The World Wars at Home: Guides and Recipe Books

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.

Preface to Best War Time Recipes, by Royal Baking Powder Co., 1918. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 1.

Preface to Best War Time Recipes by Royal Baking Powder Co., 1918 (click to enlarge). MS 380, Box 1, Folder 1.

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.

A dessert recipe booklet, (year).

A WWII-era dessert recipe booklet, undated. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 10.

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.


A proposed cleaning schedule for housewives, (year). MS 380, Box 1, Folder (?).

A proposed weekly cleaning schedule for homemakers, 1944. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 6.

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.

From (title) by (someone), (year). MS 380, Box 1, Folder (?)

From Real Ideas of Real Housewives on Wartime Living, undated. MS 380, Box 1, Folder 3.

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.

For more WWI and WWII collections, see our manuscripts subject guides. Looking for more wartime recipes? Recipes from these eras can also be found in the Iowa Cookbook Collection, some of which can be viewed online.

Thank you to all our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us!

CyPix: V-12 Navy training program

In honor of  Veteran’s Day, November 11, here is a picture of Navy recruits from World War II who were part of the U.S. Navy’s V-12 College Training Program at Iowa State College (ISC).

Members of the U.S. Navy's V-12 College Training Program during World War II performing a training exercise, 1945.

Members of the U.S. Navy’s V-12 College Training Program during World War II performing a training exercise, 1945. University Photograph Collection, box 1098.

The V-12 program was designed to train officer candidates for combat duty in the war. They were taught college courses and kept a military schedule. The first group of trainees, numbering 200, came to ISC in June 1942; by 1943, according to the campus yearbook the Bomb, there were 3,100 men in various Navy training programs on campus, including electrical and diesel training programs and the Bakers’ and Cooks’ School. Dorms in Hughes and Friley Halls were converted to resemble ships’ quarters. As the 1943 Bomb states, “There are no doors on the rooms, double and triple decker bunks are used and, according to navy regulation, clothing and gear are kept in ship shape and in the smallest space possible in the ship’s quarters” (149).

Iowa State University continues to have a strong Navy ROTC program, as well as Army ROTC and Air Force ROTC programs. You can learn more about the history of military training at ISU in the Department of Military Science Subject Files, RS 13/16/1.

70 Years On: Significance of the Army-Navy “E” Award

In late 1945, Iowa State College (University) was bestowed an honor for service in World War II that some today may not expect: the Army-Navy “E” Flag for Excellence in Production, an award usually given to industry for excellence in production of war materials during times of great need. With the 70th anniversary of Iowa State’s reception of this award coming up, and Special Collections’ recent discovery of photo-negatives from the event, it’s interesting to look back on the significance of receiving this award, and try to understand the context in which Iowa State participated in the war effort.

The once-secret Manhattan District (Project), commanded by Major General Leslie Groves throughout much of the war, was a collaborative research and developmental project between the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to produce the first atomic bombs in WWII. It began in 1939 with the discovery of atomic fission, and with that, research, manufacturing, and testing sites began to be utilized in secret locations and laboratories across the three countries, with one of those sites being Iowa State and what would become the Ames Laboratory.

A view of the ceremony held for receiving the award. The event was put on in the Iowa State College (University) State Gym. (Negative #118174, University Photographs)

A view of the ceremony held for receiving the award. The event was put on in the Iowa State College (University) State Gym. (Negative #118174, University Photographs)

The connection to Iowa State began in 1941, when Frank H. Spedding, a Canadian chemist and Iowa State professor who specialized in rare earth metals, was asked to work on research regarding the fledging Manhattan Project for the purpose of producing high-purity uranium from uranium ore. Spedding accepted and ended up directing the Ames Project for the rest of the war. The greatest achievement under Spedding’s direction was associate project director in the metallurgy division Harley A. Wilhelm’s perfection of what is now known as the Ames Process. The Ames Process used a uranium purification method patented in 1895 by German chemist Hans Goldschmidt that had previously been extremely costly and inefficient, but Wilhelm discovered a way of tweaking it to produce large ingots of pure uranium from uranium ore with hugely reduced production costs. This allowed for Iowa State’s “Little Ankeny” plant to produce more than 1,000 tons of metallic uranium for the Manhattan Project over the course of two and a half years before industrial companies took over at the conclusion of the war.

Flag received at the ceremony. Figure holding the flag on the left is Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves. Each star represents six months worth of meeting assigned production of war materials. (negative #118186, University Photographs)

Flag received at the ceremony. Figure holding the flag on the left is Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves. Each star represents six months’ worth of meeting assigned production of war materials. (Negative #118186, University Photographs)

Although one of the smaller sites important to the Manhattan Project, Iowa State’s research and production of rare metals was paramount to success in the undertaking into nuclear technology. The Ames Process ended up being a key manufacturing process used to obtain high-purity uranium in a number of other outlets and research sites, and made it possible, after it’s perfection, to produce more for significantly lower cost. This greatly sped up the war effort on the atomic front and may have led to the United States truly being ready to utilize nuclear weapons when it did.

When Iowa State was presented with this award, it was rare for a university or college to receive it, as it was usually given instead to industrial companies that showed a great aptitude for manufacturing of war materials. But even under the guise of secrecy with no presumption of ever being recognized for their efforts, Iowa State’s scientists showed outstanding performance in production of materials vital to Allied success in WWII, thus granting us the Army-Navy “E” Award that now firmly stands to cement Iowa State into the history of one of mankind’s most dangerous yet bold achievements.

Holocaust Remembrance Day: Herb Plambeck Remembers Dachau

Note: images and descriptions in the following may be distressing to readers.

Holocaust Remembrance Day – or Yom HaShoah – was just this week (April 16th). Every year, it is commemorated on the 27th day of the month of Nisan in the Jewish calendar, which correlates to sometime in April or May in the Gregorian calendar, depending on the year. Another remembrance day, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is held on January 27th and commemorates the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Yom HaShoah is largely observed in Israel and in Jewish communities throughout the world and marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Considering the tragedy that was the Holocaust and the lessons that were learned from it, more than one recognized day of observance seems justified.

It might be a surprise to learn that we in the Special Collections Department at ISU have materials related to the Holocaust. Admittedly, there’s not much, but what we do have is certainly interesting.

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Extension Service rural programs in Iowa after Pearl Harbor

When the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States was catapulted into World War II. Although the United States had remained neutral while countries in Europe and Asia had gone to war, Americans all over the country were keenly following events overseas and trying to understand them. The people of Iowa were no different.

"The Iowa Farmer and World War II" Extension Service pamphlet from March 1941.

“The Iowa Farmer and World War II” Extension Service pamphlet from March 1941. Box 16, folder 5, William H. Stacy Papers, RS 16/3/57.

Seven days after Pearl Harbor, on December 12, during a regularly-scheduled radio program, Iowa State College Extension Sociologist Bill Stacy outlined efforts already underway by community groups to understand the world around them:

“The 4-H girls’ clubs, for three years, have been studying a ‘World Conscious Program.’ …Out of school Rural Young People have organized programs in 61 counties. This year these groups have as the theme for their major study, ‘Our Job in Strengthening Democracy.’…Farm women’s groups for a third year, are studying ‘The Farm Family and the World Today’….Then, as you know, the Extension Service has published eight circulars in a series called ‘The Challenge to Democracy'” (Script for Radio Dialogue in Box 10, Folder 1, William H. Stacy Papers, RS 16/3/57).

Understanding and supporting democracy as a means of combating the totalitarianism of the Axis Powers was of prime importance. Stacy also emphasized the need to bring communities together to support war efforts and also to support the well-being of citizens during a time of national stress and hardship.

Iowa State Extension Service 1942 Annual Report, "Iowa On the Front Line of the Food Front."

Iowa State Extension Service 1942 Annual Report, “Iowa On the Front Line of the Food Front.” Box 16, folder 5, William H. Stacy Papers, RS 16/3/57.

During World War II, every effort and activity was directed toward the war, and Iowa State College Extension Service put its shoulder to the wheel throughout all its departments. Extension agronomists supported programs for higher crop production throughout the state. Home Economics Extension nutritionists developed programs to keep Iowans strong and healthy. Home management specialists helped homemakers to make do with less and save on resources needed for the war. Rural Sociology Extension, headed by Bill Stacy, supported community councils and assisted community leaders with discussion programs. Even recreation programs were designed to ease wartime tensions!

Stacy created the Program Service for Rural Leaders, guides to be used by community organizations for leading discussions on timely topics with suggestions for different types of recreational activities. One Program Service from February 1943 included in a pamphlet on “American Square Dances for Wartime Relaxation” that included a Victory Reel!

 "American Square Dances for Wartime Relaxation" pamphlet. Box 16, folder 5, William H. Stacy Papers, RS 16/3/57.

“American Square Dances for Wartime Relaxation” pamphlet. Box 16, folder 5, William H. Stacy Papers, RS 16/3/57.

To learn more about wartime Extension Service programs in Iowa, see the William Homer Stacy Papers (RS 16/3/57) and the Ralph Kenneth Bliss Papers (RS 16/3/13). For other World War II-related collections, check out our Subject Guide for World War II manuscript collections.

Veterans in the Archives: Learning More about Henry Black

Today, the United States observes Veterans Day, which commemorates veterans of all wars. If you’re familiar with Iowa State University, you probably know Henry Montgomery Black – even if you don’t think you do. Professor Black, a World War II veteran and the head of the Mechanical Engineering department from 1946 until 1972, is the namesake of the Black Engineering Building. Special Collections hosts the Black Family papers, and we have recently processed Henry Black’s professional papers from his tenure at ISU.

Box 2, Folder 7, Henry Montgomery Black Papers

Black in his role as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, circa 1950s (Box 2, Folder 7, RS 11/10/19)

As is to be expected, the Henry Montgomery Black Papers provide insight into the field of mechanical and professional engineering, particularly at Iowa State University, his alma mater (1929) and employer. Dr. Black was very interested in the direction of engineering education; this interest led him to roles in a number of engineering organizations, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME), the Engineers’ Council for Professional Development, and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Since many, if not all, of his students aimed to become licensed professional engineers, Black kept a hand in professional engineering standards and examinations, serving in a leadership position on the Iowa State Board of Engineering Examiners for several years. The collection reflects all of these associations and his contributions to them.

Henry Black was a man of many interests, and his papers sketch a more nuanced picture of his contributions outside of engineering leadership. As an example, for nearly 20 years Black worked on the annual ASME design problem contest, a challenge aimed at inspiring creativity from engineering students that is still in existence today. He was interested in practical applications of engineering, not just its study, and the contest was a way to help students apply their knowledge. The papers show that the professors who wrote the test questions were challenged to develop difficult problems for students to solve!

He was also an amateur historian who collected historical information for the institutions to which he claimed allegiance. His papers contain notes on the history of mechanical engineering at ISU, which he used as department head and professor; the history of mechanical engineering in the United States, which was relevant as a member of ASME’s Centennial Committee and its the History Subcommittee; and the Army Reserve’s history at ISU, which was important to him as an alumnus and a World War II veteran.

Box 1, Folder 25, Henry Montgomery Black Papers

Black and students pictured during an inspection trip, gaining first-hand, practical knowledge of the mechanical engineering field (Box 1, Folder 25, RS 11/10/19)

Black’s military career is represented in his professional papers as well. A famous saying goes, “once a Marine, always a Marine,” and the sentiment applies to Black’s Army service as well.  His Army career started in 1929, when he joined the Reserves upon graduation from Iowa State. This led to his role as chief engineer of the Army’s landing at Utah Beach during the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Black resumed his reservist status when he returned to Iowa State and did not retire until 1960. Over those nearly 15 years, as the commander of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers group, he attended and led training for other soldier-engineers. These case studies and problems appear in his Iowa State files, indicating that perhaps the Army Corps of Engineers were not the only one to benefit from Black’s time in its employ.

Black’s contributions extend to the community of Ames as well. He was active in the Tall Corn Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, using his engineering insight to help maintain various Boy Scout camps in Iowa. As evidenced by a scrapbook and newsletters in his papers, Black served year-long presidencies of the Ames Chamber of Commerce and the Ames Rotary Club and was a long-time member of both organizations. Curious about the history of these business and community service organizations in Ames? The Henry Black Papers can satisfy that craving.   For more information about the Henry Montgomery Black Papers (RS 11/10/19) or our other faculty and alumni collections, please visit us online or on the fourth floor of Parks Library in the Special Collections department, open M-F, 10 am to 4pm. A copy of the paper’s finding aid, listing all the materials and providing more background on the collection, is also available online here.