Note: images and descriptions in the following may be distressing to readers.

Holocaust Remembrance Day – or Yom HaShoah – was just this week (April 16th). Every year, it is commemorated on the 27th day of the month of Nisan in the Jewish calendar, which correlates to sometime in April or May in the Gregorian calendar, depending on the year. Another remembrance day, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is held on January 27th and commemorates the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Yom HaShoah is largely observed in Israel and in Jewish communities throughout the world and marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Considering the tragedy that was the Holocaust and the lessons that were learned from it, more than one recognized day of observance seems justified.

It might be a surprise to learn that we in the Special Collections Department at ISU have materials related to the Holocaust. Admittedly, there’s not much, but what we do have is certainly interesting.

Read More…

Posted by: Kim | April 14, 2015

CyPix: a robot beverage service

Iowa State has its own celebrity robot. CyBot, the famous robot in question, once poured Alan Alda a drink on national television.

Cybot pouring water from a Mountain Dew can. (RS 11/1/8 box 10, folder 28)

Cybot pouring water from a Mountain Dew can. (RS 11/1/8 box 10, folder 28)

In 1996, seniors in the Electrical and Computer Engineering program developed Iowa State University’s first interactive robot as part of their Senior Design class. Cybot, at a height of 6 feet and a weight of between 200 and 460 pounds (sources disagree), was a mobile robot equipped with sonar and speech capabilities.

Cybot was programmed to find its way around a room and offer people it met a drink, which it then poured and served. Cybot uses sonar (sound waves) to find obstacles and avoid them and to find potential drink customers. It is fully autonomous, has rudimentary intelligence, and it communicates by voice.

A library of acceptable user commands guides Cybot’s actions, and it answers by voice as well. “If Cybot asks ‘Would you like something to drink?’ and you say ‘No thank you,’ it moves on. If you say ‘Yes, please,’ it will pour you a Coke,” Patterson said.

– “Spotlight Shining on Iowa State’s Cybot,” Iowa State Daily, September 3, 1996.

Two students calibrate CyBot. (Engineering Communications, RS 11/1/8)

Two students calibrate CyBot. (Engineering Communications, RS 11/1/8)

Learn more about CyBot in the Engineering Communications records (RS 11/1/8).

Posted by: bishopae | April 10, 2015

ISU poets and critics: celebrating National Poetry Month

“I have sprung my heavy door aside
so that the sun will not be hindered
sweeping its pattern and its warmth into my room.”

Cover of The Moon is Red by Helen Sue Isely, published 1962. MS-352, Box 2, Folder 8.

Cover of The Moon is Red by Helen Sue Isely, published 1962. MS-352, Box 2, Folder 8.

So begins the poem, “The Open Door,” by Helen Sue Isely in her book The Moon is Red. April is the month to swing open Iowa doors to the growing warmth of the sunshine after the snows of winter. (Never mind this week’s rain!) April is also the time to celebrate “poetry’s vital place in our culture” during National Poetry Month. Iowa State may best be known for its agriculture and science programs, but it is not without its contributions to poetry, one of which is Isely.

Helen Sue Isely was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 1917, but she moved to Ames in 1945 with her husband Duane Isely, ISU Professor of Botany, and spent the rest of her life here. She published more than 800 poems in over 200 literary journals and magazines, including such well-known titles as Southwest Review, Antioch Review, and The McCalls Magazine. Her book of poems, The Moon is Red, was published by Alan Swallow in 1962, and won the first place award for poetry from the Midland Booksellers Association. Her other honors for poetry include those from the Iowa Poetry Association (1955-1958, 1961-1963), the Georgia Poetry Society (1954), and the South West Writers Conference (1956, 1959). To learn more about Isely and read her poems, check out the Helen Isely papers, MS 352.

Front cover of the first volume of Poet and Critic under Gustafson's editorship. Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall 1964.

Front cover of the first volume of Poet and Critic under Gustafson’s editorship. Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall 1964.

Richard Gustafson and Poet and Critic

In 1964, ISU Professor of English Richard Gustafson revived the literary journal Poet and Critic, publishing it through the Iowa State University Press. The journal had been founded three years earlier by William Tillson of Purdue University. Unable to keep it up with multiple demands on his time, Tillson ceased publishing it after only a couple of years. With the aid of a grant from the President’s Permanent Objectives Committee, Gustafson took the journal under his wing and revived it. The magazine’s rebirth was greeted with enthusiasm by those who had been familiar with it under Tillson’s editorship, and many supporters sent in letters of support, such as this beautifully illustrated note from Menke Katz, editor of Bitterroot, a quarterly poetry magazine.

Letter from Menke Katz, editor of the poetry magazine Bitterroot, to Richard Gustafson, ca. 1964. Poet and Critic Manuscripts File, RS 13/10/0/5, Box 1.

Letter from Menke Katz, editor of the poetry magazine Bitterroot, to Richard Gustafson, ca. 1964. Poet and Critic Manuscripts File, RS 13/10/0/5, Box 1.

The note reads,

“Dear Editor Richard Gustafson, staff and supporters,


“Delighted to know Poet and Critic is living again. Knowing Poet and Critic when William Tillson was editor, I am certain it will again be an inspiration to everything which is just and beautiful in poetry. I certainly feel refreshed to hear the good news! Good luck to you! I enclose $3 for a year subscription and will do all I can to influence others to do the same.

“Best Wishes,

“Menke Katz”

The text around the flower, reads, “A flower for Poet and Critic from Menke Katz.” (Poet and Critic Manuscripts File, RS 13/10/0/5, Box 1).

Poet and Critic had a unique mission, not only to promote the work of lesser-known poets, but also to encourage better craftsmanship among the poets, and to do this, they encouraged the contributors to comment on each others’ work. Each poem published in the magazine was followed by one or two short critiques, thus opening up a conversation around the poem. This explains the title, as well as the journal’s tagline, “magazine of verse/a workshop in print/a forum of opinion.” Contributors include the well-known poet Robert Bly, Ted Kooser, Leonard Nathan, Colette Inez, Robert Lewis Weeks, and the aforementioned Helen Sue Isely.

Ted Kooser

Various issues of The Salt Creek Reader, from the Richard Gustafson Papers, RS 13/10/53, Box 1/Folder 7.

Various issues of The Salt Creek Reader, from the Richard Gustafson Papers, RS 13/10/53, Box 1/Folder 7.

A discussion of ISU poets would be incomplete without mentioning Ted Kooser. An ISU alum (1962), Kooser served as Poet Laureate for the United States (2004-2006) and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2005 for his book Delights and Shadows. He teaches as a Visiting Professor of English at University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Gustafson and Kooser, both poets, also both edited literary magazines. Copies of Kooser’s The Salt Creek Reader can be found in the Richard Gustafson Papers, RS 13/10/53, Box 1/Folder 7. The Reader contained a single poem per issue and was printed initially as a broadside, or a single sheet printed on one side, and later as a postcard. The first issue of the journal, published 1967, contained a poem by Gustafson titled “Tornadoes, Earthquakes, Plagues and Sultry Deaths.”

As you celebrate National Poetry Month, feel free to stop by Special Collections to examine these and other collections. Happy reading!

Posted by: Whitney | April 7, 2015

CyPix: Ode to the Card Catalog

The card catalog. That gargantuan set of filing cabinets with drawers full of catalog record cards was oh, so useful in the days before wide-spread internet access. Now, of course, we search for the library items we want or need on the online catalog, which is easier in many ways. Many of you probably remember using the card catalog to find the books you wanted, not unlike the student in the photo below.

A student using the card catalog, 1948. [location]

A student researching near the card catalog, 1948. RS 25/3/F, Box 2046

This is how I learned to navigate libraries, too, and am part of the last generation to do so. Card catalogs bring about feelings of nostalgia in people – you can even purchase old ones to use for storage or conversation pieces in your home! However, moving the catalog online provided major benefits like saving space that can be used for other things like study areas or more stacks, and convenience – we can just type in a title and see right away if it’s available. Still, although the card catalog is more or less extinct in its natural habitat, it is an iconic piece of library history.

Feeling nostalgic? More photos of card catalogs in Parks Library can be found here. Also, in case you want to know about its origins and some fun facts, here is a history of the card catalog. Many more photographs involving the library or other buildings and departments on campus can be found in our University Photograph Collection – come in and see what we can find for you!

Posted by: Kim | March 31, 2015

CyPix: Pen and ink

Samples from P. A. Westrope's penmanship scrapbook.

Samples from P. A. Westrope’s penmanship scrapbook (MS 613)

Perry Albert Westrope was a self-taught ornamental penman who lived in Iowa for many years. An avid penmanship enthusiast, he traded samples with other penmen and mounted both his own and others’ samples into a penmanship scrapbook. The above bird was made when Westrope was 70 years old. He noted next to it “Some of my best at 70.”

Westrope clipped an article from The Business Educator (1912) about himself and his brother, another penman:

When the love for penmanship gets a good grip on young persons, it is usually retained for life, no matter in what lines of work they may engage. That fact is exemplified in the Westrope brothers, P.A. and N.S. The former, now a bond salesman residing in Denver, Colorado, and past sixty, still swings a very skillful pen, and never loses an opportunity to see a penmanship scrapbook.

Come to Special Collections to view the rest of the scrapbook in MS 613.

Posted by: Kim | March 27, 2015

Camping with the Forestry Program

If you want a job done, the best that it can be,
Just call on any forester, from good old I.S.C.

– Part of the third stanza in “The Forester’s Song.” (Songs from Camp, RS 9/14/1 box 3, folder 2)


Tents along Cass Lake, MN during the first Forestry Summer Camp, 1914. ("Fiftieth Anniversary" booklet, RS 9/14/6, box 1, folder 1)

Tents along Cass Lake, MN during the first Forestry Summer Camp, 1914. (“Fiftieth Anniversary” booklet, RS 9/14/6, box 1, folder 1)

The Iowa State University (then College) Forestry summer camp was first held in 1914. Camp is still a required component of the bachelors degree in Forestry. With the exception of war time, the camps have been run continuously over the past century.

The Early Camps

Students lined up and ready to get to work. (A page from the 1914 summer camp scrapbook, RS 9/14/7, box 11)

Students lined up and ready to get to work. (A page from the 1914 summer camp scrapbook, RS 9/14/7, box 11)

Iowa State University was among the first universities to include forestry camps as part of the curriculum. Former Forestry professor and Iowa State Forester George McDonald explains the rationale:

The camp program has been arranged to come during the summer between the freshman and sophomore years. The purpose being to have the new students get “the smell of the woods,” – meet some of the activities involved in actual forestry work and secure some limited experience early in the training program. It also was felt that a preliminary training of this kind took off some of the “rough edges” and was a distinct aid in securing future temporary summer positions in private, state or federal work. in addition it made it possible for some students to quickly find out that the forestry profession might be able to struggle along without their services.”

– G. B. McDonald. “Evolution of the Ames Foresters,” Ames Forester, 50th anniversary issue, 1954. (Library call# SD1 Am37)

The 1914 curriculum involved four subjects: Silviculture, Lumbering, Forest Mensuration (pdf link), and Forest Utilization. The original texts assigned to the campers are now accessible freely online:

  • Henry Solon Graves. Forest Mensuration. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1908. (The edition assigned for camp was presumably the 1911 edition which is not available online.) Get access via the library catalog.
  • Henry Solon Graves. Principles of Handling Woodlands. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1914. Get access via the library catalog.

Women Foresters

“Mary K. Schwarte estimating a big Lodgepole pine’s diameter in Medicine Bow National Forest.” (University Photographs, RS 9/14/7 1954)

Male students at summer camp, 1960s. (University Photographs RS 9/14/7)




As can be seen from the photo of Mary K. Schwarte (left), women have been forestry students at ISU for at least half of the program’s duration.

By 1979 the number of women students had grown to 28%. In an effort to provide career planning support the Department brought in early career women foresters to speak to the students in a 1977 symposium entitled “Women and Men Working Together – An Attempt at Understanding.” In 2014, women still comprised 28% of the Forestry major.


Iowa State University Forestry Students have traveled all around the country. Here is a map showing just the first 50 years of camps:

Map from the Fiftieth Anniversary Booklet (“Fiftieth Anniversary” booklet, RS 9/14/6, box 1, folder 1)

Map of camp locations from 1914 – 1954 (“Fiftieth Anniversary” booklet, RS 9/14/6, box 1, folder 1) – Click image to enlarge


Despite the intensity of the camps, the annual reports demonstrate that there was still lots of fun to be had. The report for the 1978 trip to Lubrecht Forest, Montana, indicates that students made good use of their 4th of July weekend to see the surrounding areas:

"Going to the Sun" highway in Glacier National Park, 1982. (University Photographs)

“Going to the Sun” highway in Glacier National Park, 1982. (University Photographs RS 9/14/7)


“A few students went to Glacier National Park for the weekend. Others drove up to the Rockies of Canada. The longest trip taken was to the coast of Washington. Again, the weather was not exactly suited for swimming. But then how many times do Iowans get to swim in the Pacific?” (Mark Henderson. “Summer Camp – 1978.” Ames Forester, 1979. Library call# SD1 Am37).








 Learn More

We have over 12 feet of material documenting the forestry summer camps in RS 9/14/7, including many scrapbooks. Find more photos of forestry summer camps in the University Photographs Collection, and for more on the ISU Forestry Department see the collections under RS 9/14/. Come on by!

Posted by: Whitney | March 24, 2015

CyPix: Spring Is Here!

It’s officially spring! The world may still be brown and gray, but we’re that much closer to green grass, verdant trees and shrubs, and rainbows of flowers all around. Excuse the flowery language, but what’s more perfect for a spring post? The lantern slides below, from the Warren H. Manning Papers (MS 218), offer a “before” and “after” example not unlike the one we’ll see soon.

House of S. B. Green, St. Anthony Park, Minnesota, before planting, undated.

House of S. B. Green, St. Anthony Park, Minnesota, before planting, undated. [MS 218, box 12, lantern slide #373]

House of S. B. Green, St. Anthony Park, Minnesota, after planting, undated.

House of S. B. Green, St. Anthony Park, Minnesota, after planting, undated. [MS 218, box 12, lantern slide #374]

Manning was an influential landscape architect in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The lantern slides above show an example of his work and the dramatic difference landscape architecture can make (although I think the house itself is beautiful too). If these slides have piqued your interest, we have an array of landscape architecture collections available for your research needs (or wants). Other blog posts on landscape architecture can be found here and here. Curious about the landscape architecture program at ISU? We have some collections on that, too!

On the upcoming spring days, take a stroll through campus and come up and visit us on the 4th floor of Parks Library! Not only will you get a lovely view of campus, but you might find something inspiring in our collections.

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.

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