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: Amy | 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!

Posted by: Amy | September 22, 2015

CyPix: Back when Stange was just a country road

A lot can change in a hundred years! This is Stange Road, Ames, Iowa, heading south towards the college, circa 1910.

Stange Road, circa 1910. University Archives Photograph Collection, RS 4/8/J, box 326.

Stange Road, circa 1910. University Archives Photograph Collection, RS 4/8/J, box 326.

For more campus scenes, check out our Flickr album.

Posted by: Kim | September 18, 2015

Illustrating Apples: Prestele’s Lithographs

Pewaukee – Drawn from Nature and colored expressly for the Iowa State Agricultural College, by Wm. H. Prestele, Washington, D.C. Collected by J. L. Budd, Prof. of Hortl. I.S.A.C.” (ca. 1890)(MS 70, box 1, folder 37)

In the late 1800s, Professor Joseph L. Budd commissioned renowned botanical artist Wilhelm H. Prestele to illustrate from nature several apple varieties. Special Collections and University Archives holds 8 of these in its collection of 58 of Prestele’s lithographs (MS 70). These beautiful and finely detailed works were created during Prestele’s tenure as the first artist in the Pomological Division of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Red June – Drawn and colored from Nature expressly for the Iowa State Agricultural College, by Wm. H. Prestele, Washington, D.C. Collected by J. L. Budd, Prof. of Hortl. I.S.A.C. ” (ca. 1890)(MS 70, box 1, folder 40)

Should you wish to try your hand at botanical illustration, we also have a copy of Répertoire de couleurs pour aider à la détermination des couleurs des fleurs, des feuillages et des fruits which offers guidance on the colors found in flowers, foliage, and fruit such as apples.

Here are the “honey yellow” tones found in some pears and apples:

“Jaune Miel.” “Cette couleur s’observe frequemment sur l’epiderme des Poires et des Pommes mures. (QK669 .So13r)

Other materials on apples and pomology include:

Joseph L. Budd Papers (RS 9/16/13)

Charles Downing Pomological Variety Notes (MS 220)

Posted by: Laura | September 15, 2015

CyPix: Farm Protests

Milk protest

Scene from a farmers protest (National Farmers Organization Records, MS 481, box 15, folder 5), the milk holding action organized by the National Farmers Organization in 1967.

Last week’s European farmers protests brought to mind a number of the collections in our department documenting protests organized by farmers, and in particular the image above from our National Farmers Organization Records (MS 481). The National Farmers Organization (NFO) was founded in 1955 to combat low prices farmers received from food processors.  The more intensive aspects of the organization’s activities, demonstrated by the image above, receded by 1979, when its focus turned to collective bargaining for better prices. The NFO, which now has its headquarters in Ames, Iowa, is organized on county, Congressional district, state, and national levels.

A selection of additional collections documenting protests and other political actions can be found in our Political Action Subject Guide.  In particular, the National Farmers Organization Records and Charles Walters Papers both document the National Farmers Organization, in addition to a variety of other collections found in the subject guide.

Posted by: Kim | September 8, 2015

CyPix: Concrete Canoes

Scene from the Third Annual Midwest Concrete Canoe Race (1973) (MS 275, box 3, folder 3)

Scene from the Third Annual Midwest Concrete Canoe Race (1973) (Mary Krumboltz Hurd Papers, MS 275, box 3, folder 3)

In 1971 The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University competed in the first intercollegiate concrete canoe race. “Clyde Kesler of the University of Illinois gets credit for starting the whole thing, by having his civil engineering students build a ferro cement canoe in 1970. Purdue students learned about it, built their own canoe, and challenged Illinois to a race. That’s how it all got started … but spontaneous enthusiasm has caused the idea to mushroom all across the country.” (1973 race report, MS 275, box 3, folder 3). These events continue today as the National Concrete Canoe Championship hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The concrete canoe race is a way for engineering students to work with concrete, practice fluid analysis, use design software, and work in a team. Iowa State University was not present at the 1973 competition pictured here, but the ASCE Iowa State Student Chapter does have an active concrete canoe team.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of concrete canoe racing, stop by the Special Collections and University Archives Department to examine the other materials in the Mary Krumboltz Hurd Papers (MS 275). Hurd was an Iowa State University alumna (BS Engineering 1947), consultant, writer, and staff engineer for the American Concrete Institute. This collection, part of our Archives of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), documents Hurd’s involvement in setting up the races and has many other photographs of concrete canoe racing in the early 1970s.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 999 other followers

%d bloggers like this: