Posted by: Kim | March 22, 2015

Happy Founders Day!

Today (March 22, 2015), Iowa State University is 157!

North-east from Main, 1888. (DOI: 04-08-K_AerialViews_0359-01-002)

An early view of campus – northeast from Main, 1888. (DOI: 04-08-K_AerialViews_0359-01-002)

Iowa State University (then the Iowa State Agricultural College and Model Farm) was officially established on March 22, 1858 when the charter act establishing a state agricultural college became law. It took approximately 9 years before the first classes began.

A brief timeline of Iowa State University’s founding:

  • March 22, 1858 – The Iowa State Agricultural College and Model Farm was established via the legislature of the State of Iowa
  • June 21, 1859 – a 648 acre farm in Story County was selected as the site for the campus
  • 1861 – construction was  completed on the Farm House (the first building on campus)
  • 1862 – Iowa was the first state in the nation to accept the provisions of the Morrill Act, ensuring funding for ISU (then College)
  • March 17, 1869 – the inauguration of the College and the installation of the president and faculty
The first faculty meeting minutes every recorded. RS 8/3/3, Ledger 1.

The first faculty meeting minutes ever recorded at Iowa State University. (RS 8/3/3, Ledger 1.)

The Special Collections department helped celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding in the 2007-2008 academic year by initiating an oral history project to document “Cyclone stories” – interviews with alumni, staff, students, faculty, and any other Cyclones. Some audio and transcription excerpts are available online.  Learn more about ISU’s founding at our Sesquicentennial exhibit: “1858-2008, 150 Years of Excellence” and the associated campus timeline.

ISU Special Collections has added a new title to its Archives of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). The WISE Archives seeks to preserve the historical heritage of American women in science and engineering, and to complement it is a growing rare book collection. The newest addition is Institutions de physique by Gabrielle-Émelie Du Châtelet, a first edition of the work, published in 1740.

"Gabrielle du Châtelet (1706-1749)." Image courtesy of Mathematical Association of America, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

“Gabrielle du Châtelet (1706-1749)” by Mathematical Association of America is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Born Gabrielle-Émilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil (1706-1749) in Paris to a family of minor French nobility, du Châtelet lived a colorful life. She was married at 18 to Florent Claude, marquis Du Châtelet, a military man who was frequently away from home for long periods of time, leaving her free to pursue her scientific interests.

1733 was an important year for du Châtelet for two reasons. First, it was the year she began studying advanced mathematics under Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis and Alexis-Claude Clairaut, two prominent mathematicians and members of the French Academy of Sciences. Second, it was in that same year that she met the important French writer and philosopher Voltaire, who became her lover and lifelong companion. Significantly, considering du Châtelet’s later work, all three of these men were supporters of Newtonian physics, the legitimacy of which was considered questionable at that time in France, where the Establishment favored Cartesian physics.

Voltaire came under fire from the French authorities after the publication of his controversial work Lettres Philosophiques in 1734, which included a letter detailing Newton’s natural philosophy. With a warrant out for his arrest, Voltaire took refuge with du Châtelet at her husband’s estate of Cirey and lived there with her until her death. While at Cirey, Voltaire wrote another work on Newtonian physics, Elémens de la Philosophie de Neuton, published in 1738, with substantial help from du Châtelet.

Meanwhile, du Châtelet began work on her own contribution to Newtonian physics (and ISU’s recent acquisition), Institutions de Physique, published in 1740. This text provided a metaphysical basis for the natural philosophy of Newton, revealing her high-level understanding of math, and it is frequently regarded as a work of original and innovative thinking. The book was expanded in a second edition, published 1742.

Her other major work is a French translation of Newton’s Principia, including a 287-page commentary and mathematical addendum. Begun in 1745, it took four years to complete. During this time, she had begun a new love affair with the poet Jean-François de Saint-Lambert, after Voltaire had begun an affair with his niece Madame Denis in 1744. Discovering that she was pregnant in February 1749 at age 42, she expressed concern to a friend that she would not survive the pregnancy, and so by April she was working at the feverish rate of 17 hours a day to finish the mathematical addendum to her translation. She gave birth to a daughter on September 10, 1749, and died ten days later. Her daughter lived for only about eighteen months before also dying.

Special Collections is excited to acquire the work of this significant woman and Enlightenment thinker! Stop by to learn more about women’s contributions to science and engineering.

Posted by: bishopae | March 17, 2015

CyPix: Alfalfa leaf harvester

March 18 is National Ag Day, founded by the Agriculture Council of America “to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture.” Here at Iowa State, we know that the production of agriculture would not be nearly so abundant without the ingenuity and problem-solving expertise of agricultural engineers. One of agricultural engineering’s bright lights is retired ISU Professor Wes Buchele, best known for the design of the large round baler, as well as numerous contributions to the field of agricultural machinery safety.

Alfalfa leaf harvester, circa 1966. Wesley Fisher Buchele Papers, RS 9/7/52, Box 19, Folder 1.

Alfalfa leaf harvester, circa 1966. Wesley Fisher Buchele Papers, RS 9/7/52, Box 19, Folder 1.

Here is a photo of an alfalfa leaf harvester, another of Buchele’s contributions to the design of more efficient farm machinery.

Please join ISU Special Collections in celebrating National Ag Day! To find out more about Wes Buchele, check out this finding aid. More collections related to agricultural engineering can be found in RS 9/7, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering.

Margaret Sloss knew what she was talking about when she told the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society the following:

When you are working toward some dream, the first thing you must do is wipe out all the reasons why you cannot have or achieve it. Keep your mind only on the things that must be done to realize it. Toss out all the reasons why you think you cannot have what you want. For it will profit nothing to think up what you want if you are going to think immediately of doubts that you can attain it. (Margaret Sloss Papers, RS 14/7/51, Box 3, Folder 1)

Margaret Sloss working as a Technician in Veterinary Pathology at Iowa State University, 1927. RS 14/7/51, Box 4, Folder 9.

Margaret Sloss working as a Technician in Veterinary Pathology at Iowa State University, 1927. RS 14/7/51, Box 4, Folder 9.

Sloss’s own dream had been to become a veterinarian, and, indeed, she was the first woman to graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Iowa State College in 1938, and only the 27th such woman in the United States.

Pioneer in her field

A sheet of data on women students in veterinary medical programs around the United States found in the Margaret Sloss Papers (RS 14/7/51) paints a vivid picture of the environment that Sloss was working in. This data shows a total of 37 female applicants to ten veterinary medical programs surveyed for the year 1937, of which nine had been accepted; the total number of female students that had ever graduated from those schools was 16. The “policy toward acceptance” category (seen below in the far right column) is even more revealing. The most positive comment is, “Favored but realize hazard of short professional careers.” The rest range from “not enthusiastic” to “Discourage to extent of ability.” Iowa State’s policy? “Not favored. No out-of-state applicants will be accepted” (Box 1, Folder 10).

Data on women veterinary medical students at ten U.S. programs for 1937. RS 14/7/51, Box 1, Folder 10.

Data on women veterinary medical students at ten U.S. programs for 1937. RS 14/7/51, Box 1, Folder 10.

Sloss had a battle to fight on her own behalf. Initially rejected as an applicant, she successfully argued that the land grant charter for Iowa State stipulated that admission to the college could not be refused based on sex. In 1939, Lois Calhoun became the second woman DVM to graduate from ISC, but it was another 25 years before the next woman graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1964! For the subsequent decade, there were only two to three female graduates out of each class of 60 students; beginning in 1975, women started to make up 25-30% of each class. Since then, the percentage of women studying veterinary medicine has increased significantly. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges in its Annual Data Report, 2013-2014 shows the current enrollment of women in US veterinary medical colleges to be 79.6%.

Sloss was clearly a pioneer in her field, but she spoke very moderately when discussing her experiences as a woman in a male-dominated profession. In a letter to Charles Paul May dated February 8, 1963, she writes of herself and fellow graduate Calhoun, “Perhaps neither one of us is a very good judge of how prejudice [sic] people were as far as women in the profession is concerned. We went on the assumption that we were medically and scientifically minded and would rather be in veterinary medicine than in human medicine.” She goes on to say, “As far as our classmates and professors were concerned, sure we took a lot of kidding but since being on the staff here at I.S.U. I realize we didn’t take anymore than some of the fellows did or do now” (RS 14/7/51, Box 1, Folder 10).

Iowa State Grants It's First Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to a Woman

Issue of ISU’s Summer Quarter News from 1938, with article, “Iowa State Grants Its First Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to a Woman.” Box 1, Folder 15.

Women’s movement–Carrie Chapman Catt and Eleanor Roosevelt

This is not to say that she did not recognize the difficulties faced by women in the profession. In 1939, she wrote a paper titled “Women in Veterinary Medicine” whose purpose was “to disprove a current theory that it is useless to spend time and money educating a woman in this science” (RS 14/7/51, Box 3, Folder 6). In a letter to Iowa State alumna and woman’s suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt the following year, she describes wanting to publish the paper. However, “its nature is such that it must almost of necessity appear in a women’s journal, preferably a women’s medical journal. So far as I have been able to learn, there is none such. I am sure that it would never be accepted by any of the man-published scientific journals, and probably would lead to a mild furor if it were” (Box 1, Folder 13).

This letter was written on the occasion of the Women’s Centennial Congress, organized by Catt to commemorate one hundred years of progress in women’s rights. Catt had written to Sloss to announce that Sloss had been selected as one of 100 women honored for success in various fields. Sloss wrote back to convey “the great honor” she felt of being recognized and to express her regret at not being able to attend. “I know of nothing from which I would derive more benefit and pleasure,” she wrote. “However, since it is impossible to be with you, I can only assure you that I shall be thinking of your group, officers and delegates, frequently and earnestly next week, and wishing for you the most successful and inspirational meeting possible” (Box 1, Folder 13).

Letter from Carrie Chapman Catt to Margaret Sloss, announcing Sloss's selection to the "list of one hundred women who are doing things that no woman could have done twenty-five years ago" for the Woman's Centennial Congress, 1940. Box 1, Folder 13.

Letter from Carrie Chapman Catt to Margaret Sloss, announcing Sloss’s selection to the “list of one hundred women who are doing things that no woman could have done twenty-five years ago” for the Woman’s Centennial Congress, 1940. Box 1, Folder 13.

Catt wasn’t the only prominent woman of her time to recognize Sloss’s early achievement. Four years later, in 1944, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited Sloss to a luncheon at the White House on October 6.

Invitation from Eleanor Roosevelt to Margaret Sloss for a luncheon at the White House on October 6, 1944.

Invitation from Eleanor Roosevelt to Margaret Sloss for a luncheon at the White House on October 6, 1944. Box 2, Folder 4.

Academic Career

After graduating with her veterinary medical degree, Sloss began teaching at Iowa State as an instructor in 1941. In 1943, she was granted tenure as an Assistant Professor, but here she seemed to reach a glass ceiling. It took fifteen years for her to be promoted to Associate Professor in 1958, and finally to full Professor in 1965. When she retired in 1972, she was awarded the status of Professor Emeritus. Although recognition came slowly, she made important contributions to the department. Former Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine Norman F. Cheville wrote, ” As a new faculty person in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Margaret Sloss moved the established discipline of pathology into a newly developing area of clinical pathology, the study of blood, urine and other body fluids to aid the diagnosis of disease. Before her time, clinical pathology had not been used nor taught in the curriculum” (letter dated March 1, 2002, box 1, folder 17).


Veterinary Medicine as a Professional Career for Women,” published by the Women’s Veterinary Medical Association, 1965. Box 1, Folder 9.

Sloss promoted the status of women in veterinary medicine throughout her career. She helped establish the Women’s Veterinary Medical Association in 1947, and served as its president from 1950-1952.  She was also active in several other professional organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Delta Epsilon and Phi Zeta.

Sloss retired from ISU in 1972 at the age of 70. To mark the occasion, Professor F.K. Ramsey, head of the Department of Veterinary Pathology, organized a celebration in her honor, which he entitled “This Is Your Life.” He invited family and friends of Sloss to contribute a letter as well as a monetary gift to present to Sloss. So many letters and donations came in that the letters fill up four bound volumes, and she received a check for $2,071.00! (Considering inflation, that amount would come to over $11,000 today.) This is truly a testament to her influence and popularity as a professor, colleague, mentor, and friend. One letter-writer describes her as one “who always wore a radiant smile and greeted me in the corridors with a pleasing twinkle in her eyes.” Another noted her “patience, sincerity, joviality and always a good humor.” Still another writes, “I just wanted to write this letter to one of the truly nicest persons that I once had the pleasure of being associated with” (Box 5, Folders 1-3).

Sloss has received many recognitions from Iowa State University and in Iowa; only a few are noted here. During her lifetime, she was awarded the Iowa State Faculty Citation in 1959 and the Stange Award for Meritorious Service in 1974. After her death in 1979, the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center on ISU campus was named in her honor in 1981. She was also posthumously inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006.

Undated photograph of Margaret Sloss at work in her lab. Box 4, Folder 9.

Undated photograph of Margaret Sloss at work in her lab. Box 4, Folder 9.

Stop by Special Collections to check out more from the Margaret W. (Margaret Wragg) Sloss Papers!

Posted by: Whitney | March 10, 2015

CyPix: An Old-Fashioned Sing-A-Long

Students gathered around a piano, 1944. [add collection/location]

Students gathered around a piano, 1944.

Sometimes we like to share photos purely because we like them. This is one of those photos. I love it, even though I know little about it. All I know is that it is an example of student life at ISU in 1944 – but whether this is part of a class, extra-curricular activity, or just a regular social sing-a-long, I can’t say. Some of the reasons I love it include the era (the 1940s is one of my favorite decades, if not my favorite), the fashions, and the idea of an old-fashioned sing-a-long around a piano. Yes, today we have karaoke machines and video games that serve the same purpose, but it’s not quite the same. For a bit of extra fun, here’s a recording found online of the song next to the one they are playing in the photo (if I only knew what the open sheet music is!). Enjoy!

This photo and many others involving student life can be found on our Flickr page and in our photograph collection. Also, feel free to stop in and take a look at any of our student life-related collections!

The College of Veterinary Medicine here at ISU has a long and storied history. It the first state-funded veterinary school in the United States and continues to be a well-regarded college 136 years after its founding. It has been headquartered at multiple locations on the ISU campus and it’s current home was built just south of campus in 1976. A great deal of information on this “new” facility is available in the recently processed College of Veterinary Medicine Administrative Records, RS 14/1/8, along with general administrative correspondence, committee minutes and reports, annual reports, accreditation records, awards given out by the college, and materials regarding brucellosis.

The first building to house the vet school was South Hall in 1879. In 1881, it moved to North Hall, and in 1885 relocated to the Sanitary Building (Cranford Hall), now the site of the Memorial Union. The school’s headquarters moved to Old Agricultural Hall (now Catt Hall) in 1893 and remained there until 1912, when the Veterinary Quadrangle (now Lagomarcino Hall) was completed. The Quadrangle consisted of four buildings with a courtyard in the middle. A fifth building to the north was expanded into the Stange Memorial Clinic in 1938, now Industrial II. In 1956, the Veterinary Diagnostic Building was completed. However, by the 1950s, the Division of Veterinary Medicine, as it was known at the time, was outgrowing its facilities. It wasn’t long before plans were being made to create a new complex for what would become the College of Veterinary Medicine.

One of four sketches of plans for Physiology Administration, 1969. RS 4/1/8, map case.

One of four sketches of plans for Physiology Administration, 1969. RS 4/1/8, map case.

An early 1960s proposal entitled “Proposal for New Veterinary Medical Facilities”  (Box 26, Folder 1), outlines reasons and proposed plans for a new complex for the College of Veterinary Medicine. According to the proposal, demand for veterinarians was at the highest it had ever been at that point, and was about 3 or 4 times the supply and their was a “critical need for more veterinarians in Iowa.” Teaching facilities at the time were inadequate, and enrollment was projected to increase, the combination of which would put the college’s accreditation at risk. It pointed out that previous reports indicated that $10 million would be needed for the remodel of its established facilities and predicted that new facilities could be built for the same price. This would free up the Quadrangle for use by other colleges on campus.

It was proposed that the new facilities be built just north of the existing Veterinary Medicine Research Institute near Highway 30, and highlighted the many advantages of this location. These included proximity to existing research facilities and the nearness of Highway 30, which would better enable vets to get out to the country for emergency visits and would be more accessible to out-of-town clients. The only disadvantages addressed were the physical separation of Vet Med from other teaching facilities, isolation from the library, and the possible hindrance of interdisciplinary efforts.

Ultimately, it was concluded that the college would eventually be removed from campus. As we know, new facilities were indeed built in the proposed area. The disadvantage of the distance of the campus library was remedied by establishing the Veterinary Medicine Library at the new complex, plans for which can be found in Box 26, Folder 8. Plans for improving the Vet Med facilities evolved over the course of the 1960s, and many, many grant applications were submitted over the years, which are also in this collection.

Program for the dedication of the new facilities for the College of Veterinary Medicine, 1976. RS 4/1/8, Box 34, Folder 3.

Program for the dedication of the new facilities for the College of Veterinary Medicine, 1976. RS 4/1/8, Box 34, Folder 3.

After years of planning and securing funds, the College of Veterinary Medicine complex was completed in 1976 for $25.6 million – a notably higher price tag than initially proposed. The dedication ceremony was held on October 16, 1976 in conjunction with an academic symposium on October 15th. George C. Christensen (Vice President for Academic Affairs and former Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine) presided over the ceremony, with speeches given by Durwood L. Baker (Associate Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine), Frank K. Ramsey (Distinguished Professor, Veterinary Pathology), Mary Louise Petersen (President, State Board of Regents), and W. Robert Parks (President of Iowa State University). Philip T. Pearson (Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine), gave the acceptance speech. A map of the Vet Med complex today can be viewed here.

For more information, please come in and look through this collection and any of our other Vet Med collections. We’d love to see you!

Posted by: Kim | March 3, 2015

CyPix: The Vulnerable Greater Prairie Chicken

Today (March 3rd) is World Wildlife Day – a day in which we can “celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora, recall the privileged interactions between wildlife and populations across the globe, and raise awareness of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.” (UN General Assembly)

March 3rd was selected in honor of the adoption of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The goal of CITES is to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten the species’ survival.

Greater Prairie Chicken sighted in Cherokee County, Iowa in 1994. (MS 166, box 9)

Greater Prairie Chicken sighted in Cherokee County, Iowa, in 1994. (MS 166, box 9)

This is an image of a Greater Prairie Chicken collected by the Iowa Ornithologists Union (IOU) Records Committee. The males of the species are known as “boomers” because of the booming call they make. The birds have an area, known as a lek, where the males gather to dance and “boom.” The collection (MS 166) documents the committee’s work in acquiring reports of bird sightings around the state and assessing the validity of the submitter’s identification of the species. Six Greater Prairie Chicken sightings were reported to the IOU in 1994. Prior to these sightings, only 10 or so Greater Prairie Chickens had been seen since 1960.

Greater Prairie Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) were once abundant in Iowa, but per the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) their numbers declined due to habitat loss and market hunting. Should you see one, the DNR would like to hear from you!  The Greater Prairie Chicken is listed in CITES Appendix II – “species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.”  It is listed as “vulnerable” in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Aside from the IOU records (MS 166), Special Collections has many collections with ornithology content. We also have collections on natural history and the environment. You can also search for “birds” here to check for words in our manuscript finding aids. The papers of Walter M. Rosene, Sr., one of the founders of the IOU, are also available (MS 589) and we’ve posted previously on Frederick Leopold’s papers (MS 113).

The next time you’re outside, see if you can spot some local wildlife. If being indoors is more to your liking, come on over to Special Collections where you can view field notes, reports, and images of birds and other wildlife.

Audubon Birds of America_plate28

Snowy Owls from John James Audubon’s Birds of America, 1840 (call number QL674, Volume 1, plate 28)

We are pleased to announce that next week we will be holding a special event showcasing a number of our natural history texts.  This is one of several Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities events being held this year.  Matthew Sivils, associate professor of English and the 2015 CEAH Fellow in the Arts and Humanities, will provide a brief overview of the texts which will be displayed, which includes works by influential eighteenth- and nineteenth-century naturalists such as Mark Catesby and John James Audubon.

You can find details on this event and others on the Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities website:

The seeds of America’s environmental identity were first planted by a handful of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century naturalist-explorers. These naturalists—who were as much artists and poets as scientists—made it their mission to discover, record, and share North America’s natural diversity. These volumes, published by figures such as Mark Catesby, Alexander Wilson, and John James Audubon, contain powerful descriptions and stunning illustrations of the plants and animals that would come to define the land. Professor Sivils will provide a brief overview of some of the most influential of these texts, followed by a viewing of rare natural history volumes housed in the ISU Library’s Department of Special Collections.

Professor Sivils will give his talk in the 405 classroom adjacent to the Special Collections Department.  Following his presentation, there will be an opportunity to view a selection of our natural history texts in the Special Collections Reading Room.

“Early Natural History Texts: The Roots of American Environmentalism”
March 4, 7:00–8:00 p.m., Special Collections Department, Parks Library

Below is a sampling of what you will see if you’re able to attend the event next Wednesday:

The Aurelian. A natural history of English moths and butterflies, together with the plants on which they feed. Also a faithful account of their respective changes, their usual haunts when in the winged state, and their standard names as established by the Society of Aurelians. / Drawn engraved and coloured from the natural subjects. By Moses Harris. 1766. (QL542.4 H242a)

The Aurelian, 1766 (call number QL542.4 H242a)

The full title of the book pictured above is:  The Aurelian: A natural history of English moths and butterflies, together with the plants on which they feed. Also a faithful account of their respective changes, their usual haunts when in the winged state, and their standard names as established by the Society of Aurelians. / Drawn engraved and coloured from the natural subjects. By Moses Harris, 1766.  (Wondering what “aurelian” means?  It’s an older world for lepidopterist.  A lepidopterist studies or collects butterflies and moths.)

historia stirpium-pg52

De historia stirpium commentarii insignes… by Leonard Fuchs, 1542 (call number QK41 .F951d)

The “De Historia Stirpium, or Notable commentaries on the history of plants, contains 497 descriptions in Latin of plants, with woodcuts based on first-hand observation.  Early herbals often contained depictions of plants which were not based on actual specimens, but on depictions from other books.  As a result, these illustrations were often inaccurate.  The De Historia Stirpium was the first herbal to illustrate native plants from the Americas.  More on Leonhart Fuchs’ herbals can be found in our online exhibit.

We are looking forward to next week’s event (March 4, 7-8pm), and hope we will see you there!

Posted by: Kim | February 24, 2015

CyPix: a Fire, a Ram, and a Tradition

Have you heard the story of the Old Main fires? Instead of the large campus we have now, the university (then the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm) was housed entirely in a single building, “Old Main.” Old Main stood where Beardshear is now. Old Main proved to be much less sturdy than Beardshear – it lasted only 34 years. First it was damaged by a tornado (1882), followed by a fire (1900) that destroyed the north wing and caused extensive damage to the rest of the building. Two years later a fire ravaged the remainder of the structure and Old Main was completely destroyed (1902).

Arloe Paul ('33) passes on the ram's head to Jerry Ladman ('58). (RS 21/7/1, Arloe Paul)

Arloe Paul (’33) passes on the ram’s head to Jerry Ladman (’58). (RS 21/7/1)

But, students turned this tragedy into an opportunity for a new tradition. The image above depicts Class President of 1933, Arloe Paul, presenting Class President of 1958, Jerry Ladman, with a metal ram’s head. The head is purported to be architectural salvage from one of the fires in Old Main. The story is that it was rescued by Dean Edgar Stanton and O. H. Cessna (both class of 1872). The passage of the head every 25 years has become a campus tradition that continues to this day. It is next due to be passed from the class of 2008 to the class of 2033.

To learn about other campus traditions, check out the following:

  • Campus Traditions (RS 00/16)
  • Memorials and Traditions Committee (RS 08/06/061)
  • VEISHEA (Record group RS 22/12)

Of course, you’re always welcome to stop by and see us or get in touch!

Posted by: bkuennen | February 20, 2015

WOI-TV Celebrates 65 Years of Programming

On February 21, 1950, WOI-TV broadcast its first programming from the campus of Iowa State College. Originally licensed to operate as Channel 4, WOI was the nation’s first educational television station and, until 1954, central Iowa’s only television station. In the spirit of the Extension tradition, Iowa State intended to use the station to explore how television could revolutionize adult education and bring new learning opportunities to high school students across the state. The station programmers knew that they faced several challenges by focusing on educational programming. A report published two months after the station was on the air identified that one of the greatest challenges the station faced was “to prove that farming and homemaking telecasts can be interesting and entertaining and at the same time be educational.”

Portrait of Ed Wegner, host of the WOI-TV program "Televisits" (RS 5/6/6)

Ed Wegner, host of the WOI-TV program “Televisits” (RS 5/6/6, box 1, folder 12)

One of the early successes of the station occurred in 1951 with the acquisition of a $260,000 grant from the Ford Foundation’s Fund for Adult Education. This money allowed WOI to produce a series of public affairs programs titled “The Whole Town’s Talking.” These programs looked at issues affecting central Iowans and illustrated how the community members debated matters such as school consolidation, community infrastructure projects, and juvenile delinquency. This award-winning series was directed and produced by Charles Guggenheim, who later in his career would direct a number of Academy Award-winning documentaries and become a media advisor for several presidential campaigns including Robert Kennedy’s.

The Whole Town's Talking

Scene from the set of an episode of “The Whole Town’s Talking,” circa 1952 (RS 5/6/6, box 1, folder 13)

When the University sold WOI-TV to Capital Communications Company in 1994, the University Archives acquired the paper records of the television station along with thousands of 16mm films and videotapes. These films offer a glimpse of what local television programming was like in the 1950s and some of these films have been digitized and are available on our YouTube channel. You can judge for yourself how successful the station was at providing educational programming that was both interesting and entertaining!

The Whole Town’s Talking – Cambridge

More resources are available in Special Collections (of course!)

  • A complete list of WOI-TV programs available for viewing in Special Collections can be seen here. WOI-TV 16mm film listing
  • Finding aids for our archival collections related to WOI Radio and Television can be found on our website. Finding Aids

If you see anything of interest, contact us, or better yet stop in and see us!

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