“The Development of the Modern Steer” #TBT

My fellow former 4-Hers and FFAers who showed cattle may appreciate this one. Over the years, the preferred traits of show cattle have changed quite a bit, as this photo illustrates. This photo shows examples of preferences in show steers (castrated male cattle) from 1878, 1900, and 1930. Of course, these preferences have changed since then. I remember looking at my father’s photos from his cattle showing days in the 1960s and noticing how short and stocky the steers were compared to those that I showed in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Show steer preferences in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 1930. University Photographs, RS 9/11/N, Box 656

Show steer preferences in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 1930. University Photographs, RS 9/11/N, Box 656

If you look closely and read the signs in the background, you’ll notice that in 1878, the winning type was 5 years old (far older than today’s steers) and weighed 2600 lbs. In 1900, the winning type was 3 years old and weighed what I think is 2100 lbs (it’s difficult to read). 1930 was much closer to today’s standards with 1 year, 7 months old and 1170 lbs.

For additional photos of show animals and much, much more, stop in sometime!

 


#TBT On the Farm @ISUExtension

Two farmers lifting hay bales on the farm, (year?). University Photographs, box (#)

Two farmers lifting hay bales on the farm, undated. University Photographs, box 1349

There is so much I love about his photo: the angle, the light and dark contrast, the windmill, the depiction of farm work in the early-to-mid 20th century.  It also looks a bit like a storm is building, but that may just be blue sky that looks extra dark with the overall dark tone of the photo. This is one of several photos taken at farmsteads around Iowa by the Extension Service.

Stop in sometime to see more photos depicting rural life in Iowa!


Alpha Zeta Fraternity at Iowa State #TBT

Alpha Zeta fraternity in front of Agricultural Hall (now named Catt Hall) on steps. This photograph was taken on May 23, 1927.

(University Photographs box 1627)

(University Photographs box 1627)

Charles W. Burkett and John F. Cunningham, students in the College of Agriculture at the Ohio State University, founded the Fraternity of Alpha Zeta November 4, 1897. Alpha Zeta is a professional, service, and honorary agricultural fraternity for men and women in agriculture seeking to develop leadership skills to benefit agriculture, life sciences, and related fields. There are over 100,000 members worldwide.

Drop by the reading room and review the Alpha Zeta Wilson Chapter (Iowa State University) Records. We’re open from 10 -4, Monday-Friday.


Drying grain without propane: the Small Farm Energy Project

“6/16/79 At the Fish farm, Earl showed visitors the greenhouse and the solar dryer. He said, ‘You’ll have a hard time convincing Earl Fish that you can’t dry grain without propane.’” This comes from records of the Small Farm Energy Project, a research and demonstration project of the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) to show the impact of energy conservation innovations on small farmers.

Notes from farm interviews with Earl Fish. MS 413, Box 104, folder 36.

Notes from farm interviews with Earl Fish. MS 413, Box 104, folder 36.

ISU Special Collections and University Archives holds the records of the Center for Rural Affairs, a Nebraska-based non-profit organization founded in 1973 and dedicated to improving the lives and opportunities of small farmers and rural communities. Among their many projects to improve the welfare of rural Americans, the CFRA has developed projects related to global warming and agriculture, in addition to this and other work in clean energy, which is why I’m highlighting them in honor of Earth Day, which was April 22.

Small Farm Energy Project Sign. From MS 413, box 106, folder 20.

Small Farm Energy Project Sign. From MS 413, box 106, folder 20.

For the Small Farm Energy Project, CFRA targeted low-income farmers with net incomes within 125 percent of the poverty level. Farmers applied to be part of the study. Of fifty total participants, 25 formed a control group that made no changes, but kept detailed records of their energy usage. The other 25 were the innovators, who were exposed to a variety of alternative energy technologies through a series of workshops. Individual farmers chose which technologies to implement based on their individual situations.

Earl Fish was one of the farm innovators, and his success using a solar grain dryer attracted the interest of other farmers in the area. The Small Farm Energy Project Newsletter for December 1977 reads, “Fish, cooperating farmer of the Small Farm Energy Project, used solar energy to dry grain in his 6000 bu. bin equipped with stirrator. Propane had been used in previous years for drying, but not in 1977. …Fish was particularly impressed with the quality of the dried grain using the low temperature process of solar drying compared to higher temperature drying. Another advantage of the system cited by Fish is the fan housing which lowers fan noise levels considerably.”

The Preliminary Report for the project estimates that a “solar grain dryer has the potential to save a farmer $260 a year over a 10-year period when used as a substitute for more energy-intensive batch drying. More than half the farms that could install a solar grain dryer did so” (p. 30, box 106, folder 21).

Portable solar collector has been attached to a grain bin for grain drying, circa 1979.

Portable solar collector has been attached to a grain bin for grain drying, circa 1979.

Check out the Center for Rural Affairs Records (MS 413) to learn more about the Small Farm Energy Project, including construction guidelines  to build your own solar grain dryer (see box 106, folder 18)!

Happy Earth Day!

 

Sources

Farm Interview: Earl Fish. Box 104, Folder 36.

“Innovations Continue as Project Extended.” Small Farm Energy Project Newsletter. Issue 9. December, 1977. Box 104, Folder 22.

Small Farm Energy Project, Center for Rural Affairs. “Preliminary Report January, 1977, through December, 1978 for the Impact of Various Energy Innovations on Energy Consumption and Net Income for 48 Small Farms.” July 1979. Box 106, Folder 21.


Educating Farmers on Educational Trains

Amy Bishop, rare books and manuscript curator, at our exhibit table in the Iowa State Capitol's rotunda for Silos & Smokestacks Legislative Showcase.

Amy Bishop, rare books and manuscript curator, at our exhibit table in the Iowa State Capitol’s rotunda for Silos & Smokestacks Legislative Showcase.

Yesterday my colleague Amy Bishop & I attended the Silos & Smokestacks Annual Partner Site Meeting & Legislative Showcase in Des Moines. There are 115 partner sites that constitute Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA) and all of the partner sites preserve and tell the story of American agriculture in some way. National Heritage Areas are places designated by Congress where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to tell a story that celebrates our nation’s diverse heritage. Special Collections & University Archives are a partner site for SSNHA.

We attended educational sessions in the morning and in the afternoon we put on a tabletop exhibit about a website created during a summer internship, Reflections on ISU Extension, that was funded by an SSNHA grant in 2014. The intern developed a digital collection and contributed to the design of its accompanying website. The collection offers a look into the early work of the Extension Service, its role in the education of farmers, and the impact it had on agricultural advancement and production. It is composed of documents, photographs, and select media.

One of the neatest things I learned from browsing through this digital collection was about the educational trains. The university (known then as Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm) sent instructors on trains throughout the state to teach classes on seed corn and other agriculture related topics of interest to Iowa’s farmers such as crops, livestock, and home economics.

 

Educational Trains. 1905. J. W. Jones speaking. M. L. Mosher helping. Audience in coach listens to a talk on producing better corn. Note the Holden sawdust corn testing box, a method by which 6 kernels of corn from each seed ear could be tested. Audience advised to plant only ears that tested six kernels strong.

Educational Trains. 1905. J. W. Jones speaking. M. L. Mosher helping. Audience in coach listens to a talk on producing better corn. Note the Holden sawdust corn testing box, a method by which 6 kernels of corn from each seed ear could be tested. Audience advised to plant only ears that tested six kernels strong.

 

On the Hog train. Snyder speaking soils man, ca. 1910s.

On the Hog train. Snyder speaking soils man, ca. 1910s.

 

Read more about the history of ISU Extension here: http://digitalcollections.lib.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/ISUExt_History.pdf or view the Reflections on ISU Extension digital collection. You can always stop by and see original documents and photographs documenting the work of Extension or other collections related to agriculture. We’re open Monday-Friday 10-4.


CyPix: Horsing Around

A stallion and a colt, alternately titled "Dignity and Impertinence," "Dignity and Impudence," "Impudence and Dignity," and "Two Friends," 1910. University Photographs, RS 9/11/N, Box 662.

Photo of a stallion and a colt, alternately titled “Dignity and Impertinence,” “Dignity and Impudence,” “Impudence and Dignity,” and “Two Friends,” 1910. University Photographs, RS 9/11/N, Box 662.

The photo above has had a bit of a legacy here at Iowa State. Taken in 1910, a copy of the photo hung in the Farm House library for a time. There has been some debate over the years over whether the Stallion pictured is Jallop (otherwise spelled Jalop or Jalap) or Kuroki, but due to the fact that Jallop didn’t come to Iowa State until 1911, the general consensus seems to be that it is the Clydesdale stallion Kuroki. When the photo was taken, the stallion naturally tilted his head to look at the colt, but the colt’s head had to be turned manually – the reigns were edited out of the photo, although supposedly there are (or were) copies that showed the reigns to some extent. The identity of the colt is unknown, but was possibly owned by the Curtiss family.

You’ll notice in the caption that I’ve highlighted the different titles this photo was given. It tends to vary by publication. The photo in our archive is labeled “Impudence and Dignity,” but in early publications (The Iowa Agriculturist, Vol. 11, No. 8, April 1911) it is labeled “Dignity and Impertinence,” while in a 1973 edition of The Iowa State University Veterinarian, it is titled “Dignity and Impudence.” It’s possible there was a mix-up and whoever wrote the title confused the two “I” words – understandable, since they are synonyms. It is labeled “Two Friends” in another edition of The Iowa Agriculturist, but one of the “Dignity” titles seems to be the original or official. Which one? I’m honestly not certain. If any of you want to come in and try to figure it out, you are more than welcome! Information about the photo – including a short research paper on the subject from 1990 – can be found in the Department of Animal Science Subject Files, RS 9/11/1, Box 1. Stop by sometime!


Pop Goes the Kernel: John Crosby Eldredge and Popcorn Hybridization

Popped popcorn. By Paolo Neo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Popped popcorn. By Paolo Neo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

October is National Popcorn Poppin’ Month! Yes, popcorn popping has its own month. Every year around this time, popcorn is harvested, primarily in the Midwest. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio are the leading popcorn producing states. Popcorn is of course one of the most popular snack foods in America, with Americans consuming about 16 billion quarts (popped) per year – that’s about 52 quarts per person! With Iowa being a major producer of the stuff, it should be no surprise that we have records regarding the crop here at the ISU Special Collections and University Archives.

John C. Eldredge, undated. University Photographs, RS 9/9/E, Box 585.

John C. Eldredge, undated. University Photographs, RS 9/9/E, Box 585.

John Crosby Eldredge was an alumnus of Iowa State College (University) (Agronomy, 1915) and a faculty member here from 1921 until his retirement in 1960. He was an agronomist whose specialization was research and development of popcorn hybrids. He is best known for developing hybrids identified with the term “Iopop;” Iopop 6 was grown on about 25,000 acres across many states in 1955, and at the time almost all white popcorn produced was either Iopop 5 or Iopop 7, also developed by Eldredge. (Ames Daily Tribune clipping, RS 9/9/51, Box 2, Folder 11). His research included studying the effect storage conditions have on popping volume and moisture content of popcorn. In 1954, he received the Distinguished Service Award of the Popcorn Processors Association and was an honorary member of the Iowa Crop Improvement Association.

John C. Eldredge (left) being presented a weather instrument by Pete Oleson (right), President of the Popcorn Processors Association. Ames Daily Tribune, 1955. RS 9/9/51, Box 2, Folder 11.

John C. Eldredge (left) being presented a weather instrument by Pete Oleson (right), President of the Popcorn Processors Association. Ames Daily Tribune, 1955. RS 9/9/51, Box 2, Folder 11.

In the March 1949 issue of Iowa Farm Science, Eldredge wrote about the research being done to develop improved popcorn. He stated, “We’ve worked to combine several good qualities – flavor, high popping volume, strong stalks for better picking, high yields and disease resistance.” (Box 1, Folder 18). Iopop 5 was released in 1946, and in 1949 was “rapidly becoming the most widely grown hybrid of the Japanese hulless type in Iowa. It is a white popcorn with excellent plant and popping quality.” He judged white popcorn to be more tender and yellow popcorn to be more flavorful.

Want to know the best popcorn to grow in Iowa? Well, with further developments in hybridization in the last 65 years, it has quite possibly changed since Eldredge’s recommendation in the same article mentioned above from 1949. However, at that time he recommended Japanese Hulless (a white variety) and Yellow Pearl (as the name suggests, a yellow variety). For home growers who are okay with a low yield, Tom Thumb (“an unusual variety”) was recommended for its “extreme tenderness and good flavor.”

Unpopped popcorn. By Bill Ebbesen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Unpopped popcorn. By Bill Ebbesen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Once you grow your popcorn, how should it be stored? Here are some more 1949 recommendations: keep kernels at 14% moisture (best popping results occur at this level). This can be done by storing it outdoors in a corn crib or other shelter – according to Eldredge, a typical Iowa winter “will hold popcorn at about 14 percent moisture.” Artificial drying was also an option, but had to be done carefully. If dried too much, it won’t pop well, if dried too fast, the wet ears will come out too wet and the dry ears too dry. Once the popcorn is uniformly dry at 14%, storing it properly is also important. “For home storage the best method we know is to place the popcorn in airtight containers with cover on tight.” Just make sure to put the cover right back on – the corn can dry out too much within an hour or two if the lid is left off. Don’t worry too much, though! Too-dry popcorn can be moistened by setting it outside for awhile to “let the atmosphere correct the moisture content.” Another option is to put a tablespoon of water in a quart jar of popcorn and stir or shake well, then pour from one container to another to until the moisture is spread evenly – this will ensure more even popping.

Of course, today many of us just buy our popcorn in microwaveable bags, which is a pretty recent phenomenon – microwaveable popcorn bags weren’t invented until the early 1980s. Growing your own popcorn is still an option, though, and if you’re looking for more modern tips, here’s a starting point. For more information on John Crosby Eldredge and popcorn hybridization, come in and see the John Crosby Eldredge Papers, RS 9/9/51. As always, we’d love to see you!


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!


Farms in Crisis: The Center For Rural Affairs Tackles 1980s Rural Life

Thirty years ago, rural America was in the midst of a farm crisis, one so significant that it’s often simply referred to as “The Farm Crisis.” During this time, things were so bad that many farmers left their profession and sold their farms. For some, the whole situation was more than they could handle. Those that stuck it out endured a long, hard struggle, one that is far from forgotten in the rural Midwest. The Center for Rural Affairs Records, MS 413, now available for research, contains subject files on the farm crisis and illustrates the work that the Center did to help those affected by the crisis.

How did it all start? It seems there were many causes, not the least of which was a “boom and bust” economic cycle. In the early 1970s, an economic boom in agriculture occurred, and by late in the decade signs of a bust became evident. Loan interest rates skyrocketed, less demand from foreign markets helped drive crop prices down, and as a result many farmers couldn’t pay back the loans they were able to take out so cheaply in the ’70s. The impact on the agricultural community was huge, with farms being sold or abandoned and many people moving to urban areas to make a living. The stress on farmers and their families was horrific. It was the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, but only the agricultural community bore the brunt this time.

MS 413, Box 73, Folder 22

Farm Crisis Manual, published by Rural America. CFRA contributed a great deal of research and material related to Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) to this manual, undated. MS 413, Box 73, Folder 22

The Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) was established in 1973 as a non-profit organization to advocate for rural interests in politics and to improve the welfare of rural Americans. Naturally, the farm crisis fit right in to their work (and provided new challenges). CFRA conducted research on how to help farmers get through these tough times and worked hard to change policies that had led to the bust, such as those regarding tax subsidies and cheap credit. Not everyone followed the organization’s recommendations on how to get through the crisis, but CFRA labored to guide farmers and policy makers through it nonetheless. While all of this was occurring, CFRA was working on various other projects, which you can read about in the previous link as well as here. CFRA has kept quite busy over the years with various agricultural issues, and their passion is evident throughout their manuscript collection.

MS 413, Box 100, Folder 29

A letter to FmHA from CFRA commenting on proposed changes to the FmHA property management regulations, 1984. MS 413, Box 100, Folder 29

More information on the work that CFRA has done can be found in the collection, along with more information on the farm crisis and many other matters pertaining to agriculture and rural America. Special Collections and University Archives has many other resources on the farm crisis, which can be found in this collections guide. In addition, we have a copy of Iowa Public Television’s 2013 documentary “The Farm Crisis,” also available for viewing here. Stop in and have a look at our resources!


CyPix: Three Farmers and a Dog

Three farmers sitting on a trailer bed - possibly taking a break - with a dog, 1949. RS 16/3/D

Three farmers sitting on a trailer bed taking a break with a dog, 1949. RS 16/3/D

It’s August already! Soon, students will be returning (and arriving for the first time) in droves for a new academic year. But for now, there’s still plenty of summer left to enjoy! We are officially in the “dog days of summer,” trying to find ways to beat the heat and humidity here in Ames. Truth be told, I’m not certain in which season the photo above was taken, but I like to imagine these farmers are taking a break from the heat of their summer work and their trusty farm dog decided to join them (the long sleeves don’t necessarily indicate cool weather – they also serve as protection from the sun and other elements). Sometimes we don’t know much about a photo, and it is therefore open to interpretation. What we do know about this one is that it’s a great image of a small piece of farm life in the 1940s, a life integral to Iowa then and still integral today.

The photo above comes from the Cooperative Extension Service in Agriculture and Home Economics collections, a list of which can be found here. More Extension photos can be found on our Flickr site for those of you wanting to see more. And, if you need to get out of the heat, the Special Collections and University Archives reading room is a great place to cool down and explore Iowa’s agricultural past. See you soon!