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.

decorative
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 jin-chang@uiowa.edu.

Oil painting of Ellen Hale

Ellen Day Hale Paints Her Way into UI History

Through some great research, our University Archivist David McCartney discovers some of the “unknown” facts that are part of new UI Presidential Portrait Gallery in the Main Library, as he explains below. 

When the UI Presidential Portrait Gallery was formally dedicated late last year, staff in Special Collections responsible for this display knew that there were still some ‘gaps’ in some of the portraits’ stories. For example, labels accompanying some of the displayed portraits note that the artist is unknown. But as we continue to learn more of the history of this collection and how it came into being, we update and correct our records – and labels – as needed.

oil portrait of George Thacher
Oil on canvas of George Thacher by Ellen Day Hale

The George Thacher portrait is a case in point. Thacher (1817-1878) was the University’s fifth president, serving from 1871 to 1877. His portrait is an oil-on-canvas, dark in tone and realistic, a style appropriate for the late nineteenth century. The artist’s name was somehow lost in the records as the portrait, along with others in the collection, moved from one campus location to another for nearly a century, until settling in the Main Library.

Well, now we can fill in this gap. Recently, a closer examination of the portrait revealed a nearly-obscured name in the lower left corner: “E.D. Hale.” The signature is difficult but not impossible to ascertain. From this, we were able to confirm via an internet search that the artist was Ellen Day Hale (1855-1940). Our sources for this include the Smithsonian Archives of American Art and an entry on American Gallery online.  

According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Ellen Day Hale was “among the wave of American artists, both men and women, who traveled to Europe

Oil painting of Ellen Hale
Ellen Day Hale Self Portrait, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

for training in the last quarter of the 19th century. She is best known for her Impressionist figure studies. Hale, the only daughter of the noted orator and author Edward Everett Hale and Emily Baldwin Perkins, came from a family filled with notable figures. Her great-great-uncle Nathan Hale was a Revolutionary War patriot; her great-aunt Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin; and her brother Philip and his wife Lilian Westcott Hale were also professional painters.”

The Boston Art Club was the setting for the first exhibition of her work in 1876. Because both she and George Thacher were from New England, we can speculate that the portrait was completed during the last one or two years of his life, after he left Iowa to return to the northeast to be close to family in light of illness. Hale was perhaps in her early twenties when she completed the portrait, likely one of the first works of a long and distinguished career. She was also the first woman to produce a presidential portrait for the university. 

View the portrait gallery online or view in person on the Main Library’s fifth floor.

From University Archivist David McCartney: Top 10 historical things at the UI

In honor of Homecoming week here at the University of Iowa, we asked our University Archivist David McCartney to pick the top ten favorite historical things here at the University. The items are in no particular order. 
 

10. The Birthplace of Prime-time TV.

W9XK signal reached into several states during the 1930s.
 Sure, Westinghouse, General Electric, AT&T and other labs were testing television in the 1930s, but from 1933 to 1938, the State University of Iowa was broadcasting regularly-scheduled TV programs, the first in the nation to do so. Experimental station W9XK featured lectures, instruction, and musical and dramatic performances two or three evenings each week. Viewers from as far as Oklahoma and Indiana reported receiving the signal.
 
9. Nile Kinnick.
By all accounts, an outstanding athlete, gentleman, and scholar. The 1939 Heisman Trophy recipient. A consensus All-American. Phi Beta Kappa. Humanitarian. Kinnick died during a flight training mission while serving as an aviator in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
 
8. Master of Fine Arts Degrees Were Conferred Here First.

The UI was the first university in the nation to accept creative works in lieu of theses as requirements for advanced degrees in the arts, beginning in the 1920s. In 1940, it was the first in the nation to confer the MFA. Recipients of the newly-minted degree that year were Elizabeth Catlett, Jewel Peterson, and

Van Allen Hall machine shop for satellite program, 1970.

Harry Edward Stinson. Catlett, a sculptor, was also the first African-American woman to receive the MFA.

 
7. A Space Exploration Hub.
James Van Allen advanced U.S. space research using satellites beginning in 1958, but did you know that Donald Gurnett of the Department of Physics and Astronomy is likely the only person on the planet to oversee space missions exploring the extremes of our solar system? Helios 1 and 2, which launched in 1976, explored the sun’s characteristics up close, while Voyager 1, which launched in1977, reached interstellar spaced in 2012- the first human-made object to do so.
 

6. Gay Liberation Front.

First UI gay pride float, in 1970 Homecoming parade (image from 1971 Hawkeye annual).
In 1970, the university recognized Gay Liberation Front (today, Spectrum) as an official student organization, the first in the nation. A generation later, in 1993, the UI extended spousal benefits to same-sex partners. It was another first among U.S. public universities. 
 
5. The UI Stanley Museum of Art.
To paraphrase UI President Willard “Sandy” Boyd sometime in the 1970s, “Our football team is struggling but we have the best art museum in the Big Ten.” It’s still true today: Over 14,000 objects reflect broad and deep collections from diverse cultures and time periods. Jackson Pollock’s Mural will return to its permanent home for display after the new museum opens on campus adjacent to the Main Library.
 
4. The Afro-American Cultural Center, Leading the Way for Other Centers.
This year the Afro House celebrates 50 years as a space for African-American students to socialize, mutually support, and grow. Other centers on campus have followed, including those serving Latinx, Native American, Asian, LGBTQ, and other communities.
 
3. Those Rolaids Guys.
They invented not only Rolaids, but also Bufferin. William D. “Shorty” Paul, M.D., and Joseph Routh, Ph.D., were UI faculty members whose collaboration resulted in the two remedies found in many homes and workplaces today. Dr. Paul was the Hawkeyes’ team physician for over 30 years, beginning in 1939, and tried finding ways to provide safe, immediate relief to injured players. Working with Routh, they devised a formula to “buffer” the effect of aspirin without taking away its strength. Voila!
 

2. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop and UNESCO City of Literature.

Margaret Walker in 1966, an alumna of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Wilber Schramm established Iowa’s creative writing program in 1936, with Paul Engle to follow as its director from 1941 to 1965. Under their tenure, the Workshop became internationally recognized as a locus of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. To date, Workshop faculty and graduates have won 29 Pulitzer Prizes.*
 
And finally,
 
1. The Wave.
It’s been in practice for only a year, but ESPN and other sports sources already call it the best tradition in college football today: The Wave. At Iowa home football games, the crowd- visitors as well as Hawkeye fans- turn east to the UIHC Stead Family Children’s Hospital across the street and wave en masse at the young patients looking on. Need we say more?
 
Runners up include: Dance Marathon, Soapbox Soundoff in the IMU during the 1960s, Grant Wood, and the power plant whistle. 
 
**Images all from F.W. Kent Collection (RG 30.0001.001), University Archives
 
Dean Sieperda (Delta Tau Delta) dressed as Herky

Reflections of UI’s Furry and Feathery Mascots

As we get ready to celebrate Herky’s 70th birthday, curator of the “Hatching Herky” exhibit, Chloe Waryan, looks back on her experiences and Iowa mascots of old. 

In the summer of 2018, I was fortunate enough to be awarded an internship at the University of Iowa Special Collections and University Archives in which I was tasked to design an exhibit celebrating the 70th birthday of Herky the Hawk. I am so touched by the kindness that I received from University Archivist David McCartney, Director of Development Mary Rettig of the Center for Advancement, and donor Jane Roth. I am happy to report that I had a lot of fun learning about the history of the University of Iowa during this internship too!

Press Citizen's picture of Burch the Bear on a chair
Burch the Bear

Though the pre-Herky mascots didn’t make it into the exhibit, their history is fascinating. With the popularity of St. Burch’s Tavern, a new downtown restaurant, many Iowa Citizans may already know that our first mascot was a real live black bear cub named Burch. The significance of a bear as an emblem of UI is unknown, though we do know that the Chicago Cubs also had a black bear sent to them to serve as a mascot around this same time. When Burch became a full-grown bear, he broke out of his cage in the City Park Zoo (yes, City Park once had a zoo), and fled to the riverbank where he was later found dead. On March 10, 1910, the Press Citizen released an article titled “Burch is Found with Taxidermist,” detailing the plans of taxidermist Homer Dill who did work for the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History. However, after talking to Cindy Opitz, current Collections Manager of the UI Museum of Natural History, we learn that if he did indeed drown, Burch’s head was probably bloated and therefore not suitable for taxidermy. According to a Press Citizen article on April 8, 2018, Trina Roberts, Director of UI’s Pentacrest Museums, does not know where Burch’s head or bones may be.

Homecoming button with Rex the Dog on it
Rex (the first) in button form

Almost 20 years later, the University adopted a 200-pound Great Dane named Rex as their next mascot. Lieutenant Colonel Converse K. Lewis, head of the UI Military Department, originally gifted the dog to Alpha Sigma Phi. Rex wore a tailored band uniform at football games and acted as the UI mascot until his death in 1933. Following Rex’s death, the University received another dog (either a Great Dane or St. Bernard) which they cleverly named Rex II. The University also used a real hawk as a mascot before Delta Tau Delta’s own Larry Herb donned the first Herky costume in the late 1950’s. From then on, Herky was always cast as a Delta Tau Delta until the fraternity lost their UI charter in 1998 due to drug and alcohol use. Tryouts for Herky the Hawk opened up to the entire student body of UI. In 1999, Angie Anderson and Carrie MacDonald were the first female students chosen to be the mascot. Anderson was injured while playing Herky when an Ohio State band member wielded a 3-foot foam banana at her head. She filed a lawsuit against Ohio State and in 2002, Anderson was awarded $25,000. Shortly after, Herky’s “human identity” was kept a stricter secret and security members were also hired each year, in order to keep the mascot safe.

Dean Sieperda (Delta Tau Delta) dressed as Herky
Dean Sieperda (Delta Tau Delta) dressed as Herky

As a graduate of the UI School of Library and Information Science program, I learned through this internship many things about collaboration in libraries. I was welcomed onto the Herky Birthday Committee with open arms. I formed a great partnership with the Spirit Coordinator of UI. I learned about the awesome physical education collection at the Iowa Women’s Archives. All in all, I will truly treasure my time at the Special Collections. Even the rainy days were fun!

Join us September 14th, 2018 for a special Open House to celebrate the history of Herky. Event starts at 11AM and runs till 2PM, 3rd Floor of Main Library. Herky will even be joining us for the party starting at 12PM! All are welcomed to join! 

 

Photo Credits: Burch from Press Citizen, Rex from Regalia and Artifacts Collections (RG 31.01.01), and Dean Sieperda as Herky from F.W. Kent Photograph Collection (RG30.0001.001)

Herky brings the party to Dance Marathon

Who’s Got Spirit?: An Interview with Gregg Niemiec, UI Spirit Coordinator

What do the UI Libraries and UI Athletics have in common? Hawkeye History! In this blog post, Chloe Waryan, Exhibit Design Intern at the University of Iowa Special Collections, interviews Gregg Niemiec, Spirit Coach of the Iowa Spirit Squad. For Herky’s 70th birthday, Gregg and Chloe team up in the Special Collections to discuss the items from the collections pertaining to Herky history. Read the interview below, and be sure to check out the exhibit “Hatching Herky” at the University of Iowa Special Collections and University Archives opening August 20!

Chloe and Gregg look at Herky from the archives
Chloe and Gregg look at Herky from the archives

 

Can you tell us a little about what you do?

I am the Spirit Coordinator; I am in charge of the Iowa Spirit Squads which consists of the Iowa Cheerleaders, the Iowa Dance Team and Herky the Hawk […] For the Herkys, I help coordinate all of the events that Herky attends. [I] keep him clean and updated with the latest materials, costumes, and props.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Most days, I am at Carver Hawkeye Arena in my office by 9:00am. I start the day [by] checking emails and voicemails, responding back to questions fans have, organizing upcoming events, traveling for away games, and coordinating any other items for our 50+ members. Usually […] I am either moving bags of things in or out of Carver, to or from my car to keep Herky on the move. In the afternoons, […] I lead the Cheerleaders at practice. On weekends we have games and events. It is kind of a 24/7/365 job.

Do you conduct tryouts for Herky? What is that process like?

We have tryouts each spring. These start in late January with informational meetings [to] give everyone a heads up on what to expect. [F]rom there we do skills days, and get [the Herky candidates] ready for what they are getting themselves into: the walk, ball skills, improvisation, creativity, and movement. We will do a few rounds of these items as [candidates] get used to what is expected of them. Then there is normally a Final Tryout.

Herky brings the party to Dance Marathon
Herky brings the party to Dance Marathon

How many Herky’s are chosen per year?

There is one Herky the Hawk, who represents the University of Iowa. But Herky has some helpers called Herky Security. These members can usually be found with Herky, protecting the symbol of the University of Iowa. There are usually six Herky Security members each year.

What do you look for in a Herky candidate?

Athleticism, creativity, ability to think quickly on your feet, love of the Hawkeyes, and ability to communicate. During the tryout process all of these items are tested, along with doing an interview with all of them, and lots of time to talk between things at tryouts.

What does Herky do and where can Herky be seen?

Herky can be found just about anywhere – all Hawkeye Athletic events, and most of the larger campus events (ONIOWA!, Homecoming, Dance Marathon, Orientations, Admissions Days, etc)… Craziest [places where] Herky has been seen: rappelling down a building, a few funerals, swimming (with proper lifeguard notification), and pretty much just about anywhere.

You said that you helped with the art installation project Herky on Parade. What was that process like?

The installation of Herky on Parade took place in the middle of the night. [In 2014], they had special shirts made for those helping, with a logo describing the night as a secret installation of Herky on Parade. There were 3-4 teams of people that met at the storage area and helped pull the statues out onto UHaul trucks. We loaded those up with 6-8 people and went to our designated areas around town. The concrete bases were already in place, so we would take the statue out of the truck and place it on the base and fasten it with large bolts to the base. We would place a name plate on each and then cover them up, as the big reveal happened the next morning. It took about three hours. It was neat to see them pop up around campus as we drove to the next one. The next morning, volunteers helped at each of the sites and pulled the covers off. It was great to see the creativity of the artist in what they did. From Hayden Fry Herky, Star Trek Herky, Farmer Herky, to some artistic Herkys that made you think.  It was neat to see and be a part of the installation staff of Herky on Parade.

Herky with the cousin Perky
Herky with the cousin Perky

What is one thing about Herky that we might not know?

He has a cousin named Perky. She hangs out at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Perky makes kids young and old happy as they go through some rough times at the hospital.

How do you think libraries and athletics can work together?

There is a lot of history in Athletics around the University, and those events […] can be brought to life at the library, with books and media that reflect what Athletics around the University has done. Libraries are a cornerstone of knowledge, without them we would be lost.

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.