manuscripts Archive


Henry A. Wallace, Advocate for Peace and Unity of the Americas

By Jacque Roethler, Manuscripts Processing Coordinator

Black and White Image of Henry WallaceOn the 50th anniversary of his death, we remember Henry Agard Wallace, the 33rd Vice-President of the United States, who was a man well ahead of his times. An idealist who experimented to the point of dilettantism, these avocations destroyed his political career, but he would not back down from them. An example of this is his quest for religious fulfillment, which led him to Native American spiritualism, Theosophy, and an odd spiritualism espoused by Nicholas Roerich. This last arguably cost him the Vice-Presidency. Another example is his early stand on racial integration, for which he had rotten tomatoes and eggs thrown on him on a tour of the south during his run for President in 1948. He would also, during this campaign tour, not stay at any hotel which would not accommodate blacks. He proposed making ethanol in the 1930s. He openly criticized the House Committee on Un-American Activities. And he was an advocate for peace. He thought we should share our atomic secrets with the Soviet Union. Since he narrowly missed being nominated for Vice-President in 1944 and succeeding to the Presidency eighty-two days later, who knows what might have happened? Maybe we could have side-stepped the Cold War internationally and the Red Scare at home. Or maybe we would be a Soviet Republic now.

Wallace also spoke Spanish and wanted a closer relationship between the Americas. While he was Vice-President, he travelled to Latin America and endeared himself to audiences by speaking to them in their native tongue.

This combination of peace promoter and advocate for Latin American ties comes together in an extraordinary document held by the Special Collections Department at the University of Iowa.  This is a letter signed by many luminaries in the Latin American World, including Pablo Neruda and Diego Rivera.

Apparently there was a conference for peace in Mexico City September 5-10, 1949, Congresso Continental Americano por la Paz, to which Wallace was invited. This would have been in the wake of the loss of his presidential run in the 1948 election. Unfortunately, this date coincided with a meeting of the Progressive Party, which was honoring Wallace, so he could not attend the peace conference in Mexico. He conveys only regrets and a statement about world peace in a cablegram sent on September 7. Characteristically, he does not tell them that he is being honored on the third anniversary of his speech at Madison Square Garden, “The Way to Peace.” (CT: We have a copy of this speech and the cablegram sending his regrets.) A search of the internet uncovered two items. One is an image from the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, Oregon State University Libraries, which looks like the cover of a book of bylaws for the congress.  The other item is a linocut poster announcing the conference.

A rough translation of the letters is as follows:

LetterWe are told that the main reason you could not come to our Congress for peace in Mexico is that you are to attend on the 12th of September, a ceremony in which the Progressive Party of the United States in celebrating what you have accomplished in the last three years, which continue today with their best efforts.

We deeply regret your absence because your voice is among those of the greatest fighters for peace in this time. But the message that you send us comforts and encourages us to continue the struggles that this conference has started. Along with it we have other great voices of America with us. Supporters of peace multiply every day and will not rest until every person on the continent is a being determined not to go to any war or to support imperialist groups.

We want this message to reach your hands on the very day that the Progressive Party will express to you their affection. Our membership is strong and sincere. We have always believed that you belong to the great lineage of Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Believe us that for us it is a very great feeling to be accompanied in our career for peace and to life by a man of moral and spiritual characters.

Receive, Mr. Wallace, the sincere greeting of your Latin American friends.

Anyone with more knowledge of this conference is encouraged to be in touch.

Jacque Roethler


The Henry A. Wallace Papers are housed in Special Collections, including digitized collections.   Learn more here.

Henry A. Wallace Papers Finding Aid


Want to Make Historic Recipes?

handwritten recipe page from a very old book

Photo by Tom Jorgenson

Want to make historic recipes?  Or how about reading handwriting, converting measurements, recreating historic cooking implements, food photography, or writing and blogging?

300+ years of handwritten cookbooks with thousands of recipes from Chef Louis Szathmary’s culinary collection from Special Collections & University Archives are now online in DIY History, the newest transcription project from the University of Iowa Libraries.  Helpful people around the world are trying to puzzle out what the handwriting says.  But is that where it ends?  Unlike letters, diaries, or even menus, recipes are not done even what you can read what it says.  They are instructions just calling out to be tested to bring a slice of history back to life one piece of hardtack at a time.

Sound interesting?  Come to the first meeting and have a voice in determining what the group should be.

If  you can’t make the meeting but want to be in the loop, e-mail colleen-theisen @  uiowa dot edu to be added to the e-mail list.

Event poster


Tuesday, November 13th, 2012


PS-Z, 120 N. Dubuque St.

(3 blocks north of PS1, on the lower level of the Wesley Center)



Grand Army of the Republic in Iowa

G.A.R. Handkercheif with symbols

G.A.R. handkerchief from E. J. C. Bealer. Center image is the badge of the GAR with corps badges surrounding.

Today’s post comes from Jacque Roethler on Grand Army of the Republic finds in her recent processing work.

Special Collections recently acquired the papers of a law firm in Cedar Rapids, the Bealer/Grimm/Shuttleworth papers. In it were the expected files on cases, insurance, and property, but in a ledger containing E. J. C. Bealer’s 1927 expenses I came across this GAR handkerchief. Curious, I determined to find out more about the Grand Army of the Republic in Iowa.

The GAR was a fraternal order open to honorably discharged soldiers of the Union Army. The first post of the GAR was founded in Decatur Illinois in April 1866. By the end of October, an Iowa post had been organized, among the first in the nation. Though it started strong, the Iowa Department, following a national trend, lost membership in the early years, probably because the men were trying to secure a livelihood and starting (or continuing) families and certainly because they could not sort themselves out politically, especially in light of Reconstruction in the South. In January 1871 the Iowa Post was dissolved. In 1872 the national organization made an effort to re-start the Iowa program, and an Iowa Department was re-established. It remained small but the officers were determined that it not be abandoned again.

Women's Relief Corp book, 1897

Women’s Relief Corp book, 1897

The Grand Army of the Republic reached its peak in 1890, when it had a national membership of 490,000. Iowa reached its peak then, too, with 435 posts and a membership of 20,234. After this time the number of posts remained constant for years, but overall membership declined. The national GAR was finally dissolved in 1956, when its last member died.

Though at their inception the membership decided that they were not going to a political group, the GAR was one of the first advocacy groups in America. They advocated for voting rights for black veterans.  In Iowa, it was largely due to the influence of the GAR that the Soldier’s Home in Marshalltown was built after the legislature appropriated $100,000 in 1886 for the purpose.  In 1889 the legislature authorized the Soldier’s Relief Fund. In 1904, encouraged by the GAR, the legislature gave veterans preference in public employment, though by this time most of the veterans had aged out of the work force.

Program from the 56th Annual Encampment at the Iowa State Capitol

Program from the 56th Annual Encampment at the Iowa State Capitol

Monuments to the Civil War dead were also a priority for the Iowa GAR and they lobbied for state funding for monuments in Des Moines and Vicksburg.  The GAR got the General Assembly to finance a roster of every living veteran in the state of Iowa.  The GAR was so powerful that that Iowa government gave them a room in the state capitol to be used as a permanent headquarters, for which the state appropriated funds for maintenance. The Iowa GAR was instrumental in seeing that almost all of the schools in Iowa had a flag to raise every morning and the Woman’s Relief Corps (the women’s auxiliary to the GAR) had placed in every school in Iowa a pamphlet about the management and care of flags.

 The national meetings, which took place once a year, were called National Encampments. In 1922 the 56th National Encampment was held in Des Moines. Twenty thousand veterans and their allied organizations were in attendance.  The average age of attendees was around eighty. At this Encampment, Judge James W. Willet of Tama, Iowa, was elected unanimously as the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Elmer J.C. Bealer, Commander of the Iowa Department of the Grand Army of the Republic, 1918-1919

Elmer J.C. Bealer, Commander of the Iowa Department of the Grand Army of the Republic, 1918-1919

E.J.C. Bealer was elected to the Iowa Legislature in 1901 and served three terms, and he supported legislation of interest to veterans, including the Vicksburg Monument. He served as Commander of the Iowa Department of the Grand Army of the Republic from June 1918 to June 1919. He attended the National Encampment in Des Moines in 1922.  In the collection you can find reservations at the Hotel Savery, where he stayed during the Encampment. We have a campaign brochure for Willet, sent to Bealer in an envelope addressed to “Comrade E.J.C. Bealer, Past Department Commander GAR.”   And we have this wonderful GAR handkerchief seen above. The image in the center of the handkerchief is the badge of the GAR. The icons surrounding the central badge are the corps badges.


Mary and Percy Shelley Letter Mentions Frankenstein Rejections – 2 of 3 from Peter Balestrieri

Handwritten text saying, "Poor Mary’s book has come back with a refusal which has put me in rather ill spirits.”

Second in our series of three blog posts from Peter Balestrieri examining our holdings relating to Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus.

On August 16, 1817, Mary began writing a letter to Marianne Hunt, Leigh Hunt’s wife. The Hunt’s and the Shelley’s were close friends, their correspondence is extensive, and many of those letters are held here in the Brewer-Leigh Hunt Collection. This particular letter, written by both Mary and Percy Shelley, sheds light on their daily lives as her novel Frankenstein faced rejections before its eventual publication and fame.

In late summer, Mary Shelley was nineteen, pregnant, and trying to get Frankenstein, published. The manuscript had been rejected by her husband’s publisher, Charles Ollier, and by Lord Byron’s publisher, John Murray. Mary had spent the summer entertaining the Shelley’s many visitors, giving charity to the poor, and editing her and Shelley’s travel journals from their 1814 trip to Europe. She was also caring for her son, William, little “Willmouse.”

Mary’s letter to Marianne is filled with family news regarding their pregnancies, need for a nurse, and the sad news of the legal decision to send Shelley’s children by his first wife to be raised by a clergyman. Mary also writes that she is sending the Hunt’s some money; they were always in need of money. Mary signs off with good wishes and encouragement, believing that things will improve for Marianne.

One can imagine Percy Shelley entering the room at some point and asking, “To whom are you writing, my queen?” When informed of the letters’ recipient, he may have said, “Let me add a few lines when you have finished.” He does, and in these few lines we see a reference to Frankenstein and the trouble they are having with its publication. Percy Shelley writes, “Poor Mary’s book has come back with a refusal which has put me in rather ill spirits.” He is referring to Ollier’s rejection of the book and he goes on to ask if the Hunt’s know of any publishers that might be interested in it. By the end of the month, the novel is accepted by Lackington’s and Frankenstein is born.

The letter can be viewed online at the University Library’s Digital Library, and in person (MsL S54hu) at Special Collections and University Archives in the Main Library.

For more on Frankenstein visit the National Institutes of Health traveling exhibition, “Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature” that is on display at the second floor south entrance of University Capitol Centre through Nov. 2.


Advertising for “The Collegians,” by Carl Laemmle, Jr.

Fabric Banner for "The Collegians"

by Denise Anderson. 

Fall classes are now in session and the football Homecoming Centennial is upon us, so what better time to examine a felt pennant which advertises “The Collegians,” by Carl Laemmle, Jr. “The Collegians” was a series of 44 two-reel films, in which the same players reprised their characters through four years of a college life full of romance and football from 1926-1929. 

This pennant is from the Ted Rehder Papers.  Ted was a University of Iowa student in 1926 when “The Collegians” series was released and likely screened in Iowa City.  He went on to work serving U of I collegians for 47 years in dormitories and in dining service until his retirement in 1976.  We are grateful to Ted for preserving this piece of ephemera.

“The Collegians” was part of Carl Laemmle Junior’s first series, his silent comedy “Junior Jewels,”  produced between 1926 and 1929 for Universal, the film studio founded by his father in 1912.  In April 1929, Carl junior was placed in charge of all film production at Universal.  Among other genres, he produced horror movies such as “Frankenstein” (1931), “Dracula” (1931), “The Mummy” (1932), “The Invisible Man” (1933) and “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935).  Production of these films broke Universal after seven years under his direction, due to the Great Depression and the amount of money he insisted on spending in order to deliver the entertainment audiences desired. 

 Check out this and other pieces of ephemeral history from campus life in Special Collections and the University Archives.