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.


Women’s History Month: ISU’s first woman Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Margaret Sloss knew what she was talking about when she told the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society the following:

When you are working toward some dream, the first thing you must do is wipe out all the reasons why you cannot have or achieve it. Keep your mind only on the things that must be done to realize it. Toss out all the reasons why you think you cannot have what you want. For it will profit nothing to think up what you want if you are going to think immediately of doubts that you can attain it. (Margaret Sloss Papers, RS 14/7/51, Box 3, Folder 1)

Margaret Sloss working as a Technician in Veterinary Pathology at Iowa State University, 1927. RS 14/7/51, Box 4, Folder 9.

Margaret Sloss working as a Technician in Veterinary Pathology at Iowa State University, 1927. RS 14/7/51, Box 4, Folder 9.

Sloss’s own dream had been to become a veterinarian, and, indeed, she was the first woman to graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Iowa State College in 1938, and only the 27th such woman in the United States.

Pioneer in her field

A sheet of data on women students in veterinary medical programs around the United States found in the Margaret Sloss Papers (RS 14/7/51) paints a vivid picture of the environment that Sloss was working in. This data shows a total of 37 female applicants to ten veterinary medical programs surveyed for the year 1937, of which nine had been accepted; the total number of female students that had ever graduated from those schools was 16. The “policy toward acceptance” category (seen below in the far right column) is even more revealing. The most positive comment is, “Favored but realize hazard of short professional careers.” The rest range from “not enthusiastic” to “Discourage to extent of ability.” Iowa State’s policy? “Not favored. No out-of-state applicants will be accepted” (Box 1, Folder 10).

Data on women veterinary medical students at ten U.S. programs for 1937. RS 14/7/51, Box 1, Folder 10.

Data on women veterinary medical students at ten U.S. programs for 1937. RS 14/7/51, Box 1, Folder 10.

Sloss had a battle to fight on her own behalf. Initially rejected as an applicant, she successfully argued that the land grant charter for Iowa State stipulated that admission to the college could not be refused based on sex. In 1939, Lois Calhoun became the second woman DVM to graduate from ISC, but it was another 25 years before the next woman graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1964! For the subsequent decade, there were only two to three female graduates out of each class of 60 students; beginning in 1975, women started to make up 25-30% of each class. Since then, the percentage of women studying veterinary medicine has increased significantly. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges in its Annual Data Report, 2013-2014 shows the current enrollment of women in US veterinary medical colleges to be 79.6%.

Sloss was clearly a pioneer in her field, but she spoke very moderately when discussing her experiences as a woman in a male-dominated profession. In a letter to Charles Paul May dated February 8, 1963, she writes of herself and fellow graduate Calhoun, “Perhaps neither one of us is a very good judge of how prejudice [sic] people were as far as women in the profession is concerned. We went on the assumption that we were medically and scientifically minded and would rather be in veterinary medicine than in human medicine.” She goes on to say, “As far as our classmates and professors were concerned, sure we took a lot of kidding but since being on the staff here at I.S.U. I realize we didn’t take anymore than some of the fellows did or do now” (RS 14/7/51, Box 1, Folder 10).

Iowa State Grants It's First Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to a Woman

Issue of ISU’s Summer Quarter News from 1938, with article, “Iowa State Grants Its First Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to a Woman.” Box 1, Folder 15.

Women’s movement–Carrie Chapman Catt and Eleanor Roosevelt

This is not to say that she did not recognize the difficulties faced by women in the profession. In 1939, she wrote a paper titled “Women in Veterinary Medicine” whose purpose was “to disprove a current theory that it is useless to spend time and money educating a woman in this science” (RS 14/7/51, Box 3, Folder 6). In a letter to Iowa State alumna and woman’s suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt the following year, she describes wanting to publish the paper. However, “its nature is such that it must almost of necessity appear in a women’s journal, preferably a women’s medical journal. So far as I have been able to learn, there is none such. I am sure that it would never be accepted by any of the man-published scientific journals, and probably would lead to a mild furor if it were” (Box 1, Folder 13).

This letter was written on the occasion of the Women’s Centennial Congress, organized by Catt to commemorate one hundred years of progress in women’s rights. Catt had written to Sloss to announce that Sloss had been selected as one of 100 women honored for success in various fields. Sloss wrote back to convey “the great honor” she felt of being recognized and to express her regret at not being able to attend. “I know of nothing from which I would derive more benefit and pleasure,” she wrote. “However, since it is impossible to be with you, I can only assure you that I shall be thinking of your group, officers and delegates, frequently and earnestly next week, and wishing for you the most successful and inspirational meeting possible” (Box 1, Folder 13).

Letter from Carrie Chapman Catt to Margaret Sloss, announcing Sloss's selection to the "list of one hundred women who are doing things that no woman could have done twenty-five years ago" for the Woman's Centennial Congress, 1940. Box 1, Folder 13.

Letter from Carrie Chapman Catt to Margaret Sloss, announcing Sloss’s selection to the “list of one hundred women who are doing things that no woman could have done twenty-five years ago” for the Woman’s Centennial Congress, 1940. Box 1, Folder 13.

Catt wasn’t the only prominent woman of her time to recognize Sloss’s early achievement. Four years later, in 1944, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited Sloss to a luncheon at the White House on October 6.

Invitation from Eleanor Roosevelt to Margaret Sloss for a luncheon at the White House on October 6, 1944.

Invitation from Eleanor Roosevelt to Margaret Sloss for a luncheon at the White House on October 6, 1944. Box 2, Folder 4.

Academic Career

After graduating with her veterinary medical degree, Sloss began teaching at Iowa State as an instructor in 1941. In 1943, she was granted tenure as an Assistant Professor, but here she seemed to reach a glass ceiling. It took fifteen years for her to be promoted to Associate Professor in 1958, and finally to full Professor in 1965. When she retired in 1972, she was awarded the status of Professor Emeritus. Although recognition came slowly, she made important contributions to the department. Former Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine Norman F. Cheville wrote, ” As a new faculty person in the College of Veterinary Medicine, Margaret Sloss moved the established discipline of pathology into a newly developing area of clinical pathology, the study of blood, urine and other body fluids to aid the diagnosis of disease. Before her time, clinical pathology had not been used nor taught in the curriculum” (letter dated March 1, 2002, box 1, folder 17).

WVMApamphlet_1-9_resized

Veterinary Medicine as a Professional Career for Women,” published by the Women’s Veterinary Medical Association, 1965. Box 1, Folder 9.

Sloss promoted the status of women in veterinary medicine throughout her career. She helped establish the Women’s Veterinary Medical Association in 1947, and served as its president from 1950-1952.  She was also active in several other professional organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Delta Epsilon and Phi Zeta.

Sloss retired from ISU in 1972 at the age of 70. To mark the occasion, Professor F.K. Ramsey, head of the Department of Veterinary Pathology, organized a celebration in her honor, which he entitled “This Is Your Life.” He invited family and friends of Sloss to contribute a letter as well as a monetary gift to present to Sloss. So many letters and donations came in that the letters fill up four bound volumes, and she received a check for $2,071.00! (Considering inflation, that amount would come to over $11,000 today.) This is truly a testament to her influence and popularity as a professor, colleague, mentor, and friend. One letter-writer describes her as one “who always wore a radiant smile and greeted me in the corridors with a pleasing twinkle in her eyes.” Another noted her “patience, sincerity, joviality and always a good humor.” Still another writes, “I just wanted to write this letter to one of the truly nicest persons that I once had the pleasure of being associated with” (Box 5, Folders 1-3).

Sloss has received many recognitions from Iowa State University and in Iowa; only a few are noted here. During her lifetime, she was awarded the Iowa State Faculty Citation in 1959 and the Stange Award for Meritorious Service in 1974. After her death in 1979, the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center on ISU campus was named in her honor in 1981. She was also posthumously inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006.

Undated photograph of Margaret Sloss at work in her lab. Box 4, Folder 9.

Undated photograph of Margaret Sloss at work in her lab. Box 4, Folder 9.

Stop by Special Collections to check out more from the Margaret W. (Margaret Wragg) Sloss Papers!


ISU Theatre celebrates 100 years

The following post was written by former student employee Samantha Koontz before she finished up her work with us at the end of last semester. This post accompanies the exhibit she created. Stop by Special Collections to view the exhibit!

Fredrica Shattuck in 1900.

Fredrica Shattuck in 1900.

In 1914 Fredrica Shattuck, head of Public Speaking at Iowa State, founded the Iowa State Players so that students could participate in public performances. She also founded “The Little Country Theatre” which performed at the Iowa State Fair from 1921 to 1926. She was instrumental in obtaining a laboratory theater workspace for students to practice and perform in. The Theater Workshop, formerly a campus sheep barn, served as the home of the Iowa State Players for many years. It was renamed Shattuck Theater in 1960. Shattuck relinquished her position as department head in 1931 but remained on as a teacher at Iowa State College.

The Theater Workshop, renamed to the Shattuck Theater in 1960.

The Theater Workshop, renamed to the Shattuck Theater in 1960.

As the years progressed, many department heads came and went, each bringing something new to the department. ISU Theatre has performed works by Shakespeare, musicals, comedies and student produced works. In the department’s early years, the Iowa State Players performed in Curtiss Hall Auditorium and The Theater Workshop, later renamed the Shattuck Theater. Throughout the years, students and professors alike have put their blood, sweat and tears into productions here at Iowa State in an effort to tell the best story they could. Currently the department pursues this with great vigor and performs their works in Fisher Theater along with the Student Produced Show in Pearson Hall.

ISU Theater productions, clockwise from left: "The Boys in the Band," 1971 in Curtiss Hall Auditorium; "Summertree," 1971 in Shattuck Theater; "The Tempest," 1923.

ISU Theater productions, clockwise from left: “The Boys in the Band,” 1971 in Curtiss Hall Auditorium; “Summertree,” 1971 in Shattuck Theater; “The Tempest,” 1923.

The auditorium and exterior of Fisher Theater, completed in 1974.

The auditorium and exterior of Fisher Theater, completed in 1974.

Here at Special Collections there are many scrapbooks containing news clippings, photographs and playbills of productions for each season up in to the 1980s (see Kathryn Eames Papers, RS 13/23/52). These scrapbooks show how theater was done in the past and are great reminders of the history of the department. The archives also contain correspondence from Fredrica Shattuck, information on other faculty members of the department as well as playbills and information on the shows that were produced throughout the years (see Fredrica V. Shattuck Papers, RS 13/23/51 and the Theatre Production Records, RS 13/23/3). Two of the most performed shows here at Iowa State University are Our Town and Crimes of the Heart, each of which was performed 4 times. Crimes of the Heart just closed on the Fisher Theater stage in November 2014 after its 4th run.

Left to right: Playbill for "Candida," 1925; news clipping about production of "Love and Honor: Iowa in the Civil War," 2008; photo from performance of "Rent" in  Fisher Theater, 2012; rehearsal schedule for "Henry IV, Part I," undated.

Left to right: Playbill for “Candida,” 1925; news clipping about production of “Love and Honor: Iowa in the Civil War,” 2008; photo from performance of “Rent” in Fisher Theater, 2012; rehearsal schedule for “Henry IV, Part I,” undated.

This year, for the 100th anniversary of ISU Theatre, the season looks to highlight the past, present and future of ISU Theatre. They have selected shows they have performed in the past such as Crimes of the Heart, Love and Honor: Iowa in the Civil War and A Christmas CarolTo honor the present, shows that have never been performed here will hit Fisher Theater’s stage, including Les Miserables, On The Verge, and Spring Awakening. With the gala performance on November 15th, the department celebrated both its past and its future. Alumni and students came together to perform – showing people what theater has been with the alumni and what it will become with the current students.

Into the Woods was performed in 2014 as the Stars Over Veishea performance. It was canceled mid-run due to the cancellation of Veishea.

Into the Woods was performed in 2014 as the Stars Over Veishea performance. It was canceled mid-run due to the cancellation of Veishea.

To see more from the ISU Theatre Program Records, stop by Special Collections!


Announcing the Leo C. Peters Papers

Peters-portrait

Portrait of Leo Charles Peters, undated. (RS 11/10/51, box 3 folder 10)

We are proud to announce that a large expansion of the Leo Charles Peters Papers (RS 11/10/51) is now available for research. Dr. Peters was a staple of the Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1961 until his retirement in 1996.

Born in Kansas, he got his start in engineering at Kansas State University with a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering (1953). Peters worked as an engineer for much of the 1950s at the John Deere Tractorworks in Waterloo, Iowa with the exception of the two years he spent in the 839th engineering battalion of the Special Category Army with Air Force during the Korean War. Peters left John Deere to take up a position as Instructor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering and complete his graduate education, earning both his M.S. (1963) and his Ph.D. (1967) in mechanical engineering and engineering mechanics from ISU. Peters was quickly promoted to Associate Professor, earning full Professor in 1978. He remained with the University until his retirement in 1996. Materials in the collection document Peters’ transition from student to professional to faculty member and provide insight into engineering curriculum development and university-industry partnerships. A significant portion of this collection concerns teaching activities and curriculum for engineering courses.

Peters_ISUSAE-students

ISU SAE entry into the SAE mini baja competition, 1983. ( RS 11/10/51, box 1, folder 49)

Part of Peters’ lasting contribution to ISU was his initiation of an ISU student branch of the Society of Automotive Engineers (ISU SAE) in 1968. The branch’s first year was very successful – earning a personal visit from F. B. Esty, the National President of SAE and culminating in the presentation of a branch charter for formal induction into SAE. Other notable guests of ISU SAE were Phil Myers (former president of the Society of Automotive Engineers), Andy Granatelli (Chief Executive Officer of STP), and Jacques Passino (Director of Ford Motor Company’s Special Products Division). Peters’ love of advising and working with students was recognized multiple times via awards for outstanding teaching and advising.

A sketch of the layout for a Moot Court workshop. RS 11/10/51.

A sketch of the layout for a Moot Court workshop. (RS 11/10/51, box 2 folder 29)

Drawing on both his formal education and experience as an engineer, Peters was an expert in product safety and product liability issues. He published in these areas and taught “moot court” workshops at engineering conferences where participants explored product liability and the law. He also worked as an independent consultant and expert witness specializing in patent infringement, products liability, and failure analysis.

One of the special features of this collection is the series of diaries that Peters kept from 1959 to 1969. Scattered throughout notes on classes, tough mechanic jobs at John Deere, thesis due dates, and class exams are hints of his rich family life – “Mark’s First Communion (May 8, 1966)” and “Sue’s 7th and 8th graders bought and gave her a bassinett for a going away gift (January 17, 1958).” Peters was devoted to his family and, along with wife (and ISU alumna) Suzanne Gordon Peters, raised nine children. This collection gives us a glimpse into the many facets of a scholar’s life.

A portion of Peters' 1959 diary.

A portion of Peters’ 1959 diary. (RS 11/10/51, box 2, folder 55)

Suzanne Peters, a birth announcement, and a newspaper account of family in attendance at Peters' doctoral graduation. RS 11/10/51

Suzanne Peters, a birth announcement, and a newspaper account of family in attendance at Peters’ doctoral graduation. (RS 11/10/51, box 3 folder 10)

This collection adds to our steadily growing body of materials on ISU engineering faculty (see Henry M. Black and Anson Marston). Our other engineering collections include: Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), the records of the College of Engineering, and our materials on agricultural engineering and technology.

The Leo Charles Peters papers are now available for research (RS 11/10/51) at our reading room on the fourth floor of the Parks Library. Please come by and take a look – there’s a lot more than we can include in a single blog post!


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!


Anson Marston Collection Update

In the time since we celebrated Anson Marston’s 150th birthday in May, another box of materials has been added to his collection, RS 11/1/11. These materials include certificates awarded to Marston, Cornell University class reunion booklets with a photo, news clippings, a booklet of letters Marston sent to his wife from Panama and Nicaragua, military correspondence, and an Iowa State Highway Commission bulletin featuring Marston. Let’s take a closer look at some of these materials.

Cornell Class Reunions

A photo of the engineers of the Class of 1889, Cornell University. RS 11/1/11, box 15, folder 2.

A photo of the engineers of the Class of 1889, Cornell University. RS 11/1/11, box 15, folder 2.

Among the added materials are programs from Marston’s 20 and 25-year Cornell University class reunions, as well as a Class of 1889 photo. In both the 20-year and 25-year programs, he’s listed as working at the University of Iowa in Ames, Iowa. Blasphemy! Of course, it should be listed as “Iowa State College,” since he never worked at the University of Iowa (or “State University of Iowa” as it was also called then). Aside from this, both programs give a brief synopsis of what Marston was doing with his life: serving as “Dean of the Engineering College,” which is also not entirely accurate, as it was a department at the time, not a college.

It seems that by the 25-year reunion, the class secretary was having some trouble recruiting attendees and submissions for the programs. The foreword for the 25-year book reads as follows:

“For the third time, the Secretary has levied toll on the members, of the class of ’89, Cornell University, holding them up at the point of his pen and forcing them to divulge their guilty secrets, to open their skeleton closets for the kindly interest and inspection of the rest of the class. This time, the 25th anniversary of our graduation, seemed to demand an unusual effort in trying to follow the suggestion made at the reunion dinner, that the book should contain photographs of the members, the secretary found abundant opportunity for effort. The following pages show the results and for the interest they may have, the members themselves are responsible. Some of the class apparently are timid; some, modest; and some, ashamed; but they are all members of ’89 and the only regret of the secretary is that there are so many blank records, which he could fill, neither by coaxing, lamenting nor demanding. The rest of the class are the real losers by what must be considered, mistaken sensibilities on the part of a few.”

At least Marston was not one of the “timid,” “modest,” or “ashamed,” as both his photo and a description are included in that program.

Letters from Panama and Nicaragua

A hand-tinted photostat copy of the original caricature of Anson Marston by J. Zavala Urtecho,1931. RS 11/1/11, box 15, folder 4.

A hand-tinted photostat copy of the original caricature of Anson Marston by J. Zavala Urtecho,1931. From Granada, Nicaragua. RS 11/1/11, box 15, folder 4.

A booklet of letters from Marston to his wife cover his travels to and from Panama and Nicaragua from January to March 1931. He traveled there as a member of the United States Army Interoceanic Canal Board, which was assigned to investigate the possibility of building a canal through Nicaragua. The letters discuss happenings, descriptions of the ship and its surroundings, people met, as well as an account of tragedy. An excerpt from a February 26, 1931, letter that Marston wrote in Balboa at the Tivoli Hotel, reads as follows:

“It seems good to get back into a real hotel, although all the trip has been so wonderful.

To day [sic] we went through Culebra Cut in a government tug. Tomorrow evening we are to attend a smoker given by the local section of A.S.C.E. Saturday night the Ames people have a dinner for me.

I like Gen. and Mrs. Jadwin very much. We have just been dining together here at the hotel which is on American territory and therefore is dry, while so many go ‘across the line’ into Panama City to dine.”

From Tuesday, March 3, 1931:

“I have spent the day at Gatun Locks and on the Atlantic side calling on Mrs. Jadwin on the transport at San Mihiel, on which she and the body of Gen. Jadwin are sailing for New York to night [sic]. What a terrible experience for her! She and Gen. Jadwin were just about our ages and are much our kind of people. We have been eating at the same reserved table here and I have been getting really acquainted with two very fine people. He has been telling me his plans for an active future and she of their plans for travel together. Their two sons are grown.”

How sad! General Jadwin had been feeling a bit ill the previous two days, and it turned out that he had a small stroke but was expected to survive. Instead, he passed away around 5 p.m. on Monday, March 2nd, of a “large cerebral hemorrhage.” A copy of a letter to Marston from Mrs. Jadwin is included in the back of the booklet, part of which reads:

“I have had many years of sweet companionship with him and I shall try to be brave, as he always was and carry on as he would have me do.”

Aside from this tragedy, Marston’s trip seems to have been a success and quite enjoyable. Apparently, he was very popular too. This excerpt of a letter from R. Z. Kirkpatrick to Mrs. Marston from March 7, 1931, sums up his likeability:

“My Dear Mrs. Marston,

There goes forward to your address today one Dean; we hope he arrives in as good order as he was when he was shipped.

His behavior here has been excellent; while it was all wrong that you weren’t along I really think that he will have little to explain away maritally. At that I think every AMES-MAN here had my experience – – our wives fell in love with your husband; you can easily understand why, from personal experience.”

Letters from World War I

The first page of a letter from Marston to his wife, Alice, 1918. RS 11/1/11, box 15, folder 6.

The first page of a letter from Marston to his wife, Alice, 1918. RS 11/1/11, box 15, folder 6.

Perhaps the most interesting of Marston’s military letters involve his time serving during World War I. How appropriate, considering that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War! Marston was a member of the 109th Engineers, which were stationed in Camp Dix, New Jersey in 1918. In his letter of September 6, 1918, he writes the following:

“I resent being left behind with every fiber and I am not concealing this attitude from [Colonel D.] in the least. Of course I can do nothing but obey the order (when it comes) but I do not want any one in this regiment or in the Dir. staff to think that it is with any least consent of mine that I am being left behind my men.”

Colonel D., whoever that is, had recommended Marston to be promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, and a major was likely to go over to France, preventing Marston from fighting in Europe.

At some point in the fall of 1918, Marston left the 109th and by December was stationed at Camp Leach, Washington, D.C. In his letter of December 2nd, he has changed his tune a bit about being left out of the fighting overseas:

“The U.S. casualties in France when compared with the number of Infantry we had on the actual fighting line show that an infantry-man on the front for 4 mos had a very slim chance of escaping. It was evidently mostly a question of getting wounded or killed.”

If this is the battle I think it is, he was very fortunate indeed to not have been sent over. The casualties in France mentioned were likely part of the Meuse Argonne Offensive, particularly in mid-October. The timing is right, and the US army suffered heavy casualties at that time and place. More information on the Offensive can be found here, a great jumping off point for more research for those interested.

Believe it or not, there is much more where this came from, so stop by and see what the whole collection has to offer!


CyPix: Glass Blowing in the Chemistry Department

On the heels of my last post, I’d like to share this photo found on our Flickr site:

Wayne "Breezy" (or "Breezey") Jones and Harry Svec creating glass vials, beakers, and tubes for the ISU Chemistry Department, 1955

Wayne “Breezy” Jones and Harry Svec creating glass vials, beakers, and tubes for the ISU Chemistry Department, 1955. RS 13/6/F

Wayne “Breezy” Jones was a technical glassblower for the Chemistry Department here at Iowa State University, taught and trained by Harry Svec. Even though Svec is without his characteristic bow tie in this photo, it most certainly is him. Svec learned his glassblowing craft from George Pickel of John Carroll University, who learned the craft in Europe, and Ed Thomas, who learned his skills at St. Louis University. After arriving at Iowa State in 1941, Svec took over as the glass technician, replacing George Harrison, who left for another job. Later on, Svec trained Jones, a house painter who became adept at the technique of joining metal elements to glass. He, in turn, trained another technician, who then trained the next generation. Svec liked to say that all of the glass technicians at Iowa State are direct descendents of Pickel and Thomas.

For more information on Svec’s glassblowing journey, see the Harry J. Svec Papers. The Department of Chemistry collections may have a additional information as well. Happy researching!


Harry J. Svec: Devoted Chemist and Cyclone

Forty-two years of involvement with Iowa State University is impressive in itself, but add in the fact that those years included work on the Manhattan Project, being a founding editor of a scientific journal, being the namesake of scientific reference material, extensive research and awards for that research, and an ever present bow tie, and those 42 years become even more remarkable. Dr. Henry J. Svec did just that, all while getting married and being father to nine children. He must have had excellent time management skills!

Harry J. Svec, 1975

Harry J. Svec, 1975. RS 13/6/53, box 19, folder 36

Svec was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1918. After graduating magna cum laude from John Carroll University, he went to graduate school at Iowa State College (University) in 1941, where he studied chemistry. During this time, he became the glassblower for the Chemistry Department, creating diffusion pumps and other items for research. Two of these diffusion pumps are included in the collection.

diffpump

Glass mercury diffusion pump made by Svec, 1941. Artifact 2003-203.002

Before long, the US entered World War II, and Svec was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project under Dr. Frank Spedding. Information on the Manhattan Project at Iowa State can be found in previous blog posts here and here. After that project, Svec was appointed to the Ames Laboratory/Institute for Atomic Research and earned his Ph.D. in 1950, at which point he gained faculty status. He served as Chemistry Department faculty until his retirement in 1983, when he was granted Professor Emeritus status.

Over the course of his career, Svec taught classes, conducted and published research, and was actively involved in professional organizations, such as the American Society for Mass Spectrometry. He was a Fellow of what is now the Royal Society of Chemistry, and was a founding editor of the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry and Ion Physics (now the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry). Mass spectrometry was his main area of study, and in fact Svec was an early contributor to the field of laser mass spectrometry. He even built the first mass spectrometers at Iowa State, components of which are included in the artifact collection. Mass spectrometer blueprints are also included in his collection in a map case folder.

add something here

Left: main components of a mass spectrometer, undated; Right: a complete mass spectrometer, undated. RS 13/6/53, box 10, folder 17

After his retirement in 1983, Svec finished writing a history on Iowa State University’s Chemistry Department, which was published by that department in 2006. He also received the American Chemical Society’s Zimmerman Award for Environmental Science in 1984 for his work in developing the resin extraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) methods for removing organic pollutants in water. He certainly had a productive career, of which anyone would be proud.

All of this and much more information can be found in his collection, the Harry J. Svec Papers, RS 13/6/53. Be sure to check out the artifacts too, including an early twentieth century Christian Becker Chainomatic two-pan balance not unlike these (top of the page, with dials). Curious about the Ames Laboratory or the Chemistry Department in general? Come see our collections on them! We’ll be happy to help.


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.”

Portrait of Mary Beaumont Welch, wife of Iowa State College President Adonijah Welch. Undated photograph circa early 1900s.

Mary Beaumont Welch, wife of Iowa State College (University) President Adonijah Welch, undated.

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.

Find out more from the Mary Beaumont Welch Papers in Special Collections.

“Intimate talks” on home management: Mary Beaumont Welch on establishing ISC’s Department of Domestic Economy


George Washington Carver: Celebrating His 150th Birthday

Graduation image

Born a slave, George Washington Carver received two degrees from Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University), and gained an international reputation during his career at Tuskegee University. Although the exact date of Carver’s birth is unknown, he was born around the year 1864 and many are celebrating this year as the 150th anniversary of his birth.

As an agricultural scientist, Carver’s research resulted in the creation of 325 products from a variety of food items such as peanuts, sweet potatoes, and hundreds more from a dozen other plants native to the South. These products contributed to rural economic improvement by offering alternative crops to cotton that were beneficial for the farmers and for the land.

The George Washington Carver Collection in the University Archives holds information on his life and work. In addition, Digital Collections at the Iowa State University Library maintains a digital collection which includes a selection of materials from the University Archives documenting his time here at Iowa State (primarily images) and his correspondence with Iowa State colleagues after he was at Tuskegee: http://www.add.lib.iastate.edu/preserv/cdm/gwcarver.html. The majority of correspondence is to Carver’s mentor, Dr. Louis Pammel, on a variety of scientific topics.

Only a portion of the George Washington Carver collection housed in the Special Collections Department is represented in the digital collection. The finding aid for the complete list of Carver materials available through Special Collections can be found here: http://www.add.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/arch/rgrp/21-7-2.html.

Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be hosting a George Washington Carver Life and Legacy Symposium on April 23, 2014 which will focus on encouraging future “George Washington Carver” students at Iowa State. The Special Collections Department will be participating in the Symposium, creating a booth which will highlight a selection of the diverse students who followed in Carver’s footsteps here at Iowa State. For more information about the Symposium, see http://www.diversity.cals.iastate.edu/george-washington-carver-life-and-legacy-symposium-april-23-2014.