Archive for August, 2012


Who Am I?

Do you know this man? Or perhaps you know this lovely girl with her bicycle?

This mysterious item has a series of six photographs printed on fabric and bound together on a wooden holder. Based on clothing and hairstyle the photos seem to be from different time periods. Are they all different people?  Did one of those children grow into that lovely young lady?  Are they all family?  Why was this made?  When?

This came to us from a woman named Rose Hogan as part of an archive from families named Hogan and Roskopf but nothing is known about this item or the people featured. 

The family included teachers and attourneys and has connections to Iowa City, Galva Clearfield, Diagonal, Denison, Teril, Dunlap and Estherville in Iowa, as well as Chambers County in Texas, and Foxhome, Minnesota.

If these faces look familiar, please help us identify them and solve the mystery.


Voices From the Stacks #2: Spine Lining

The second edition of our new series, “Voices from the Stacks” comes from English Department graduate student, Miriam Janechek, who is working as a guest curator for an exhibition that will debut this fall:

Filler pages from other books used to bind the spine of an 1856 edition of The Life of Benjamin Franklin demonstrate one of the many benefits of archival research – hands-on work leads to unique discoveries! A keyword search in Google books quickly identified one page, A Manual of the Orinthology of the United States and of Canada, by Thomas Nuttall, published in Cambridge, MA, in 1832, which is seen peeking out of the cracked binding of the University of Iowa Special Collections’ edition of Jefferson’s book. Demonstrating also the limitations of Internet research, Google did not help locate the other filler page, which seems to be from a periodical.

Why was the 24 year-old book on birds used as filler?  Did the printer have unsold copies?  Did he simply dislike birds?  Were there newer, more accurate ornithology books? It’s a mystery…



150 Years Later a Civil War Story Unfolds

In celebration of the U.S. Civil War Sesquicentennial, The University of Iowa Libraries is bringing to life the compelling story of Civil War soldier Joseph F. Culver and his wife, Mary, featuring letters held in Special Collections in the J.F Culver Papers. Letter by letter their story will unfold over the next three years published on a new blog exactly 150 years to the exact date each letter was written.  The blog was launched today with the first letter written 8/14/1862. 

Joseph Franklin Culver (1834-1899) was engaged in banking, insurance, and the practice of law in Pontiac, Illinois, before the war.  An honorable and religious man he was inspired to leave his pregnant wife of less than a year behind to “walk in the path of duty” as a volunteer to serve with the Illinois 129th Infantry Regiment, Company A (August 1862-June 1865), first as a lieutenant and later as captain. Culver so desired to keep in contact with his new wife that he wrote detailed letters multiple times each week sharing his day, news items, and the stories of the men in his company, also men from Pontiac and Livingston County, IL, for the duration of the three years of his service.  

Extensive annotations added by scholar Edwin C. Bearss in the 1970s as J.F. Culver’s letters were turned into a book, Your Affectionate Husband, J.F. Culver, are included to make it possible to follow the dates, names, relationships, and references in the letters. Newly discovered letters and letters from his wife, Mary, will be included in the blog project to make the most complete version of their story to date.

Mary Culver Portrait

A review of the book from 1979 highly recommended Culver’s letters.  “This is a valuable series of letters by an observant and highly literate soldier. In addition, the collection has been edited in impeccably scholarly fashion. The book is thus a revealing as well as useful chronicle of Sherman’s campaigns…The chief value of Culver’s letters is the wide variety of subject matter. Comrades, marches, campaigns, rumors, prices, religion, and general commentaries abound. So do observations on all facets of army life–discipline, conscription, elections, camp life, baggage, shelters, pay, and rations. Added to this are personal opinions on a number of Union leaders.” James I. Robertson, Jr. The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 45, no.4 (Nov. 1979), pp. 612-613. 

Though primarily a story of an Illinois man, Iowa readers should note that Joseph and Mary Culver are great-grandparents to John Culver, former Iowa representative to the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senator from Iowa, and great-great-grandparents to Chet Culver, former governor of Iowa.

View the Joseph F. Culver Civil War Blog.

The book is available from



New Acquisitions: KRUI, Oakdale Scrapbook and Artists’ Books

Here are some featured items that have recently arrived in both Special Collections and in the University Archives. Researchers interested in the history of local radio, advertising, tuberculosis, and artist’s books should particularly take note of our recent arrivals.

The University Archives now includes additional documents from KRUI.  KRUI 89.7, the University of Iowa student radio station, began as a dormitory-only service in the early 1950’s, expanding to FM in 1984. Recently the UI Archives received an additional 14 linear feet of material from the station: Brochures, staff schedules, correspondence, photographs and other documents, to add to the archives existing collection described at Dave Long, a member of the KRUI board of directors, helped arrange for transfer of the materials.

Logo design sketches

Logo design sketches, KRUI, University of Iowa Archives

Oakdale Sanatorium was established in Johnson County in 1907 to house and care for patients diagnosed with tuberculosis. Over time, the facility accommodated patients with other needs as well. From 1945 to 1947, Ruth Harris, a dietician from Ames, IA, was employed as Director of Dietetics there. Earlier this year, Ruth Solmonson of St. Paul, MN, a relative of Ms. Harris’, donated a scrapbook to the UI Archives which contains scores of photographs, newspaper clippings, and other items depicting life at the facility. In 2011 Oakdale Hall, the original and largest structure on the campus, was razed to make way for new development, making Ms. Harris’ photographs even more valuable to researchers.

Oakdale Sanatorium Scrapbook, University Archives

Oakdale Sanatorium Scrapbook, University of Iowa Archives

The newest arrivals in the department of Special Collections include a shipment of eleven impressive artists’ books from Vamp & Tramp Booksellers, LLC.  Three of the books are highlighted below.

Body of Inquiry is from Casey Gardner and Set in Motion Press.   With inspiration drawn from anatomical models and instructional documents this amusing work draws you in to discover a “corporeal codex” with intricately folded organs.

Statement from Set in Motion Press:  “This book is a triptych opening to a sewn codex within the subject’s torso. It is a structure of display and intimacy. The scale is large and unfolding and the details are numerous and intricate, accurate and outlandish. The instruments on the outer panels are from the 19th- and 20th-century scientific catalogs. The rest of the images are drawings the artist made and transferred into photopolymer plate for letterpress. The scientific panels explore the miracle of our physicality and are sequenced beginning with atoms, moving to cells, and to genetic structure. The interior codex tells the story of the artist’s anatomical model and investigates the permeable borderline between material and immaterial in our bodies and life.”


Corpus codex

Detail from Body of Inquiry, U. of Iowa Special Collections

Al Mutanabbi Street, March 5,  from Al Hazelwood is one item that is part of a project to “re-assemble” some of the “inventory” of the reading material that was lost in the car bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street on 5th March 2007. Originally the intention was for 130 book artists to join in honouring al-Mutanabbi Street so that one artist’s work would stand in for each of the 30 killed and 100 wounded through creating work that holds both “memory and future,” exactly what was lost that day.  However in the end the response was so great that 262 artists participated in the project, soon to be completed.

Stement from artist Al Hazelwood: “This book is based on the car bombing of a street of booksellers in Baghdad. Beau Beausoleil, a bookseller in San Francisco, initiated this project to memorialize this attack on the culture of the book and prevent it from slipping into forgetting among the many atrocities of the Iraq War. He’s asked 130 book artists to contribute — the number of books matching the number of victims that day. This is my contribution. Three from the edition go to the project one of which will be offered to the Iraq National Library in Baghdad.  My book, starts with an image of the booksellers street. The next page begins a foldout which begins with the explosion in a death head cloud. Books flying are labeled with different bookseller areas of the world”.

Al Mutanabbi Street, March 5

Al Mutanabbi Street, March 5, U. of Iowa Special Collections

Shelter by Phil Zimmerman of Spaceheater Editions is an intricately constructed floating hinge format book-within-a-book.

Statement from artist Phil Zimmermann: “Shelter came out of an exploration of losing faith and questioning on of its opposites: the process of finding religion. This text came out of watching my dying father, who was never religious when I was growing up, become increasingly interested in faith and salvation as he became sicker from heart disease and cancer. I saw the desert with its unfriendly flora and harsh environment as a metaphor for the difficult world towards the end of many people’s lives. The desert is also used in many religious tracts as a place for contemplation and mortification. In this work roadside shelters and gospel ministries were used as signifiers of ways and places where people look (vainly?) to relive prospects of their approaching death.”



Shelter, U of Iowa Special Collections


Montgomery Sheet Music Give Cultural Panorama of Early 20th Century America

Donated to Special Collections in March 2012 by Linda Yanney, the Beluah Yanney Montgomery Sheet Music Collection has been processed by our outgoing Olson Fellow Gyorgy “George” Toth and is being added to our Sheet Music Collection ( Covering the late 19th through middle 20th centuries, the Montgomery addendum complements our current collection of sheet music with the major themes of its songs.


Popular Music

Much of the popular music of the early 20th century was sentimental, and concerned topics like landscape and romance. Not so Edith Maida Lessing’s “Just as the Ship Went Down” from 1912, which remembers the sinking of the Titanic. As we are observing the 100th anniversary of this disaster, we can view this song as an early effort to memorialize the event in U.S. popular culture. Reading, playing and singing songs like this was also part of people’s coming to grips with national and historic events.


“Just as the Ship Went Down.” Edith Maida Lessing, Gibson & Adler. Chicago: Harold Rossiter Music Company, 1912.


Music about the American South

The Montgomery addendum also contains a small group of songs written about the American South. These songs were often introduced by famous singers and actors like Al Jolson on the vaudeville stage and in minstrel shows, where they used African American characters to paint a sentimental picture of antebellum Southern plantations.


Mother, Dixie and You. Howard Johnson, Joe Santly. New York: Leo Feist Inc., 1927.


With today’s standards, these songs were racially charged if not outright racist towards blacks, and they presented a view of the South that culturally attempted to roll back the achievements of the Thirteenth Amendment. Even as some questioned their credibility, many contemporary Americans treated these songs as entertainment, listened to them on the popular stage, and played and sang them in their parlors.


Songs from World War One

In two years, we will be observing the centenary of World War One. After the entry of the United States, American society changed as it participated in the war effort. Popular songs from this era reflect how Americans engaged with “the Great War” – emotionally, socially, and culturally. In popular culture form these songs answered the question of ‘why we are fighting over there,’ they boosted the morale on the home front, helped American families endure the absence of their fathers, sons, brothers and husbands, and they depicted relationships between American servicemen and -women and the Europeans they encountered during the war. Americans listened to these songs in recorded form, but they also played them on the piano and sang them in their own living rooms and parlors.


Wee, Wee, Marie (Willl You Do Zis for Me). Alfred Bryan, Joe Mc. Carthy, Fred Fisher. New York: McCarthy & Fisher, Inc., 1918.


Theatre Music

Other songs in the Montgomery addendum were linked to specific stage productions. In the early 20th century, Al Jolson was one of the artists whose name sold musical plays and their sheet music like candy. Another piece, “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” comes from the Broadway production George White’s Scandals, which ran all through the interwar period and launched the career of several major figures in entertainment.


You’re a Dangerous Girl. Grant Clarke, Jimmie Monaco. New York: Leo Feist, 1916.


Film Music

The early 20th century saw the overlapping development of old and new entertainment forms, which included the popular stage, gramophone records, the piano in the parlor, the radio, and film. Depending on their social class and wealth, Americans could enjoy many of these. For example, they could go to see a stage production of the famous Siegfried’s Follies Broadway musical, buy its music on recordings, listen to them on the radio, go to the cinema to see a film remake with Fred Astaire, and purchase its songs to play and sing them in their homes.


This Heart of Mine. Arthur Freed, Harry Warren. New York: Triangle Music Corporation, 1943.


The Beluah Yanney Montgomery Sheet Music Collection will be an important part of our holdings of sheet music from the 19th and 20th centuries. For researchers and fans of U.S. popular culture, these songs say something about the larger American society and the ways people creatively used music for entertainment, social life, education, and emotional expression.