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: