A “wonderful glacial erratic”: Charles S. Gwynne and a campus landmark

…I would like to say that I have seen an uncounted number of glacial erratics, but I have never seen one that had so many interesting features as this one does. – Charles S. Gwynne (RS 13/8/12)

Charles S. Gwynne in front of the boulder. undated. (University photographs, RS 13/8, box 1057)

Charles S. Gwynne in front of the boulder, possibly during transport to its current location. undated. (University photographs, RS 13/8, box 1057)

If you’ve been in the vicinity of Science I, you may have seen an unusual boulder. It stands approximately 6 feet high and is criss-crossed with bands of a lighter rock. It’s what is known as a glacial erratic – “Glacially transported rock whose lithology shows that it could not have been eroded from the local country rock.”1

This is a diagram (not to scale) of the southwest face of the boulder at the southeast corner of the Science Building. The rock is mostly granite with some inclusions.

From “The Boulder.” Box 6, folder 6. Charles S. Gwynne Papers, RS 13/8/12.

Charles S. Gwynne was a geology professor at Iowa State from 1927-1970. He used the boulder in his teaching by taking students to the rock regularly as part of class field trips.

According to Gwynne, the boulder was originally located on what became the campus golf course. Various efforts to move the boulder were made over the years, but Gwynne always objected as he “remained strongly committed to the idea that the boulder should be left where the glacier put it.”2

Eventually it was decided that the boulder was at risk from potential vandalism and the inevitable widening of Stange Road. Gwynne gave his unofficial blessing and it was moved to its present location by the geology students.

A story on the boulder from Inside Iowa State. The original page is no longer available on the live web, but can be accessed via our web archives. Click on the picture to see the preserved website.

A story on the boulder from Inside Iowa State. Click on the picture to see the preserved website via our web archives.

Interested in seeing the erratic for yourself? You may want to participate in this earthcache about the boulder. See the rest of the Gwynne papers (RS 13/8/12) for more on geology in Iowa and the midwest.

1. “erratic” in Michael Allaby. A Dictionary of Geology and Earth Sciences, 4th Edition. Oxford Paperback Reference. Oxford University Press, 2013. QE5 D54 2013

2. “The Boulder.” Box 6, folder 6. Charles S. Gwynne Papers, RS 13/8/12. Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives, Iowa State University.

CyPix: Rising to the sky–Marston Water Tower

Completed Marston Water Tower, in 1897, showing Morrill Hall on the right and Margaret Hall on the left.

Marston Water Tower,  1897, showing Morrill Hall on the right and Margaret Hall on the left.

The steel pointed top of the Marston Water Tower rising above campus is one the ISU campus landmarks, and it has an interesting history. It was designed by Anson Marston, Professor and Head (1892-1917) of the Department of Civil Engineering. 1894 saw a water shortage on campus so severe that classes had to be cancelled. The following year, the college decided to build a water tower. It was the first elevated steel water tower west of the Mississippi. It stands 168 feet tall, while the tank itself is  40 feet tall and 24 feet in diameter, holding 162,000 gallons. In 1978, the university became part of the city of Ames’ water system, and Marston Water Tower was no longer used. In 1981, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1987 it was restored. In 2007,  the American Water Works Association named the Marston Water Tower an “American Water Landmark.”

Watch the tower rise above campus in this series of construction photographs from 1897.

The beginning of construction of Marston Water Tower, showing Old Main in the background, March 9, 1897.

The beginning of construction of Marston Water Tower, showing Old Main in the background, March 9, 1897.

First stage of construction completed, March 18, 1897. Old Main is on the left, the Chemical and Physical Laboratory is on the right.

First stage of construction completed, March 18, 1897. Old Main is on the left, the Chemical and Physical Laboratory is on the right.

Progress on the water tower, March 22, 1897.

Progress on the water tower, March 22, 1897.

Construction begins on tank itself, April 22, 1897.

Construction begins on tank itself, April 22, 1897.

Construction nearly completed on the water tower, July 6, 1897.

Construction nearly completed on the water tower, July 6, 1897.

A Bird Named Enza Flew to ISU: The Flu Epidemic of 1918

When I learned about the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 in grade school, a little playground rhyme from the era etched itself in my mind. It goes like this: “I had a little bird, it’s name was Enza, I opened the window and in flew Enza.” Of course, this seemingly lighthearted rhyme is a rather punny (sorry…) metaphor for the spread of influenza (“in flew Enza”). As we’re in the midst of a particularly nasty and newsworthy flu season, it seems like a good time to flash back to that flu epidemic that nearly 100 years later remains in our consciousness. Like the rest of the world, Iowa State University was not immune to the disease, and life on campus was impacted greatly.


State Gym transformed into a temporary hospital during the Spanish influenza epidemic, 1918. RS 13/16/D, Box 1123

Spanish influenza began its spread in late August, 1918. Shipments of troops moving out across the world during World War I aided the transmission of the disease. By October of that year, the epidemic swept into Iowa, and the state first reported cases of influenza on October 5th. Although the first reports were submitted at that time, it seems that the disease was here a bit earlier – Camp Dodge was quarantined on September 28th. The epidemic was at its peak in Iowa the week of October 19th with a total of 21,117 cases, but the disease didn’t significantly disappear until the summer of 1919. By the time the outbreak ended in 1919, approximately 20 million people died the world over. This website on “The Great Pandemic,” as it is sometimes called, provides lots of information on the spread of the Spanish flu, including its effects in each state.

A small portion of influenza diagnoses in the Iowa State College Hospital record book for the Motor Corps and SATC, October, 1918. RS 13/16/1, Box 2, Folder 12

A small portion of influenza diagnoses in the Iowa State College Hospital record book for the Motor Corps and SATC, October, 1918. Notice how they started to abbreviate after awhile. RS 13/16/1, Box 2, Folder 12

While all of this was going on, our Student Army Training Corps, or SATC, was training military men on campus for WWI. October 1918 brought disruption to the training program with many SATC men falling ill with Spanish influenza. In the Iowa State College Hospital’s record book, there are pages upon pages of influenza cases, primarily from October through December 1918. Eventually the College Hospital was overflowing with patients, and other buildings, including State Gym, were turned into additional hospital facilities. An excerpt from a letter from President Stanton to the Committee on Education and Special Training, Washington, DC, describes the situation on October 9th, 1918:

“We have some 300 cases of the Influenza, but have ample hospital facilities, physicians and attendants. The number of new cases are decreasing, those discharged from the hospital exceed those admitted, and we feel that we are facing toward normal conditions. We have a strict quarantine separating us from the rest of the world.” (RS 13/16/1, Box 2, Folder 14)

The quarantine of which he wrote involved guards posted around campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Anyone who wished to enter or leave campus required permission and were given passes to present to the guards, like the one below.


A pass issued to a faculty member during the 1918 influenza epidemic campus quarantine. RS 13/16/1, Box 2, Folder 1

Despite President Stanton’s optimism in the letter, the epidemic was far from over at Iowa State. In a memo to the heads of departments dated October 12, 1918, he enacted the following:

“At meeting of the Board of Deans on October 8, 1918 it was decided that, for the time being, complete segregation of men from women students be established, including segregation at class periods.” (RS 13/16/1, Box 2, Folder 9)

The logic behind this was likely that all SATC members were men; therefore separating the men from the women would reduce the spread of the disease. It was a method that seems to have worked. Out of the 53 people that died at Iowa State, only two were women. The other 51 were all SATC men. The men’s names are included on the WWI list in Gold Star Hall in the Memorial Union.

For more information on the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 at Iowa State, see the Department of Military Science Subject Files, the James Thomas Emmerson Papers, and the Charles F. Tous Papers. And of course, do what you can to prevent the flu and its spread this season – tips can be found here. Stay healthy!


CyPix: Watching and Walking in Winter Wonderland

Morrill Hall in snow circa 1905

Morrill Hall, circa 1905, from RS 4/8/4

Last week, Kim had some fun arts and crafts project ideas from the archives to keep our hands busy while it snows. If I’m telling the truth, my favorite thing to do when it’s snowing is… watch the snow. Since it’s not currently snowing, I’ll content myself with some photographs, like the one above of Morrill Hall dated around 1905.

Lyon Hall 1979

Women outside Lyon Hall, 1979, from RS 7/4

If I do have to go outside, though, good company is important. These women outside Lyon Hall in 1979 are making the most of their winter wonderland adventures – which most likely include class!

World Audiovisual Heritage Day is October 27

Although we are a bit early, we’re celebrating World Audiovisual Heritage Day on the blog. One of the most notable features of the Special Collections and University Archives department is the number of films to which we provide access. Many were created by Iowa State or WOI and provide visual and sometimes sound-filled evidence of the days of yore.

Here are two selections from our nearly 10,000-item films:

First, a video of landscape architecture professor Philip H. Elwood’s trip, with three students, from California to Ames in 1927. Below is the second of the two-part silent film. Even without sound, there is so much to take in. Not just the landscapes – which appear quite different than they do today – but the people, the clothes, the automobiles, other cues as to the time and place.

Another film available through our YouTube channel comes from WOI’s “Expedition” series. This episode on Christian Peterson discusses his work and includes many of the sculptures that are still on display around ISU’s campus today. All three parts are available online; below is the first part.

To browse more of our film collection – which covers agriculture, campus, social events, historical moments, and small towns around Iowa – check out our YouTube channel or our online film listings. Happy World Audiovisual Heritage Day from our corner of the University Library!

CyPix: Women’s military drill in front of Old Main

When Iowa State College (University) first opened its doors in 1869, military training was mandatory for all male students, based on the terms of the Morrill Act. Iowa was the first state in the country to accept the terms of the Morrill Act, under which the state would receive land to sell to raise funds for the establishment of a college of “agriculture and mechanic arts.” These schools included compulsory military training–but not for women.

Women's military drill at Old Main ca 1894

Group of women participating in military drill outside of Old Main, circa 1894.

Carrie Chapman Catt was an early ISC student, attending from 1877 to 1880, who later became a prominent women’s suffragist and political activist. She was instrumental in the movement to establish women’s military drill on campus. Women’s voluntary drill began in 1879 and continued until 1897, and the women even joined the men as part of the Iowa delegation to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

More information about early military training can be found in the Department of Military Science Subject files (RS 13/16/1). See the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers (RS 21/7/3) and related items in the Digital Collections for more on this early Iowa suffragist.

CyPix: The View from the Campanile

Last week, Whitney posted a picture of sheep in front of the Campanile. Today we’re taking a slightly higher perspective, and looking down from the Campanile itself.

View looking northwest from the bell tower of the Campanile, . Through the left window is visible the erection of Beardshear Hall with Marston Hall and Martson Water Tower in the background. Through the right window Morrill Hall can be seen. A bell can be faintly seen at the bottom.

View looking northwest from the bell tower of the Campanile. Through the left window is visible the erection of Beardshear Hall with Marston Hall and Martson Water Tower in the background. Through the right window Morrill Hall can be seen. One of the carillon bells can be faintly seen at the bottom. Photo first appeared in the 1908 Bomb.

Construction on Beardshear Hall, which can be seen through the window on the left, began in 1903, after fires burned down Old Main, which had originally occupied the spot. Construction was completely finished by 1908, although parts of the building had been occupied since 1906. The building was initially called the Central Building, but in 1938 it was renamed Beardshear Hall after President Beardshear, who presided over the proposal of its construction. The building initially provided space for multiple departments, including Mathematics, English, Botany, History, Modern Languages, Elocution, and offices for the President, Secretary and Treasurer, and Board of Trustees.

More information on these and other campus buildings may be found in the Iowa State University Facilities Planning and Management Buildings and Grounds Records, RS 4/8/4. More photos of Beardshear Hall can be found on Flickr.

CyPix: The Campanile… and Sheep

Sheep graze near the Campanile in 1905. RS 4/8/I

Sheep graze near the Campanile in 1905. RS 4/8/I

When you look for photos of iconic campus buildings, what do you expect to see? The building in question, a lovely green lawn, maybe a sprinkling of trees, and… sheep? Probably not, unless you’re researching Iowa State’s sheep barns. The sheep grazing in the foreground of this photo with their shepherd and sheepdog add an interesting dimension to this image of the often photographed campanile – although, of course, all photos of the campanile are interesting. The campanile was built in 1899 in honor of prominent ISU alum Edgar Stanton’s beloved wife, Margaret MacDonald Stanton, who was Iowa State’s first dean of women and passed away in 1895. After Edgar Stanton’s death in 1920, 26 bells were added to the original 10 in his name. These became the instrument known today as the Edgar W. and Margaret MacDonald Stanton Memorial Carillon. As for the sheep, well, why exactly they’re on this part of campus is not known for certain. It’s possible that they’re out grazing to act as a sort of substitute lawn mower, but again, that’s speculation. Personally, I rather like that thought.

More information on the campanile can be found in RS 4/8/4, this website devoted to the building’s 100th anniversary, the admissions website, and on the Sesquicentennial Celebration website. The photo above and others can be found on our Flickr site and in the digital collections. If you’re interested in sheep at Iowa State, you can find additional information on the old sheep barns in both RS 4/8/4 and the Sesquicentennial Celebration website as well.

CyPix: An Old Campus View

View of the southwest corner of campus in 1888, as seen from the roof of Old Main

For those of you who have spent much time on campus in the last century, you probably wouldn’t recognize the subject of this photo without the caption, above. This is the Iowa State Campus looking from Old Main to the southwest corner of campus. Before it burned down, Old Main was situated where Beardshear Hall now sits. On today’s campus, this view would be like standing on top of Beardshear looking toward Campustown. Instead of a few buildings and lots of farmland, the view today consists of, well, lots of buildings. To see more photos of campus in the early days, check out our Flickr page or the Digital Collections website under “University Photographs”. Want to learn more about Old Main? We have a post all about it. For information about the history of our campus, we have a post about that too. Of course, if you want to see even more photos and learn all about central campus, stop by and see us!

Iowa State’s Central Campus: A Brief History (and a Myth)

Central campus (more or less the area around present day Curtiss Hall, Beardshear, Catt Hall, and the Campanile/Memorial Union)as it appears today.

Fall Semester classes began almost a month ago now!  New Iowa State students have hopefully become more familiar with the campus and its buildings, and may have even established their favorite places to study, relax, or chat with friends.  Most students have probably hurried mulitiple times through central campus on their way to a class, meeting or campus event.

As a new or long-time Iowa Stater you may or may not have taken the time to ask how and why our central campus was designed the way it is.  If you did…and you are still wondering…or if you never did, and now would like to know…the Olmsted Brothers’ recommendations for campus design and improvements has recently been made available online.  The report might shed at least a little light on the history of central campus, and at least one impassioned controversy involved in its development!

Iowa State’s central campus area in 1904.  In the distance one can see Margaret Hall (girls’ dormitory) to the left and Catt Hall (then Botany Hall) to the right.

The Olmsted Brothers (landscape architects and son and stepson of the famed Frederick Law Olmsted who designed New York City’s Central Park – and not Iowa State’s campus, as one century-old myth goes) were hired as consultants in 1906 to to give recommendations on the future plans for the campus design and layout.  In A. T. Erwin’s 1966 reminiscence (Professor of Horticulture, and member of the Public Grounds Committee) entitled “The Days of Yore at Iowa State”, Erwin related that the passage of a mileage tax around 1900 had provided funds for major buildings of Iowa State’s central campus (the reminiscence can be found in the Arthur Thomas Erwin Papers, RS 9/16/16).

According to Erwin, the number of students attending Iowa State had grown drastically from its beginnings almost fifty years ago, and even in just the previous ten years.  He says that the student body was approaching the 1,000 mark in 1900, and had only been at 300 about ten years before.  The campus needed additional buildings for the increased size.  Erwin relates that the Buildings and Grounds Committee had discussed an overall landscape plan for an orderly development of campus, and an agreement had not been reached.  Erwin then suggested to President Storms that an “outstanding landscape architect” be hired, and the Olmsted Brothers were chosen to provide recommendations.

Another view of central campus (a campus horse carriage can be seen in the foreground) in 1906, the year the Olmsted Brothers submitted their report.

Their report, which recommended that the proposed location for the Agricultural Hall be moved so that it lined up with Beardshear and recommended modifying the location of campus roads and the railway to create a more pleasing aesthetic, upset many in the campus community.  In addition to the report itself, the University Archives holds the records of the Public Grounds Committee (RS 8/6/69) which contains reactions to the report, correspondence with the Olmsted brothers, and a summary of a conversation held with the Olmsted Brothers.  Included is “An Appeal to the Alumni” from the Alumnus, which is the “bearer of unwelcome news” and decries the proposed changes and the destruction of the beautiful campus.  The article states:

“Every graduate of the college must regret the radical change in plans for our loved, beautiful campus.  This change from the natural or English-park style so carefully planned, and tried for nearly forty years on our grounds, to the formal or French style, so artificial and as we believe so unsuited to a room situation like our own, has been accepted by the authorities and the first ground was broken the latter part of September.”

The controversy involved in the Olmsted brothers’ report not only sheds light on people’s love for the campus in the early part of the 20th century (which definitely continues today!), but is also an interesting window into one of many debates which probably occurred in this country when architectural and landscape changes were taking another major shift.

Above is a well-loved image of sheep on the central lawn near the Campanile.  The photograph was taken around 1905, close to when the Olmsted Brothers wrote their report.  Even though this photograph was taken over 100 years ago, when major changes were taking place on campus, one can almost picture a similar scene in the same place today.  Despite all the changes, new buildings, and major increase in the number of students attending Iowa State, the central lawn has remained for students to enjoy!

In conclusion, I must point out one major misconception often stated about who designed Iowa State’s early campus.  Myths will inevitably start about an institution, and Iowa State is no exception!  In the “Appeal to Alumni”, the author mentions that the Iowa State campus was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.  As stated above, this is in fact not the case.  Iowa State’s first president, Adonijah Welch, designed much of the original campus.  It is interesting, however, to see the long-standing assertion in an article written over 100 years ago.  This myth still continues to this day, but hopefully readers of this blog post can help straighten the record!  It is just one example among many of how people need to double and triple check their facts, no matter how much closer a statement was written to when the supposed fact occurred!

Another view of central campus, this time from 1897.  In the distance Old Main, which burned in 1902, can be seen to the left. Morrill Hall is to the right.

To find out more about the history of the Iowa State’s central campus, please take a look at the Olmsted Brothers’ report now available online.  The University Archives has a variety of resources for finding out more about the history of this report and other campus plans including news clippings and articles about the campus located with the Public Grounds Committee Records (RS 8/6/69), minutes of the Public Grounds Committee, 1911-1928 (RS 8/6/69), K. A. Kirckpatrick’s bachelor’s thesis from 1909 entitled “A Landscape Plan for the Campus of Iowa State College,” (call number C Ob 1909 Kirckpatrick) and reminiscences written by Public Grounds Committee member and Professor of Horticulture Arthur Thomas Erwin which can be found in his papers (RS 9/16/16).  A wonderful resource on the history of the campus and its buildings prior to 1979, H. Summerfield Day’s Iowa State University’s Campus and Its Buildings, 1859-1979, can be found online.  We also have a collection of articles, news clippings, and other publications on campus buildings (RS 4/8/4).  Writings by Iowa State’s first president, who had a significant role in planning Iowa State’s original grounds, can be found in the Adonijah Strong Welch Papers (RS 2/1).