CyPix: Back to classes

Students waiting outside the bookstore during Freshman Days at Iowa State, 1954.

Students waiting outside the bookstore during Freshman Days at Iowa State, 1954. University Archives Photograph Collection, RS 7/2, Box 454.

Long lines at the college bookstore have been a hallmark of the start of term for many years. The fall semester just began yesterday here at ISU, so for the past week students have been moving onto campus, buying textbooks, obtaining ID cards, and many other tasks that frequently involve standing in line.

Here at Special Collections and University Archives, we wish you a good semester! Remember to check out our resources for your research papers and projects. Stop by and see us on the fourth floor of Parks library–we’ll be happy to help you find interesting things for your projects!


A computer picked my date: IBM computer dances of the 1960s

With the plethora of dating websites out there–OKCupid, Match, eHarmony, and even some more niche sites like FarmersOnly or Geek2Geek–you may think that the idea of having a computer match you up with a date developed in tandem with the internet age. Not so. At least since the 1960s, computer programmers have been working on algorithms to match people up. Take, for example, the IBM computer dances held at ISU in the 1960s.

The first dance was held October 12, 1963, in the ballrooms of the Memorial Union. It was sponsored by the Ward System, the residence organizations for off-campus students. As with online dating sites, students who wished to participate in the dance filled out long (120 questions) questionnaires in advance. Staff at the Iowa State Computation Center transferred the answers to punch cards that were fed into a computer for processing.

Students holding punch cards for the IBM Computer Dance in 1963.

Students holding punch cards for the IBM Computer Dance in 1963. From University Photographs Collection, box 1647.

According to one Des Moines Register article from October 4, 1963, “After basic sorting, according to male and female, short and tall, plump and thin, younger and older, the computer will consider such ingredients of compatibility as: What subjects each student likes to talk about; preferences in books, television programs and movies; their religion, politics, and family background; academic ability, dating preferences and personality traits” (from the Clair George Maple Papers, RS 6/2/12, box 5, folder 10).

The system gave each student three matches, the first match being the student’s “ideal partner” from the group of participants, and the dance was divided into three sessions, to allow all of the matches to meet.

And what did the participants think of the event? All-in-all, it got good reviews. According to an Iowa State Daily article from October 15, 1963, “Several WRA [Women’s Residence Association] and sorority social chairmen reported general pleasure expressed by girls attending the dance. Some girls have accepted dates with their matches; others said they enjoyed the evening but did not particularly care to continue the relationship” (from the Clair George Maple Papers, RS 6/2/12, box 5, folder 10). There were even reported to be four couples that got engaged as a result of the dance. (See image below.)

Newspaper clipping, likely from the Iowa State Daily from 1964, describing four engagements that came out of the IBM Computer Dance in 1963. From the Clair George Maple Papers, RS 6/2/12, box 5, folder 10.

Newspaper clipping, likely from the Iowa State Daily from 1964, describing four engagements that came out of the IBM Computer Dance in 1963. From the Clair George Maple Papers, RS 6/2/12, box 5, folder 10. [click for larger image]

And just like those who have sat through terrible online dates, there were some who complained about their IBM dance experience. Complaints ranged from incompatibility, to being paired with wallflowers, to personal jabs. Most notably, one male described his date as “‘not only built like an elephant but danced like an elephant.'”

As you might expect, such a novelty as computer-picked dance partners drew national attention, and the event was covered by The New York Times, Associated Press, United Press International, the Wall Street Journal, and Life magazine, as well as WOI-TV, Omaha TV, and ABC-TV.

After that much press, other colleges and universities across the country were eager to get in on the novelty, too, so the Iowa State Computation Center agreed to process the punched questionnaire cards sent in by other universities who wanted to hold their own computer dances.

A card sorter like the one shown here in the Iowa State Computation Center would have been used to sort the punch cards for the dance. From the University Photographs Collection, box 439.

A card sorter like the one shown here in the Iowa State Computation Center would have been used to sort the punch cards for the dance. From the University Photographs Collection, box 439.

For more on the history of the IBM computer dances, check out this Iowa State Daily article. Documentation of the dances can also be found in the Clair George Maple Papers (RS 6/2/12) (see box 5, folder 10 and map case items), newly processed at Special Collections and University Archives. Stop in and see us!


“Life in Iowa”

In 2002, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and ISU Philosophy Professor Nancy Bevin founded “Life in Iowa,” an undergraduate community-based internship and academic program that combined classroom study of Midwestern culture and identity along with experiential learning through internship, service, and community research in an Iowa community. The course focused on issues and concerns specifically related to the cultural and natural landscape of Iowa.

The program had several desired outcomes: 1) cultivating the personal, social, and ethical growth of students; 2) renewing Iowa’s leadership via encouraging students to stay in Iowa after graduation and preparing students for professional and civic life; and 3) fostering sustainable quality of life and ongoing partnerships between Iowa State University and communities in Iowa (Brochures, RS 16/5/5, box 1, folder 9. See also Leopold Center Competitive Grant Report M02-2003).

Diagram of 2002 Life in Iowa partner sites

“Life in Iowa Communities – Summer 2002” (RS 16/5/5, box 1, folder 4)

The Life in Iowa program supported ISU students via paid internships and work in a variety of areas. Each student had to complete 300 intern hours and 100 hours of community service during the 10 weeks of their summer placement. Some of the projects for 2003 involved:

CSA Life in Iowa participants with onions

Life in Iowa participants, L-R: Betty Wells (faculty mentor), Tim Landrgaf (One Step at a Time CSA co-owner), and Ann Holste (student participant), 2003 (RS 16/5/5 box 3, folder 2)

  • Organizing and running a fishing club for local youth (Adams County)
  • Revitalizing kestrel nest boxes (Green County)
  • Interviewing ESL students about their immigration/refugee experiences (Henry County)
  • Developing a website for a visitor center (Allamakee County)
  • Researching and describing historical artifacts (Montgomery County)
  • Coordinating a community garden (Dallas County)

“As you know, an important goal of this program is to encourage ISU graduates to stay in Iowa and build a future here. At the same time, we know that life presents each of us with a series of choices, many – if not most – of them unexpected, and so we have asked not for promises, but rather for newly explored possibilities of vocation and community, of leadership and service in Iowa. What I can say with certainty is that wherever these young persons someday will live will be made better for their presence…and that without exception, the communities where they lived and worked this summer will always welcome them home.” – from Nancy Blevin’s remarks at the “Life in Iowa Celebration,” September 8, 2002. (RS 16/5/5 box 1, folder 3)

A display of brochures.

An array of publications about the Life in Iowa program and its interns. (RS 16/5/5 box 1, folder 8)

By 2004, over 78 students had participated in the program in over 33 counties (“Life in Iowa” website). The program closed in 2007.

To learn more about the Life in Iowa program, see the Life In Iowa Internship Program Records (RS 16/5/5). Information about service learning and related initiatives can be found in the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching Administrative Records (RS 06/10/03).


CyPix: Where did that bird go…?

Iowa State students on campus watching for birds, May 1925. University Photographs Collection, Box 608, Folder 2.

Iowa State students on campus watching for birds, May 1925. University Photographs Collection, Box 608, Folder 2.

These knickerbocker-clad Iowa State students from 1925 are scanning the trees for birds. The Iowa State College Catalogue for 1925-26 lists a course in “Bird Study” in the Zoology and Entomology Department. The class focused on “Identification, habits, and economic importance of Iowa birds. Birds of the vicinity will be observed under guidance.”

More photos of students engaged in wildlife study can be found in our Animal Ecology Flickr album.


Campus Humor: The Green Gander

On April Fool’s Day, 1915, a humor magazine was started on campus. The Green Gander was published by the men’s journalism honorary society, Sigma Delta Chi and included jokes and anecdotes that poked fun at prominent university and community figures. Perhaps needless to say, the magazine was a success. Because women weren’t allowed to work on The Green Gander, they started their own humor magazine, The Emerald Goose, which was also a hit. In 1922, the two magazines “married” and published under the Green Gander name.

Cover of the first issue of The Green Gander, April 1915.

Cover of the first issue of The Green Gander , April 1915.

Some examples of the humor in the earlier years of the magazine are as follows:

April 1915:

Waiter: “Sauerkraut, Hungarian goulash, Irish stew or French toast?”

Student: “Ham and eggs. I’m neutral.” (Reference to WWI)

Music Prof. (after recital): “Well, what do you think of my execution?”

Patron: “I’m for it.”

Homecoming issue, 1937:

“Higher Education: Learning to yawn with your mouth closed.”

The Green Gander was published quarterly until its last issue in April 1960. By the mid-1950s, the publication had become more risque, including “pin-up” style portraits of female students. It was still immensely popular with students, but the administration was less enthused. Complaints about its contents were submitted from off-campus individuals, and the Journalism Department was concerned about the lack of professionalism evident in the magazine by its students. Here are a couple of examples of the humor from these later editions:

December 1958 issue:

“I see you are not a gentleman,” scorned the woman on the street corner as the wind swept her skirts overhead. “No,” he replied, “and I see you aren’t either.”

“Love is blind so a fellow has to feel his way around.”

The November 1959 issue of the Green Gander. The cover format was new (and less comical) for this issue.

The November 1959 issue of The Green Gander. The cover format was new (and less comical) for this issue.

The editorial board made a change in 1959, and the November issue of that year had an entirely different – and more serious – tone. Topics in this issue included “Iowa State’s Cultural Opportunities,” “Marriage and College – How is it Done?” and “How to Make a Decision.” It still maintained a somewhat humorous slant, but nothing like before. Readers were not so fond of this new format and hung an effigy of the new editor on central campus. The April 1960 edition made another attempt at humor, but there was no recovery from that November issue. The publication was laid to rest in October 1960.

The final issue of The Green Gander, April 1960. One last attempt at humor.

The final issue of The Green Gander, April 1960.

Much of the information in this post was taken from here, where you can read more about it and Iowa State’s past traditions. Want to read The Green Gander for yourself? Stop in and ask to see some copies (dare I say, “have a gander” at them), call number LD2546 G74x. We look forward to seeing you!


Cutting and pasting: alumni scrapbooks

A trip to your local craft store will tell you that scrapbooking is a popular American activity. But this is not just a recent phenomenon. In fact, scrapbooking has been popular for the last century or more, and this is made evident by the number of alumni scrapbooks we have here in the University Archives.

Scrapbooks provide a unique window into the history and culture of a time period. They save many of the things that would otherwise be lost to time, such as newspaper clippings, dance cards, theatre programs, and flyers. Early 20th century Iowa State College students, like many of their cohort around the country, kept scrapbooks to capture their experiences and memories of the fun times they spent outside of classes.

Pages from the Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81, showing dance cards and sports score charts, circa 1913-1919.

Pages from the Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81, showing dance cards and sports score charts, circa 1913-1919.

Scrapbooks also capture the larger historical and cultural environment in which the individuals lived out their lives, such as the scrapbook below from Mary (Graf) Speer, who attended Iowa State College in the 1940s. The first page of her scrapbook includes a newspaper front page headline proclaiming victory in Europe during World War II–obviously a huge concern to the students of the day, who had friends and family members fighting both in Europe and in the Pacific Theater.

From Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, 1945.

From Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, 1945.

Raymond T. Benson’s scrapbook from World War I documents the military activity on campus.

Page from Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.

Page from Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.

Scrapbooks also present unique challenges to archivists in terms of storage and preservation. Because scrapbooks often contain 3 dimensional objects, this can strain the binding, as with Raymond T. Benson’s Scrapbook below.

Cover of Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.

Cover of Raymond T. Benson Scrapbook, RS 21/7/81.

While the photograph above shows a scrapbook placed in a box to protect it, other scrapbooks required more extensive housing treatments. Mary Graf Speer’s scrapbook came to the archives missing a cover, so spacers were placed inside the box to keep the individual pages together, while some material was removed to a separate folder.

Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, in box with spacers and separated material in folder.

Mary E. (Graf) Speer Scrapbook, RS 21/7/250, in box with spacers and separated material in folder.

Sometimes a scrapbook needs special treatment, not because it is in bad condition, but in order to keep it pristine. Lottie M. Rogers, who attended Iowa State College in 1901-1902, created a beautiful scrapbook. Library conservators created a special box to maintain it in its originally beautiful condition.

Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook, RS 21/7/149, circa 1901.

Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook, RS 21/7/149, circa 1901.

Box created to house the Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook.

Box created to house the Lottie M. Rogers Scrapbook.

More alumni scrapbooks and other papers can be found in RS 21/7, Alumni and Former Students.


CyPix: Camping

A student preparing firewood at Forestry Summer Camp in Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming, 1954. [collection/box]

A student preparing firewood at Forestry Summer Camp in Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming, 1954. [University Photographs, RS 9/14/F, Box 717]

It’s officially summer! The student sporting a cowboy hat in the photo above clearly knows how to take advantage of a nice summer’s day. Camping is of course a popular summer pastime and has been for many years. Not only is it a fun recreational activity, it can also be educational. In fact, Iowa State has required Forestry majors to participate in camps for years. A great deal of information on this can be found in Digital Archivist Kim’s blog post from several weeks ago.

Whether you enjoy camping or glamping, get outside and enjoy the warm the weather! Too hot outside? Then stop by Special Collections and University Archives – not only do we have air conditioning, but lots of interesting collections and photographs to explore!


CyPix: Summertime and Softball

Women playing intramural softball, 1915. RS 22/7/[letter], box [number].

Women playing intramural softball, 1915. RS 22/7/G.

It’s summertime – well, maybe not officially, but in the academic world it is! Summer session classes have begun, and traffic on campus has drastically decreased since the spring semester ended. What’s a student to do with the extra time? One idea: get outside and pick up a new hobby. For well over 100 years, baseball and softball have been favorite summer sports. In the photo above, we see four college women playing intramural softball in 1915. Can you imagine what the game must have been like in those long skirts?

Another activity for those with some time to spare – student or not: come in to Special Collections and University Archives and exercise your brain! We have plenty of materials for research, just let us know what you’re interested in and we can help you out. See you soon!


CyPix: Weighing Duroc Pigs

A. W. Dahlgran work with an FFA high school student on his Duroc pig project. Undated. (University Photographs RS 9/6/F box 544)

A. W. Dahlgran works with a high school student on his Duroc pig project. Undated. (University Photographs RS 9/6/F box 544)

The caption on the back of the photograph reads:

Those preparing to teach vocational agriculture assist high school pupils to improve their home projects as part of their training program. This agricultural education student, A. W. Dahlgran, left, is assisting one of his pupils in the weight of his Duroc Pigs at weaning time. An analysis of these weight records shows the value of management practices followed. The modern movable type hog house was built in the high school farm mechanics class from plans secured from Iowa State College.

Fun fact: the champion boar raised last year on the Allen E. Christian Swine Teaching Farm was a Duroc!

The teacher education program in agricultural life sciences is one of the older programs on campus. Begun in 1911, as part of Agricultural Education, the program prepares educators for teaching high school agriculture as well as other career options. Special Collections has many photographs of student teachers working with FFA (formerly “Future Farmers of America”) and other agriculture students in University Photographs RS 9/6. Here is a sampling of some of our collections related to swine, swine husbandry, and agricultural education:

  • 4-H Youth Development Records (RS 16/3/4)
  • Iowa Hog Cholera Eradication Committee Records (MS 202)
  • Iowa Pork Producer’s Association Records (MS 158)
  • J. Marion Steddom Papers (RS 21/7/65)
  • National Swine Grower’s Council Records (MS 235)
  • Paul C. Taff Papers (RS 16/3/56)

CyPix: a robot beverage service

Iowa State has its own celebrity robot. CyBot, the famous robot in question, once poured Alan Alda a drink on national television.

Cybot pouring water from a Mountain Dew can. (RS 11/1/8 box 10, folder 28)

Cybot pouring water from a Mountain Dew can. (RS 11/1/8 box 10, folder 28)

In 1996, seniors in the Electrical and Computer Engineering program developed Iowa State University’s first interactive robot as part of their Senior Design class. Cybot, at a height of 6 feet and a weight of between 200 and 460 pounds (sources disagree), was a mobile robot equipped with sonar and speech capabilities.

Cybot was programmed to find its way around a room and offer people it met a drink, which it then poured and served. Cybot uses sonar (sound waves) to find obstacles and avoid them and to find potential drink customers. It is fully autonomous, has rudimentary intelligence, and it communicates by voice.

A library of acceptable user commands guides Cybot’s actions, and it answers by voice as well. “If Cybot asks ‘Would you like something to drink?’ and you say ‘No thank you,’ it moves on. If you say ‘Yes, please,’ it will pour you a Coke,” Patterson said.

– “Spotlight Shining on Iowa State’s Cybot,” Iowa State Daily, September 3, 1996.

Two students calibrate CyBot. (Engineering Communications, RS 11/1/8)

Two students calibrate CyBot. (Engineering Communications, RS 11/1/8)

Learn more about CyBot in the Engineering Communications records (RS 11/1/8).