Did you know it’s National Canned Food Month? Canned food may not be the most glamorous of edibles, but the canning process can be deceptively tricky (exploding fruit, anyone?). There are countless guides on how to can various foods on the internet, including these from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Educating the public on canning procedures is nothing new for Extension – they were giving demonstrations on that 90 years ago! Below are some photos from such demonstrations:
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!
More than a hundred years ago, Iowa State College Agricultural Extension recognized the importance of bees as pollinators. If more Iowans kept bees, they suggested, “the presence of such large numbers of bees would result in the better cross pollenization [sic] and fertilization of blossoms, which would indirectly add very much more in the production of fruits and seeds of various kinds” (Bee Keeping in Iowa, Extension Bulletin no. 11, March 1913, Bee Keeping Extension Publications, RS 16/3/0/17).
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.
The 1959-1961 Iowa State University General Catalog describes short courses as being conducted for two purposes: “To enable men and women in the same field to meet for a discussion of mutual problems, and to give them an opportunity to discuss and study their problems with college specialists in the light of most research findings.” The courses were open to anyone and were of limited duration and practical in nature.
When the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States was catapulted into World War II. Although the United States had remained neutral while countries in Europe and Asia had gone to war, Americans all over the country were keenly following events overseas and trying to understand them. The people of Iowa were no different.
Seven days after Pearl Harbor, on December 12, during a regularly-scheduled radio program, Iowa State College Extension Sociologist Bill Stacy outlined efforts already underway by community groups to understand the world around them:
“The 4-H girls’ clubs, for three years, have been studying a ‘World Conscious Program.’ …Out of school Rural Young People have organized programs in 61 counties. This year these groups have as the theme for their major study, ‘Our Job in Strengthening Democracy.’…Farm women’s groups for a third year, are studying ‘The Farm Family and the World Today’….Then, as you know, the Extension Service has published eight circulars in a series called ‘The Challenge to Democracy'” (Script for Radio Dialogue in Box 10, Folder 1, William H. Stacy Papers, RS 16/3/57).
Understanding and supporting democracy as a means of combating the totalitarianism of the Axis Powers was of prime importance. Stacy also emphasized the need to bring communities together to support war efforts and also to support the well-being of citizens during a time of national stress and hardship.
During World War II, every effort and activity was directed toward the war, and Iowa State College Extension Service put its shoulder to the wheel throughout all its departments. Extension agronomists supported programs for higher crop production throughout the state. Home Economics Extension nutritionists developed programs to keep Iowans strong and healthy. Home management specialists helped homemakers to make do with less and save on resources needed for the war. Rural Sociology Extension, headed by Bill Stacy, supported community councils and assisted community leaders with discussion programs. Even recreation programs were designed to ease wartime tensions!
Stacy created the Program Service for Rural Leaders, guides to be used by community organizations for leading discussions on timely topics with suggestions for different types of recreational activities. One Program Service from February 1943 included in a pamphlet on “American Square Dances for Wartime Relaxation” that included a Victory Reel!
I’m Hillary H., the new Silos and Smokestacks intern working in the ISU Special Collections. I’m here for the summer from the School of Library and Information Science at UNC-Chapel Hill where I’m working on my MS in Library Science (concentration in Archives and Records Management). I’ve worked with rare books previously, and have several years experience in the used book business.
In my work here, I’ll be putting together an online collection about the early Extension work in Iowa. It will have a special emphasis on the agricultural work done by the Extension Service and the impact it had on the lives of Iowa’s farmers.
Lots of progress has been made already. Thus far I’ve gone through nearly one hundred folders of material, and not only have I found dozens of pieces that have potential to make it into the digital collection, I have also found several references I never anticipated seeing anywhere outside of my hometown. For instance, Walter Hines Page was a name I’d only ever seen in relation to my high school (it’s named after him), but I recently found a few comments about Page and comments about one of the national committees he had served on. It is definitely not what I had expected to find in Iowa, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
In addition to the aforementioned findings, there has already been some preliminary designing of the website, and conservation work is set to begin in the next day or so.
In 1872, when the Board of Trustees of Iowa State College (University) decided to create a Department of Domestic Economy, there was no precedent for how to begin such a curriculum. No other land grant institution was teaching in this field, and there were no textbooks. Mary Beaumont Welch, wife of the first ISC president, Adonijah S. Welch, was suggested to head up the department.
“With fear and trembling I finally decided to try,” Mary Welch later reminisced in an essay on “The Early Days of Domestic Science at I.S.C.” for The Alumnus for June 1912, “after telling the committee frankly that I was without experience in that sort of teaching, that there were no established precedents to guide me and no classified courses for me to follow.”
In spite of her professed fear, Welch dove in to the task and forged a way ahead. Before she began teaching classes, she took a course at Juliet Corson’s School of Cookery in New York, and later on, she traveled to London to attend the South Kensington School of Cookery, from which she received a certificate.
The London school was established to train young women to go into domestic service for the English upper classes. Welch remembered:
“It was incomprehensible to the English mind that a women, apparently a lady, whose husband was, as my letters of introduction proved, at the head of an important institution of learning, should be anxious either to learn or to teach cooking. The question was often asked me what family I was engaged to work for when I received my certificate.”
On April 2, 1920, Welch answered a note from Elizabeth Storms, then a junior in Home Economics and Agriculture at Iowa State College, asking about “the early days of the Home Economics Department.” In her reply, she writes, “There was very little method of formality in my manner of conducting those early classes. My lectures were intimate talks on the ways and means I had found useful in my own home. …One thing we did to make our work practical was to cook a dinner for a table of eight in the College Dining Room, three days in each week. We were given the same materials from the kitchen that were used for all the tables, but allowed to cook and serve them as we pleased, and I can assure you each table awaited its turn for our dinner with eagerness.”
Welch wrote some of her lectures on domestic economy in a notebook. These lectures covered subjects such as ironing, management of domestic help, cooking, and household accounts. Her no-nonsense approach is apparent in this passage from one lecture: “Avoid primness in your surroundings. Be orderly and neat, but be sensible at the same time. There is nothing more disagreeable than a housekeeper who follows husband, children, and guests about with a broom and dustpan or a floor cloth.”
In 1884, she published a cookbook called Mrs. Welch’s Cookbook, which can be viewed in the Digital Collections.
Not only did Welch teach the basics of home management to ISC students, but she also lectured to women’s groups around the state. Around 1882-1883, she gave six lectures to a group of 60 women in Des Moines, in this way embarking on the first Extension activity in the area of home economics.
Wlech resigned from ISC in 1883 but continued to lecture to various women’s groups. In 1992, she was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.
May 8 marked the Centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, or Agriculture Extension Act, passed by the United State Congress in 1914, creating a nationwide system of cooperative extension services that provide outreach activities through land-grant universities.
In celebration, the Special Collections Department at the Iowa State University Library put together a small exhibit on Extension pioneers in Iowa before and after the Smith-Lever Act. Iowa, in fact, was a leader among the states in Extension activity. In 1906, the Iowa General Assembly appropriated funds to establish a Department of Extension at Iowa State College eight years before Smith-Lever, but the earliest activities that would become the Cooperative Extension Service began even earlier. Let’s look at the stories of two Iowa pioneers in Extension work: Perry G. Holden and Jessie Field Shambaugh.
Perry G. Holden, known for his energy and charisma, has been called the “father of Extension in Iowa.” At the recommendation of a former colleague, he was hired by Iowa State College to teach a trial section on corn as part of a short course offered to farmers on new agricultural methods. The committee did not believe farmers would be interested in such a boring subject as corn production, but when Holden arrived with his charts, demonstration materials, and engaging personality, the farmers demanded more! When President Beardshear got wind of this, he hired Holden as a full-time professor of agronomy, and he was able to continue his outreach activities to farmers.
Holden is perhaps best known for his “Seed Corn Gospel Trains.” He used the train cars as traveling exhibit and lecture halls to reach masses of people, demonstrating his methods of testing seed corn in order to improve crop yields. Stopping in designated rail stations, he brought the research of the university out to the farmers where they were. The first tour began April 18, 1904, making 50 stops between Gowrie and Estherville. By his own estimate, Holden lectured to three thousand people during his first tour. The trains drew such large crowds that sometimes the train car windows had to be opened so that people outside the cars could listen.
In 1906, Holden was appointed the first superintendent of Extension, a post he held until 1912 when he left to run for governor of Iowa. During his tenure, he established the three main branches of outreach that formed the core of early Extension work in Iowa: demonstration farms, short courses, and education trains.
Jessie Field Shambaugh, or “Miss Jessie” as she was known to her students at the Goldenrod School, is regarded as the “Mother of 4-H.” Born in 1881 in Clarinda, Iowa, Shambaugh began her teaching career in 1901 at the age of 19. The Goldenrod School in Page County, Iowa provided her the opportunity to innovate in something she felt passionate about – rural education for rural children. While at Goldenrod School, students took courses related to farming and homemaking. This practical approach to education garnered enthusiasm in the community and among the students. At the school, Shambaugh organized “Boys’ Corn Clubs” and “Girls’ Home Clubs,” and as county superintendent in 1906 she expanded these into the regular curriculum for 130 rural schools. Goldenrod School is credited as being the “birthplace of 4-H.”
From these boys’ and girls’ clubs came the 4-H clubs. In 1906, Shambaugh created the three-leaf clover pin to encourage children to participate in Junior Achievement Shows. Each leaf contained an “H,” which stood for “Head, Heart, and Hands.” Like 4-H, the 3-H motto was “Learning by Doing, to Make the Best Better.” Not long after, a fourth leaf was added, with its “H” standing for “Home.”
Jessie Field Shambaugh held the first Farm Camp in 1910. This was the forerunner to today’s 4-H camps, and was for boys only. The following year, she held the first girl’s camp, the Camp of the Golden Maids, as the girls thought they should have the same opportunity. Each of these camps focused on different roles in rural life. At Farm Camp, the boys judged corn and horses, took classes in grain study and rope tying, practiced military drills, and played baseball. The Golden Maids cooked, sewed, and learned how to keep a proper home. Today, 4-H clubs and camps are coeducational and the boys and girls have the same opportunities open to them.
These are just some highlights from the exhibit. We hope you stop by Special Collections to see the full exhibit!
To learn more about Extension collections in the Special Collections Department, visit our University Archives Collection Inventory page for Extension as well as our Extension subject guide.
Planting season is in full swing, although things are done a bit differently than they were when this photo was taken (for which I think most farmers are grateful). Whether this Cooperative Extension Service photo is post-harvest or pre-planting, I’m not sure, but either way, technology has clearly advanced and farmers use tractors rather than horses for their plowing and tilling. This May marks the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, which established cooperative extension services throughout the United States. In Iowa, an early form of Extension had already existed for about 10 years when the federal act came to be in 1914. This and other Extension-related photos can be found on our Flickr site. For more information on Extension and its history, see these collections and, of course, the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach website. Also of interest may be College of Agriculture and Life Sciences collections, and any of our agriculture-related manuscript collections. Come in and see us!