An Artist’s Perspective: Travel Diary of Stuart Travis

The following is written by our Workplace Learning Connection summer intern Cassady Jackson

Stuart Travis (1868-1942) was an American artist who was accepted into art school in France during the latter half of the 19th century. He was just nineteen years old when he made the journey alone from New York to Europe. In his travel diary, housed in Special Collections & Archives, he tells the story of his travels to France, and all of the things he saw and thought while he was there, or at least the things that he remembered to write down. 

Ink on paper drawing, men in ship’s smoking cabinet

He starts the diary during his voyage to London, England, aboard the USS Italy. Confined to the ship, he gives hour by hour updates as to what is happening aboard the ship and what the weather is like outside. He complains of the smell in the smoking room at night and counts down the hours until he falls seasick. He also illustrates many of his experiences. A personal favorite is the image he drew of himself standing near the door of the smoking room. The image captures the dimly lit cabin, and the way that his coat is blowing in the wind gives it a sort of eerie feeling. 

Once he arrives in what he refers to as ‘Queens’-land, alternatively known as London, he continues to tell the stories of what is happening around him. According to Travis, he knew the ship had reached London because those above deck had begun to ring the bells. No longer confined to the ship, the frequency of his stories begin to decrease to only one entry a day. While he was in London he stayed with an old woman, someone he states as being a comfort to him, and he writes long entries about what he sees on the street and what his room is like in London. 

Once he moves on to France, his entries become even shorter and further in between, but the stories become more interesting. His excitement about attending the academy is very apparent throughout his early entries in France. He loves the art he is doing, although he does often tell about his frustrations he has with each of his creations. He also despises drawing his own portrait. More specifically, he hates having to use a looking glass because it is, “impossible to paint through a looking glass,” and he puts off his portrait for other work.

Ink on paper drawing of one-man wrestling match

Between his art-related complaints, he describes what a typical day would look like for a young man and his friends, in and out of school. He tells how they critique each other’s art before class starts, and their professors listen in to see what they are thinking. They each had a favorite figure model, male or female, and were always excited when they got to work with them. He is surrounded by many personalities and talks openly of all of them. He observes that some of the models are very aloof and the professors are very snarky, that he hates tourists, and he loves mimes. One of the mimes, a classmate of his, is able to wrestle himself, performing while others gather around him and watch. Travis was so impressed that he illustrated the experience. 

Blank square meant for an illustration

Despite the excitement of his travels, Travis’s entries reveal some hints of homesickness. Many of the entries, especially those in the beginning and end, mention the number of letters he has written home. He says he has written dozens of letters to those back in America, but has yet to have one be returned. He hopes that if he continues to write to his family, one day one of the letters will be answered, but he never mentions whether or not anyone wrote back to him. The longer he stays in Europe, the less he writes in his diary as well. There are many empty sections of the journal, some that are dated, and some that are not. He also leaves room in some entries for an illustration of the day, but never gets around to filling them in. There are also days that he has written in the middle of the page, leaving room for the days before and after that he never got around to completing. These are actions maybe all of us have been guilty of in our own journaling.

The end of his diary leaves many questions as to what happened next in his life, even the end of the trip is not included. The very last entry is just a pencil drawing of a bird in a cage, hanging in his suite on the voyage home. This drawing feels as unfinished as Travis’ diary, as the majority of the images he included before it are in ink. This leaves one to wonder what could have happened to Travis after this diary project was abandoned. 

Pencil on paper drawing, birdcage in ship’s cabin

Fear not, some online searching reveals that Travis lived a long and successful life after this diary. He lived to be 74 years old, illustrated magazine covers for Vogue, and was a partner at a few museums. If you wish to walk in the shoes of a young artist in the last half of the 19th century, Stuart Travis’s diary is a compelling place to start.  

University of Iowa Asian American Oral History Archive

The following is written by Asian Alumni and Student Oral History Project Intern Jin Chang

Asian Alumni and Student Oral History Project Intern Jin Chang

Since the start of the pandemic, prominent leaders have stood in front of crowds of American people calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” and “Kung Flu.” As a result, Chinatown businesses closed as tourists continued to avoid Chinatowns across America and racially charged attacks increased against Asian elders, including a mass shooting in Atlanta specifically targeting Asian Women in the massage industry. Unfortunately, all these moments had precedents in the past. The Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882, which barred the Chinese from immigrating to America, was one of many policies motivated by Yellow Peril, a racist characterization for the fear of Asian people. This racist belief that East Asia and their people pose an existential threat to America influences the belief that Chinatowns are a uniquely dangerous spot of disease. Before COVID-19, Chinatown and Chinese people were blamed by many Americans for smallpox and cholera in the late 1800’s, the bubonic plague in the early 1900’s, and the SARS epidemic as recently as 2003. For the direct violence against Asians in America many of the wars in Twentieth Century American history have been against Asian countries, teaching Americans to view Asians as the enemy.

This longstanding history of Sinophobia, anti-Chinese sentiment, and the belief in Yellow Peril reveals the racism following COVID-19 is not some bizarre aberration. It is America’s history. While many of these notable early instances of racism against Asian people came from areas with heavy Asian populations such as California, Asian and Asian Americans have long lived in Iowa, and the population continues to grow in the present. As a Korean-American myself, I believe our experiences with navigating race and racism here in Iowa follows national trends, but I also believe there are many unique elements that come from reconciling race and racism as an Asian or Asian American in Iowa that is missing from the national discourses of today.

Directory from the Korean Student Association folder in Organizations & Clubs vertical files of University Archives

For the University of Iowa specifically, we are lucky to have the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center (APACC) as a space of community, healing, and empowerment for Asian Americans in the University. However, APACC began in 2003, and Asian and Asian Americans have long been forming communities in the University of Iowa. One group established in 1999, the Asian-American Coalition, served as a consolidated voice for many Asian Americans, and as one of the leading voices in the founding of APACC. Another group, the Asian American Women’s Group sought to address the specific needs of Asian American Women and predates the Asian American Coalition as it was established in 1993. Prior to the 1990s, many Asian international student groups existed on campus such as the Korean Student Association, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and PERMIAS an Indonesian Student Association.

A brochure found in University Archives for Asian-American Law Students Association, a current student organization

Many of these student groups are underrepresented in the University Archives. The lifecycle of student organizations also means that new iterations exist on our campus to serve Asian and Asian American students today, making it a challenge to capture organizations that have come and gone. While collecting materials from Asian and Asian American groups’ is a priority for the University Archives, the Special Collections & Archives team has also recognized the importance of collecting the stories of communities through oral history. Thus, over the course of the next year, the University Archives will be collecting oral histories of Asian and Asian American students and alumni from the University of Iowa. By capturing our stories and narratives through oral history, we have an opportunity to have our histories recognized and to create a genealogy for future Asian and Asian American students here at the University of Iowa.

If you wish to have your story included in the oral history archive, please contact Jin Chang at

Black and white photo of Earl F. Rose with wearing horn-rimmed glasses and white scrubs

A Unique Perspective: The JFK Assassination Through the Lens of the Earl F. Rose Papers

The following is written by graduate student worker Bailey Adolph. 

Black and White photo of Earl Rose wearing horn-rimmed glasses and scrubs
Earl F. Rose circa 1960

A collection that is currently being reprocessed in Special Collections & Archives is the Earl F. Rose Papers, which gives a unique perspective of the John F. Kennedy Assassination and the events that followed. Earl F. Rose was the medical examiner who performed the autopsies of Lee Harvey Oswald, Officer J.D. Tippit, and Jack Ruby. One of the greatest resources in the collection is Rose’s memoir that gives insight into the assassination, the autopsies, the subsequent investigations into the murders, and the resulting conspiracy theories. The following is a brief synopsis of the memoir to give a taste of what it is like to peruse this collection.

On November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. During this time, Earl F. Rose was the medical examiner for Dallas County and he was in his office when Kennedy was brought into the Parkland Memorial Hospital Emergency Room. Rose immediately went to the ER because this death was a homicide, and medicolegal considerations took priority for the future trial. At this time, the federal government had no criminal jurisdiction over murder, even the murder of the president, so this was a matter of the state, meaning the courts of Texas had exclusive jurisdiction over this matter. It also made the most sense for the autopsy to be done in Dallas as the Texas courts would be handling the trial for this crime and therefore an autopsy done in Texas would be more credible. However, the Justice of the Peace had to authorize the autopsy otherwise the control would pass over to the next of kin, Jackie Kennedy. According to Rose’s memoir, he repeatedly told the Justice of the Peace to authorize an autopsy but he shrank away from responsibility. Ultimately, they removed the body and Mrs. Kennedy authorized a partial autopsy to be done at the hospital of her choice, Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington D.C. There were several issues with the incomplete autopsy as it was fraught with errors due to a lack of experience of those performing the autopsy and their inability to properly evaluate the death and gunshot wounds. The autopsy did not ultimately matter for a trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, who was murdered before one could take place. It did, however, contribute to conspiracy theories in the following years.

A character in this story that is largely unknown is Dallas Officer J.D. Tippit. After Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated the President, he was on the run.  Officer Tippit happened to cross his path while he was on patrol, and stopped the pedestrian Oswald to have a chat. Oswald pulled a gun on him and shot him four times before leaving the scene and running to a theater where he was later apprehended. Officer Tippit was dead upon arrival at Parkland Memorial Hospital and Earl F. Rose performed the autopsy. In his memoir, Rose states that “It was imperative that the investigation into the death of Officer Tippit be thorough and complete for the prosecution of Lee Harvey Oswald, the putative defendant, might hinge on this autopsy information in the event that it was not possible to prosecute Oswald for the assassination of the president,” (Dallas: My View of History, 1963-1968, p. 76). Following his apprehension, Oswald was held in the Dallas City Police Department and was to be transferred to the Dallas County Jail the morning of November 24, 1963.

Slide image of Jack Ruby's brain
Slide image from Jack Ruby’s autopsy

That morning, Jack Ruby shot Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters while handcuffed between two Dallas detectives. Rose went to his office in Parkland Memorial Hospital while Oswald was rushed there for emergency surgery, which was unsuccessful and he died there. Rose then performed a medicolegal forensic autopsy in order to maximize the amount of information to be used during the trial of Jack Ruby. He subsequently used the document to testify at the trial in 1964. Jack Ruby, Oswald’s murderer, was charged and convicted for first degree murder in March 1964. However, the conviction was later reversed and delayed for a new trial by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He died on January 3, 1967 from primary bronchial cancer of the lung before a retrial could be held. Rose was brought in to perform this autopsy as well. 

Meanwhile, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the Warren Commission in January 1964 in order to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy. Those involved concluded in a report released on September 7, 1964 that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, without any conspiracy, foreign or domestic, (Rose, p. 155). However, there were many discrepancies and unanswered questions in the Report of the Warren Commission and this fueled conspiracy theories. Therefore, the House Select Committee on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. was at work from 1977 to 1978. Rose was a member of the panel of forensic pathologists appointed as consultants for this committee. He traveled to Washington D.C. to review the forensic material and to give his testimony regarding what he observed. After all information was gathered, the hearings were held and they came to the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald committed the crime and that while the committee believes that there were two gunmen, scientific evidence does not support that.

Two test bullets sit in white tissue in a clear box
Test bullet from the gun used on Lee Harvey Oswald

So, how did this collection end up at Iowa? Earl F. Rose began teaching pathology at the University of Iowa in 1968, retiring in 1992. While he was working for the University of Iowa, Rose autopsied Roy J. Carver, a benefactor of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, when he died in 1981. This experience is described in another of Rose’s personal writings, My Ana. He and his wife Marilyn were quite active in the Iowa City community later in life as well, which included donating his materials to the University of Iowa Special Collections & Archives. In this collection, there are actual pieces to the story that was just told. Newspapers, slides and reports from Lee Harvey Oswald’s and Jack Ruby’s autopsies, the test bullet shot out of the gun used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, personal writings describing the monumental period of history that he lived through and played a role in. The items work alongside Rose’s personal writings and actual legal documentation to give the researcher a unique perspective into a highly publicized event in American history. It is arranged in a way that allows the researcher to learn about the event through Rose’s words and then to view supplemental materials that strengthen the narrative. Finally, the collection concludes with correspondence between Rose and conspiracy theorists that leave the researcher either considering other outcomes or amused by the ideas that others had when conducting their own research. The Earl F. Rose Papers is a collection with exceptional depth and we welcome researchers to come discover more about the John F. Kennedy Assassination as well as the unknown key player Earl F. Rose.


Find more on the Earl F. Rose Papers online finding aid