposal was to have the celebration on Dr. King’s January 15th birthday.
Signed into law in 1983, the federal holiday was first celebrated in 1986. The State of Iowa joined 43 others in celebrating the holiday in 1989. At Iowa State University, the celebration is planned and managed by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee. Special Collections has records of the committee in our web archives here and here.
Iowa State University was lucky enough to be one of the universities Dr. King visited in the 1960s. He spoke on campus January 22, 1960. His speech, “The Moral Challenges of a New Age” was excerpted in the program for the ISU celebration of 2008:
All I am saying is simply this: All life is interrelated, whatever affects one individual, whatever affects one nation directly affects other individuals and other nations indirectly. We are all tied in a single garment of destiny, we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, and therefore, we must live together. So long as there is poverty in the world no individual can truly be rich, even if he has a billion dollars. So long as diseases are rampant and millions of people cannot expect to live more than 28 or 30 years, no man can be totally healthy, even if he has just got a checkup from the Mayo Clinic. Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought until you are what you ought to be. This is the way life is made, this is the way the universe is made.”
The full text of this speech is available in RS 22/08/00/01, box 2, folder 1.
When I learned about the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 in grade school, a little playground rhyme from the era etched itself in my mind. It goes like this: “I had a little bird, it’s name was Enza, I opened the window and in flew Enza.” Of course, this seemingly lighthearted rhyme is a rather punny (sorry…) metaphor for the spread of influenza (“in flew Enza”). As we’re in the midst of a particularly nasty and newsworthy flu season, it seems like a good time to flash back to that flu epidemic that nearly 100 years later remains in our consciousness. Like the rest of the world, Iowa State University was not immune to the disease, and life on campus was impacted greatly.
Spanish influenza began its spread in late August, 1918. Shipments of troops moving out across the world during World War I aided the transmission of the disease. By October of that year, the epidemic swept into Iowa, and the state first reported cases of influenza on October 5th. Although the first reports were submitted at that time, it seems that the disease was here a bit earlier – Camp Dodge was quarantined on September 28th. The epidemic was at its peak in Iowa the week of October 19th with a total of 21,117 cases, but the disease didn’t significantly disappear until the summer of 1919. By the time the outbreak ended in 1919, approximately 20 million people died the world over. This website on “The Great Pandemic,” as it is sometimes called, provides lots of information on the spread of the Spanish flu, including its effects in each state.
While all of this was going on, our Student Army Training Corps, or SATC, was training military men on campus for WWI. October 1918 brought disruption to the training program with many SATC men falling ill with Spanish influenza. In the Iowa State College Hospital’s record book, there are pages upon pages of influenza cases, primarily from October through December 1918. Eventually the College Hospital was overflowing with patients, and other buildings, including State Gym, were turned into additional hospital facilities. An excerpt from a letter from President Stanton to the Committee on Education and Special Training, Washington, DC, describes the situation on October 9th, 1918:
“We have some 300 cases of the Influenza, but have ample hospital facilities, physicians and attendants. The number of new cases are decreasing, those discharged from the hospital exceed those admitted, and we feel that we are facing toward normal conditions. We have a strict quarantine separating us from the rest of the world.” (RS 13/16/1, Box 2, Folder 14)
The quarantine of which he wrote involved guards posted around campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Anyone who wished to enter or leave campus required permission and were given passes to present to the guards, like the one below.
Despite President Stanton’s optimism in the letter, the epidemic was far from over at Iowa State. In a memo to the heads of departments dated October 12, 1918, he enacted the following:
“At meeting of the Board of Deans on October 8, 1918 it was decided that, for the time being, complete segregation of men from women students be established, including segregation at class periods.” (RS 13/16/1, Box 2, Folder 9)
The logic behind this was likely that all SATC members were men; therefore separating the men from the women would reduce the spread of the disease. It was a method that seems to have worked. Out of the 53 people that died at Iowa State, only two were women. The other 51 were all SATC men. The men’s names are included on the WWI list in Gold Star Hall in the Memorial Union.
For more information on the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 at Iowa State, see the Department of Military Science Subject Files, the James Thomas Emmerson Papers, and the Charles F. Tous Papers. And of course, do what you can to prevent the flu and its spread this season – tips can be found here. Stay healthy!