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From the Director

We were saddened by two losses this past summer. Helen Hubbell, a very good friend and generous donor to the Iowa History Center, passed away in June. Helen and her husband Jim’s foundation underwrote the Speaker Series, making it possible for us to bring noteworthy speakers and special exhibits to campus. She was especially pleased to have provided the support that allowed us to host Seward Johnson’s oversized, American Gothic-inspired statue, God Bless America. Mostly, though, we will miss her sharp mind and quick wit.

We will also miss Dorothy Schwieder, a professor emerita of history at Iowa State University, who died in August. Schwieder revived the field of Iowa history over her long career while teaching, writing, and mentoring students. She wrote, co-wrote or edited nine books, including Iowa: The Middle Land (1996), the authoritative state history text. Besides addressing other scholars, Schwieder advanced the appreciation of Iowa history and culture among the general public. She was rightfully known as the “dean of Iowa history,” and her loss will be felt across the state.

Fortunately, there was good news as well. In a serendipitous moment, I was contacted by a man named Richard Huey of Pennsylvania who had seen one of my two interviews on C-SPAN’s program on Des Moines. He told me he had two boxes of primary documents related to F. M. Hubbell, Iowa’s leading businessman in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (and an ancestor of Helen Hubbell’s family). We connected him with the State Historical Library, and the papers are now preserved as part of the Hubbell collection in Des Moines.

Then the Iowa History Center received a special gift.  Henry D. Wallace gave us an office chair which was used by his grandfather, Henry A. Wallace, while he served as Secretary of Agriculture, Vice President, and then Secretary of Commerce.  The donation was facilitated by Karen “Kacie” Conner, a Simpson alumna, professor emerita at Drake University, and former Simpson trustee.  Once the agreement was finalized, Kacie and her husband Gary Gerlach picked up the chair for us in Scottsdale, Arizona, and shipped it to Simpson.  We are looking forward to putting the chair on display after some necessary conservation work.

We hope to see you at our upcoming events, and as always, we want your input.  Please send us your comments and suggestions. 

Bill Friedricks

Speaker Series: American Nations

Colin Woodard--writer, historian, and acclaimed journalist--will present American Nations: The Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, offering an examination of American diversity and identity.  Woodard challenges the “red state, blue state” dichotomy by arguing that America is a combination of eleven regional groups with distinct identities.  Each region, he believes, has a unique perspective on historical events, and these perceptions shaped and continue to shape our country.  Tuesday, November 11, 7 p.m., Hubbell Hall, Kent Campus Center, Simpson College.

Iowa History Center Open House

Come see our new office space, Mary Berry Hall 111, Simpson College.  For the past several years, the Iowa History Center operated out of a couple of shared spaces.  We spent last year raising money to remodel and outfit the new Center, which was completed over the summer.  To celebrate, we’re hosting an open house Wednesday, October 22, 1-3 p.m.  Stop by to see our new space, visit about the Center, and enjoy some Iowa-shaped sugar cookies.

Speaker Series: Joe Weber

Journalist Joe Weber kicked off the eighth season of our Iowa History Center Speaker Series.  Weber discussed his recent book, Transcendental Meditation in America:  How a New Age Movement Remade a Small Town in Iowa, which studied the TM movement and its cultural, economic, and social impact on Fairfield, Iowa.  Transcendental Meditation is part of our Iowa and the Midwest Experience Book Series with the University of Iowa Press. 

Master's Thesis Award

Ankeny native Hope Mitchell was this year’s recipient of the Iowa History Center’s annual award for the Outstanding Master’s Thesis in Iowa History.  Mitchell received her MA in history from Iowa State University in the spring of 2014 and was recognized for her thesis, “Sacrificing our Daughters: Changing Perceptions of Prostitution in Iowa, 1880-1915.”  Not only was she honored by the Center with a plaque and $1,000 prize, she was also featured in a front-page article in the Des Moines Register.

Mitchell’s study focused on prostitution in Des Moines and examined the city’s changing attitudes and approaches to the issue.  “We are thrilled to recognize Hope’s work,” said Bill Friedricks, director of the Iowa History Center.  “She pieced together an intriguing story through an array of unique and under-utilized sources.  Her thesis is an important contribution to Iowa’s social history.”

Featured Intern: Tim Wilson

I am interning this semester at the State Historical Museum with curator Leo Landis. Of particular interest to me is seeing the variety of artifacts donated to the museum. I recently wrote item descriptions for donations from Jay Howe from his time with the 1988 Jesse Jackson Presidential Campaign Iowa based in Greenfield. Among my favorite items are the large handmade posters from the Jackson campaign. I am also working on an exhibit for the museum Gala on December 12, which will feature historical artifacts donated over the past two years.

In our January Newsletter:

  • Iowa State Fair Photo Exhibit
  • Speaker Series:  Iowa State Fair program
  • Meet our new Scholars
  • Iowa History Field Trip program