In honor of Black History Month and in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the United States’s involvement in World War I, we highlight Des Moines resident and Iowa Stater Rufus Benjamin Jackson, Class of 1917. Second Lieutenant Jackson was a member of the 370th Infantry Regiment, 93d Division, A.E.F. and fought in France.
Second Lieutenant Jackson earned a distinguished service cross “for extraordinary heroism in action near Farm La Folie, France, September 28, 1918. Having been ordered to use his Stokes mortars in wiping out machine-gun nests, which had been resisting the advance of his company, Lieutenant Jackson made a personal reconnaissance by crawling to the enemy’s lines to locate the nests. Accomplishing his purpose, he returned and directed the fire, silencing the guns.”
For more about Iowa’s involvement in World War I, visit our exhibition “Do[ing] Their Bit:” Iowa’s Role in the Great War on display on the 4th floor of Parks Library.
This week and next we’re installing our next exhibition, “Do[ing] Their Bit”: Iowa’s Role in the Great War, which opens Wednesday, January 17. This exhibition commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the United States involvement in World War I. The exhibition will remain open through the spring semester.
The opening reception is Wednesday, January 17, from 6:30 to 8 p.m in 198 Parks Library. Guest speakers, Jack Lufkin and Mark Heggen will show and discuss, Deeds Not Words, their historic video about the World War I Black Officers Training Camp at Fort Des Moines. Jack Lufkin is the curator at the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center. Mark Heggen is an independent filmmaker and ISU alumnus.
Contact Rachel Seale for questions about the exhibition or the reception.
Today’s blog post is a collaborative blog post, from several Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) staff, about the artifacts that give us the most thrills and chills. Some staff interpreted this as the spookiest artifact and some as the coolest most exciting artifact. Whatever the interpretation, here are the artifacts that give us the most chills and thrills.
Quartz Fiber Balance
From Amy Bishop, Rare Books & Manuscripts Curator
I nominate the Quartz Fiber Balance (artifact number 2003-203.003) from the Harry J. Svec Papers (RS 13/6/53) as the most thrilling artifact in our collections. Why the thrill? This particular balance, created by Svec as the ISU chemistry department’s glassblower, was used in Ames as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II. The thought of the Manhattan Project always gives me mixed thrills and chills. Thrills from the thought of cutting-edge, top secret scientific research. Chills because of the purpose and ultimate conclusion of the Manhattan Project: atomic bombs, two of which were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing horrific numbers of people. And of course what that led to – the nuclear arms race of the Cold War and the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world.
Also thrilling, though, is to think of the skill of an ISU graduate student who worked as a glassblower, creating by hand precise apparatus for chemical experiments. To quote from the item’s catalog record: “The balance mechanism inside is entirely quartz and balances on a thin quartz thread. This mechanism is very delicate and is sensitive to one-millionth of a gram. Up to one gram of material can be held on each end.” Very impressive indeed. See more about the Ames Project in the Ames Laboratory Records.
General Geddes Sword (1827)
From Chris Anderson, Descriptive Records Project Archivist
James Lorraine Geddes (1827-1887) led an adventurous life before his association with Iowa Agricultural College. Born in Scotland, he also lived in Canada and India before settling in the United States. In India, served in the Royal Horse Artillery of the British Army. In this capacity he distinguished himself in the ongoing Anglo-Afghan conflicts in Punjab and the Khyber Pass. He retired a Colonel in 1857 and moved to a farm in Iowa. This peaceful interval did not last long, however. He fought for the Union in the U.S. Civil War, beginning as a private and rising to the rank of Brevet Brigadier General (1865). After the war he returned to Vinton, Iowa. His many achievements in higher education were to follow (1867-1887).
His sword, therefore, makes me think of dire battles. Our information associates the year 1827 with the sword, which is puzzling – Geddes was born in that year.
From Becky Jordan, Reference Specialist
We received this along with other WOI materials when the television station moved out of the Communications Building.
This was a prop from Gravesend Manor—a television program that aired late on Saturday nights on WOI-TV. They showed horror films with local staff doing introductions and intermissions. Some of the characters were Malcom the Butler (Ed Weiss), the Duke of Desmodus (James Varnum), Claude (Ron Scott) and Esmerelda (John Voight). My best recollections of the show are from slumber parties. It was generally enjoyed with pop and pizza—made from a kit that came in a box—and a lot of giggling.
For the most thrilling artifact, I’ve picked metal shrapnel from World War I (2004-179.001 and .002). These pieces came from MS 666, the Fred O. Gordon Papers. Gordon fought in Europe in Battery F, 119th Field Artillery from 1918-1919 and was wounded in October 1918. The shrapnel pieces are thick, solid metal, and I can only imagine the sheer force of the explosion(s) that would’ve blown them apart. Not to mention the damage those pieces could have inflicted if they had hit someone. The act of seeing and holding authentic shrapnel from WWI makes the war and its horrors feel more real, and that’s definitely thrilling.
From Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist
My most thrilling artifact is a piece of wood, birch bark. It was found near Margaret Hall in the summer of 1924. Hand written lettering on the piece of birch bark: “Tornado Souvenir June 28, 1924[.] From Tree near Margaret Hall I.S.C. Ames, Iowa.” I selected this item because I am new to the Midwest and have been a little fixated on weather, particularly weather conditions that may favor a tornado. I can’t imagine anything more thrilling and scarier than a tornado.
Margaret Stanton’s Death Mask
From Petrina Jackson, Head of SCUA
Hands down, Margaret Stanton’s death mask, for me, is our most macabre artifact. Popular through the nineteenth century, death masks were created as a commemoration or a way to create a portrait or sculpture of the dead. Death masks were usually made for people who were held in high esteem, which is a testimony of how beloved Margaret Stanton was to the Iowa State community. Although uncommon today, creating death masks, taking photographs of the dead lying in state, or weaving their hair into wreaths or jewelry were all ways that people honored the deceased in the past. With death far more removed from day-to-day, 21st-century American life, the death mask gets my vote as our creepiest, most macabre artifact.
Iowa State has had a military presence on campus since 1870. During World War I, soldiers were trained for the military here, often as auto mechanics, blacksmiths, or machinists. In addition, there was military band. The photo below shows the U.S. Army Training Detachment Military Band, 2nd set (Iowa) in July of 1918.
What do you notice about this photo? The instruments? The uniforms? The faces? My personal favorite part is this:
I’m not sure which I love more, the dog or the facial expression of the man holding the dog. I’m not sure if he’s smug or amused (or both), but it seems like an appropriate look for someone holding the only dog in the photo. Also, why is there a dog in a photo of a military band? Whatever the reason, it makes this one of my favorite photos in our archives.
How did you get started in Special Collections & University Archives at Iowa State University?
I graduated with my MLS (Master of Library Science) degree from Indiana University – Bloomington in May 2012. After moving back to my parents’ house (about 30 miles from Ames), I continued my full-time job search while working part-time at a public library. This job (project archivist position) popped up, and I was lucky enough to get it! It took just over a year of job searching, but I got hired at my undergrad alma mater – I was pretty excited. I’ve been here for almost three years now, and I’ve gained experience in several aspects of the archival profession during that time. So far, so good!
What do you do?
Primarily what I do is process archival collections. This means that I go through a given collection and organize it – sometimes I physically rearrange the files and sometimes files are rearranged intellectually, that is, in the finding aid, while maintaining original order physically. Depending on the collection, I will re-folder materials, give new and improved titles to folders, number boxes and folders, sleeve photographs and negatives, and enter descriptive information into finding aids. This way, the materials are accessible to researchers. There’s a lot to archival processing, so for more information, take a look at a post one of our former project archivists, Stephanie, wrote a couple years ago: https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/3379/
I also contribute to our blog, handle the occasional reference request, and archive the university’s websites. Not to mention various other things that are asked of me as needed. I keep pretty busy around here.
What collection would you like to highlight?
This is tricky… it’s difficult to choose just one! I guess I’d like to highlight something lesser-known. In the Elizabeth “Betsy” Hoffman Papers, there is a series devoted to, oddly enough, Russian WWI photographs and materials – the Andrew Kalpaschnikoff Memoirs and Photo Albums. Kalpaschnikoff was Hoffman’s grandfather. Hoffman was Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences here at Iowa State, as well as Professor of Economics. Eventually, she served as Executive Vice President and Provost of Iowa State University and is currently a Professor of Economics here.
Kalpaschnikoff led quite an exciting life. He was raised in Imperial Russia’s upper class, served as Ambassador to the United States, was a member of the Russian Army during WWI, and spent time in a Communist prison after the Bolshevik Revolution. Eventually he escaped and returned to the U.S. He also encountered notable figures including Czar Nicholas II and Leon Trotsky. Kalpaschnikoff’s materials include two photo albums depicting the Russian army in WWI (available to view online here and here), loose photographs, and memoirs.
Why’d you pick this collection/item to highlight?
This was the first collection (well, part of a collection) I ever wrote about for our blog. It was my first-ever post for our blog, as a matter of fact. The materials were newly processed back in 2013. Kalpaschnikoff’s story is fascinating and the photos give you a rare glimpse into life in the Russian army in WWI (fair warning: a few of the photos depict wounded and dead soldiers, some of which are graphic). For whatever reason, I like to highlight collections that most would not expect to find in the ISU archives – I also wrote blog posts on our science fiction and Underground Comix collections. Russian WWI materials and photographs certainly fall under that “unexpected” category in my opinion. Of course, this is just one of many collections worthy of highlighting. Anyone who wants to know what else we hold should check out our website and/or ask us!
Any other comments you’d like me to include?
I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes about libraries and archives:
“To me every trip to a library or archive is like a small detective story.” – Erik Larson
As mentioned in Tuesday’s post, November 11th was Veterans Day, a day in which we honor all those who have served our country. During WWI and WWII, guides and recipe books were published for the housewives left at home, which provided tips on feeding children, meal planning, home improvement and management, and practical recipes for wartime. Here at the ISU Special Collections and University Archives, we have a collection of these guides and recipe books in the Wartime Guides and Recipe Books Collection, MS 380.
During the World Wars, food shortages were common. These would make certain foods such as butter and sugar much more expensive and impractical for heavy use in most households. These recipe books focused on maintaining a healthy diet – or at least, making delicious food – while using alternatives to scarce ingredients.
Here is a WWI recipe for something called War Cake from the Liberty Cook Book (Box 1, Folder 1):
2 c. brown sugar; 2 c. hot water; 2 T. lard, 1 package or less of seeded raisins, 1 t. ground cinnamon, 1 t. ground cloves, 1 t. soda, 3 c. flour, 1 t. salt
Boil all ingredients but the flour, raisins and soda together for 5 minutes. Cool. When cold add soda sifted in 1/2 the flour. Bake in a loaf 45 minutes, in a slow oven, or in a sheet 30 minutes.
From WWII, here is a recipe for Corn Bisque from Wartime Recipes from Canned Foods (Box 1, Folder 7), which was created to help homemakers stretch canned foods farther:
1/2 no. 2 cream style corn; 3 c. milk; 1 small onion, sliced; 1 T. butter or margarine; 1 T. flour; 1/4 t. salt; dash of pepper
Cook corn and 2 cups of the milk in top of double boiler for 20 minutes. Add onion; continue cooking 10 minutes longer. Mash through coarse sieve if desired. Melt butter in saucepan; add flour and seasonings; blend. Add remaining 1 cup milk; cook until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Add milk-corn mixture; return to double boiler; heat thoroughly. Garnish each serving with sprig of parsley and a sprinkle of paprika. 4 servings.
Housekeeping also was (and is) a large part of being a homemaker. The 1944 booklet above, House Cleaning and Home Management Manual by The Hoover Company, offers many suggestions on housekeeping, including possible schedules to follow and equipment to have on hand. Without actually reading the cleaning schedule above, you can see how extensive cleaning duties could be. Examples in the booklet of things to be done daily include preparing and serving meals, washing dishes, packing lunches, planning menus, going to the market and running errands, light cleaning and dusting, caring for children and other family members, and apparently care of fires. Weekly housekeeping work includes washing, ironing, cleaning every room, washing windows, mending and sewing, special baking and cooking, and cleaning the cleaning equipment.
Of course, helping the boys from home was also a priority. The above image highlights suggestions on how to help soldiers overseas, provided by actual housewives for other housewives. Some advice includes tips on mailing packages, buying stamps, and sending cakes. This booklet also includes ways to save time around the house, keep clothes looking new, and tips on going to the market.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, and in the ongoing commemoration of the centennial of World War I, today’s post features the Ames Ambulance Unit. This unit consisted of 36 Iowa State College (University) students who volunteered and served on the Italian-Austrian front from 1917-1919.
On April 6, 1917, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared war against Germany, officially entering World War I. In May, U.S. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker authorized the formation of the U.S. Army Ambulance Corps and looked to universities across the country to organize volunteer units. Iowa State University was asked to raise a unit of 36 ambulance workers. Nearly 100 men applied and underwent physical examinations as well as tests of their mechanical knowledge, specifically relating to Model T operation and repair. After the 36 men were selected, they began training in first aid, military tactics, automobile operation, and elementary French.
The men enlisted on June 4, 1917, and left for training in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on June 10. Training continued in Allentown for a year before being deployed in Italy. The unit served in Italy until early April 1919, transporting sick and injured soldiers from the front. Harold Benson and Eugene McKibben, drivers in the unit, wrote a chronology of the events of the unit, in which they describe a period of intense action, beginning October 24, 1918: “Offensive opens along entire Italian Front from Lake Garda to Adriatic – Fourth Army spearheads attack up Brenta River – Every ambulance kept busy for next two weeks, Pierce and Dodge trucks pressed into action hauling sitting wounded. As fast as Italians advanced, our posts left Col del Gallo San Felicite and Pove, and moved up Brenta to Feltre, Cismon Primolano, Grigno and Strigno over shell-pocked, camouflaged roads packed with italian infantry and artillery, and miles of Austrian prisoners being marched out of the mountains” (RS 13/16/1, Department of Military Science Subject Files, Box 1, Folder 19).
Armistice was declared November 4 on the entire Italian Front, but the ambulance unit continued its work evacuating soldiers until early April 1919, when they left Italy for France to ultimately return to the United States, to be discharged May 7. In recognition of their service, the Italian government bestowed on the unit the Italian Cross of War.
“We’ve been given a glimpse of the ensuing years, And these are a few of our hopes and our fears.”
It’s hard to imagine how Philip McConnell, an Iowa State College (University) student in Agricultural Engineering 1914-1917, felt when writing these lines – part of a poem he composed in 1915 – and whether he could have predicted just how large of a ‘glimpse’ it really was. With the recent centenary of the Great War, it’s interesting to look at just how much the young people of the early 20th century – Iowa State alums included – would end up going through over the course of their lives.
My name is Andrew Fackler and I am a freshman at Iowa State University who recently began working as a Student Assistant here in the Special Collections Department. One of the first pieces I was tasked with processing is a scrapbook (circa 1914-1922) created by a former student named Philip Cecil McConnell. McConnell arrived at Iowa State in the autumn of 1914 – right after the onset of World War I (WWI) in Europe. The collection, RS 21/7/260, documents his life from arrival at Iowa State through his eventual draft into the Armed Forces and into his post-war acceptance to the University of California. The ability to view what an Iowa State student’s life was like 100 years ago is truly inspirational, and the scrapbook that McConnell produced captures this time in history beautifully.
McConnell was a student in the former College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts and a member of the Dramatic Club and the Glee Club. His scrapbook documents many of the fun times he had with friends during his Iowa State years, not unlike the students of today. Though he would only attend Iowa State for a couple years before America entered WWI, when McConnell was drafted into the military and sent for training at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
McConnell’s adventure at Iowa State ended there, but his journey was far from over. Soon after basic training at Fort Snelling, Philip was sent to Nice, France, and spent about a year of training and working there as the war wore to an eventual end. McConnell survived the conflict, but surely the effect of being part of something so large and foreign at such a young age stuck with him.
The war eventually came to an end when an armistice was signed in November, 1918, and McConnell was honorably discharged from the Reserve Corps in France in February, 1919. Philip returned to Iowa but would not return to Iowa State. In 1920, McConnell was admitted to the University of California, where he finished his education in 1922. He stayed in California until his passing at the age of 99 in 1995.
McConnell’s life is one of hundreds of millions directly affected by the destructive events of the early 1900s, though not all were documented so well. Philip would go on to see the world ravaged by many more foreign conflicts over the years, as well as other dramatic changes in American culture. Although Philip’s story may not be unfamiliar, it comes to us in the form of a tactile document that concretely connects Iowa State to one of the greatest events in world history, and one that should be remembered.
In his scrapbook, McConnell included his letters of both draft and honorable discharge. Much of the collection includes notes about the images and McConnell’s feelings about them, but he wrote very little of the war itself. The only comment he included about the war is the haunting message:
“Censorship makes the war look pleasant.”
I believe this quote to be disquieting, but it also shows a complex side of humanity. There’s much to be learned from the people of the past, and part of what makes the archives wonderful is its commitment to ensuring those voices will still be heard another hundred years from now.
If there had been any doubt as to the advisability of the creation of the Land Grant institutions, that doubt was destroyed for all time by the Great War. – War Records Committee. “A Short History of Iowa State College in the World War.” (RS 13/16/1, box 2 folder 1)
World War I began in the summer of 1914 and ended in 1919. The United States joined on April 6, 1917 with a declaration of war on Germany. When the United States joined it had a standing army of 133,000. By early June 1917 approximately 9.5 million men had registered for service.
114,000 Iowans enlisted and Iowa State students, staff, faculty, trainees, and alumni formed around 6000 of those serving in World War I.
Training Specialists for the War Effort
Iowa State University responded by providing space, expertise, and infrastructure for training soldiers in a number of areas the largest being infantry, engineering, artillery, aviation, and “special.” The majority of these were men, but 29 women from Home Economics also served. 11 were nurses, 10 were dietitians, two were laboratory technicians, and one was a yeoman. One of these women, Pearl Wesley Yates, is remembered with a Gold Star.
The Story of the Gold Star
If you’ve been to Memorial Union you have probably passed through Gold Star Hall which lists the names of Iowa Staters killed in World War I and subsequent wars.
The symbol of the Gold Star was chosen to represent fallen soldiers when President Wilson approved a suggestion by the Women’s Committee of National Defenses for women to wear black arm bands with a gold star for each family member who had died during the war. The campus community in the post-war period formed a not-for-profit corporation (the Memorial Union Corporation) to raise the funds for the building of the Union. Near the Union is a rock plaque inscribed “Dedicated to the men whose lives were lost in World War I.” 119 Iowa Staters killed during World War I are remembered in Gold Star Hall. You can find out more about the lives of the 119 through the informational kiosk at the Union. The kiosk is intended to provide more context and personal information about each person memorialized in the Hall. It was developed by Iowa State graduate student Stelios Vasilis Perdios and based in large part on material found in Special Collections.
Service to Veterans
Iowa State continued working with the military after the war was over by developing retraining programs for disabled veterans. These courses were designed to provide support to veterans who had not previously had college preparation. The classes were primarily focused on agriculture with topics such as “Elementary Beekeeping” and an individualized course of study in Animal Husbandry.
Our Department of Military Science Subject Files (Record Series 13/16/1) is a great resource for understanding the University’s role in the War. The collection has multiple folders of correspondence related to the World War I (as well as other wars), including several folders of correspondence with soldiers on active duty: http://www.add.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/arch/rgrp/13-16-1.html