Iowa Digital Library Category

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The Treasure in the Old Will: Iowa Women’s Archives Inherits Valuable Nancy Drew Collection

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There were no missing documents, phony relatives, or suspicious fires — just a straightforward bequest from Peggy Wirt, whose mother, the late Mildred Wirt Benson, was the original ghostwriter of the Nancy Drew series. But the collection that was recently left to the Iowa Women’s Archives calls to mind another mystery trope – the hidden treasure: the gift of 150 books, written and signed by Benson, was appraised at $115,000. According to IWA Curator Kären Mason, however, the true value of the donation lies in further documenting an important figure in American popular culture.

The first student to earn a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa, Mildred Wirt Benson wrote the original Nancy Drew novel, The Secret of the Old Clock, in 1930 under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. She completed nearly two dozen more titles in what has become one of the most successful children’s book series ever. Benson published numerous other children’s novels, both as a ghostwriter and under her own name, before turning to a career in journalism. The Peggy Wirt bequest will be added to the IWA’s Mildred Wirt Benson collection, used frequently by scholars and fans alike, that was donated by the author in 1992 and subsequent years until her death in 2002.

Two additional sets of new acquisitions complement the book donation. Purchased at auction from the estate of Peggy Wirt are a vintage typewriter of Benson’s, along with several photo albums. The latter include the original snapshot of an image that has become iconic to fans of the author: a college-age Benson, circa 1925, making a daring swan dive into the Iowa River near the current site of the UI’s student union.

The other recent donation comes from UI Journalism Professor Emerita Carolyn Stewart Dyer, who gave the IWA her collection of foreign-language Nancy Drew novels. The covers of these French, Japanese, and Swedish translations depict a Nancy both familiar and strange – renamed Kitty or Alice, holding a gun, her trademark titian hair changed to brown or blonde.

In any language, the character continues to serve as a feminist icon who inspires women “to persevere, to achieve, to ask questions and find answers,” according to Dyer. While coordinating the UI’s 1993 symposium on Nancy Drew, she heard from many women who grew up on the series:

Most compelling of the many elements of the stories women told us about reading Nancy Drew were the accounts of how, as girls, they saw in Nancy an alternative to conventional notions of what a woman could be. Women in many occupations told of learning from Nancy to see adventure in solving problems and the joy of self-reliance. These qualities, they said, led them to the futures they chose as lawyers, researchers, librarians, and detectives, among other roles. (1)

The Mildred Wirt Benson materials may be viewed at the Iowa Women’s Archives. Selections from the collection have been digitized and made available at the Iowa Digital Library: digital.lib.uiowa.edu/mwb

  1. “The Nancy Drew Phenomenon: Rediscovering Nancy Drew in Iowa” by Carolyn Stewart Dyer, in Rediscovering Nancy Drew, edited by Carolyn Stewart Dyer and Nancy Tillman Romalov (University of Iowa Press, 1995)

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From top: the bequest of novels from Peggy Wirt, waiting to be processed; a vintage typewriter used by Benson; Benson’s photo albums; foreign-language versions of Nancy Drew novels, donated by Carolyn Stewart Dyer. Photographs by Hannah Scates Kettler

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Spring musings

Today is the vernal equinox – the first day of spring.  72 years ago, Nile Kinnick reflected on its meaning from the U.S. Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.  His words about the trajectory of the ongoing war are startlingly prescient, before turning his thoughts to springtime at home.  Thanks to DRP’s Wendy Robertson for finding this letter today, and to the DIYHistory participant/s who transcribed it.

Nile Kinnick letter to his brother, Ben, March 21, 1942

Nile Kinnick letter to his brother, Ben, March 21, 1942

“…today is supposed to be the date of the vernal equinox, when the sun’s center crosses the equator and day and night are everywhere equal. As surely as the world is round the sun will begin to rise earlier and set later, we shall have more light than darkness. Time and season wait on no man. And so it will go with this war. As the stars in their courses indicate the shifting seasons so do they proclaim that goodness shall triumph over evil, hope over despair. There has been so very little sunlight to cheer either America or Britain since the war started, and even now the prospect is dark and foreboding. However, the “spring equinox” is approaching. It will be born of blood and thunder in the year 1942. Fierce will be the fighting against superior odds, and disadvantageous will be the circumstances, but when the smoke and blood have been cleared away, the Allied Nations shall be more nearly on an equal footing than at any time since the adversary set upon them. And then in 1943 the drive will begin. Slowly but surely, gaining momentum with every assault, the foe will be beaten back until once again sunshine & light have gained dominion. The year 1944 will see the termination of this fearful struggle, and once again we shall make an attempt to prevent the recurrence of such an holocaust.”

“But enough of figurative speculation, and on to lighter things. Spring in the midwest, oh, that is a glorious season! Soon the countryside will be green and fresh, the heavy hand of winter will be shaken off – and, yes, the grass will be a grab and a half high, and picnics will displace the afternoon schedule.”

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This year, spring looks about as colorful as this photo, A spring day at Bellevue IA, 1910s, from the Mary Noble Photograph collection.  Click the photo and zoom in, and you’ll still see some smiling faces.  Both the Noble and Kinnick collections are part of the Iowa Digital Library.

"A spring day at Bellevue IA," 1910s

“A spring day at Bellevue IA,” 1910s

 

 

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Remembering Shirley Temple Black

Child star Shirley Temple died yesterday (Feb 10, 2014). After retiring from theater, she became active in the Republican Party at which time she attended various fund raising events.

Mary Louise Smith, Pat Pardun, Mary Brooks, Lois Reed, and Shirley Temple Black at the Republican Women's Conference, Washington, D.C., 1968

Mary Louise Smith, Pat Pardun, Mary Brooks, Lois Reed, and Shirley Temple Black at the Republican Women’s Conference, Washington, D.C., 1968.

Mary Louise Smith, Shirley Temple Black, Jerry Mursener, and Paula Travis at party fund-raiser, Iowa, November, 1977

Mary Louise Smith, Shirley Temple Black, Jerry Mursener, and Paula Travis at party fund-raiser ($100 per person reception, speech & buffet), Iowa, November, 1977.

She also served as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana from 1974–1976, was Chief of Protocol of the United States from 1976–1977, and was U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989–1992.

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Women on the Chautauqua Circuit: Winsome Lasses and Ardent Advocates

The Marigold Quartette brochure | Traveling Culture - Circuit Chautauqua in the 20th Century

The Marigold Quartette brochure | Traveling Culture – Circuit Chautauqua in the 20th Century

This essay by Kären Mason, Curator of the Iowa Women’s Archives, was originally written for Akashic Books.

Chautauqua was an eagerly anticipated event in towns across the United States in the early 20th century. Huge tents were erected and a variety of speakers, performances, and children’s activities took place over the week the Chautauqua was in town. Red Oak, Iowa even constructed a permanent Chautauqua Pavilion in 1907, which is still standing and reputed to be the largest covered pavilion west of the Mississippi.

Many women lectured or performed on the Chautauqua circuit. Some, like Marian Elliot Adams, the main character of Unmentionables, lectured on women’s reform issues. Women’s suffrage was a popular topic in the years leading up to 1920, when the 19th Amendment at long last gave women the vote. Chautauqua provided an important venue for reformers to reach audiences all across the country.

Read the full essay at the Iowa Women’s Archives blog

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Wishing you an animated holiday

Featuring images from Helen Grundman 4-H scrapbook, 1928-1932

Animated gif featuring Helen Grundman 4-H scrapbook, 1928-1932 | Iowa Women’s Archives

LULAC Christmas party, Davenport, Iowa, early 1960s

Animated gif featuring LULAC Christmas party photo, Davenport, Iowa, early 1960s | Iowa Women’s Archives

LULAC Christmas party, Davenport, Iowa, early 1960s

Animated gif featuring LULAC Christmas party photo, Davenport, Iowa, early 1960s | Iowa Women’s Archives

The big story at the Libraries this year has been our Special Collections department’s ascendancy to social media superstardom. Here in Digital Research & Publishing, we’re happy to hook our wagon to that stardom for promoting the Libraries’ digital initiatives to the 18,000 (and counting!) followers at the UISpecColl Tumblr, and to loan our multimedia expertise to film and edit their YouTube video series. Here’s to even more public engagement success in 2014!

Digital projects featured on Tumblr:

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Historic photos: JFK at the UI, 1959

As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death, we’re celebrating the 54th anniversary of his 1959 visit to the University of Iowa campus. Not yet an official presidential candidate (coverage of his trip only made page 6 of The Daily Iowan, which instead led with some student workers’ two-day strike for a food allowance raise), Kennedy still drew a healthy audience of 1,500 to a reception at the Iowa Memorial Union. He rounded out the visit watching a home football game the following day, where he “cheered for Iowa, but prayed for Notre Dame.”

View additional Kennedy photographs from the Michael W. Lemberger Collection

View the Nov. 24th 1959 edition of The Daily Iowan

Senator John F. Kennedy visits the Iowa Memorial Union, University of Iowa, Nov. 21, 1959. Photo (c) Michael W. Lemberger | Michael W. Lemberger Photographs

Senator John F. Kennedy visits the Iowa Memorial Union, University of Iowa, Nov. 21, 1959. Photo (c) Michael W. Lemberger | Michael W. Lemberger Photographs

Senator John F. Kennedy talks to supporters, University of Iowa, Nov. 21, 1959. Photo (c) Michael W. Lemberger  |  Michael W. Lemberger Photographs

Senator John F. Kennedy talks to supporters, University of Iowa, Nov. 21, 1959. Photo (c) Michael W. Lemberger | Michael W. Lemberger Photographs 

Pressbox quarterbacks, The Daily Iowan, Nov. 24, 1959  |  The Daily Iowan Digital Collection

Pressbox quarterbacks, The Daily Iowan, Nov. 24, 1959 | The Daily Iowan Digital Collection

Next president?, The Daily Iowan, Nov. 24, 1959  |  The Daily Iowan Digital Collection

Next president?, The Daily Iowan, Nov. 24, 1959 | The Daily Iowan Digital Collection

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Great mustaches of the Iowa Digital Library

The libraries and archives that feature historic mustache images — from NYPL to the Smithsonian to our own Special Collections — are kicking into high gear in honor of Movember, so we thought we’d join in. Stealing from In tribute to the Library of Congress’ collection, we present some of the great mustaches of the Iowa Digital Library. Special thanks go to Wendy Robertson for her mustache-searching expertise.

UI President Charles A. Schaeffer, 1893  |  University of Iowa Yearbooks

UI President Charles A. Schaeffer, 1893 | University of Iowa Yearbooks

College of Dentistry Dean W.S. Hosford, 1908  |  Dentistry College Class Photographs

W.S. Hosford, 1908 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

Unidentified man, circa 1879  |  Pioneer Lives

Unidentified man, circa 1879 | Pioneer Lives

J.L. Small, 1885  |  Dentistry College Class Photographs

J.L. Small, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

General James B. Weaver, 1907  |  Traveling Culture - Circuit Chautauqua in the 20th C.

General James B. Weaver, 1907 | Traveling Culture – Circuit Chautauqua in the 20th C.

Billy Brooks, 1930s  |  Mujeres Latinas

Billy Brooks, 1930s | Mujeres Latinas

Personal favorite:

L.K. Fullerton, 1885  |  Dentistry College Class Photographs

L.K. Fullerton, 1885 | Dentistry College Class Photographs

Mustache manuscript:

Leigh Hunt letter to Charles Ollier, 1854  |  Leigh Hunt Letters

Leigh Hunt letter to Charles Ollier, 1854 | Leigh Hunt Letters

“I have not been idle, nor has my beard been growing for nothing. Had it not vented its energies this way, it would assuredly have struck towards the table, with the intention of growing through it, like the dead Emperor’s that was found sitting in the mausoleum. Seriously, it is a curious & hopeful coincidence, at any rate, that my cough has continued to grow better & better, though my beard is but of a month’s existence. I cannot afford to confine myself to the moustache &c., as you do; for I have, or have had, a regular cough, which you have not. Moustaches may do well enough for occasional coughs; but the cough proper demands the whole hairy investment.”

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Reading & greeting

Reach out to your book-loving friends by sharing a reading-themed eCard, featuring images from Iowa Digital Library.

Summer reading: send an eCard from Iowa Digital Library

Summer reading: send an eCard from Iowa Digital Library

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Springtime in Iowa

Remembering Iowa City’s tornado of 2006 and floods of 2008, via Iowa Digital Library. Here’s hoping for a less extreme 2013…

Alpha Chi Omega house, University of Iowa, April 2006 | University Communication and Marketing Photographs

Alpha Chi Omega house, University of Iowa, April 2006 | University Communication and Marketing Photographs

Tornado damage, Iowa City, April 2006 | University Communication and Marketing Photographs

Tornado damage, Iowa City, April 2006 | University Communication and Marketing Photographs

The Daily Iowan, April 17, 2006 | The Daily Iowan Historic Newspapers

The Daily Iowan, April 17, 2006 | The Daily Iowan Historic Newspapers

Art Building West, University of Iowa, June 2008 | Iowa City Flood

Art Building West, University of Iowa, June 2008 | Iowa City Flood

Volunteers help with sandbagging, University of Iowa, June 2008 | Iowa City Flood

Volunteers help with sandbagging, University of Iowa, June 2008 | Iowa City Flood

The Daily Iowan, June 11, 2008 | The Daily Iowan Historic Newspapers

The Daily Iowan, June 11, 2008 | The Daily Iowan Historic Newspapers

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Brown v Board of Education

Segregation Held Unconsituional

Today is the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in the Brown v Board of Education, making separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The Daily Iowan story is in the May 18, 1954 issue.

The ruling did not affect Iowa because segregation of schools had been illegal since 1868.

“Our first public schools were for “white” students only. But in 1868, eighty-six years before Brown versus State Board of Education, Topeka—which struck down separate schools for blacks and whites in 1954—Alexander Clark Sr. successfully sued the City of Muscatine so his daughter, Susan, could attend the white elementary school. This was the same year that Iowa became the first northern state to guarantee black men’s right to vote.”

Letters to a young Iowan [excerpt], Hal S. Chase

"S.U.I. queen vote accents tolerance," December 14, 1955Just one year after the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Iowa students elected an African American woman, Dora Lee Martin, as homecoming queen. This election was touted in state papers as demonstrating tolerance at the University, such as this excerpt from the Sioux City Tribune-Journal.

You can read more about Dora Lee Martin in a previous blog post, Queen of the campus.