About Author: George Toth


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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 (http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/msc/ToMsC900/MsC873/MsC873_sheetmusic.html). 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.


“The Defaulter,” or, the Loan Crisis on the American Stage

Did you know that U.S. society lived through major economic crises before the Great Depression? How did American popular theater depict these financial crises?


A reference question sent our graduate fellow Gyorgy “George” Toth looking in our John Springer Printed Ephemera Collection, which has some amazing playbills, programs, and advertisements of popular theater from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. There he found an advertising booklet for the play “The Defaulter,” which has some arresting imagery, as you can see below.

"The Defaulter" melodramatic stage play, cca. 1890s

"The Defaulter" play advertising booklet page 3


The play is advertised as “A Play of Today – showing Scenes of Today –  of the Life of Today – in the World of Today – with the Aims of Today,” and “a Play Understood by All because of its Thorough Truthfulness to Nature.” What was “the world of today”? And what real events was the play based on?


A quick search by our Instruction and Outreach Librarian Colleen Theisen revealed that the play was advertised (and likely performed) as early as January of 1896. If it was based on real events, this means that the crisis it refers to predates the Great Depression!

"The Defaulter" play advertising booklet page 2


In fact, by 1897 the United States had been in an economic depression for years. Farmers had been losing their land, the unemployed had been traveling the country for work, some people had defaulted on their loans, while others had made a run on the banks for their money. Yet others organized and marched to Washington, D.C. to plead their case with the government. While the play’s humor made the audience laugh, the tears they shed likely came from the viewers’ empathy for those in dire straits, and their fear of their own ruin.

"The Defaulter" play advertising booklet page 5

"The Defaulter" play advertising booklet page 7


Why the wide gestures, the bombastic poses? This play was part of a long tradition of stage acting called the melodramatic mode. Americans in the Victorian era (the second half of the 19th century) watched melodramas as a major pastime. Melodramas were plays for the American popular stage, accompanied by music, featuring stock characters such as a hero, a heroine and a villain, and conveying messages about morality in rather dramatic and overblown, sensational fashion. Setting the economic crisis, a highly complex and scary experience, as a melodrama allowed people to easier understand the situation, to identify with their favorite characters, and to experience a cathartic but happy ending – something most people wanted. In this way, the producers used popular culture not only to make a profit, but also to comfort the spectators and give them hope for the future.




By the late 19th century, melodrama as a stage and literary genre had acquired a reputation for being a lowbrow cultural form consumed by the unsophisticated members of the lower classes. This may be the reason why a reviewer (or promoter?!) assured newspaper readers in 1896 that “It is a drama abounding in strong situations and thrilling climaxes, but there is nothing of a Melodramatic character about it.”


After the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the genre of melodrama migrated from novels and the stage to film and pulp literature. In the Victorian era and beyond, melodrama was a major cultural form in which people were both entertained and processed the complex experiences of romantic love, urban life, immigration, and industrial labor relations. Special Collections and University Archives has several major collections about the history of the U.S. stage and popular culture. Please look at their descriptions here: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/resources/theatrearts.html


Do you know any plays or movies that are trying to give hope to Americans struggling with today’s global recession?


American Indian Powwow & Exhibit Share Native Living Traditions

Addendum to blog entry on August 7, 2012:


Are you looking for a cultural activity for this coming weekend? How about attending the Meskwaki Powwow in Tama, Iowa? Here is a little historical preview from our exhibition titled “American Indian Dancing: Ethnic Stereotypes, Community Resources, Living Traditions”:


The Powwow Then and Now

By the 1960s, American Indians were using the so-called “powwow circuit” – a network of dance competitions held near Native population centers across the U.S. – to socialize and revitalize their cultures. Eastern Iowa also hosted Indian dancing events. In dated language, Laurence Lafore mentioned it in the October 1971 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

“The surviving red men of the Mesquakie tribe are said to be degraded and oppressed, although the Tama Pow-Wow is a celebrated and good-natured show, and at the approach to Sac City there is a large billboard announcing “Welcome to the home of friendly Indians. You’ll like them without reservations”.”


John M. Zielinski, Mesquakie and Proud of It. Kalona, Iowa: Photo-Art Gallery, 1976. Special Collections x-Collection FOLIO E99.F7 Z5


The Meskwaki are proud that they got some of their territory back not through the grace of the U.S. government, but through their own peaceful efforts: they bought their old lands back from white settlers in Tama, Iowa. Thus they made Tama a settlement, and not a reservation. The billboard’s phrasing not only advertised the powwow, but it also expressed Native resistance to oppressive U.S. Indian policy with subtle humor.

This year’s Meskwaki powwow will be held in Tama between August 9 and 12, 2012. For details, please see the powwow website at http://www.meskwakipowwow.com/


Original blog entry on April 5, 2012:

Are you going to attend the University of Iowa Powwow this weekend (April 7-8)? Have you ever wondered about the origins of the event? This June, Special Collections and University Archives will be presenting an exhibit on the popular history of American Indian dancing from our collections. Here is a preview that can help you understand what goes on at the powwow.

UI Powwow 2009 poster - made by Christine Nobiss


The Powwow as Cultural Revival

Even as white Americans appropriated some of their culture to define Americanness, Indians never stopped using music and dancing for their own purposes. Having moved to the big cities on the U.S. government’s post-World War Two relocation programs, many Native Americans reached back to their tribal cultures for spiritual sustenance and dignity in the face of prejudice and poverty. By the 1960s, American Indians were using the so-called “powwow circuit” – a network of dance competitions held near Native population centers across the U.S. – to socialize and revitalize their cultures.

Student lobbying for more ethnic inclusion and cultural diversity on The University of Iowa campus led to the 1971 creation of the Chicano and Indian American Cultural Center, the predecessor of today’s Latino and Native American Cultural Center. The UI’s American Indian Student Association (AISA) became a separate entity in 1990. In addition to organizing conferences, service learning projects and outreach, the Center and AISA have been greatly enriching our communities with the annual University of Iowa Powwow ever since.

2002 UI Powwow poster


The powwow is an opportunity for all to respectfully share and support Native American cultures. The event has a well-defined structure and a program. It is usually held in a large hall with the dance arena in the center, with places for the drum groups, and surrounded by sections designated for resting dancers and their relatives, and the audience. Along the inner walls of the hall are the booths of arts and crafts vendors, as well as stands that sell Native American foods such as fry bread.

There is a protocol all must follow to make the event enjoyable and respectful. The program usually opens with an invocation or prayer ceremony. The opening event is almost always the marching in of veterans of U.S. wars with the country’s colors, stepping to a song that honors their military service. The subsequent dances have a strict order, and they are announced by the master of ceremony, a position of honor in Native America. Various dances for each sex include traditional style, jingle, and fancy dancing, and they differ in footwork, regalia, posture, and meaning. Often dancers perform their own story. Their regalia are the result of years of hard work, monetary investment, and meaningful gifts. Judges evaluate the dancers in each category, but also the drum groups and singers, who come from many corners of Native America. Besides the cash prize, winning a powwow category honors the dancer or musician, and furthers their own and their family’s reputation across Native communities.

2012 UI Powwow poster


The American Indian powwow is a combination of a variety of cultural forms. Some of its most prominent dance forms like the Omaha or the Grass Dance are derived from the old warrior society dances that Karl Bodmer and George Catlin recorded in their paintings back in the 1830s. Another origin of the modern powwow are the Old Glory Blowout gatherings held by Buffalo Bill in the 1880s near Indian reservations as auditions for the rodeos, dancing and re-enactment performances of his Wild West Show. These events encouraged inter-tribal interaction and cultural exchange, and led to more frequent gatherings with participants from a variety of Native nations. Community dancing also expressed resistance to white domination when the government’s officials were suspicious of or tried to suppress dancing on reservations. Since the mid-20th century, powwows have also featured honoring dances for Native American veterans of the U.S. military – which makes them events of veterans homecoming. When you experience a powwow, you can ‘read’ the event for traces of this rich history of Native-white relations.


Please mark your calendars and visit the UI Powwow website here: http://powwow.uiowa.edu/


The American Indian Student Association welcomes donations to offset the costs of staging the powwow in our community. AISA accept checks sent to their address at

The American Indian Student Association, The University of Iowa, 308 Melrose Avenue, Iowa City, Iowa  52246 Fax: 319-335-2245 Email: studorg-aisa@uiowa.edu



Once Upon a January Day: Presidential Politics in Iowa

Are you getting ready for the Iowa Caucuses next Tuesday? The University of Iowa Special Collections has some remarkable holdings of the history of presidential politics. Come visit us to catch a glimpse of caucuses and elections past, and even see the signatures of U.S. presidents!


The Iowa caucuses have been the first major event in the U.S. presidential nomination process since 1972. Would you like to learn more about these early caucuses? Request to look at some of the personal papers in our collections – here are two examples:

Outside of his business interests, W.H. Goodrich (1914- ) has been active in Republican politics at both the state and national levels. He has served as the state finance chairman of the Republican Party in Iowa, he was a delegate to the 1976 Republican National Convention, and was a regional coordinator of delegate operations for President Gerald R. Ford in 1976. The papers of W.H. Goodrich are all related to his work for the Republican Party, especially to his home area of Humboldt and Webster Counties in Iowa. Much of the collection concerns the 1976 election, with materials relating to the national convention, finances, and the national committee. Correspondence with President Ford is found throughout the papers, as well as letters from Wiley Mayne, Robert D. Ray, and William J. Scherle. http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/MSC/ToMsc400/MsC351/MsC351_goodrich.html

From the late 1960s, Paul A. Smith both participated in and shaped the Iowa Democratic caucuses by developing their policies and procedures. His papers include records for precinct caucuses, papers related to setting up precinct caucuses, papers related to platform planks submitted to precinct caucuses, reports of who was elected from precinct caucuses to the Central Committee and Committee on Committees, Platform Committee to the County Convention. (Smith served as Chair in about 1972). At the time of donating his papers, Smith also wrote a personal account of his experience with Iowa Democratic politics. http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/MSC/ToMsC850/MsC808/paulsmith.html


The Iowa caucuses have also been documented through photography. The Michael W. Lemberger Photography Collection documents the life work of the Ottumwa, Iowa, photojournalist and collector. Lemberger has been an active photojournalist and artist for more than 50 years. In his photography Lemberger captured presidential candidates in the Iowa caucus season. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/lemberger/index.php


Do you remember the feverish caucus season of 2007/08? You can relive the personal visits of some of the candidates by watching a recording of their campaign events online:

A number of talks were hosted by the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council, a non-profit association interested in learning more about U.S. foreign policy, world affairs, and current global issues impacting society. These presentations were all held in Iowa City and many were broadcast on public radio stations in Iowa and the Iowa City Cable TV Channel 4. The Iowa Digital Library collection brings presentations of these experts on-line to a wider audience. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/icfrc/index.php

From 2007-2008, Political Science professor G. R. Boynton collected nearly 2000 online videos posted by eight of the 2008 presidential candidates’ campaigns. Four Democratic and four Republican candidates are represented in this archive featuring videos spanning from each candidate’s announcement of candidacy to their withdrawal from the race (or procurement of the nomination). As a collection, these videos highlight the flurry of regional political activity leading up to the Iowa caucuses. As these videos begin to disappear from their original online sources, archiving them in the Iowa Digital Library will also serve to support their research value through long-term access. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/pcv/index.php


What did would-be-presidents and sitting commanders-in-chief think of Iowa and Iowans? School of Library and Information Science graduate student Julie Zimmerman created an exciting mini-exhibition of materials that answer this question. Julie’s display features presidential photographs and letters written to and about Iowans, and signed by Presidents Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Kennedy, and Reagan. Which presidential letter is a forgery and why? To find out, please come and visit the installation on the 3rd floor of the University of Iowa Main Library during opening hours.

Special thanks to Julie Zimmerman for putting together the display on U.S. presidential materials in our collections!


The U.S. Goes to War – and the War Comes to Iowa IV.

We are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War Two by highlighting some items in our collections relating to this event.  Library and Information Science graduate student Katherine Wilson’s exhibition at Special Collections & University Archives brings the Iowan war effort to life.

How did the University of Iowa and ordinary Iowans respond to the coming of World War Two to America?

Jackson Lester Hyde of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942. Hyde was first stationed at Fort Custer, Fort Knox, Fort Benning, and Camp Gordon. A technician fourth grade, he was trained as a radio operator in the 210th Armored Infantry Battalion, 10th Armored (Tiger) Division, U.S. Army. After being shipped overseas in late May or early June of 1944, Jackson L. Hyde, served in France, Belgium, and Germany, surviving the grueling Battle of the Bulge. Hyde was killed in action, March 2, 1945, presumably at Trier, Germany. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star “for heroic achievement in connection with military operations…at Noville, Belgium during the period 19 – 20 December 1944,” and the Purple Heart for the wounds resulting in his death. Hyde’s Purple Heart, division indignia, and other objects from his service are featured in Katherine’s display.


The University of Iowa responded to the U.S. entry into the war by strengthening its existing programs and launching new initiatives to help the war effort. In addition to its Department of Military Science, the University opened one of the nation’s first U.S. Navy pre-flight training schools.

In addition to training men, the University of Iowa community also offered chances for women to help in the war effort. “War Time Services Open to Women Students” included Red Cross nursing and volunteering in hospitals, being office workers and makers of signs, helping with war bond drives, and hostessing at the U.S.O. and troop recreation events.

A UI student organization envisioned the war effort and the future in their promotional poster featured in Katherine’s installation:


UI Womens Work victory program poster

UI Womens Work victory program poster

As nation wide rationing was introduced in the United States in 1942, housewives were hard pressed to make do with limited amounts of food ingredients like sugar, meat, cheese, and margarine. Food companies and the U.S. government published recipe pamphlets to help families make ample and nutritious meals from these rationed resources. Our Szathmary Collection of the Culinary Arts features many such pamphlets in addition to cookbooks and manuscripts. Katherine’s display used this one:

Wartime jello recipe pamphlet, 1944

Wartime jello recipe pamphlet, 1944

In wartime America, millions of women were encouraged to step up and work in the factories and industries that men had to leave to serve in the military. This was a major economic and social revolution, and the implications were not lost on the people of Iowa. In 1943 editorial cartoonist J. N. “Ding” Darling published in the Des Moines Register  a picture titled “Letting the genie out of the bottle.” Darling is oubviously apprehensive of the newy found economic and social power of women.


Letting the genie out of the bottle 1943

"Letting the genie out of the bottle." By J. N. "Ding" Darling, Des Moines Register, 1943



Special thanks to Katherine Wilson for putting together a display about the wartime experience in Iowa. Please come and check out her installation on the 3rd floor of the UI Main Library.


For a description of our collection of the papers of Jackson Hyde, go to


For a description of our collections about military and wartime service at the University of Iowa, go to


For the digitized part of the Szathmary Culinary Arts collection, please go to



The U.S. Goes to War – and the War Comes to Iowa III.

We are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War Two by highlighting some items in our collections relating to this event.


Vice President Henry Wallace's appointment book 1943


How did Henry A. Wallace, an Iowan and national politician respond to the coming of World War II to the United States? A look at his official Vice Presidential diaries reveals little.  The day when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor was December 7, 1941, a Sunday. Vice President Wallace’s schedule for that day is empty. But that does not mean that he was not busy that day. John C. Culver and John Hyde in their biography of Wallace titled American Dreamer, write:


“[…] Wallace went to New York City with Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins to meet with Latin American officials. They were there to discuss the need for pan-American unity and his vision for a world in which democracy and abundance would become reality.  […]

Shortly after lunch that day (1:25 PM on the East coast; 7:55 AM in Hawaii) Japan launched an air attack on the U.S. fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. Wallace learned of the attack from someone who heard a news flash on the radio. A few minutes later a White House operator reached him on the phone and said a plane was waiting at the airport to return him to Washington immediately.

Wallace went directly to the White House, where he learned the grim facts: 2,403 American lives lost, hundreds more wounded, the battleship Arizona and 18 other ships ruined, hundreds of planes destroyed or damaged. Roosevelt had cabled the words “Fight Back” when he learned of the attack. […]

Wallace stayed at the White House through the long evening, discussing the situation with Roosevelt personally, then sitting through somber meetings with the cabinet and congressional leaders, remaining until almost midnight to talk again with Roosevelt and [Under Secretary of State] Sumner Welles. The president was “really very gravely concerned,” Wallace later said. “We all were drawn very close together by the emergency. Americans are very good when they really get up against it.” (Culver and Hyde, American Dreamer: A Life of Henry A. Wallace. W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, 264)


Walllace’s vice presidential diary for the next day lists a 10 AM White House conference, and a noontime “Joint Session of Congress – Declaration of War on Japan.”



To see our digital Henry A. Wallace collection, go to


To see the description of our larger, physical collection of the papers of Henry A. Wallace, got to



The U.S. Goes to War – and the War Comes to Iowa II.

We are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War Two by highlighting some items in our collections relating to this event.
How did Iowans see the coming of World War Two to the United States? The works of Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, editorial cartoonist of the Des Moines Register regularly commented on the conflict brewing in Europe and the Pacific.


J.N. Darling cartoon in Des Moines Register

"The Delicate Situation in the Pacific." By J.N. "Ding" Darling. December 5, 1941, Des Moines Register


Darling’s sketch published just two days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor depicts Uncle Sam on the one side, and Japanese and Chinese characters on the other, maintaining a precarious balance on a tightrope over the abyss of war. Uncle Sam, standing in for the United States, is valiantly trying to uphold the “Lamp of Civilization,” while the Japanese is holding a sword against the chest of the Chinese (Japan had invaded the Chinese region of Manchuria in 1931 and had been maneuvering against China in preceding years), and another Asian character is juggling a keg of dynamite.


Darling cartoon

"Now why should anyone mistrust Japan?" By J.N. "Ding" Darling. December 7, 1941, Des Moines Register

Appearing on the very day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Darling’s cartoon may not be directly responding to the attack. However, using an Iowa farm metaphor, Darling depicts Japan as a fox wreaking havor in the chicken coop of the Pacific region. This use of the scenarios of farm life both dramatized the situation for newspaper readers and explained to them the complexity of the international conflict. Darlin’s cartoon was syndicated, so it appeared in several big cities of the United States – thus shaping the national perception of the conflict and the possible U.S. responses to it.


J. N. Darling cartoon

"Beginning to understand the Nazi philosophy." By J.N. "Ding" Darling. December 9, 1941, Des Moines Register

When he felt that the occasion demanded it, Darling switched into a more elevated drawing style to create cartoons that spoke to higher values and emotions. His picture published two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor depicts the German and Japanese threat as one and the same, personified by a snake rattling an olive branch even as it is preparing to strike at Uncle Sam, who holds a wounded figure in civilian clothes, while multitudes at his feet are pleading with him to help repel the monster.  The features of Uncle Sam are suggesting grief but also a grim determination to resolve the conflict. This was America preparing for war.


The University of Iowa has the most complete holdings of Jay Norwood Darling’s cartoons and his personal papers. To see a description of the collection, please go to


To see more of Darling’s cartoons about World War Two, please visit our online cartoon database here:









The U.S. Goes to War – and the War Comes to Iowa

We are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War Two by highlighting some items  in our collections relating to this event.

Nile C. Kinnick, Jr. was a University of Iowa student in 1939. The war began in Europe the same fall season when Kinnick and the UI “Iron Men” once again put Iowa on the nation’s sports map with their football victories. By the end of November, the team stood at 6-1-1, and Kinnick had won most major football awards in the country. Kinnick traveled to New York City, where on December 6, 1939 he accepted the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award at the Downtown Athletic Club.

Already before his acceptance speech, Kinnick had earned the high praise of sports writers and journalists across the country, some of who had called him “The Cornbelt Comet.” Yet even as he was achieving unprecedented fame at such a young age, Kinnick was aware of the terrible conflict unfolding in Europe, and the challenge it posed to Americans. In his brief acceptance speech, he devoted the last 3 sentences to taking a position on World War Two.


Kinnick Heisman acceptance speech

Nile Kinnick's Heisman Trophy acceptance speech, December 6, 1939, New York City Downtown Athletic Club.


Kinnick’s thoughtful words show an appreciation of football as a physical tournament, peaceful conflict resolution through a contact sport. In preferring the Heisman to the famous French war decoration, he echoed an independent-minded version of U.S. isolationism, and an appreciation of the values of his American society.

Kinnick graduated from the University of Iowa in 1940 with a BA in Commerce, and turned down some NFL offers to go to law school. As the global conflict unfolded, Kinnick’s view of U.S. involvement in the war also changed. In 1941 he enlisted in the Navy Air Corps Reserve. He was called to active duty just three days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor – on December 10, 1941. Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr. died on June 2, 1943, after his plane developed mechanical difficulties and was ditched in the Gulf of Paria.

The Papers of Nile C. Kinnick, Jr. are one of the most treasured collections of The University of Iowa Special Collections. Please see the online description of their contents here:







Comics: Entertainment or Social Critique?

Are comic books a good vehicle for social critique? Is Superman’s romance with Lois Lane trying to tell us something about our own relationships? Can comics promote racial inclusion?

As a spinoff of the recent symposium on graphic language, Special Collections and University Archives presents The Comics Continuum, an exhibit from our collections available for perusal, research and teaching to the university community and beyond. The exhibit is open on the 3rd floor of the Main Library through the end of November 2011. While viewing the exhibit, please see the labels for any collection numbers (MsCs) that you may be interested in browsing. Once you are done with the exhibit, we encourage you to move beyond the glass cases, come in Special Collections, and request to look at some of our comics collections in the Reading Room.

For more on our specific collections of comics and graphic narrative art, see



Here are some of the items you can see in our exhibit.


As a genre, comics have the potential to treat political and social issues in ways that promote free and open discussion. The realization of this potential has been shaped by factors such as the contemporary social movements, the vision of the graphic artist, the imperative for business profit, and the expectations of fan communities of entertainment value or social commitment. One of the most important issues of the post-World War Two United States, race relations were treated by comic books with varying degrees of seriousness and sophistication.


Some, like this 1969 issue of the underground Mom’s Homemade Comics, poked fun at liberals for their ambiguous openness to racial inclusion and relationships.

Moms Homemade Comics 1969Moms Homemade Comics 1969

More mainstream comics such as this May 1971 issue of [Lois Lane] Superman’s Girl Friend used the events of the radical American Indian sovereignty movement to explore issues of motherhood and interracial solidarity.

Supermans Girl Friend 1971


One of the first African American characters to become a superhero was Dr. William Barrett Foster, who, according to his origin blurb, “pulled himself up out of the Los Angeles slums,” to earn several doctorates  and work as director of one of the nation’s most prestigious research labs before becoming a 15-foot tall crime-fighting giant. As in this February 1976 issue of Black Goliath, Dr. Foster’s transformation into a superhero potentially resonated with American anxieties about urban “race riots,” and with the problems of social mobility and the black middle class.


Black Goliath 1976




Mom’s Homemade Comics No. 1, 1969 (ATCA Comics, MsC 780) – http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/MSC/ToMsC800/MsC780/ATCA%20Comics.htm

[Lois Lane] Superman’s Girl Friend No. 110, May 1971 (Comic Books of the Bronze Age, MsC 883, Gift of Ken Friedman) – http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/msc/ToMsC900/MsC883/msc883_comicbooks.html

Black Goliath 16 No. 1, February 1976 (Comic Books of the Bronze Age, MsC 883, Gift of Ken Friedman)


Political Cartoons Exhibit Sampler


How many of the issues of the 2012 presidential elections are new to our society?  What did politicians and the media say about unemployment and social security in the 1930s, the 1970s, or the 1990s? Were the elections of the last century less divisive in their language than those of today? What guidance can the past give for the future? Here is a sampler of our exhibit “A Century of Un/Civil Discourse in Political Cartoons,” on view at the Iowa City Sheraton Hotel during the symposium on political discourse November 9-10, 2011.

Visit the symposium website at http://ppc.uiowa.edu/pages.php?id=278

Browse our  online digital Des Moines Register political cartoons collection at http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/dmrc/


The More Things Change…: Immigration, 1905


“Turn about is fair play.” By J. N. “Ding” Darling, Sioux City Journal, June 28, 1905.

Rendered in the cartooning style of the 19th century, Darling’s observation that the exclusion of Chinese immigrants from the U.S. may ruin trade relations with that country rings true today, when China is seen by Americans as a conniving owner of U.S. debt, but also as a power whose intervention could help the world economy out of the recession.


Women and the Political Conversation, 1920

“Be careful how you distribute your weight, Madam. You might upset it, you know.” By J. N. “Ding” Darling, Des Moines Register, October 26, 1920.

Darling’s cartoon masterfully captures the idea held during the culmination of the suffrage movement that women would vote as one bloc in electoral politics, and may fundamentally alter the balance between the major parties. Did this fear come true?


The More Things Change…: Recession, 1933

“If we're going to get anywhere somebody's got to pull that oar.” By J. N. “Ding” Darling, Des Moines Register, August 27, 1933

Historians now explain that the Great Depression was exacerbated by a dramatic drop in people’s willingness to buy goods. Through his cartoon, Darling argued that the road to recovery lay in combining the strikes of the oar of the government’s employment policies with an encouragement of John Q. Public to start buying again with his consumer paddle. This dynamic may be familiar from our own crisis of consumer confidence as a response to the collapse of the credit system.


The More Things Change…: Raising the Debt Ceiling, 1941


“The new safety mark for waders.” By T. Brown, Wall Street Journal, February 24, 1941.

Brown’s cartoon cautioning Congress against raising the debt ceiling lest the whole nation submerge anticipated FDR’s fight with Capitol Hill two years later, in which the president had give up his plan of capping personal incomes with a tax in return for Congress raising the debt limit.


The More Things Change… Government that Governs, 1956

“Hope he leaves that bull outside.” By Frank Miller, Des Moines Register, January 5, 1956.

The More Things Change… Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, 1975 

“But one is still looking down.” By Frank Miller, Des Moines Register, July 18, 1975.

Women and the Political Conversation, 1972

"Wearin' pants and boots and smokin' pipes and runnin' for President!" By Frank Miller, Des Moines Register, 1972

Frank Miller’s cartoon at the same time marked the historic occasion of Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 “Unbought and Unbossed” campaign, a black woman making a bid for the U.S. presidency, and poked fun at those in the Democratic Party and across the U.S. who social progress had passed by. Miller dedicated this copy to Louise Noun, co-founder of the Iowa Women’s Archive, who he considered worthy of voting for if she ever ran for office.


Un/Civil Discourse in U.S. Political Campaigns, 1984

“Pssst ... remember I'm behind you 1000%.” By Brian Duffy, Des Moines Register, August 23, 1984.

In the person of Democratic VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 presidential elections saw the first woman on a major party’s presidential ticket. By late August, Brian Duffy felt that her running mate Walter Mondale had abandoned Ferraro to the attacks of Republican VP candidate George Bush and the feeding frenzy of the media over her past campaign finances and tax filings.


Un/Civil Discourse in U.S. Political Campaigns, 1996


“There you go again ... scaring the elderly!” By Brian Duffy, Des Moines Register, October 20, 1996.