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Historic Preservation in Your Community


It seems almost everyone has an opinion about historic preservation. Some people like it, some don’t, and many people are adamant about their feelings. However, many people in historic preservation and the general public are not professionals with training or experience. There are often misconceptions about what historic preservation is intended to do. Some of these mistaken views come from highly authoritative sources, so the confusion is very understandable. Because humans tend to relate to history on an emotional level, opinions about what is or is not worth saving can be varied.

This paper is intended as a dispassionate introduction to key concepts in historic preservation. It provides a historical sketch of the movement to create a standardized system to preserve historic properties as well as a brief discussion of practical application of historic preservation to other community goals. A small amount of cautionary advice is also provided.

History of Historic Preservation in the United States

It can be said that historic preservation is as old as the United States. From the colonial period, Antiquarians attempted, many times without success, to prevent demolition of structures, buildings, and objects of historical importance. Anecdotal examples include the original fort on Castle Island in Boston Harbor, early buildings on Manhattan Island, New York and various other buildings. But successes were also noted early on in our nation’s history.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia was saved from demolition in 1816. It took nearly a century of work to fully restore the building and it became a National Park property in 1951. In 1860, after 17 years of political and financial negotiations, George Washington’s Mt. Vernon was saved from demolition when it was purchased by a private group. Work to restore, maintain, and interpret the site continues to this day. Through the 1870s, several key landmarks that are still present in Boston were saved by private funding as was Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in 1923. Most, if not all, early efforts at historic preservation were based largely on sentiment; a compelling sense that something must be done.

In counterpoint, during the Roaring ‘20s the economic boom saw widespread demolition and rebuilding in urban areas where many older buildings were located. While that economic boom was ended by the Great Depression, government and private groups could do little more than advocate and purchase properties to protect historic buildings during its frenzy. Preservation continued as a mostly private undertaking.

Things began to change in the 1930s when local communities formed the first local ordinance historic districts with design review. Charleston, South Carolina lead the way with a local district with design review in 1931. With local power to designate districts and landmarks and review work carried out, much was preserved. the ability to review demolition requests until 1966.The federal government, under New Deal legislation, began to inventory historic buildings beginning in 1933. While the Antiquities Act of 1906 allowed the president to create National Historic Landmarks, only a modest amount were created compared to the number of potential historic properties that existed. Not every historic property could or should be a National Historic Landmark.

Then the Long Economic Boom arrived on the heels of the second World War. The National Housing Act of 1949 made extensive funds available to generate new housing available to the Federal Housing Agency. Housing was in short supply as returning soldiers and their families sought out affordable and predominantly new housing. Congress at the same time granted broad powers of eminent domain for slum clearance in urban areas, the definition of slum being fairly liberal.

As a modest counter to the effort to provide funding for housing and slum clearance, Congress also initiated The National Trust for Historic Preservation as a non-governmental organization in 1949 and provided it with funds to advocate for historic preservation. The organization was also to coordinate with the National Park Service in their efforts to protect federally owned properties. The National Trust had no authority to prevent new demolitions anywhere from going forward and to this day remain a primarily advocacy organization.

With a funding boost to the National Housing Act in 1954 and the addition of preference for housing to be built for slum clearance or revitalization, large scale demolition began to occur. More neighborhoods were demolished or cut in two when the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 began to build new super highways. The word clearance became a byword for progress while older neighborhoods, often containing poor or minority residents, were removed as slums. The 1954 Housing Act emphasized the term Urban Renewal to entice communities and developers to participate.

Preservation groups called for communities to form local preservation organizations to advocate for preservation of older building stock. In 1961, Jane Jacobs issued her book Death and Life of Great American Cities. In this often quoted book, Jacobs advocated for existing neighborhoods over new development and advocated for existing buildings as being important to the social fabric of those older neighborhoods. With her advocacy and the work of organizations such as the National Trust, a wide-spread public appeal to Congress was made to provide more protection for historic properties. That effort led to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

The National Historic Preservation Act created The National Register of Historic Places, which is a register of all historic properties that have been evaluated and approved by the Keeper of the Register. Under the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Park Service promulgated regulations and procedures to identify and evaluate historic properties for listing in the National Register. The regulations defined Historic Properties to include buildings, structures, sites, objects and districts that are more than 50 years old and meet the Criteria of Evaluation as well as any additional special criteria as necessary. Under the National Historic Preservation Act as amended, State Historic Preservation Offices were created with staff to provide technical assistance and coordinate the state nominations process for listing on the National Register.

A great deal of thought went into creating the standards and guidelines for historic preservation as well as the criteria for evaluation. The intent was to provide standards that were broad enough to be applicable anywhere in the United States and specific enough to withstand the scrutiny of the public as well as Congress.

The National Historic Preservation Act has no regulatory authority to prevent demolition, alteration, or sale of private property, absent a federal undertaking. It does provide incentives programs to encourage preservation of private property. The National Historic Preservation Act does require federal agencies and any of their resulting undertakings, including direct or indirect funding, permits, or technical assistance to follow the steps to identify and evaluate historic properties and to consult with interested parties to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the adverse effects of the federal undertaking. Regulations for federally owned properties were intended to be more stringent.

The State Historic Preservation Office also administers the Certified Local Government program, an incentives program to local communities to identify, evaluate, and preserve historic properties. The program sets up a local Historic Preservation Commission to evaluate and comment on National Register nominations in the community. To the extent possible, these programs are apolitical. Staff of both the National Park Service and State Historic Preservation Office are executive branch employees of the government and are not political appointees. However, the heads of both the National Park Service and State Historic Preservation Offices are political appointees and the funding for these agencies are controlled by their respective legislatures as well as the respective executive.

Key features of the National Register evaluation process are that it is standardized, requires a high degree of integrity of existing property to the design and materials of its period of significance, and considers a wide array of potential properties ranging from bridges, to archaeological sites, to monuments, to mansions and even shacks. In the last example, slaves or miner quarters can be considered for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. It is their historic integrity and demonstrated historical significance that are of concern, not the status of the owner, the property value, or intrinsic beauty. It is a common misconception that historic preservation at its roots is about aesthetics when in fact it is actually about tangible links to the past, whatever their form. However, it is also true that good examples of engineering or architecture may indeed be beautiful or that properties associated with significant persons or events may be sentimental.

No mention has been made so far of archaeological sites and this is because few communities regulate archaeological sites through historic preservation programs. For the most part, archaeological sites are regulated under environmental ordinances similar to other sensitive features as wetlands, when regulated at all at the local level. At the federal level, many pieces of legislation regulate archaeological sites including the National Environmental Policy Act of 1968, the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, and the Antiquities Act of 1909 which provided the President with the authority to designate National Historic Landmarks, including archaeological sites. Various states have archaeological protection laws as well. For instance, ancient burial sites are administered through the State Archaeologist of Iowa.

Design Review Programs

In certain cases, local governments establish local historic properties, mainly landmarks and districts. Local properties are typically required to comply with design review requirements and/or demolition review. Charleston, South Carolina was the first, but other notable examples include the Landmark Commissions in New York, Chicago, and New Orleans. Even though the National Historic Preservation Act did not anticipate design review, nearly every major metropolitan area, and many medium or small sized urban areas, have a historic preservation commission of some form with design review.

The underpinning legislation or ordinances for these entities are various and should be studied on a case by case basis. Typically a commission is provided with the authority to review building alterations against a set of standards and make recommendations and decisions on the appropriateness of the proposed projects. Further, many commissions review the design of new construction as well as demolition for districts or landmarks.

While commission members are typically drawn from a variety of areas of expertise, such as real estate, construction, design, and owners of historic properties, their placement on a commission is typically a political process while their staff are not politically appointed. When local regulations are applied to private property, there are always financial and legal considerations to account for. The process of designating new properties tends to become political.

Historic Preservation and Affiliated Goals

Increasingly, historic preservation is tasked with other objectives. These objectives may or may not be tied to a Historic Preservation Commission with design review. One example is affordable housing. Following the spirit of Jane Jacobs, many historic districts in urban areas have been designated in the effort to preserve smaller, more affordable homes from demolition. Historic districts by nature can preserve existing affordable housing stock, particularly in neighborhoods with smaller lots and homes. In Iowa City, the Conservation District is an adaptation toward that end because these districts have lower standards by which projects are evaluated and therefor presumably lower maintenance costs, but demolitions are still reviewed. This strategy is ideally suited where real estate and zoning laws favor larger housing, where advocates for housing of a larger size or value turn out at rezoning meetings, or where new housing is distant from work centers and transportation networks.

A related objective is neighborhood stabilization. In addition to preserving neighborhoods to maintain existing housing stock, regulation of neighborhoods with design review is commonly used to prevent wholesale tear-downs. Both of these first two objectives work best when tied to the zoning code or other similar regulatory frame with a public hearing and comment process.

For several decades now, historic preservation advocates, such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, have focused on programs that combine preservation goals with economic development. For example, in areas where real estate value is declining or already low, the targeted use of historic tax credits can provide needed financial stimulus to building rehabilitation and repurposing of existing buildings for new uses. The Main Street program is one such example, but non-profit corporations have also successfully adapted tax credit applications for conversion of old school buildings to senior housing. Des Moines, Waterloo, and Dubuque, Iowa have adapted former warehouse and other large industrial buildings to become multifamily residential buildings. The buildings were underutilized or vacant at the time of the project, so the new use provided a substantial increase in tax revenue. Demand for housing was established through market analysis. Main Street communities have also used tax credits to rehabilitate historic mixed used, downtown properties, to their original uses—store front on the ground level and offices or residences above. These projects tend to occur in smaller communities.

The key factor in each of these locations, though, is the real estate value going into the project because the tax credit is based on the increment of the property value. The total allowable credits for the federal program measure 20% of the approved project costs for qualified expenses occurred in a substantial rehabilitation of income generating properties. The state program in Iowa is somewhat more generous at 25% of qualified costs and includes owner-occupied residential properties.

Because there is a large portion of the project left to be funded, developers and non-governmental organizations also tap into other incentives such as those from the Department of Housing and Urban Development or other similar agencies. Where buildings need extensive work up front to prepare for the rehabilitation, such as gut remodels, this model doesn’t typically work for both cost and regulatory reasons. One major incentive in tax credits is they may be carried forward for a time and they may also be transferred—traded, or sold. The Iowa Economic Development Authority administers state historic tax credits. Funding for federal tax credit programs for historically appropriate rehabilitation of historic, income generating properties is directed by the State Historic Preservation Office.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has also promoted historic preservation for other economic development, such as tourism, promoting real estate transfers, and providing skilled labor jobs. These strategies focus on ripple effects on the local economy. In these models, economic development measures are made on increases in property values, employment figures, and spending related to preservation tourism and building rehabilitation costs in the target communities. Additional less tangible benefits may also result. For example, a museum or entertainment venue may increase sales at local restaurants and retail businesses. When evaluating the potential benefits of preservation for these goals it is also important to analyze projected expenses such as building maintenance and security against potential sources of revenue, such as donations and admission fees. House museums in particular should be examined carefully in advance.

Historic preservation also has more recently been promoted for its advantages for sustainability. Studies show that buildings in residential historic districts conserve embodied energy, experience less population decline, are more walkable, and support a greater sense of community than other neighborhoods. As a last resort, architectural salvage of historic buildings being demolished can be somewhat more sustainable by reducing material waste and also substitution of existing goods for new goods that are used in other projects.

Many times when historic preservation is appropriated to other tasks the ancillary uses run contrary to the intent of historic preservation and can overshadow the actual purpose of historic preservation, which is to identify, evaluate, and preserve tangible links to the past. It is important that those who support preservation not loose sight of this. Alternatives to historic preservation design review include form based code for targeted districts and general design review with architectural guidelines for targeted property types.


Author’s Note: I work as a consult in historic preservation and have conducted work for federal, state, and local government projects involving Architectural History, History, and Archaeology.
Copyright 2020, Tim Weitzel. All rights reserved.

Native Peoples of Iowa as seen in Native American Indian Land Cessions

The land that is the United States today was turned over to the US Government in a series of federal legal actions beginning in the 18th century and continuing into the 20th for Alaska and Hawaii. Some 368 treaties, laws, and executive orders totaling around 1.5 billion acres of land conveyed right of ownership from indigenous peoples to the federal government, and eventually to private hands. Euro-Americans—Americans of European and especially white descent, primarily benefited from these transactions. This has had a tendency to erase indigenous peoples from the conventional wisdom of Iowa history as seen by white culture.

Tracing the indigenous people who have inhabited Iowa over the past is a complicated matter. Any effort to list each tribe is fraught with difficulties. Oral traditions are often discounted by the government. Traditions can also differ in interpretation from other forms of evidence. The fluid nature of land use by Native Peoples due to the lack of permanent settlement and the arbitrary nature of state boundaries and the Euro-American concept of property ownership hasn’t helped keep the record straight. The use of Iowa post-contact as an area to place peoples who were removed from further east, much like many Great Plains states (especially Oklahoma) later created other issues especially as tribes assigned to live here or to be removed were not always willing to comply on an individual or tribal basis.

Place names can provide some clues as to who lived in Iowa before settlement. Many Euro-American place names honor indigenous people. For example Muscatine, Des Moines, Sac, Winnebago, Wapello, Keokuk, Mahaska, and Tama are indications of early contact period or historical tribes or important figures in Iowa, though some of the meanings have become more obscure. Muscatine is thought to be related to the Mascouten and an island named for them adjacent to the town while Des Moines almost certainly relates to the Moingoina, a name of Algonkian origin and used by early explorers Marquette and Joliet and others to identify a river on the right bank of the Mississippi. Popular etymology has spuriously attempted to erase this origin by ascribing it to purported, and presumably Catholic, monks living at the mouth of the Des Moines River, for which there is no evidence. Similarly, many times Euro-Americans are less attached to people indigenous to Iowa in their naming practices with results such as Camanche and Osage, tribes not known to have inhabited Iowa, as well as the Seminole chief Osceola, or even the fictitious Pocahontas. Place names are not entirely useful.

Linguists offer some guidance about who lived in the area based on ethnographic information. A linguistic map of Iowa and surrounding areas is based on historic information about languages and locations. One example appears like this.

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Section of Principal Indian Tribes of North America, Harold E Driver. originally compiled by Driver, Cooper, Kirchhoff, Libby, Massey, and Spier. Indiana University Publications in Anthropology and Linguistics, Memoir 9, in 1953. Stand-alone map issued by the Anthropology Department around 1964.

But the map is ambiguous in terms of actual territories occupied and misses the movements post-historic contact of the Sauk and Meskwaki, for example, and otherwise is lacking in detail.

Similar primary sources led to government maps of resources and transportation routes, such as the series of maps of North America by Guilliame Delisle. These maps were based largely on narrative accounts by European explorers and traders. One example appears as this.

1718_Guillaume_Delisle cropped web large

Section of Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississipi, 1718, Guillaume Delisle

The map is cropped to show the region detailing Iowa. Often times a tribal name was recorded phonetically in French from an Algonkian, Siouian, or other native language name that was then anglicized. The name further often was not what a people called themselves, but was what other people said the people in question were called. The French were haphazard in this regard, resulting in much confusion in terminology, but hardly worse than the British. The US Government adopted the names they had on maps and from written accounts and made little effort to change names based on interviewing the people who were the subject of their treaties. Thus the Meskwaki, sometimes called Les Renards, or Foxes, by the French are still officially recorded as the Fox tribe by the US Government. Two egregious examples of this phenomenon are the first nations tribes Dog Rib and Slavey who live in Canada.

This leaves a few other sources to consider, one of which is archaeology. Archaeological evidence for prehistoric sites is based on material remains but is silent on many aspects of culture. The ancient people of North America for the most part did not write. Their origins are unknown from historic resources. Archaeology indicates the area known today as Iowa was inhabited perhaps since 13,000 years ago, but the earliest evidence is quite sparse. By 11,500 years ago enough sites are evident to be certain Iowa was regularly used for at least hunting, if not long term living, and prehistoric sites of all ages and many types continue from that time period to the present. The names of these people are not known to us, so the names of cultures are based on artifact assemblages, such as projectile points, and later pottery types, pottery appearing after about 3,000 years ago.

With changes in subsistence patterns, people began to occupy sites for longer periods of time. More recent sites contain generally more artifacts in a broader range of types and materials. These two factors lead to greater discernment between artifact assemblages known as Great Oasis, Mill Creek, Glenwood, and Oneota. Today’s Native Americans draw ancestry to these later archaeological cultures. While some of the tribes who claim ancestry in Iowa can be traced archaeologically, not all can be. Some late prehistoric and historic period archaeological sites have known affiliations with the Ioway, Otoe, Missouria, and Omaha tribes as well as the Meskwaki through historical accounts, which can also be useful when available and trustworthy. Some early accounts lack sufficient detail to be useful.

A final source of evidence is oral tradition, which although legally uncertain in terms of acceptance by the American judicial system, did result in a unique map made by the Ioway for support of their land claims in 1837.

No Heart's Ioway map, 1837.

The 1837 Ioway Map (No Heart’s Map) presented October 7, 1837 (at 10 o’clock) at Washington, D.C. Dark lines are rivers, dashed lines are trails, circles with dots are villages, open circles are lakes.

Archaeological and Geographic Information Systems study of this map have identified many of the rivers and village locations.

Today there is one official tribe located in Iowa and they are the Meskwaki, known to the US Government as the Sauk and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa. The Meskwaki actually purchased their settlement near Tama, Iowa from the government rather than receiving it as a concession for a treaty agreement. The Euro-American court system took some time to sort out if they would consider that transaction legal or not.

Traditional public educational efforts have taught there were five tribes historically associated with Iowa: the Ioway, the Sac and Mesquakie [French spelling], the Winnebago, and the Pottawattamie. These tribes are alternatively known as Báxoǰe, Suak (oθaakiiwaki), Meskwaki (Meshkwahkihaki), Ho-Chunk or Winnebago, and Potowatomi (Neshnabé). But 48 Native American groups —tribe, band, or nation—listed by the federal government consider Iowa to have ancestral associations to them through federal treaties.

It is largely through these federal transactions that the US Government has come to allow who may claim associations with the state of Iowa. However, if we want to know who actually lived in Iowa we need to also keep in mind that disease, war, and encroachment from Euro-Americans disrupted and reshaped the cultural landscape of North America. Native Americans moved west or were pushed there by other Native Americans and also the US Government. Looking at tribes based on how they negotiated with the US Government should therefore be regarded as subject to circumstance resulting in potentially incomplete data as well.

Iowa Native American History in US Treaties and Laws 

Charles C. Royce and Cyrus Thomas attempted to provide order to the flurry of US land acquisitions and other treaties through the time period 1774 to 1894 in the nearly 530-page second volume to the Eighteenth Annual Report from the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The book provides a treaty schedule and concordance maps printed on color plates. Unhelpfully, the authors standardized tribal names to their own liking from what was written in the actual treaty. The Smithsonian library provides an excellent facsimile of the volume here and high quality scans of the maps are also available online at the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress American Memory Project has a now very dated web site that still provides a helpful list of treaties by state, tribe, and year.

Twenty treaties directly affected tribes who claimed land in Iowa of which 16 affected land in Iowa. Some of these treaties occurred after Iowa was state, but most were previous to that date (December 28, 1846). Land cessions in the upper Mississippi River basin began as early 1795 with the Treaty of Greenville in which a sweeping treaty cleared much of Ohio for settlement but also reserved several military posts in Illinois to the US Government. Nine years later, the Treaty of St. Louis agreed the combined tribes Sauk and Meskwaki, or Sac and Fox in the official wording of the government, would cede much of the northeast quarter of Missouri, the southwestern corner of Wisconsin and the northwest third of Illinois. The Sauk and Meskwaki officially were supposed to move into Iowa, which has been reported to have been an area for annual hunts previous to this. There are indications this was done to an extent. But other tribes would have been in Iowa at that time, especially Ioway, Otoe, and Missouri.  The 1804 treaty was reasserted in 1815 and 1816, indicating the Sauk and Meskwaki were not taking much notice of the original agreement made by their five representatives who were sent to St. Louis to negotiate a prisoner release, not to sell land. It has been asserted this disagreement lead in part to the Black Hawk War.

In 1824, the Sauk and Meskwaki ceded their remaining interest in Missouri. Two decedents of “mixed-race” parentage, Maurice Bondeau and a man named Morgan, requested that a so-called Half-Breed tract was set up for “mixed-race” decedents of native women and Scottish, and likely also French and Spanish, traders and miners, Spanish merchants. Euro-American and Native couples had existed in the French and Spanish Louisiana district at places such as Dubuque, Davenport, Ste. Genevieve, and Kaskaskia. Bondeau and Morgan’s request was granted and a triangular area between the Des Moines River and the Mississippi extending around 1.5 miles downstream from Farmington, Iowa to Keokuk then up the Mississippi to Ft. Madison and back to the starting point became officially the Sac and Fox Reservation—the so-called Half-breed Tract, but no individual right to land titles existed. Subsequently, Congress enacted the right to reversion of title in the original treaty and separately appropriated $1,000 to survey the tract. Supposedly this law was sponsored due to a request of those living in the tract who desired to be able to own parcels of land, but it seems equally likely from the outcome that land speculation companies could have been at work. In any event, the area was open for settlement just two years after the first Black Hawk Purchase.

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Iowa 1, Plate  CXXXI, No. 24, Royce and Tomas, 1895

In 1825, a demarcation line was optimistically made to separate primarily the bands of the Santee Dakota from the now encroaching Sauk and Meskwaki, though several other tribes were included in that treaty. Five years later a Neutral Ground was created to reinforce the demarcation line. The Ho-Chunk/Winnebago were then moved into this area in 1837. Four years previously, the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomi were officially moved to western Iowa.

Iowa Map 2 BAE 18 web large

Iowa 2, Plate  CXXXII, No. 25, Royce and Tomas, 1895

Ten more treaties cleared the way for settlement in Iowa from 1832 to 1851. The dates and salient details are provided in the table below.

Date Signed Tribes Description Royce Map Reference
Aug 4, 1824 Sauk and Fox and descendants of mixed ethnicity Sac and Fox Reservation (the so-called Half-Breed Tract). The tract was created in the following provision of a land cession in Missouri, “It is understood, however, that the small tract of land lying between the rivers Desmoin [sic] and Mississippi, and the section of the above line between the Mississippi and the Desmoin, is intended for the use of the half-breeds belonging to the Sock and Fox nations, they holding it, however, by the same title and in the same manner that other Indian titles are held.” Treaty made at Washington, D.C. 120
Aug 19,1825 Sauk and Meskwaki, and several bands of Santee Dakota including Mdewakanton,
Wahpekute, Wahpeton, and Sisseton along with Ioway, Otoe, and Missoria and Mamaceqtaw (Menominee).
First Treaty of Prairie du Chien. Demarcation line running in the middle of the what was to become the Neutral Ground. The treaty was was largely, if not entirely, ignored by the Sauk and Meskwaki and the Santee Dakota. Article I provided the following rights, “But it is understood that the lands ceded and relinquished by this treaty are to be assigned and allotted under the direction of the President of the U. S. to the tribes now living thereon or to such other tribes as the President may locate thereon for hunting and other purposes.”
Jul 15,1830 Sauk and Meskwaki, and several bands of Santee Dakota including Mdewakanton,
Wahpekute, Wahpeton, and Sisseton along with Ioway, Otoe, and Missoria tribes.
Formation of the Neutral Ground, cession land in western Iowa, southwest Minnesota, and Northwest Missouri. Treaty made at Prairie du Chien. Royce Map Reference 69 was an 1824 cession for some of the same area in Missouri, for which the treaty was signed on August 19, 1825 152, 153, and 151
Sep 15, 1832 Ho-Chunk / Winnebago The Neutral Ground was made available for voluntary relocation and partial title to Wisconsin ceded. treaty made as part of the terms for the Black Hawk War at Fort Armstrong, Rock Island 151, 152
Sep 21, 1832 Sauk and Meskwaki Black Hawk Purchase at Ft. Armstrong, Rock Island as part of the peace treaty to end the Black Hawk War. This agreement also created Keokuk’s Reserve 175, 226
Sep 26,1833 Ojibwe, Ottawa, Potawatomi Treaty of Chicago. Affected tribes were relocated to western Iowa. This tract was ceded June 5, 1846 265
Jun 30, 1834 Sauk and Meskwaki and their descendants Sac and Fox Reservation (the so-called Half-Breed Tract) opened for settlement. Acts of the Twenty-Third Congress, Chapter 167, “An Act to relinquish the reversionary interest of the United States in a certain Indian reservation lying between the rivers Mississippi and Desmoins.” Passed both houses of Congress January 30, 1834. 120
Sep 28,1836 Sauk and Meskwaki, Ioway Keokuk’s Reserve. Treaty titled, Sauk and Fox at the treaty ground on the right bank of the Mississippi River, in the County of Dubuque and Territory of Wisconsin, opposite Rock Island. The Ioway held claim to a portion of the reserve and this treaty set up the meeting that took place in 1837 where the Ioway presented their map to the US Government to establish their past land use in the upper Mississippi valley. The Iowa District of the Wisconsin Territory had two counties, Dubuque to the north and Desmoine [sic] to the south. 226
Oct 21,1837 Sauk and Meskwaki Second Black Hawk Purchase and revocation of rights granted in Article I of the 1830 Prairie du Chien treaty. This took place during the 1837 treaty meetings in Washington, D.C. 244, 151
Nov 1,1837 Ho-Chunk / Winnebago Cession of all land east of the Mississippi and relocation fom Wisconsin to the Neutral Ground. This took place during the 1837 treaty meetings in Washington, D.C. The right to occupy the east half of the Neutral Ground was also ceded. 267, 151, 152
Oct 19,1838 Ioway All right or interest in the country between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers (Northwest Missouri was ceded in 1824, Royce Map Reference 69). This cession made as a result of the 1837 treaty meetings in Washington, D.C. Earlier partial cessions in Iowa had been made but were essentially disputed in 1837.
Oct 11,1842 Sauk and Meskwaki Cession of all land west of the Mississippi to which they claimed title with the following provision, “The Indians reserve a right to occupy for three years from the signing of this treaty all that part of the land above ceded which lies W. of a line running due N. and S. from the painted or red rocks on the White Breast fork of the Des Moines river, which rocks will be found about 8 miles in a straight line from the junction of the White Breast with the Des Moines.” Treaty made at the Sac and Fox agency [Agency, Iowa]. 262
Jun 5,1846 Ojibwe, Ottawa, Potawatomi Cession of land provided in Treaty of Chicago 265
Oct 13,1846 Ho-Chunk / Winnebago Neutral Ground cession 151, 152
Jul 23,1851 Wahpeton, and Sisseton bands of Santee Dakota Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. Cession included all lands in the State of Iowa and eastern Minnesota. 289
Aug 5,1851 Mdewakanton, Wahpekute bands of Santee Dakota Treaty of Mendota. Same terms as the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. 289


___________. The Acquisition of Iowa Lands From the Indians. The Annals of Iowa, vol. 7, no 4., pp. 283-290, 1906. https://doi.org/10.17077/0003-4827.3259

___________. American Indian Research: Selected Research Sources, University of Iowa Libraries. https://guides.lib.uiowa.edu/American_Indians?p=864402

___________. History, Meskwaki: Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, 2017. https://meskwaki.org/about-us/history/

___________. Learn About Iowa’s Past, Office of the State Archaeologist, University of Iowa. https://archaeology.uiowa.edu/learn-about-iowas-past

Alex, Lynn M. Iowa’s Archaeological Past. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000.

Bataille, Gretchen M., David M. Gradwhol, and Charles L.P. Silet, eds. The Worlds between Two Rivers: Perspectives on American Indians in Iowa. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000.

Blaine, Martha Royce. The Ioway Indians. Norman: University of Okalahoma Press, 1995.

Carman, Mary R. The Last Winnebago Indian in Northeast Iowa, Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society, vol. 35, 1988.

Gourley, Kathy. Migrations of the Sauk and Meskwaki in the Mid-1840s: The Emigration of 1845, Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society, vol. 50, 2003 Gradwohl, David M., Joe B. Thompson, and Michael J. Perry, eds., Still Running: A Tribute to Maria Pearson, Yankton Sioux, Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society, vol. 52, no. 1, 2005. Foster, Lance. The Indians of Iowa. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2010.

Henning, Dale R. The Archaeology and History of Ioway/Oto Exchange Patterns, 1650–1700, Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society, vol.50, 2003.

Merry, Carl A. and William Green. Sources for Winnebago History in Northeastern Iowa, 1837–1848, Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society, vol. 36, 1989.

Petersen, Cynthia L., ed. Iowaville, a 1765-1820s Báxoje (Ioway) Village. Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society, vol. 61, 2014.

Royce, Charles C., and Cyrus Thomas. Indian Land Cessions in the United States. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1885.http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwss-ilc.html

Sherman, Bill. Tracing the Treaties: How they affected American Indians and Iowa. Iowa History Journal. http://iowahistoryjournal.com/tracing-treaties-affected-american-indians-iowa/

Swierenga, Robert P. The Iowa Land Records Collection: Periscope to the Past, Books at Iowa

Wedel, Mildred Mott. Peering at the Ioway Indians through the Mist of Time: 1650–Circa 1700, Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society, vol. 33, 1986.

The Ioway, Oto, and Omaha Indians in 1700, Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society, vol. 28, 1981.

A Synonymy of Names for the Ioway Indians, Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society, vol. 25, 1978.

University Space: Van Allen Hall as an Example

In October 1963, ground was quietly broken for a major research and education center near the heart of Iowa City, Iowa. The cold war dominated politics and space science was in its early days. Popular culture was catching on to ideas of space exploration. As

Van Allen Hall Exterior (11) [Web Large]

Van Allen Hall, view facing southeast. Tim Weitzel

hallmarks of the Space Age, the popular band The Tornadoes’ instrumental ode to a satellite, Telstar, played on the radio, the Jetsons played on American television, and the science fiction hit film Dr. No, which was about a scientific genius bent on destroying the United States Space Program, played in the theaters.

Real life was only slightly less exciting. The first robotic probe to reach another planet, Mariner 2, had reached Venus in January. American Gordon Cooper orbited the earth for 34 hours in March, and in June, Soviet Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in Space. This cultural milieu resulted from the Space Race, intensified in no small part by President Kennedy’s 1961 address to Congress.

Echoing Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1957 announcement to launch a United States satellite during the International Geophysical Year, John F. Kennedy made a pledge to land an American on the Moon by the end of the 1960s. As a result, Congress had made grant funding for space programs more widely available. And despite the push for an American to be the first human on the Moon, James Van Allen played a large role in keeping a national focus on science probes even as the public eye was caught by the perhaps more relatable idea of people in space. The push for pure science lead to a need for more space to build instruments and interpret results.  Ultimately this space would arrive and become Van Allen’s namesake.

But it was not an easy road to get to the point of building the new building. It had taken five years of funding requests, negotiations, and planning.  As head of the department, James Van Allen (1914–2006) had been seeking necessary additional square footage following the department’s success with the first space physics experiment conducted by anyone on Earth.[1] 

A Proposal to Expand

The initial plan for expansion of the facilities for the University of Iowa’s Physics Department began in 1958 when space for research, teaching, and building space instruments was already tight in MacLean Hall (1912).[2] In January 1958, the University of Iowa instrument onboard the Explorer I probe—a Geiger-Müller tube connected to a

Iowa Alumi Rview v. 34, no.2 Feb-Mar 1981 0010

Van Allen on the cover of Time Magazine, May 4, 1959. Reprinted in Iowa Alumni Review, v. 34, no.2, 1981

radio transmitter, recorded what Van Allen intended to be ionizing radiation from cosmic rays, but instead, he and his graduate students determined that they had found radiation belts around Earth. Through the 1960s, Van Allen and others would theorize, and eventually explain, that the Van Allen radiation belts were caused by the interaction of the Solar wind and the Earth’s magnetosphere. But that work had yet to be completed.

At the end of the 1950s, the growth of space exploration meant more funding for research, but that meant more room was necessary to design and build space instruments and interpret data. With enrollment still increasing in part due in part to the Long Economic Boom but also due to the resulting changes in job expectations, the need for additional classroom space was also an issue. Student enrollment increased about 31 percent from 1955 to 1960.[3] 

At least partially due to the interest in space exploration, enrollment in physics courses increased at a far greater rate than had been anticipated when the MacLean Hall had been designed.[4] Nuclear weapons and requirements of expanding industry cannot be discounted as factors while physics also was increasingly seen as part of the general education curriculum for a Liberal Arts college degree.[5] Scheduling conflicts in the use of the building’s limited area were occurring between the math faculty and the physics faculty throughout the building.


George Ludwig with Data Reduction Equipment, MacLean Hall, around 1960. Frederick W. Kent. Iowa Digital Library, University of Iowa Archives

The crowded conditions of MacLean Hall in the late 1950s were well known to the scientific community of the United States.[6] The publicity that Van Allen’s department had gained with the Explorer I discoveries meant visitors of many types from many places periodically squeezed into the space science workshop at the end of the basement hallway of the 46-year-old building.[7] 

Van Allen campaigned for more research and office space to support the research of the department. With the support of university president Virgil Hancher, a concept sketch was drawn by university architect Richard R. Jordison on August 19, 1958.[8]


Proposed Physics Annex, University of Iowa. Concept sketch by Richard R. Jordison, August 19, 1958. Iowa Digital Library, University of Iowa Archives.

Interestingly, the view of the south elevation of the proposed building was labeled Physics Annex while the view of the north elevation was labeled Physics-Mathematics Building.[9] The significance of this difference is subtle and easy to overlook, but it indicates a duality that Van Allen continued to work with in the years to come.


Perspective from Capitol.
Proposed Physics-Mathematics Building, University of Iowa.
Concept sketch by Richard R. Jordison, August 19, 1958.
Iowa Digital Library, University of Iowa Archives.

In 1959, with Van Allen as department chair, astronomy staff and faculty were added to the department and the name changed to Department of Physics and Astronomy.[10] But the astronomers wouldn’t have to move at all to join the physics team because they were part of the Math Department, which was also located in MacLean Hall. Since 1860, math professors at the University of Iowa had taught astronomy.[11] MacLean Hall had been shared among the Mathematics and Physics departments from 1912 when it was completed. As a result, the proposals for a new Physics building contained an option, if not outright expectation, for shared space.

The concept for the proposed building included modular space that could be reconfigured with movable walls.[12] The five-story building was to be placed between Schaeffer Hall and MacLean Hall with walkways to connect to both buildings on the second and third floor.[13] The proposal was expected to cost between $100,000 to $250,000 out of a total request for $9.5M for eight University of Iowa projects submitted for funding.[14] 

The new building was intended to include basement laboratories for physics as well as a new math library, mathematics and physics offices, and mathematics classrooms. The idea was also floated that the classrooms could be used by the academic departments in Schaeffer Hall (1898).[15] 

President Hancher submitted the elevations and plans to the Board of Regents on behalf of the state university. The Regents approved the proposal along with the budget requests from the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts—now Iowa State University and the Iowa Teachers College —now the University of Northern Iowa. The proposal then went to the Governor for consideration and approval. From there, a budget request would be submitted to the legislature.

Governor Herschel Loveless, a fiscal conservative who was intent on reducing government spending, cut the Regents $29M funding request by $15M, or a little more than half the amount the Regents had asked for.[16] Out of that amount, the Iowa Legislature approved $6M specifically for the University of Iowa, including a new law building, chemistry building, and pharmacy building but for reasons that aren’t clear, not the Physics-Mathematics Building or the business building.[17] 

The following year, the Regents returned with the funding request for the new Physics and Mathematics building, now asking $1.5M.[18] In the proposal, the building was now called South Hall and again the shared use among many departments was suggested. The 1959 funding request also didn’t gain the support of the state government.

The reasons for the rejection this time appear to have been a mixture of aesthetic choices and fiscal policy.  There were negative opinions about the use of the Pentacrest for the new facility due to the effects the new building would have on the campus design. The Pentacrest was a plan conceived by President Charles Schaeffer toward the end of the 19th century to unify the appearance of the University. The Pentacrest plan included a landscape design by the Olmsted Brothers of Massachusetts and buildings designed by Proudfoot, Bird & Rawson of Des Moines.[19]  It is possible the legislature did not want to sacrifice this unified design, which was still in progress.  It had taken decades and yet this major campus improvement was not fully complete—the Old Dental Building would not be demolished until 1975.

An example of the negative opinion on campus was evident in the press. One letter to the editor from a university student provided a scathing rebuttal to the idea of a new building there:

Let’s have connecting annexes between all the perimetric Pentacrest buildings. And then let’s spread a huge canvas roof over the entire area and charge visitors for a sight of Old Capitol. The proceeds can be used for constructing additional parking lots. Let’s sacrifice the esthetic beauty of the Pentacrest, but not only for economy and practicality, but also for profit.[20]

Similarly, both the state senator and state representative for Iowa City continued to oppose the placement of the building on the Pentacrest as late as March, 1961. This was despite assurances by university architect George Horner that the new building would blend harmoniously with the existing architecture and would fill a similar position as the old Dental Building between MacBride and Jessup Hall.[21] Horner further posited the principal viewsheds for the Old Capitol were from the east and west. Iowa City’s members of the state legislature were not convinced by this appeal. Senator D.C. Nolan said the placement of the building would “tend to spoil the general view of the campus,” while Representative Scott Swisher suggested an entirely new building, built elsewhere,was in order for the important work being done in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.[22]

It is also clear the governor and legislature as a whole wanted to cut state expenditures, even as Hancher and the Regents annually requested support for an extensive expansion of university facilities. The funding proposal for the new building was based on the concept that the state should pay for all university improvements through tax and other revenues—a position for which it was becoming hard to win support with the state government.

In the face of the legislature’s fiscal conservatism, President Hancher still thought the state should pay for higher education facilities. The University’s funding proposals into 1961 were based on this philosophy. Hancher was wary of federal funding and the potential steering of research goals and interests that might result from external funding commitments.[23] Van Allen conceded this point to an extent, but in characteristic equivalence, he also saw no universal problems with federal funding for research and in fact was skeptical that isolated federal scientists working for the military were likely to ever produce good work.

Van Allen had gained respect among academics and government officials as a research scientist conducting weapons research at Johns Hopkins University and their Applied Physics Laboratory. The University of Iowa had a similar history with a university federal weapons research program and the department as a whole likely shared his views.[24] Van Allen was convinced better military research and science in general was carried out by civilian researchers located in universities.[25]

It may have appeared at the time that funding any new building for physics and astronomy was now at a hopeless impasse. The critics of a new building had set up two problems to solve—external funding and a location off of the Pentacrest. Then in 1960, Herschel Loveless determined he would run for Congress allowing Norman Erbe—lawyer, former mason’s assistant, summer farm hand, and military veteran, to campaign for the open Governor’s seat and win.[26] The combination of the new state leadership, more external funding in the form of federal grants, and a less aesthetically controversial site away from the Pentacrest would prove to be critical to the success of obtaining a new facility.

A New Location Sought

A parking lot at the corner of Jefferson and Dubuque Streets came into consideration for the new Physics and Mathematics building by March 1961.[27] The parking lot under consideration was in many ways ideal. It was near enough to being vacant to be easy to build on. It was also located on the land of a former university building and purchase of the property was unnecessary.

The parking lot was also the location of the former City Park. The park had been included on the original 1839 Town Plat for Iowa City. The original City Park was bounded by Iowa Avenue to the south and clockwise by Dubuque, Jefferson, and Linn streets. In 1890, Iowa City transferred ownership of the park along with the Linn Street right-of-way to the University of Iowa.[28] The park had been a prime location for the University of Iowa to expand in the late 19th century as any other lots near campus required both purchase of privately held property and demolition of the buildings located on the lots.  

The park was adjacent to a school reserve that had been granted to the university earlier. The school reserve was located in the half block on the east side of Linn Street adjacent to the city park. The lot had included the Mechanics Academy building where the first courses were taught for the University during the 1857 academic year, including natural philosophy (physics) and astronomy.[29] The Iowa legislature had donated that building to the University of Iowa twenty-four years earlier in 1866.[30] In the last decades of the 19th century the Mechanic’s Academy had been converted to the university hospital. The park was was near the expanding university campus, especially for the interrelated fields of medicine, pharmacy, and chemistry. The medical school at the time was soon to be located along Jefferson Street, just west of Dubuque Street. The university eventually demolished the Mechanics Academy and by 1899 had constructed the first unit of a new university hospital, which was later known as East Hall and then Seashore Hall.

As an experiment in new treatment methods, a homeopathic hospital was built at the southeast corner of Dubuque and Jefferson Streets on the newly acquired park block, in


State Homeopathic Hospital,
postcard image from Medical Museum, University of Iowa

1894.[31] This is the location of Van Allen Hall today and at the time was close to other medical facilities. That building was of brick construction and measured 75 feet by 60 feet and stood three stories tall. The small hospital included a lecture room and 54 beds.[32] In 1919, the Homeopathic Hospital was closed and the building became an annex to the nearby main hospital building. The Hospital Annex had a major fire in 1929 and was demolished.[33] Following this, the north half of the old park became a parking lot with only East Hall Annex remaining on the block.

Also in the 1890s East Hall Annex, originally known as the Chemistry building and soon after the Hall of Chemistry and Pharmacy, was built south of the 1894 homeopathic hospital at the northeast corner of Dubuque Street and Iowa Avenue, joining the early


Hall of Chemistry and Pharmacy,
Samuel Calvin, date unknown.
Iowa Digital Library, University of Iowa Archives

20th century medical buildings on east campus.[34] Following the relocation of the medical campus to the west side of the river, this building passed through many departments including Electrical Engineering and was last known as East Hall Annex before it was demolished in the summer of 1973. The building had been condemned for fire safety reasons 12 years previously while it was still being used by the Electrical Engineering Department due to funding issues.[35] This building was three stories tall and made of brick. The footprint measured 150 feet by 105 feet.[36] Because of its location, this building would prove to be significant in shaping the form of the new physics building.[37]

The parking lot site for a new Physics-Mathematics building was also located just north of the proposed location for the Nuclear Research Laboratory on Dubuque Street, for which funding had been approved for the equipment.[38] Hancher soon indicated the site was being considered for an eight- to ten-story general use building that would house the Physics and Mathematics Departments as well as the College of Business Administration and possibly electrical engineering.[39] 

But this building proposal also had its critics. The building was thought to be too tall. Citing a recently constructed building at Indiana University, university architect George Horner asserted that tall buildings were inefficient and that hallways and elevators would be overly crowded in this type of facility.

Ultimately, extensive grant funding for facilities was obtained and a single, tall university building to house three or more departments would not be necessary. With separate sites and funding available for the other major departments, Van Allen and Hancher returned to a plan for a new physics and mathematics building, with possible shared space with Electrical Engineering.

External Funding Sources

Efforts to secure external funding ran tandem to selecting a site for the new building.  But before the new building was approved, the Department of Physics and Astronomy prepared a grant proposal for a three- to six-mega electron volt (MeV) Van de Graaff linear accelerator. The funding for the accelerator is significant when looking at the events leading to funding of Van Allen Hall.

In the early 1960s, the University of Iowa was a leading institution not only in space physics but also nuclear physics, though Hancher publicly argued the equipment was lagging behind other institutions. This represented a remarkable accomplishment for Van Allen as chair of the department and whose PhD thesis had been on a topic in Nuclear Physics. The new accelerator would be used to test fundamental physics of baryonic matter—matter composed of standard atomic nuclei, and put the University of Iowa back at the forefront of nuclear physics.[40] 

At that time, little was known about atomic structure, especially with regard to subatomic particles, or the potential existence of dark matter. While the comparative power of an electron volt (eV) is small, the ions or particles accelerated are small as well. Therefore the resulting ions can be propelled at a considerable fraction of the speed of light allowing the strong nuclear bond in the nucleus to be broken and separating protons and neutrons. For this instrument, the speed was 13,500 miles per second. Studying the resulting collisions provides information, such as mass and charge, of the resulting ions or particles.

The acceleration potential of  the accelerator that was built was 5.5 MeV, which was then improved to 6.0 MeV. This is verging on medium-energy collisions but it also approximates particles found in space. Therefore, it was suggested in  a press release


The 5.5 MeV Van de Graaff accelerator,1963.
Frederick W. Kent, Iowa Digital Library,
University of Iowa Archives.

that the new accelerator could also be used to scale and test detectors for spaceflight instruments, though it was never used for this purpose.[41] The much smaller 2.0 MeV accelerator was always used for testing purposes but the announcement tied the new accelerator building to the space program.[42]

Professor Richard Carlson would design a metal plate, which was machined in the shops at Van Allen Hall in 1965. The new device could strip all three electrons from a lithium atom to create a three-proton ion that traveled faster and was then used to collide into the other atoms including lithium, beryllium, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen to split them into electrons, protons, and neutrons.[43] 

However, as collision energies have increased, so too the size of the collider. By 1987, the university’s linear accelerator was no longer in use because it had no further purpose for research.[44] Particle physics research in 2019 takes place at the Large Hadron Collider with confirmation work conducted at smaller cyclotrons such as the one at FermiLab in Batavia, Illinois—a facility for which Van Allen had submitted a proposal that would have placed the facility in Iowa.[45]

The National Science Foundation award appears to have helped convince the state legislature to fund the building for the accelerator and in the same award, earmark the funding for the first part of the new Physics-Mathematics building. The Regents approved the NSF grant proposal to fund the Department of Physics and Astronomy accelerator equipment in the spring of 1961 along with a recommendation to the state legislature for $300,000 for a building to house the equipment.[46] 

In the 1961 legislative session, with an agreement to look elsewhere than the Pentacrest for the Physics-Mathematics building and the potential for matching federal funding, the state legislature appropriated $1,410,000 for a new physics and mathematics building and research observatory.[47] The Nuclear Research Laboratory was funded at the requested level of $300,000 in the same appropriation, for a total project fund of  up to $1,710,000.[48] As a comparison, the new Business Administration building (Phillips Hall) was funded at $1,640,000, and the university hospital received $1,776,000 in funding that year.

A grant proposal to the NSF for a five-story Physics Research Center was submitted in March 1962, requesting $750,000 out of the total of some $2.7M estimated for the project total.[49] The proposal called for 35 laboratories for space science, high energy physics, solid state, low energy physics and other research along with office space for research,

NSF-NASA Grant Proposal - 0003 [web large]

  NSF/NASA Proposal, 1962, p 1; University Archives,
Campus Buildings and Grounds Vertical File, Van Allen Hall.

faculty, and graduate students, shops, drafting facilities, photographic facilities, storage space and receiving areas—many of the things that were most needed in MacLean Hall. The NSF had started its Graduate Science Facilities program in 1960. It provided matching grants to help universities build or renovate their research laboratories for graduate studies. From 1962, most of the funds for this program went toward new construction of graduate instructional facilities.[50] 

In September 1962, press release announced that the university had received funding under the NSF Sustaining Universities program. It was also noted that the Board of Regents approved preliminary plans for the Physics Research Center as well as a new research observatory, which would ultimately be located southwest of Hills, Iowa.[51] The NSF funding was not the only matching funds that Van Allen was able to win for the new Physics and Astronomy facility. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration had, during the summer of 1962, established a Sustaining University Program under its Office of Grants and Research Contracts.[52] 

The NASA program was the direct result of goals established by administrator James Webb.[53] The goal of the program was “to expand university research and training in the space sciences and technology in keeping pace with the Nation’s rapidly accelerating space effort.” The first five grants were made in August 1962 to build research facilities at universities.[54] The NASA program for facilities began in 1962 with just $10 million available. It peaked in 1965 at $45.7 million and was much curtailed in 1968.[55] The NASA funding could be used toward laboratory or other research space, including offices, but could not fund classrooms.[56] Effectively the same proposal material that had been submitted to NSF was submitted to the NASA Facilities Grant program, this time asking for $610,000.[57] Other than the grant amount, only a single page of the proposal was changed.

A week after the approval of the NSF funding was announced, the NASA funding came through.  NASA ultimately contributed $535,000 in actual expenditures to the University of Iowa project, which was small in comparison to many other universities over the life of the program, which ranged upward from $2M to $3M.[58] Only Harvard was lower than Iowa at $151,000. The difference in funding level might have been related to the availability of other funding sources, which for Iowa were considerable and included the state appropriation and the National Science Foundation grant.

That a building up to 10 stories tall was ever under consideration says much about the confidence of Van Allen to obtain significant funds to build the facility. His confidence was based in sound reasoning. Given the prominence of the University of Iowa in space science, it would be a sound deduction to conclude that obtaining the two national grants wasn’t a topic long in doubt. Instead, perhaps only the amounts to be awarded were ever uncertain.  

The reason for the open flow of federal resources to construct new buildings on campus was due in no small part to the Space Race. Congress favored the improvement of university facilities across the nation as a result.  The first artificial satellites, Sputnik I and Sputnik II, were launched in the fall of 1957. Not only was this a political coup for the Soviet Union, the deeper meaning behind these successes was equally vexing. The same Soviet rockets that were powerful enough to place a satellite into orbit could also place an atomic bomb capable of striking a wide range of targets across the world. In January of 1958, The United States followed the Soviet launches with the launch of Explorer I. This event catalyzed policy makers. By July, a signed authorization created NASA.[59] The next year Congressional funding for the National Science Foundation tripled to $134 million.[60] 

Then in April 1961, the Soviets successfully sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit. On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress. He said,

This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.”[61] 

Congress responded with an immediate 89 percent increase in the NASA budget.[62] The following year Congress approved another 101 percent increase for NASA that Kennedy readily signed into law. Also in 1962, Kennedy secured congressional funding for educational facilities—especially for science, math, and engineering.

In this climate, Hancher oversaw the biggest boom in new construction in University history with 15 new major academic buildings completed during the decade and twenty-one buildings overall constructed on campus between 1959 and 1968—the single largest period of university facilities construction between 1839 to 2006.[63] During this boom separate buildings were completed for Physics and Astronomy (1965) along with the Business College (Phillips Hall, 1965) and an electrical engineering addition (1964) to the engineering building (Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences).

But the reason for the success at the University of Iowa in particular to obtain space grant funding was due to the influence of Van Allen.[64] Before the success of Explorer I, Van Allen had been instrumental in designing proximity fuzes for naval weapons during World War II. His contacts from this experience as well as the success of Explorer I and subsequent low earth orbit research led to funding opportunities that he capitalized on. From 1957, he served on committees that directed the future of space science research and he was often the chair of the committees.[65] He was able to tap into Office of Naval Research funding from 1952 through the 1990s to fund research.[66] From 1957, the NSF was also a common source for research activities in the department.[67] Other grants had been obtained from the Atomic Energy Commission and the US Air Force.[68] While it is notable that Van Allen also credited the Long Economic Boom for creating a climate where government funding at the federal level was temporarily much more attainable, his own influence was clearly essential.[69]

During the summer of 1962 Van Allen and Hancher hosted the Space Science Summer Study at the University of Iowa that was attended by the director of the Space Science board as well as Fred Seitz and James Webb, the heads of NSF and NASA, along with around 200 scientists from around the country representing universities, research corporations, and the government.[70]


Space Science Summer Study 1962. From the left, Fred Seitz, NSF president; University of Iowa President Virgil Hancher; James Webb, director NASA; Hug Odishaw, executive director of the Space Science Board, NSF; James Van Allen, head of Physics and chair of the Space Science Summer Study. Iowa Alumni Review, October 1962.

The top-secret plenary sessions to discuss the future of the US space science were held in Shambaugh Auditorium in the Main Library.[71] It is highly unlikely that the two representatives of the Iowa space program didn’t at some point discuss the grant proposal submitted earlier that year during the scheduled or unscheduled activities of the event. Van Allen capitalized on widespread publicity of the cramped facilities at Maclean Hall following the 1958 success of Explorer I. James Wells wrote in 1980,

It was pointed out that Van Allen’s [space science] people were forced to do their work in a cluttered basement hallway.[72]

In the announcement of the funding approval, the Daily Iowan ran an illustration that indicated a second building matching the first unit of Van Allen Hall would be located where East Hall Annex was located, at the time still occupied by Electrical Engineering.[73] The accelerator building would be located in between the two larger wings. In the grant proposal, however, the second building was located on a north-south axis between the proposed location of Van Allen Hall and Seashore Hall.


Drawing of Proposed Building. Artists sketch of the proposed Physics-Mathematics Building as it appeared in the Daily Iowan, Nov 14, 1962.

While the building proposed in the grant proposal was named the Physics Research Building, which would later be officially named the Physics Research Center, on the public side it was still labeled as the Physics-Mathematics building for approximately one more year.[74]  The continued use of the dual idea of a new physics building that ran tandem to a shared facility with mathematics emphasizes Van Allen’s resourcefulness and ability to plan based on multiple contingencies and audiences. The caption for the sketch suggested the second building was for general use, which may have been an appeal toward resolving the earlier proposal for the eight- to ten-story general use building but also allowed for the demolition of the old Chemistry-Pharmacy building.[75]

On November 14, 1962 the Daily Iowan reported “University of Iowa Gets $650,000 grant for the Physics-Math building.” The project was to include 6 stories, 35 laboratories, and area for space sciences, high-energy physics, solid state, low-energy physics, and other research.[76] With the required funding secured, it was time to complete the design of the building.

Designing a New Facility

By late 1962, work on the arrangement of various aspects of the new building had been underway for more than a year. Calculation of rough figures of square footage requirements and listing building system needs had proceeded the grant proposals which included sample floor plans for the grant reviewers.

NSF Plans - 0005 [cropped]

  NSF/NASA Proposal, 1962, p 5; University Archives,
Campus Buildings and Grounds Vertical File, Van Allen Hall.

The initial process of designing a building is called architectural programming. This is the step where the essential of goals, wants, needs, and budget of a building are laid out for the design team.  For this preliminary work, a building committee comprised of members of the department was formed to do the programming aspect of the design. The committee consisted of Richard Carlson (1913–2001), Stanley Bashkin (1923–2007), and James P. Wells (1913–1982).[77] 

Carlson served as the committee chair. He was a faculty member who was appointed in 1951 and was mentioned regarding the university’s nuclear physics research. Stanley Bashkin was a faculty member appointed in 1953 and also worked in nuclear physics. He resigned and took a position with the University of Arizona in 1962.[79] Wells was an editorial assistant for the University of Iowa News and Information Service from 1952 until 1958, when he was appointed as an administrative assistant in the Department of Physics and Astronomy from where he retired in 1979. Wells prepared articles and news releases regarding the launching of University of Iowa satellites and other projects from 1958 to 1963 and following this conducted other administrative services. The building committee compiled much of the measurements and queried staff and faculty and noted requirements in a rough layout also submitted to the NSF and NASA in the grant proposals.[78]

As a guide to their programming work, the building committee consulted the volume Modern Physics Buildings: Design and Function.[80] This hardbound volume calls for many of the same items cited as desirable by the departmental faculty and staff: demonstration lecture halls, instructional laboratories, advanced instruction space (meeting rooms and laboratories), and research and academic support facilities such as a library, shops, loading areas, elevators, colloquium rooms, and administrative offices.[81] 

The book is essentially a step wise review of exemplary buildings and how their qualities could be applied to building design for physics buildings, combined science buildings, or commercial research buildings. Essential to the development of Van Allen Hall would have been the chapters involving staff input in the design process, including planning aids and design tools. Also included were working drafts of sample floor plans for various rooms and facilities including lecture hall elevations, which are vertically arranged plans. The samples included 15 physics and physics-mathematics buildings, 10 combined sciences buildings—including engineering, four industrial research laboratories, and four buildings in the design process.[82] 

The book also outlined building systems recommendations, especially for radioactive containment, electrical connections, mechanical connections, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.[83] The book went as far as to recommend a subscription list of periodicals for the library.[84] Also key in the advice provided is discussions of physical space distribution and circulation needs and the suggestion to build facilities in segments allowing for funding to keep pace with the expenses of construction and equipment.[85]

What the book did not include was recommendations for the amount of space to be given to various uses, though those could be surmised from the sample floorplans. No specification was made as to the architectural style of the building and example buildings ranged widely from Neoclassical to Modern in tastes.[86] Given the record of the associate architects, it was clear their influence is evident in the final design of the building, including many choices for executing the structural elements of the building. 


Physics-Mathematics Building.
“The Physics-Mathematics Building will greatly aid SUI’s Space Age commitments.”
Iowa Alumni Review, October

Bids for the design of the new building were requested with estimates for the anticipated cost range made by the University Architects George Horner and Richard Jordison of near $30 per square foot at around 83,200 square feet of total space.[87] Durrant and Bergquist, the same firm that had designed the Nuclear Research Laboratory, were selected as the associate architectural firm to complete the design.[88] Durrant and Berquist had a long history of public funded design work and their creativity is evident in the design of the new building.[89] A concept sketch of their proposed design was published along with the announcement of funding received.[90] In his history of the department, James Wells stated,

The building was to have a timeless quality, avoiding modes of fashion. It was not to appear glossily new when first occupied nor antiquated too early in the 21st century. Somehow the outlines and colors should become an intermediate phase between the classic limestone structures of the central campus and the tan and red brick [of Seashore Hall to] the east.[91]

Due to various factors, ranging from funding to space allocation on the University of Iowa campus, the design sketched out in the grant proposals changed.  By October 1963, a rendering of the proposed building no longer showed the second wing for classroom

NSF Plans - 0002 [cropped]

 NSF/NASA Proposal, 1962, p 2; University Archives, Campus Buildings and Grounds Vertical File, Van Allen Hall. Shown are the Acclerator tower as a cross hatched square area, The hatched rectangle of the proposed buidling across the top, and a proposed future addition, detailed in a press release of Feb 10, 1962 as the Educational Data Processing Center.

and general use and the computer center wing shown in the NSF proposal was also absent.[92] The layout for the Nuclear Physics Laboratory building was rotated ninety degrees from the sample shown in the grant proposals.

Bids were opened for the new Physics Research Center in early October 1963.[93] Viggo M. Jensen Company of Iowa City submitted the low bid at $908,000, which was much lower than the cost estimates.[94] This in turn lead to speculation in the department that the university had padded their cost estimates with hopes of retaining some of the extra funds.[95] Van Allen quickly sought to make use of the left over funds by adding a floor to the building and using the remaining surplus of grant money to buy equipment.[96] 

In a carefully structured letter of memorandum to the University Business Office from November 8, 1963, Van Allen noted his meeting with President Hancher the previous day, stating that that they had come to the agreement for the seventh floor to be added to the proposed Physics Research Center and an additional, third floor for the astronomy research observatory that was being built southwest of Hills, Iowa.[97] In the letter he lists the proposed uses of the building and the need for additional space, including space sciences, instrument development, data analysis, nuclear physics, particle acceleration, theoretical physics, quantum field theory, statistical mechanics, and exploration of the structure of complex nuclei as well as radio astronomy when the equipment was not being used for telemetry and data transmission for the space science program.

Van Allen stated the new solid state program in particular required more space than originally planned and he stated he anticipated low temperature, high energy, and chemical physics would be added in the new research building. He notes the new equipment to include a large magnet—documented elsewhere as weighing two tons and having pole faces a foot in diameter, and a heavy equipment room as well as space for theoretical astrophysics. He reiterated that the federal funding for the Physics Research Center came to $1,083,000.

Despite the confident tone of the letter, apparently not all was sitting right with Van Allen. The Business Office had decided to create a program known as indirect costs, which effectively was a direct deduction from all external funds that would be paid by the recipient department as a set percentage of the grant or contract that went into the general fund of the university for the operation and maintenance of facilities and administration. Van Allen was clearly unhappy that out of a $1.4M annual income from federal programs, $150,000 or almost 11 percent went to “overhead charges.” This policy became the norm for the university and exists today but it was a long source of contention for Van Allen with the administration, writing at one point,

[Indirect costs were] an improper [policy] for dealing with grants and research contracts, which are obtained by individual investigators or alliances of investigators for academic work in specific areas.[98]

At another point Van Allen wrote that funds were being “piped off” with no guarantee that the funds would be used for, say, his department’s library or other items to improve the department’s research and teaching capabilities. In his memoir, university administrator D.C. Spreistersbach contended that the indirect costs pay for power, lighting, and heating and shared services such as the university libraries and computing centers.[99] 

That the computing center was funded in this way was another point of contention for Van Allen. Use of digital computers was greatly expanding in the 1960s and the early 1970s. The use of these computers for data analysis had been pioneered at the University of Iowa by the Department of Physics and Astronomy for faculty and student research as well as the Iowa Testing Program run by E.F. Lindquist.

On Van Allen’s side of that equation, computers were used to calculate data in space experiments from 1960 forward. Joseph Kasper (1920–2001), then a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, had completed his PhD thesis in 1959 using an IBM Type 704 computer that was located in Detroit, Michigan. He used the computer to calculate the trajectories of around 2,000 charged particles in a magnetic field. His results were published in 1960. Previously this kind of work had to be done with oscillographs and the calculations were all performed manually.[100] Digital computers saved enormous amounts of time and effort.

In addition to graduate research, the department began processing satellite data using computers allowing for more timely discoveries. It was for these reasons that a computer center was proposed to be built adjacent to both the new physics and astronomy building and Seashore Hall where the College of Education’s testing researchers worked.[101] But increasingly academic use of computer equipment was being directed toward student instruction.[102] Soon, the university would invest in the University Computing Center and the facility planned to be shared by space physics and the Iowa Testing Program wasn’t built. Instead the center was eventually incorporated into a new building for the College of Education as the Weeg Computing Center.


Carl McIlwain and New Data Processor Equipment, The University of Iowa, September 9, 1960. Frederick W. Kent, Iowa Digital Library, University of Iowa Archives

Despite that, Van Allen continued to champion computer equipment that was primarily intended for physics and astronomy use. Van Allen proposed that departments should be allowed to purchase their own equipment provided they could maintain it, fund it, and that it more directly served the needs of the department.[103] Ultimately, The department did succeed in owning and maintaining their own computing equipment, which began before 1965 and continued through the 1990s.[104] 

The differences between department and administration to one side, the university highly publicized the receipt of the NSF and NASA grants in press releases and in alumni publications. Construction started on the new Physics Research Center at the end of October of 1963.[105] It would have been easy to ignore the ground clearing activities near Jefferson and Dubuque streets in the flurry of construction occurring at the time and over the next three years on campus. The Nuclear Physics Laboratory was already under construction next door to the new building site and active construction sites for Phillips Hall and the addition to the biology building were nearby.


Constrution on the Original Section of Van Allen Hall, July 1964. Frederick W. Kent, Iowa Digital Library, University of Iowa Archives.

By the time the new physics and astronomy building was under construction it was  agreed that mathematics would remain in Maclean Hall.[106] The old physics building was renamed Mathematical Sciences Building around 1967, signalling the intent for the building to become primarily the home of the Mathematics Department. That incidentally lasted just two years. By 1969, the building was renamed MacLean Hall at the same time that University Hall was renamed Jessup Hall.[107] In addition to the Mathematics Department, MacLean would also eventually house the new Computer Science Department. Classroom and laboratory space for undergraduate instruction in physics and astronomy stayed in MacLean Hall from 1965 to 1970.

From the distance of time, the construction pace for a seven story building in what was then a relatively new technique—a reinforced concrete superstructure clad with precast concrete wall units, seemed ambitious. In some anecdotes of staff members from that time, there were a few mistakes made. For instance, at one point a section of forms were removed before the concrete had fully achieved strength and a floor collapsed.[108] But progress seems to have been good just the same.

As late as October 1964, there were news reports stating the building would not be completed until some point in 1966.[109] The construction of the Physics Research Center was actually completed ahead of that estimate in the fall of 1965.[110] Moving occurred primarily in August of that year, though some furnishings and equipment began to arrive as early as June and some of the interior spaces of the building were not completed until later in the year, especially the finish work on the first floor and basement.[111] 

Additional amenities included a research library, a colloquium room with walnut furniture, a conference room with a 16.5-ft table, a commons, a large machine shop with 40 floor tools and a crane to position equipment where it was needed for workflow. There were three auxiliary shops, a computing center on the second floor and a publications office, and a main entry with 10 glass display cases. Basement rooms, shielded from cosmic rays for testing and calibrating space instruments held an electronic shaker drum, an X-ray transformer, an environmental chamber, and the 2 MeV Van de Graaff linear accelerator for space instrument testing brought over from MacLean Hall.[112]

The 1970 addition was begun in 1967. The pace of construction was again timely with construction taking just over two years to complete. A temporary delay of construction

20170619_090427 [Web Large]

Van Allen Hall, view facing northwest. Tim Weitzel

occurred in the spring of 1970 due to a labor strike but the building was completed in the last quarter of the year, some three months late.[113] When completed, the addition contained 13 lecture rooms and classrooms, 21 laboratories for basic and advanced instruction, 3 science education laboratories, and the departmental library was expanded by 200 feet.[114] There were two small auditoriums for large lectures seating 300 and 150 people. These lecture rooms had state of the art acoustic and audio-visual equipment with sound and projection rooms and “attractive brick-faced sidewalls,” that were a design element from the architects.[115] Science Education was placed on the 4th floor and Astronomy had the 7th floor and roof.[116]

20170619_090713 [Web Large]

Lecture Room II, Van Allen Hall. Tim Weitzel

The addition was intended for instructional use and would reunite all aspects of the department in one building. The proposal included student laboratories, general use classrooms and lecture rooms, and a half-floor for the Science Education Center of the College of Education.[117] 

Other External Funding

Other federal programs matched to state appropriations would be utilized for the 1970 classroom addition to the building. Planning for new classroom space had begun at about the same time as the research building, but funding sources were harder to find for undergraduate instruction at that time. Regardless, by 1966 serious consideration was being given to the classroom addition of the building that had been shown in the first concept sketches of the building in 1962.[120] In September 1967, The Board of Regents approved the $2.45M addition for physics and astronomy with DDDK&G as architects and Fane F. Vawter and Company selected as general contractor.[121] DDDK&G was the successor firm to Durrant and Berquist.[122]

To the consternation of the department, the College of Education space in the 1970 addition expanded by 1975 to much more area than originally planned at the expense of the Physics and Astronomy classroom space. Part of this point of contention was the perception that once again grants secured by Van Allen had made the building possible and the University was taking an unfair portion of it for other uses. But similar to the original portion for the building, a substantial appropriation from the state had been part of the funding. Where Van Allen had secured $739,497 for the addition from two grants through the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, a much larger sum of $1.71M was appropriated by the Legislature in the Spring of 1967.[118] The HEW funding was made available through an expansion of the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963, which funded buildings for undergraduate instruction.[119]

In 1966, another opportunity for a different type of funding for facilities arrived as a one-off event. The University of Iowa ran a robust series of low earth orbit experiments through the 1960s into the late 1970s. A station for receiving satellite data had been built southwest of Hills around 1965. The station consisted of a radio dish mounted on a surplus WWII gun armature and that on a tower designed by University of Iowa engineering faculty member Ned Ashton.  This was emblematic of the UI Space Science program, a can-do attitude for science, with military left-overs and unique funding sources conducted in the midwestern fields of Iowa.

A utility company was constructing an electric power transmission line just north of Hills, Iowa.  Antennas work by receiving or emitting radio and other electromagnetic


Hills Tracking Station, Iowa Alumni Review, October 1964

signals outside of the visible spectrum. Power transmission lines create strong electrical and a magnetic field in their vicinity. The electrical field of the line was strong enough that it interfered with the sensitive satellite receiver and radio astronomy research antenna that was located at the research observatory.

The private company offered to provide $85,000 as financial assistance to relocate the antenna elsewhere.[123] This resulted in a new radio observatory and satellite data receiving station on land rented from the US Army Corps of Engineers northeast of North Liberty, Iowa. A new 60-foot dish was bought and the older dish and tower moved to the new location. The results were a new facility, done with as much money put toward science as possible by saving expenses in creative ways. The antenna was later replaced in 1986 when operations of the North Liberty observatory were transferred to the Long Baseline Observatory and a new 82-foot dish was constructed.[124]

University News Service  van-allen-hirez3.jpg

Van Allen at the North Liberty Radio Observatory with one of 10 twenty-five-meter radio-telescope antennas across the globe that make up the Very Long Baseline, February 1994. Tom Jorgensen, University of Iowa Office of University Relations.

Van Allen Hall’s Legacy

Van Allen Hall has been important to the history of the university and national space program, which has grown from a small, provisional cosmic radiation laboratory at the end of the basement in Maclean Hall into an advanced set of workshops and clean rooms to create instruments and vessels in low earth orbit and exploration of the solar system and beyond. Many instruments have been and continue to be built utilizing the machine shops and electronics assembly shops in the building.[125] 

With the successes of several Explorer and Injun experiments behind them and a new building being occupied by early September 1965, the Department of Physics and Astronomy quickly began to shift the focus of the department’s activities and identity there. But the academic side of the department remained unsettled by the separation of classroom space in MacLean Hall from the faculty offices in the Physics Research Center until the classroom addition was completed in 1970.[126]

Although the department has always had multiple areas of research interests, including nuclear and particle physics, solid state research, and radio and optical astronomy—space science is among the top achievements of the University of Iowa in securing new knowledge of broad importance to both the public and the scientific community. The magnetospheric and planetary plasma physics, both aspects of space physics, in particular were pioneering and world class.[127]

Van Allen was very confident in the abilities and contributions of the University of Iowa to the US space science program. In 1981, he offered the following opinion,

[We are] the leading university in the world in the field. There have been more flights, more fundamental discoveries and more work done here than at any other university in the world.[128]

The success of the department is the result of significant contributions to science as well as continued public advocacy, a demonstrated ability to secure funding, and a strong commitment to educating new researchers and academic scientists. At the same time, Van Allen remained somewhat humble about his own presence in the department, stating that,

The Department of Physics and Astronomy is in good shape. I could possibly disappear and nobody would miss me. We have some very good younger people, and some not so terribly young any more, like Lou Frank and [Donald] Gurnett and others. I got them all started.[129]

Van Allen taught many individuals who, after obtaining their advanced degrees at the University of Iowa, have gone on to contribute significantly to the fields of physics and space research, two of which include prominent professors in physics at the University of Iowa—Lou Frank (1939–2014) and Donald Gurnett.

While continuing their ongoing research missions with the Pioneer, Injun, and Mariner line of missions, the department began to prepare the next generation of space science instruments for which Van Allen and his former graduate students were instrumental in designing.[130] Frank in particular was in charge of the Low-energy Proton Electron Differentiating Electrostatic Analyzer and Gurnett worked on detecting radio waves in electric fields with his hallmark antenna array. They were detecting specifically space plasma where the electrons are separated from the atom forming ions and the two freely circulate within the field.  This has implications for both the study of magnetospheres around certain planets but also differences in local space, such as the Heliopause at the edge of the Solar System. The successes of the 1960s were the foundation for success in the 1970s and those successes in turn have carried on to the present, now more than 50 years since the building was first occupied.

The department placed instruments on spacecraft that visited most of the eight planets and other objects in the solar system. Those instruments were designed, built, and tested in Van Allen Hall. While Van Allen continued to daily monitor the data from instruments onboard Pioneer 10 and 11, which also were designed at Van Allen Hall, Gurnett and Frank designed other instruments for other missions, including the Plasma Diagnostic Package which was the first probe released and recaptured by the Space Shuttle program as well as instruments on Voyagers 1 & 2, a comet exploration mission, Mariner Venus Probe, Galileo, and Cassini.

The students of these two professors have gone on to contribute significantly to space physics research as well, holding key positions at NASA and at research universities, as academic professors, and as corporate researchers and designers of space flight instruments. Others with doctorates work on the current instrument missions for the University of Iowa, such as the Mars Express mission, Juno, and Craig Kletzing’s Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites (TRACERS), which is part of NASA’s Explorers Program studying how the sun affects space and the space environment around planets and is the largest grant ever awarded to the University of Iowa.[131] Other graduates work at the private research using the Hubble Telescope, design electronics for public and private space flight at Collins Aerospace, teach college level physics and astronomy, and work with or for various divisions of NASA, including the Wallops Flight Facility and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Prominent graduates include Jim Green (PhD 1979), NASA Planetary Science Division Director and William Ferrall, (PhD 1987), plasma physicist in the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Changing Names

Van Allan Hall was initially named Physics Research Center and the addition completed in 1970 initially went by the name Physics Research Center II. In May of 1971, the name of the building was formally changed to Physics Building.[132] There is speculation that the name change may have been due to civil unrest related to the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970 and other potential liabilities from being a known research facility.[133] There is also indication that the building was informally called the Physics Building from 1965 and the change simply honored that fact.[134] 

In 1981, a campaign led by rhetoric instructor Steven Vibbert was successful in renaming the Physics Building to Van Allen Hall. The name change was approved by the Board of Regents the following year.

The naming of a building for a living person who was still the department chair was unprecedented. Speaking to the Daily Iowan in 1980, Vibbert described how he came up with the idea to rename the Physics Building in honor of Van Allen. He said the University of Iowa has three goals—Education, Service, and Research and that no one has been the example that Van Allen set by continued teaching excellence, unquestionable research, and helped both Iowa City and the World.[135] 


The author thanks the following people for reviewing this article for content: Bruce Randall, George Hospedarsky, James Kasper.


Barlow, Charles and Wayne Faupel. Acts and Joint Resolutions Passed at the Regular Session of the Fifty-eighth General Assembly of the State of Iowa. Des Moines: State of Iowa, 1959. https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/publications/iactc/58.1/1959_Iowa_Acts.pdf

Acts and Joint Resolutions Passed at the Regular Session of the Fifty-ninth General Assembly of the State of Iowa. Des Moines: State of Iowa, 1961. https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/publications/iactc/59.1/1961_Iowa_Acts.pdf

Brcak, Nancy and Jean Sizemore. The “New” University of Iowa: A Beaux-Arts Design for the Pentacrest, Annals of Iowa, Vol. 51, No. 2, 1991.

Foerstner, Abigail. James Van Allen: The First Eight Billion Miles. University of Iowa Press. 2007.

Gerber, John. A Pictorial History of the University of Iowa: An Expanded Edition. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005.

Green, Constance and Milton Lomask. Vangaurd: A History, The NASA Historical Series, Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1970. https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4202.pdf

HEW. A Common Thread of Service: A History of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, excerpt from US Department of Health, Education and Welfare publication no. (OS) 73-45, July 1, 1972. https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/common-thread-service/history-department-health-education-and-welfare.

Kennedy, John F. Special Message to Congress on Urgent National Needs, May 25, 1961. https://www.jfklibrary.org/asset-viewer/archives/JFKPOF/034/JFKPOF-034-030

Report to the Congress from the President of the United States, United States Aeronautics and Space Activities, 1962. https://history.nasa.gov/presrep1962.pdf

Lewis, Richard. UI wins its largest-ever research award, Iowa Now. https://now.uiowa.edu/2019/06/ui-wins-its-largest-ever-research-award

Mazuzen, George. Chapter 3, The National Science Foundation: A Brief History, 1994. https://www.nsf.gov/about/history/nsf50/nsf8816.jsp

Miller, Wiliam. Supplement to Revised and Annotated Code of Iowa Containing Acts and Resolutions of the Twenty-third General Assembly. Des Moines: Mills Publishing Co., 1890. https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/shelves/acts/ocr/Iowa%20Acts%2023GA%20(1890).pdf

Newell, Homer. Beyond the Atmosphere: Early Years of Space Science, Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1980. https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4211/cover.htm

Personal Communications

Randall, Bruce, PhD. January 5, 2014.

Suszcynsky, David, Ph.D. January 7, 2014.

Pickard, Josiah. Historical Sketch of the State University of Iowa, Annals of Iowa, vol. 4, no. 1, pp 1–66, 1899. https://doi.org/10.17077/0003-4827.2347

Scott, John and Rodney Lehnertz. The University of Iowa Guide to Campus Architecture. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2006.

Spriestersbach, D.C., The Way it Was: The University of Iowa 1964–1989. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 1999.

Task Force to Assess NASA University Programs. A Study to Assess University Programs, Washington, D.C: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1968. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19680026092.pdf

Van Allen, James. My Life at APL, pp. 173–177. Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest, Vol. 18, No. 2, 1997. https://www.jhuapl.edu/Content/techdigest/pdf/V33-N03/33-03-Krimigis.pdf

Van Nimmen, Jane, Leonoard Burno, and Robert Rosholt, NASA Historical Data Book: 1958–1968, Vol 1, NASA Resources, Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1976. https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4012v1.pdf

Weitzel, Tim. The Architectural Firms of Joseph George Durrant, On Diverse Arts and Sciences, March, 2017. https://timweitzel.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/the-architectural-firms-of-joseph-george-durrant/

Wells, James P. Annals of a University of Iowa Department: From Natural Philosophy to Physics and Astronomy. Unpublished manuscript. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa. 1980. http://www-pw.physics.uiowa.edu/ProfVanAllen/annals_UI_NaturalPhilosophyToPhysicsAstronomy.pdf

[1] Sputnik 1 was the first human made object in space and this began the space age on October 4, 1957. Sputnik 2 carried the dog Laitka into space on November 3, 1957 and was the first biological experiment in space.

[2] Wells, 1980, p 190; ; MacLean Hall was originally named Physics Building. It was also known as Mathematical Sciences Building after 1966. It was Renamed Maclean Hall around 1969. For buildings, the dates indicate completion of construction and dates of major alterations or demolition. For people, dates in parenthesis indicate birth and death for a deceased person.

[3] University of Iowa Archives, Enrollment Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/sc/archives/faq/faqenrollment

[4] Wells, 1980, p 190;  NSF/NASA Proposal, 1962, p 7; University Archives, Campus Buildings and Grounds Vertical File, Van Allen Hall. The Physics building, completed in 1912, was the third building where physics was taught. It was renamed MacLean Hall around 1969. Until 1967, it was known only as the Physics Building.

[5] Palmer and Rice, 1961, p 1. 

[6] Daily Iowan, Sep 19, 1958, p 1. Iowa Alumni Review, Aug 1964, p 2.

[7] Wells, 1980, p 190.

[8] Iowa Digital Library, Proposed Physics-Mathematics Building on Pentacrest, The University of Iowa, August 19, 1958, Frederick W. Kent Collection of Photographs, 1866-2000, Collection ID.: RG30.0001.001, file name.:bldgs172-0008.jpg                         

[9] Iowa Digital Library, Proposed Physics Building on Pentacrest, The University of Iowa, August 19, 1958, Frederick W. Kent Collection of Photographs, 1866-2000, Collection ID.: RG30.0001.001, file name.: bldgs172-0007.jpg

[10] Wells, 1980, p 197.

[11] Pickard, 1899, p 36.

[12] Daily Iowan, Sep 19, 1958, p 1.

[13] Daily Iowan, Dec 11, 1958, p 1; Daily Iowan, Dec 11, 1958, p 1.

[14] At this time the University of Iowa was officially the State University of Iowa; Daily Iowan, Dec 11, 1958, p 1.; Daily Iowan, Dec 10, 1958, p 1; Daily Iowan, Sep 19, 1958, p 1.

[15] Daily Iowan, Sep 19, 1958, p 1.

[16] Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, Loveless, Herschel C.; Daily Iowan, Feb 10, 1959, p 2.

[17] Barlow and Faupel, 1959, p 36.

[18] Daily Iowan, Nov 11, 1959, p 1.

[19] Brcak and Sizemore, 1991, pp 149–167; National Register of Historic Places Reference No.: 78001230.

[20] Daily Iowan, Dec 10, 1958, p 2.

[21] Daily Iowan, Mar 15, 1961, p 6.

[22] Daily Iowan, Mar 15, 1961, p 6. 

[23] Spriestersbach, 1999, p 227.

[24] Wells, 1980, pp 136, 143.

[25] Van Allen, 1997;

[26] Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, Erbe, Norman A.

[27] Daily Iowan, Mar 15, 1961, p 6. 

[28] Miller, 1890, p 167.

[29] Wells, 1890, p 4.

[30] Analogously to Congressional jurisdiction for Washington, D.C., the State of Iowa still controlled Iowa City at the time; History of Johnson County, Iowa, 1883, p 381.

[31] Gerber 2005, p 77.

[32] Pickard, 1899, p 27.

[33] Manshiem, 1989, p 157; Gerber 2005, p 77.

[34] Gerber 2005, p 78.

[35] Daily Iowan, Mar 15, 1961, p 6.

[36] Pickard, 1899, p 27.

[37] Daily Iowan, May 14, 1973, p 10; Daily Iowan, Jun 12, 1974, p 3.

[38] Daily Iowan, Mar 10, 1961, p 1.

[39] Daily Iowan, Mar 15, 1961, p 6.

[40] University of Iowa press release, Dec 21, 1966; Daily Iowan, Dec 21, 1966. A good description of how this particular accelerator worked was provided by Lynn Sampson in the Daily Iowan, May 21, 1963, p 3. http://dailyiowan.lib.uiowa.edu/DI/1963/di1963-05-21.pdf. Further descriptions are provided in an article on July 4, 1964, pp 1, 8. http://dailyiowan.lib.uiowa.edu/DI/1963/di1963-07-04.pdf.

[41] University of Iowa press release, Dec 26, 1961.

[42] Bruce Randall, personal communication

[43] Daily Iowan, Dec 21, 1966, p 4.

[44] University of Iowa press release, Sep 26, 1997.

[45] Daily Iowan, November 19, 1965; Spreistersbach, 1999, p 13.

[46] Daily Iowan, March 11, 1961, p. 3

[47] Barlow, 1961, p 37.

[48] Barlow, 1961, p 37.

[49] NSF/NASA Grant Proposal, 1962, University Archives, Campus Buildings and Grounds Vertical File, Van Allen Hall.

[50] Mazuzan, 1994.

[51] University of Iowa press release, Sep 22, 1962; Jan 12, 1963; Daily Iowan, Nov 14, 1962, p 7.

[52] Newell, 1980, p 226.

[53] Newell, 1980, p 225.

[54] Kennedy, 1962, p 29; University of Iowa Press Release, Sep 22, 1962.

[55] Van Nimmen, Burno and Rosholt, 1976, pp 134,136. Newell, 1980, Chs 13, 14.

[56] Task Force, 1968, p 57.

[57] NSF/NASA Proposal, 1962, p 1; University Archives, Campus Buildings and Grounds Vertical File, Van Allen Hall.

[58] Task Force, 1968, p 56.

[59] National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (PL 85–568).

[60] Mazuzen, 1994.

[61] Kennedy, 1961.

[62] Logsdon, 2011.

[63] Mansheim, 1989, p 193; Gerber 2005, p. 165; Scott and Lehnertz, 2006, p 235; The Nuclear Physics Building was completed in 1964, The first part of Van Allen Hall was not completed until 1965, however the University records group the two as a single building creating confusion over the completion date for Van Allen Hall; Information for the period following 2006 has not been published.

[64] Spreistersbach, 1999, p 230.

[65] Foerstner, pp 2007, 77, 137, 231; Daily Iowan, Jan 3, 1958, p 1; Green and Lomask, 1970, p 97.

[66] Spreistersbach, 1999, p 228.

[67] Spreistersbach, 1999, p 227.

[68] NSF/NASA Grant Proposal, 1962, University Archives, Campus Buildings and Grounds Vertical File, Van Allen Hall. 

[69] Spreistersbach, 1999, p 228.

[70] Iowa Alumni Review, Oct 1962, p 4.

[71] Daily Iowan, Sep 25, 1962, p 2; Iowa Alumni Review, Oct 1962, p 6.

[72] Wells, 1980, p 190.

[73] Daily Iowan, Nov 14, 1962, p 7;

[74] Daily Iowan, Nov 14, 1962, p 7; Iowa Alumni Review, Oct 1963, p 10.

[75] Daily Iowan, Nov 14, 1962, p 7.

[76] University of Iowa press release, Jan 12, 1963; Wells, 1980, p 212.

[77] Wells, 1980, p 211. 

[78] NSF/NASA Grant Proposal, 1962, University Archives, Campus Buildings and Grounds Vertical File, Van Allen Hall. 

[79] Wells, 1980, p 197. 

[80] Wells, 1980, p 207.

[81] Palmer and Rice, 1961, p 4; c.f. Wells, 1980, p 209.

[82] Palmer and Rice, 1961, p 15; p 24; p 26; p. 56; p 137.

[83] Palmer and Rice, 1961, p 283; p 31; p 35; p 42, 145.

[84] Palmer and Rice, 1961, p 11.

[85] Palmer and Rice, 1961, p 25; p 20.

[86] As examples, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of Virginia, Charlottesville; Colorado State University, Brigham Young University, University of Georgia.

[87] Wells, 1980, p 211.

[88] University of Iowa press release, Sep 15, 1962; Daily Iowan, Feb 10, 1962, p 1.

[89] Weitzel, 2017.

[90] Daily Iowan, Nov 11, 1962, p 7.

[91] Wells, 1980, p 210.

[92] Iowa Alumni Review, Oct 1963, p 10.

[93] Wells, 1980, p 213; Daily Iowan, October 9, 1963, p. 5.

[94] Daily Iowan, October 9, 1963, p. 5.

[95] Wells, 1980, p 213.

[96] Daily Iowan, Nov 16, 1963, p. 6.

[97] Letter of Memorandum from James Van Allen to University of Iowa Business Office, Nov, 8, 1963.

[98] Spriestersbach, 1999, p 6.

[99] Spriestersbach, 1999, p 49; Spriestersbach was dean of the UI Graduate College from 1965 to 1989 and served as vice president for research, vice president for educational research and development, and acting president of the university. 

[100] Spriestersbach, 1999, p 155.

[101] Spriestersbach, 1999, p 50.

[102] Spriestersbach, 1999, p 51.

[103] Spriestersbach, 1999, p 161.

[104] Spriestersbach, 1999, p 155.

[105] Wells, 1980, p 214.

[106] Wells, 1980, p 208.

[107] Daily Iowan, Sep 16, 1967, p. 1. ; University of Iowa campus map, 1967, from Catalogue of the State University of Iowa: 1967, Iowa Digital Library, collection ID, RG01.08, file name 1967.jpg. University of Iowa campus map, 1968, from Catalogue of the State University of Iowa: 1968, Iowa Digital Library, collection ID, RG01.08, file name 1968.jpg. University of Iowa campus map, 1969, from Catalogue of the State University of Iowa: 1969, Iowa Digital Library, collection ID, RG01.08, filename 1969-2_Index.jpg.

[108] Bruce Randall, personal communication.

[109] Daily Iowan, Oct 27, 1964, p 6.

[110] University of Iowa Historic Buildings Inventory, Buildings and Grounds Vertical Files, University of Iowa Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

[111] Wells, 1980, p 216.

[112] Wells, 1980, p 219; Bruce Randall, personal communication.

[113] Foerstner, 2007, p . 238; Wells, 1980, p 225.

[114] Wells, 1980, p 226. 

[115] Wells, 1980, p 227; Weitzel 2017.

[116] Daily Iowan, Sep 16, 1967, p. 1

[117] Daily Iowan, Sep 16, 1967, p. 1; Wells, 1980, p 226.

[118] Daily Iowan, Sep 16, 1967, p 1; Spriestersbach, 1999, p 231; Wells, 1980, p 225.

[119] Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963, as amended PL 88-204. The 1966 amendment allowed art costs to be counted in the development cost of facilities (PL 89-752), while a 1965 law doubled the funds available for 1966 grant cycle (PL 89–329); HEW, 1972.

[120] NSF/NASA Grant Proposal, 1962, University Archives, Campus Buildings and Grounds Vertical File, Van Allen Hall. 

[121] Daily Iowan, Sep 16, 1967, p. 1

[122] Weitzel, 2017.

[123] University of Iowa press release, Oct 8, 1966. 

[124] Iowa Alumni Review, Mar-Apr 1986, p 10.

[125] Foerstner, 2007, p. 207.

[126] Wells, 1980, p 223.

[127] David Suszcynsky, personal communication

[128] Iowa Alumni Review, February–March, 1981, p 12.

[129] Iowa Alumni Review, February–March, 1981, p 12.

[130] Wells, 1980, p 233. Synopsis of the various programs are provided here:  Pioneer, Mariner, University of Iowa Injun and Hawkeye (Explorer 52).

[131] Lewis, 2019.

[132] University of Iowa press release, May 15, 1971.

[133] Daily Iowan, July 29, 1983.

[134] Bruce Randall, Personal Communication.

[135] Daily Iowan, Apr 8, 1980, p. 1

Thomas B. Wales, Jr. and The Brookbank Herd

BrookbankHerdLibraryofCongress--02333r jpg (JPEG Image, 640 × 494 pixels)

For a period of 10 years, 1881 to 1891, Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa, was home to one of the leaders of the Holstein breeders of the United States. Thomas Beale Wales, Jr. (18391922) was a dairy stock breeder who is associated with the history of the Holstein breed of cattle in the United States and inventor of the first recording system for tracking animal pedigree. Many of his notable accomplishments occurred while his farm was established at what was then just east of the limits of Iowa City, in east Lucas Township, Johnson County, Iowa.

Wales’ primary achievements were promoting, raising, breeding,  and cataloging purebred Holstein cattle. Wales was publisher of the Holstein herd book for twelve years and as an aid to his process, he devised a card catalog not for library materials but for cattle.[1]  A cow he bred won the world record in butter production.[2] Wales was lauded for his work during life and eulogized in trade publications at his death.[3] Wales was a founding member and one of three vice-presidents for the Association of Breeders of Thoroughbred Holstein Cattle.[4] He was a founding member and first secretary of the Holstein-Friesian Association of America, a position he held from 1885 to 1893.[5]  These organizations led to the current Holstein Association USA, which is primarily concerned with pedigree and promotion of Holstein dairy cattle.[6]  Wales was president of the Iowa Holstein-Friesian association for a number of years.[7] Wales also listed himself as member of the the Iowa Improved Stock Breeders Association, Aberdeen Angus Association, and Jersey Association and served multiple terms as president  of the Holstein-Friesian Association of Iowa.[8] 

From a modern farm on the east side of Iowa City he raised a number of  champion butter cows and breeder bulls.  From an office downtown he cataloged breeding stock for the Holstein and Holstein-Friesian Association of America, and tirelessly promoted the breed to farmers across America, but especially the Midwest.

Early Life

Thomas Beale Wales, Jr. was born in 1839 at Boston, Massachusetts to Thomas Beal and Jeannette Maria “Mary” (Howe) Wales. Wale’s father was a successful merchant, as was his father before him. They were involved in shipping as well. The family lived in the fashionable ninth ward located just southwest of the Boston Common. The family was able to employ three servants. Thomas had one known brother, Joseph Howe Wales (18391907).[9] 

Wales was the third person with the same name in an unbroken family line of five Thomas Beale Wales. Wales’ grandfather was also a Thomas Beal Wales. Thomas B. Wales, Jr. (18151877), the subject’s father and first T.B. Wales, Jr., was a wealthy merchant with real estate amounting to $30,000 and a personal estate of $45,000 in 1860an equivalent approaching  $1.4 Million in 2019.[10] He was also a medical doctor, graduating from Harvard in 1847 and practicing in Boston.[11] 

Thomas B. Wales, Jr., our subject, began his career as a clerk; most likely for his father.[12] In 1861, Thomas married Anna Kimball (18331911) in Boston.[13] Her given name was variously also written as Anne or Ann. Thomas listed himself as a merchant on the marriage certificate. Anna’s parents were Daniel and Louisa Keith Kimball.  Wales’ great aunt was Louisa Wales Kimball. His grandmother was Anne Beal and mother Maria Smith Howe.

In 1862, Wales joined the Union Army and fought in the Civil war. He enlisted at the rank of private and attended officer’s school as a cadet in May and June. He earned a commission as an officer in September that year.[14] He served in Company E, Massachusetts 45th Volunteer Infantry Regiment and mustered out in July 1863 with the rank of captain.[15] 

Thomas and Anna then had four children: Maria Mable, Maude Howe, Robert Ware, and the eldest, Thomas Beal, Jr., who was born in 1864. All four children were born in Massachusetts, and came to Iowa around 1882. Thomas, Jr. or Thomas, 3rd as local press named him, in turn had a sonthe fifth Thomas B. Wales. He was born in 1893. The local press called Anna a leading social figure.[16] 

The children did not figure prominently in history, though Thomas B. Wales, 3rd, the fourth T.B. Wales, traveled to the Netherlands to purchase stock cattle for his father in 1883 and later was listed occasionally as Thomas B. Wales, Jr. & Son for stock show and auction purposes.[17] Robert Wales eventually took up breeding chickens at Blue Rock farm on the west side of Iowa City and attracted attention briefly in the local press for this.[18] He managed the family farm in Iowa prior to this for about a year.[19] 

Why Wales decided to become a stock breeder is unknown. He was recorded as a merchant living with Anna and their children in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1870, having amassed a small fortune of his own by that time ($15,000 real estate; $25,000 personal estate).[20] By 1870, Wales had begun raising stock. The herd book records a cow be bred was calved in September, 1871.[21] Given the time to breed and calve cattlearound 283 daysWales had to have been raising stock by November, or December, 1870.[22]  In 1880, he was recorded as a farmer twenty-five miles from his Ninth Ward boyhood home and living in Framingham, Massachusetts.[23] His breed of choice was Holstein cattle.[24] 

Holstein Cattle

Holsteins are what many people think of when they think of dairy cows. Holsteins are large, robust animals with sharply defined black and white spots and the cows have noticeably large udders. The pelvis characteristically rises above the line of the spine. In the herd books of the nineteenth century, they were described as white with black spots or black with white spots. A recessive gene can produce a red color variation, something that was not well understood until the second third of the twentieth century.

Establishing Holstein as a butter breed started with Wales’ cow Mercedes, who won the Breeder’s Gazette Challenge Cup in 1883. The position of butter champions was solidified by the end of 1887.[25] Butter from a Holstein cow was awarded first prize at the Iowa State Fair in 1885.[26] In 1886, a butter test at the Minnesota State Fair awarded all three prizes to Holstein cows, even though more Jerseys had been entered in the competition. The first premium for  butter was awarded to a Holstein at the Chicago Fat Stock Show in 1886. In 1887, Holstein butter took two first premiums and took the sweepstakes for best butter cow of any breed. It was stated that Holsteins would average 15 to 20 pounds per week per cow at a minimum.[27]

About The Name

The origin of the name Holstein for cattle is somewhat enigmatic. The same breed has gone by many names, including Holstein-Friesian cattle, Holland cattle, Dutch cattle, or Dutch-Friesian cattle. The name Holstein appears in a report by Winthrop Chenery, the first known breeder in the United States, that he wrote to the US Department of Agriculture in 1864.[28] Previous to this report and to some extent afterward, Chenery tended to use the term Dutch cattle, but for unclear reasons he referred to the breed as Holstein in that report. Citing growing popularity of the term, Chenery later said The United States Department of Agriculture preferred the Holstein name he had used in his report, and it stuck.

But the name is even more enigmatic than that. There was the perception among breeders in the United States that Holstein cattle had originated from a presumed superior breed of animals in the region formerly known as the Duchy of Holstein.[29] Holstein today is the north German political unit that is situated south of Schleswig at the southern base of the Danish peninsula. The area has been generally known as Holstein since the Middle Ages when it had a hereditary Duke as ruler. Political control of the Holstein area has since been variously with Denmark or Germany. Today it is part of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Despite the name, the breed is now thought to have originated in an area somewhat broader, extending to the west of Holstein into the low countries of Northern Europe at the southwest corner of the North Sea.[30] This area would have included the Dutch provinces of North Holland, Friesland, and Groningen and included the west section of German Holstein.[31] 

A more colorful origin story of Holstein cattle is attributed in the historic trade literature to have been the apocryphal product of the Frisian and Batavian peoples who helpfully cross-breed their all white and all back cattle to form the progenitor to modern black and white Holsteins.[32] This story is reported to be mostly conjecture even in the primarily cited source of this story, which is a  late nineteenth century history of the breed.[33] Later scientific descriptions of the breed  in the twentieth century discount the authenticity of this story due to lack of data.[34] Despite this, the legend lives on today in the dairy industry  and information provided by various agricultural extension services, which cite the late 19th century account. As it happens, it now appears genetic studies only can confirm that due to heavy domestic selection for size and production, modern breeds such as Holsteins are genetically new and they are not genetically related to native northern European cattle for the most part.[35] Around eighty percent of genetic traits measured are completely new compared to native cow breeds. Much of this selection appears to have occurred in America, largely beginning in the late nineteenth century when competition breeding began to become common, but took a marked change in the 1940s with artificial insemination.[36] In any event, Holsteins originally  imported to America came from the northeastern part of the current day country of the Netherlands and were cited as from Holland or Friesland.[37] 

The name of the cattle breed was in dispute among breeders for some time after Chernery’s 1864 report. Over the course of the next twenty years the name of the breed came back up at annual meetings with members advocating for the name Holland Cattle, though that was inaccurate. An alternative of Dutch cattle, Chenery’s original name for the breed, became unavailable when the name was adopted by the Dutch-Friesian cattle association in 1877.[38] For many years after the two principal cattle associations of this breed merged in 1885, the association was known as the Holstein-Friesian Association of America.[39] One might contemplate why Holland-Friesland was not chosen, which is likely where the mythical origins come in. Ultimately, Holstein prevailed as the name. Today it is the Holstein Association USA.

By the 1871, the Holstein stock breeders association had at least settled, if not on the name  for the breed, at least on the definition of what a Holstein was for certification of Holstein pedigree:

Thoroughbred Holstein shall be held to mean and refer to only those large improved black and white cattle already registered in the Holstein Herd Book and such as are descended from them in direct line both as to sire and dam and such large improved black and white cattle of the same breed imported from North Holland and the neighboring provinces as are proved by the affirmation of the breeder of the animal satisfactory to the examining committee and by the examination and report of the examining committee to be thoroughbred animals.[40]

The primary concern for Victorian or modern cattle breeders regarding purity of stock is related to the science behind how to get the highest milk and butter yields possible. Without genetics, there wasn’t really any other way to trace purity of the breed than the herd book. Since purity of the breed is what the breeders were concerned with, the herd book became very important in tracking cattle of high performance and from where they were  imported, bred, bought, or sold. The Herd Book allowed the pedigree of each animal to be traced.

The first Holstein herd book anywhere was published by the Association of Breeders of Thoroughbred Holstein Cattle in 1872.[41] This occurred even before one was published in the Netherlands, where the animals were imported from. The first Netherlands herd book was published in 1873, at the encouragement of Thomas E. Whiting of Concord, Massachusetts.[42]

The Holstein breed is thought to have had some early imports to America in the seventeenth century, especially in the Dutch colonies. No heard book was kept and there is no register as to where and when animals were bought or how they were thereafter bred resulting in a lack of pedigree.[43] The assumption now is those cattle lineages became mixed and lost to purebred status. Therefore, the modern American pedigree of Holsteins extends back to the imports of cattle by Winthrop Chenery of Belmont, Massachusetts. He first imported a single cow in 1852 and was so impressed by its milk production that he decided to take up breeding new dairy stock for American farmers. Toward that end, he had imported two more cows and a bull in 1857.[44] Chenery, however, experienced some difficulty in establishing his breeding stock.  When he imported four more cows, they contracted a disease and out of all his cattle, only the bull survived. In 1861, Chenery imported a further four cows and a second bull and from there his stock grew.

Trade in Holstein cattle was nearly exclusive to Chenery through the 1860s.[45] As a result, Chenery dominated the first herd book, in terms of sires (breeding bulls) and dams (breeding cows).[46] While eventually others, such as Wales, would also purchase their own Holsteins to import in the 1870s, Chenery clearly was the founding breeder of Holsteins in America and all the early members of the Holstein association were buying animals from Chenery through the 1860s and later.

Wales Herd in Framingham

In the 1872 herd book, Wales was recorded as owner of  one bull, Van Tromp 2d, bred by Chenery and two cows, Zuider Zee 9th and Maid of Opperdoes, also bred by Chenery.[47] Wales is known to have imported cattle directly from Holland for the first time in 1879.[48] Wales also had two other bulls, Van Tromp 3d and Van Tromp 4th, that he had bred. He also was the breeder of a cow named Maud.

Wales’ Framingham herd earned him a reputation. His herd was awarded first prize at the New England Fair in 1872.[49] Wales and two other stock breeders exhibited their cattle the same year at the New York State Agricultural Society gaining recognition for Holsteins as “milk, butter, and beef cattle,” according to Gerrit Miller, writing in 1922.[50] This was a point that Wales had made previously in newspaper columns on the breed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century while living in Iowa City.[51] 

The great size of these cattle, surpassing the Short-Horns, coupled with good feeding quality, assures the owner of fair compensation for his grades and old cows when turn­ed out for beef.[52]

While in Framingham, Wales along with four others that included Chenery, Charles Houghton, C.C. Walworth, and William Russell  founded the Association of Breeders of Thoroughbred Holstein Cattle in 1871.[53] Wales was directly elected an officer of the association. He was one of three vice-presidents in 1871. After he moved to Iowa, he continued to shape the association as Secretary and Editor of the Herd Book starting in 1881 with volume 5, also publishing a series of reprints of the herd book, which he continued to do through 1893.[54] Wales was also involved in merging the association with the Dutch-Friesian association in 1885, serving on the joint Charter and Bylaws Committee to form the Holstein-Friesian Association of America.[55] He then became the first Secretary and Editor of the new association in 1885, continuing in that position until 1894.[56] As this suggests, the larger contributions to the field made by Wales were following his move to Iowa.

Wales in Johnson County

While Wales brought many head of cattle to Johnson County, he was not the first to raise cattle there. Johnson County resident Legrand Byington is credited with the first herd of purebred cattle in Iowa and Carey R. Smith was first to raise Holsteins in Johnson County.[57] The local press thought much of Wales and his contemporaries in stock breeding.  “Iowa City is the center of the largest and best fine stock district in the world,” the Republican wrote.[58]

 Wales visited Iowa City in the fall of 1880.[59] In 1881, he placed a string of want ads for a domestic servant for his boarding room on North Clinton Street.[60] He moved his heard from Framingham that year.[61] In late December, 1881, an article describing his farm, Brookbank, appeared in a regional trade publication.[62] A string of adds offering Holstein cattle for sale followed and continued until March 1882 in that publication. Also in 1882,  articles began to appear in the Iowa City press extolling the virtues of Holstein cattle for beef, milk, and butter.[63] That same year wales brought forty-five head of Holsteins from Friesland via Massachusetts by rail.[64] By winter of 18821883, Wales was selling a significant number of stock animals in Iowa and nearby, selling eleven bulls and eighteen cows and heifers while retaining fifty five head at Brookbank.[65] 

There is little doubt the location near a railroad was of importance to a person selling large animals in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and this likely weighed as a factor for Wale’s choice to move to Iowa City. For example, three Burton stock cars were used to bring in 53 head of cattle in 1883.[66] The Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Northern railway spur into Iowa City crossed the north portion of the farm and the region was also served by the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific line. A move to Iowa City situated Wales with rail access in an expanding market for cattle.

The growing population of farmers, especially those raising dairy and beef cattle in the region had to also be a factor to move to Iowa, which in particular was then the home of a growing dairy and beef industry at a time that immigration of European Americans to the state was at its highest point. Along with Holstein cattle, Angus and Hereford imports were also high during the 1880s as farmers took up raising stock along with growing crops in a movement to diversify their operations as recommended by the State Agricultural Society.[67] Despite financial market collapses with repeated panics through the last quarter of the nineteenth century, farmers were experiencing an increased standard of living relative to other sectors of the economy and purchasing new stock was likely affordable.[68] 

During his tenure in Johnson County, Wales not only saw to his stock breeding as well as the affairs of the Holstein associations, but he was also involved financially and socially in Iowa City. The 1883 History of Johnson County notes he was a member of the board of directors for the Iowa City Bank,  which was founded in 1875 and later expanded as the Iowa City National Bank.[69] His fellow backers were a who’swho list of many prominent Iowa City business leaders including former governor Samuel Kirkwood and early local entrepreneur Ezekiel Clark. Others included John N. Coldren and Theodore Sanxay.[70] The involvement with this circle is an indication of his influence in Iowa City.

Other society ties included the Fairall family and real estate seller C.M. Reno. C.M. Reno was the proprietor of the Reno Real Estate Exchange and his son, M.C. Reno was Wales’ son-in-law,  to whom Maude Howe Wales was married. Reno would later sell the Wales farm.

Wales purchased the land for his farm from Mary Puesy Fairall, who appears to have been the the mother of Samuel H. Fairall, lawyer and politician,  who owned land just north of the Mary Fairall property that Wales bought. H.S. Fairall, possibly the son of S.H. Fairall, was an editor of the Iowa City Republican newspapers published in Iowa City.[71] Wales used local newspaper articles, especially in the Republican publications, in his efforts to publicize Holsteins and his stock breeding efforts to the community.

Wales was in the press frequently while living in Johnson County. He advocated the advantages of Holsteins in 1882 and 1883.[72] In 1883, he was noted for what was called “Possibly the largest and finest impor­tations of stock ever brought into the State of Iowa.”[73] He appeared in the paper not less than four times in 1882, six times in 1883,  and multiple times each of the following years through 1888. Topics included importation of cattle,  sales of cattle, attendance and results of stock shows, association business and new issues of the herd book. The loss of his prize cow Mercedes also became a press opportunity.[74]

Wales’ advocacy for Holstein cattle extended further, encompassing the Midwest and dairy regions of the East. In 1885, he wrote a circular to suggest the Chicago Fat Stock Show was an opportunity to showcase Holsteins that should not be missed.

DEAR SIR—I desire to call your attention to fact that there is to be held a great Dairy Show at the Exposition Building in Chicago, Ill. on Nov. 10 to 19, 1885, in connection with the Annual Fat Stock Show. lt seems to me that a most favorable opportunity thus offered us to bring to the attention of the of our grand breed of dairy cattle and I most urge you to contribute to this show, and so to advancement of our interests, by sending at least one of your finest cows for exhibition, and at least one package of butter or cheese made from Holstein-Friesian cows. Let the breeders of your State or County or neighborhood stand together and join hands for the general good by arranging to to this really National Exhibition a car-load of dairy cattle. The expense would thus be small compared to the great benefit which would surely result. Prominent Short-horn breeders are quietly and earnestly at work. They propose to demonstrate that the Short-horn is the best dairy cow, and that the butter from their cattle is at best equal to any. Let Holstein-Friesian breeders do something for interests in this matter. Send at once to Col. Charles F. Mills, Secretary, Springfield, Ill. for premium lists. Entries close Nov. 1, 1885. 

Thomas B. Wales, Jr.[75]

While in Iowa City, Wales described himself in a library trade sales publication as the first person to put a library card catalog system in use for tracking cattle pedigree to assist publishing the Holstein herd book. Writing from Iowa City, Wales said the following.

In regard to the use I put your system of indexing I will say that my attention was first drawn to it in the library of the Iowa State University at this place in 1882 and the idea of using it in the keeping of the registry of our cattle for the Holstein-Friesian Herd Book was then conceived. Each animal has its card on which is given the name and number it takes in the herd book with the number of its sire and dam, date of birth, name of its breeder, and owner with their address. . . .

I believe I am the first to put your system to use in the keeping of herd book registry and would advise your sending descriptive circulars to the office of every such association….[76]

The self promotion while passing on useful knowledge was a frequently seen trait of Wales. To further not miss any opportunity to show off his farm, in 1883 he hosted a demonstration of a new type of machine to lay agricultural drainage tile.[77] The quintessential gentleman farmer, Wales also commissioned a lithograph of some of his best-known animals and shrewdly gave a copy to the Republican which printed the article regarding is receipt twice. A copy of that lithograph is in the Library of Congress and appears at the top of this article.

We are indebted to Mr. T. B. Wales, Jr. for a fine large lithograph showing us the beauties of several of his famous Holstein cattle. The artist, Mr. Palmer, has done a creditable work, and has shown the good points of the animal to good advantage. These special favorites from the Brookbank herd, have a world wide reputation, and famous for their dairy qualities, but their beauties can only be realized by a visit to Brookbank farm, where Mr. Wales will be glad to show them to any who may call.[78]

In addition to the farm, Wales controlled property in Iowa City. Wales’ office was listed at 214½ Clinton Street and a residence at 521 N. Dubuque Street may have been for his son, Thomas.[79] Multiple reports confirm wales lived on his farm at Brookbank, situated in the suburban fields of East Lucas Township.[80]  The office was for maintaining the records to assist publishing the herd book for the Holstein-Friesian Association of America.

Mr Wales office as Secretary of the Friesian Association is located in Iowa City where a small army of lady stenographers and writers are employed in recording transfers of sales etc and making minutes of matters generally of interest to the Association”[81] 

We don’t know much more about his office location other than the address matches the Whiteway Grocery building built in 1880, expanded in 1882, and destroyed by fire in 1999. The breeding and stock raising operation for his Holstein cattle occurred at the farm, now in southeastern Iowa City not far from downtown. The farm eventually was bought by W. F. Main and became the planned factory village of East Iowa City and after that was annexed into Iowa City.

Brookbank Farm

While in Iowa, Wales lived on a suburban farm that he named Brookbank. The name was appropriate. Wales selected an area of 220 acres that straddled the south fork of Ralston Creek.[82] The property stretched east from Muscatine Road to the point the road turns east and then extended another half mile. The north boundary of the farm was the road that ran along the alignment of current day Court Street. Current day 1st Avenue runs along the section line between Sections 13 and 14.

Wales purchased the initial acres for the farm from Mary P. Fairall and others in 1881.[83] By 1889, Wales had added the land of A.C. Purdy and his farm in East Lucas Townships encompassed the northwest quarter of Section 13 and the portion of the northeast quarter of Section 14 north of the road to Muscatine.[84] 

 The unfortunate reality is that we don’t know what the farm and out buildings looked like, beyond plats and the lithograph of his cattle. The farm was described as containing a house, barn, and cattle yards. “In addition to a handsome and comfortable residence, [Wales] erected a barn and cattle yards that are models of comfort for his stock.”[85] 

The house reportedly was a block long and half a block deep, with a large barn and well house and located along current day Friendship Street.[86] W.F. Main purchased the former Wales property in 1895 and was living in the house, described as located at Garden and Friendship Streets, around 1909 and 1911.[87] A house matching this time period is located on Friendship Street today, not far from the corner of Garden Street. The surrounding properties are much younger. The Johnson County Assessor records state the date of construction as 1880. However, the house is actually fairly modest in size if the basement is excluded as living area. It does not appear to be a block long, at least not in its present form.

Contemporary accounts further illustrate the sense of importance of Brookbank farm and herd in local and national press.

Mr. Wales has a model stock farm on the edge of Iowa City and his great herd has in it some of the most noted cattle in the world.[88] 


We first visited the beautiful farm of 220 acres about one mile and a half from the city belonging to Mr T.B. Wales, Secretary of the Holstein-Friesian Association of America …. His grounds comprise rolling prairie and are well adapted for breeding purposes while his buildings are very extensive and present a really picturesque appearance.[89] 


Mr. Wales has developed his busi­ness, as a breeder and importer of Hol­stein cattle, into very large proportions. His place, Brookbank, just on the east­ern outskirts of the city, is admirably adapted to his needs. His large barns and stables have been built after the most approved plans and afford facilities for giving his famous herd the best care.[90]


Brookbank farm is already noted throughout the country for its fine herd of cat­tle, nor surpassed by any farm of a similar character in the United States. The herd of Holsteins which at present grazes upon its wide meadows will be the delight of all lovers of fine stock, and we are gratified at the fact that Johnson County is the centre of this interest in our country. The commendable enter­prise of Mr. Wales will be appreciated,and his efforts to make Iowa the perma­nent national centre of the dairy inter­ests will be realized.[91]


[Wales] has now upon his farm, near the city, the finest herd of Holstein cattle I have ever seen. This stock farm is also a model of simplicity and convenience.[92]


In the vicinity of Iowa City are to be found some of the choicest herds in the cattle growing state of Iowa. [Wales] has 120 Holsteins, of which number eleven are being transmitted to the various state fairs.[93]

Brookbank Herd

It appears that much of Wales’ business interests were importing, showing, and selling cattle. He also occasionally bought animals imported by others for his own foundation stock. For example, he purchased Mink from Cary Smith of Johnson county.[94] Wales was the direct importer of a number of foundation stock animals, including Mercedes, Tritomia, Mahomet, and Friesland Maid. In addition to importation and other purchases, it is clear wales was acknowledged by contemporary accounts as a breeder of fine stock as well.

Mr Wales Holstein bull Jaap Fourth won first prize. His weight at 11 months was 1,200 lbs. Average gain for 30 days, five and one third lbs. Another proof of Mr Wales success as a breeder is the price paid for his heifer Mercedes 3d at public sale vim $4,200 by far the highest price paid for a Holstein up to that date As a successful breeder and promoter of the best interests of Holstein cattle Mr Wales had few if any superiors.[95]

By 1883, Thomas B. Wales, 3rd, was making the trips to the Netherlands to purchase additional breeding stock.[96] About this time Wales had imported around 300 head of cattle.[97] Much of this stock was sold following the quarantine process for importing live animals.[98] Wales sold cattle to New York, Kansas, and Iowa.[99] Wales also  had sales in Wisconsin and Nebraska and likely other states in the Midwest.[100] As part of his marketing strategy to increase his potential for sales, Wales participated frequently in state fairs and other stock show opportunities as well as conducting butter yield tests and publishing reports of his results.

Stock Show Prizes

Wales traveled extensively with some of the choice animals in his herd to stock competitions as well as county and state fairs and expositions frequently winning awards.[101]  Local papers and industry publications chronicled Wales successes at the American Fat Stock Show of Chicago, Minnesota State Fair, St. Louis exposition, and Iowa State Fair.[102]  

Of Wales it was said, “he also did much to establish the fact that the Holstein cow can make more butter and the young stock more rapid growth than any other breed.”[103] The Brookbank herd was awarded first herd prize in 1882 at the St. Louis Fair. A three year old bull imported from Holland named Jaap won first prize for aged bulls. The prize for heifer calf also was award to wales, and his son, “Master T.B. Wales, 3rd,” won the bull calf prize for his calf Kirkwood.[104] In 1883, Jaap again won first prize at the Minnesota State Fair, Iowa State Fair, and the Chicago Fat Stock Show.[105]

At the Chicago Fat Stock Show 1885, Wales took home the first premium prize for best Holstein-Friesian butter.  Thomas B. Wales, Jr. & Son took home the blue ribbon for their dairy bull, Solon Prince, and their cow Jepma won second place.[106]

At the Kansas City Fair in 1885, Wales won several ribbons including first place for Holstein-Friesian Bull two years and under three, and one year and under two, and Screenshot_2019-06-07 Thomas B Wales and The Brookbank Herd(3)second place for Holstein Friesian Bull, three years and over. For cows, Wales won first place for two years and under three, and second prize for each of the categories two years and under and three, three years and over, and one year and under two. Wales also won the herd prize. The sweepstakes for cow any age also went to  T.B. Wales, Jr.[107] 

At the American Fat Stock and Dairy Show in Chicago in 1887, Tritomia won the sweepstakes prize and scored highest for butter.[108] Three hundred and eight animals were entered there.[109] Wales also took the sweepstakes that year at the Iowa State Fair.[110]

Butter Tests

In 1883, Wales’ foundation stock cow, Mercedes, won the Breeder’s Gazette Challenge Cup setting a world record for butter production.[111]  The Breeder’s Gazette had offered a silver cup as prize for the greatest butter yield in any thirty consecutive days between July 1, 1882 and July 1, 1883. The two leading competitors were Wales’ cow Mercedes and Valency Fuller’s Jersey Cow Mary Ann of St Lambert, the former champion.  Mercedes produced 99 lbs 6 oz and Mary Ann of St Lambert was shy of 2 lbs less, producing 97 lbs 8 oz of unsalted butter.[112] The feat was labeled the world record. Mercedes made Wales famous. Most accounts of his works recall the silver cup award. On the death of Mercedes, the Iowa City Republican stated “She was the most celebrated cow in the world.”[113] From Mercedes came Mercedes Prince, who was one of Wales choicest bulls. His progeny included six cows that averaged 1 lb of butter from 16.32 oz of milk. They tested at 16 lbs 5 oz of butter in seven days.[114] The Brookbank Herd had twenty cows that averaged 20 lbs 6.3 oz of butter over seven days. These cows were also the offspring of Mercedes Prince.[115] Foundation cow Mink tested at 29 lbs 6 oz butter in 10 days.[116] Another foundation cow, Tritomia, tested at 25 lbs 8.8 oz in seven days.[117] Twenty-nine cows from the herd at Brookbank averaged at 17 lbs 2.67 oz of butter in seven days.[118] The tests were comparable to other breeders that year, all of which appear to have been regarded as remarkable achievements in the literature. Some of the other butter tests for one day totals include Rhoda, 89.5 lbs, Jantje 86.5 lbs, Brilliante 80 lbs, Lady of Jelsum 75.5 lbs, Maid of Holstein 72 lbs, Friesland Maid 71.5 lbs of butter.[119] 

Wales attributed his success in part to the treatment of the animals—the number of times a day they were fed, what they were fed, and milking three times a day during trials. Discussing his cow Tonma’ine, Wales wrote,

The weather being very cold, often 20 degrees below zero (rather hard on a milch cow), I did not expect much from her , but she proved equal to the occasion, run­ning up to 60 lbs of milk per day and over. We gave her a trial of seven days as follows: She was milked three times a day; fed dry hay, beets, corn and oats, chess bran and a little oil-meal. The total amount of milk produced, 445 lbs 6 oz. Total amount of fine, dry marketable butter from said milk, 34 lbs 13½ oz. [120]

He echoed these thoughts when quoted in another piece titled The Hardy Holsteins, and Great Producers of Milk, Butter, and Beef, which ran in the local paper.[121]

Mink finished her yearly record on the 15th of June. She has received only good, ordinary dairy care. She has not made enormous yield from air alone, but has had all she wanted of nutritious food. During the flush of her yield she was milked three times per day, but as soon as her bag would hold the milk she was milked but twice, though we are well aware that her yield would have been much increased by continu­ing to milk her three times.[122] 

Brookbank Sale

Starting in 1884, importations and domestically bred cattle began to outpace the demand for purchases by dairy farmers.[123] This likely affected the ability to sell cattle, though Wales continued to hold auctions for the next four years.  But within a few short years of achieving notoriety, Wales’ herd was bypassed as the champions in butter production.  A highly scrutinized butter test was held at the New York Dairy Show of 1887. The winners were two Holsteins, Clothilde and Clothilde 4th, owned by Smiths & Powell, Co, which won first and second prize unseating the Brookbank herd as champion dairy cows.[124] The amounts of butter produced in 24 hours: 2 lbs 7.5 oz for Clothilde and 2 lbs 0.25 oz for Clothilde 4d, and Clothilde also set a record for milk produced in a year producing over 26,000 lbs of milk.[125]

Without citing a reason, Wales’ son Thomas indicated that Wales began to disperse his herd and focused solely on being Secretary of the Holstein-Friesian Association of America at this point.[126] The first dispersion sale was held in Kansas City in September, 1887.[127] That was followed in May the next year in Cleveland, Ohio.[128] It’s not clear from the many ads, most of which were hard sales pitches, how this sale compared to others. The ads state the sale would include more than 80-head. Similar ad campaigns had been run in 1885 for an auction at Brookbank Farm.[129] Those adds also were for 80 head of mostly “young cows and heifers.” It also can be noticed that Mercedes Prince had been offered, but not sold, between 1885 and 1888. Finally selling of the majority of his stock, it appears the auctions were over following the “Grand Dispersion” in 1888.

The Breeder’s Gazette opined at the time:

…none will be better or more justly remembered than of Mr Wales. For seventeen years an enthusiastic devotee of the breeder’s art he has with consummate skill judgment builded up a herd of these milk and butter cattle which beyond doubt ranks in quality second to none among truly great herds of the breed and now that circumstances beyond control compel him to reluctantly relinquish the fascinating pursuit which as so long engaged his close attention….[130]

In 1892, Robert Wales returned from Boston to manage the farm until the land was placed on the market for sale during the following year.[131] The following ad ran throughout 1893.

For Sale.—Brookbank Stock Farm, Iowa City, Iowa.— The farm and residence property of Thos. B. Wales, located on the eastern border of Iowa City. This property is but one mile from the center of said city and on its best and growing side; choice prairie land and buildings, all new and of modern style. For its size this is the finest farm property in Iowa, and borders the most attractive city in the State. Educational facilities are not surpassed in the entire West, the Iowa State University being located here. For particulars address Reno’s Real Estate Exchange.[132]

Leaving Iowa and Later Life

Wales left Iowa City sometime around 1891.[133]  He was no longer listed a board member of Iowa City National Bank by 1890.[134] In 1893, he was reported to be back from Boston for a business trip, likely related to selling the farm.[135] Also in 1893 Wales served as a cattle judge at the Chicago World’s Fair.[136] This would be his last great thing.

Wales lost the vote for the Secretary of The Holstein-Friesian Association of America in 1894.[137] Wales’s son Thomas wrote that at this point Wales ended his involvement in that association. Having sold off Brookbank and without the herd book to publish,  Wales appears to have entered retirement. [138] In 1911, his wife Anna passed away.[139] At some point following the death of Anna, Wales began to spend winters in Pasadena, California with his son Robert, which is where he died in February 1922.[140] The Iowa City press labeled him a famous stock breeder.[141] In Anna’s obituary in the Iowa City press it was noted that Wales was at one time one of the leading stock raisers of the country.[142] The local press once called him the owner of the best herd of Holstein Cattle in the world.[143] On May 2, 1888, The Breeder’s Gazette wrote:

“… [A]mong those whose names will go down in history as the great improvers of this breed and champion of its claims before the public, none will be better to more justly remembered than that of Mr. Wales. For seventeen years an enthusiastic, painstaking devotee of the breeder’s art, he has with consummate skill and judgment builded up a herd of these “milk and butter cattle” which, beyond doubt, ranks in quality second to none among the truly great herds of the breed.”

Wales’ reputation as a breeder of fine stock was considered common knowledge following his death in the early twentieth century.[144]



Holstein-Friesian Cattle of the Brookbank Herd. Iowa City, Iowa, ca. 1886. Commissioned by Thos. B. Wales Jr., Iowa City, Iowa; G. Palmer, artist; printed by J. Ottmann, Lithographing Co., New York, In the collection of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-pga-02333. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003674261/. PicturedMercedes Prince, Mercedes 2nd, Mercedes Mink, Tritomia, Mink, Mink 4th, Mink 3rd. Article discussing the painting, Iowa City Weekly Republican, Nov 10, 1886, p 5.

Thomas B. Wales, from Prescott, M.S., ed. Thomas B. Wales—Holstein Pioneer. Holstein-Friesian World, 19, p 1227, 1922. https://books.google.com/books?id=gEJCAQAAMAAJ

Teitje 2d, from Breeder’s Gazette, 1885, p 383. https://books.google.com/books?id=0405AQAAMAAJ

Mercedes, from Prescott, M.S., ed. Thomas B. Wales—Holstein Pioneer. Holstein-Friesian World, 19, p 1227, 1922. https://books.google.com/books?id=gEJCAQAAMAAJ

Tritomia 4004 Holstein Herd Book, Butter Record, from Thirty Eighth Annual Report of the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture, Plate following p 78, Boston: State of Massachusetts, 1891. https://archive.org/stream/annualreportofse3890mass/#page/n115/

Cropped section of plate X of Novak’s New Map of Johnson County, Iowa, 1889, with approximate location of house shown at arrow. Copy or original image available in Iowa Digital Library, Iowa City: University of Iowa Libraries.

Photo of the Wales home. Iowa City: Johnson County Assessor’s Office.

Sales ad for Brookbank dispersion from Breeder’s Gazette, 1888, p 455. https://books.google.com/books?id=Yo85AQAAMAAJ


Aurner, Charles [Clarence] Ray. Leading Events in Johnson County, Iowa, History. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Western Historical Press, 1912. Copy available at State Historical Society of Iowa Library and Archives Research Center, Iowa City.

Bennett, Eugine, In the Home of the Breed, Holstein Breeder and Dairyman, vol. 3, no. 21, 1924, pp. 695-697.

Benninger, W. Holstein-Friesians, pp. 438-439 in Southern Cultivator and Dixie Farmer, 1893. https://books.google.com/books?id=wQY-AQAAMAAJ

Chenery, Winthrop. Holstein Herd-book, Containing a Record of all Holstein Cattle in America, Association of Breeders of Thoroughbred Holstein Cattle, s.l.: s.n., 1872. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924066650361

Earp, Jackie. Memorial page for Cpt Thomas Beal Walles, III (Feb 18399 Feb 1922), Find a Grave Memorial No. 182101825. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/182101825/thomas-beale-wales

Ellis, William. Norwich University 18191911. Vol. 2. Montpelier, VT: The Capital City Press, 1911. https://books.google.com/books?id=qFhMAAAAMAAJ&lpg

Hoard, W. The Dairy Temperment of Cows. Thirty Eighth Annual Report of the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture, pp. 67–89, Boston: State of Massachusetts, 1891. https://archive.org/stream/annualreportofse3890mass/#page/n115/

Holstein Association USA, Inc. 2019. http://www.holsteinusa.com/holstein_breed/breedhistory.html

Houghton, Frederick. Holstein-Friesian Cattle: A History of the Breed and Its Development In America. Brattleboro, VT.: Press of the Holstein-Friesian Register, 1897. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/002025069

Hoxie, Samuel. Dutch-Friesian Herd Book, vol. 1, Whitestone, NY: American Association of the Breeders of Thoroughbred Dutch-Friesian Cattle, 1880. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b761980

        Holstein-Friesian Advanced Registry, Utica, NY: Holstein-Friesian Association of America, 1891.

Library Bureau Catalog. Classified Illustrated Catalog of the Library Bureau, Inc. Boston: Library Bureau, 1890. https://books.google.com/books?id=nlLpAAAAMAAJ

Lush, Jay, J. Holbert, and O. Willham. Genetic History of the Holstein-Friesian Cattle in the United States. Journal of Heredity, Vol. 27, No. 2, February 1936, pp. 61–72. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.jhered.a104174

Morrison, Leonard, and Stephen Sharples. History of the Kimball Family in America from 1634 to 1897 and Its Ancestors. Boston: Damrell and Upham. 1897.  https://books.google.com/books?id=DrJsSz3KXHoC

Novak, J. Novak’s New Map of Johnson County, Iowa, 1889. Copy available at Iowa Digital Library. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/

Pearson Thomas. Catalogue of the Graduates of Middlebury College, Windsor, MA: Vermont Chronicle Press, 1853. http://www.ancestraltrackers.net/vt/counties/addison/catalogue-graduates-middlebury-college.pdf

Prescott, M.S., ed. Thomas B. Wales—Holstein Pioneer. Holstein-Friesian World, 19, pp. 1227,1248, 1922. https://books.google.com/books?id=gEJCAQAAMAAJ

Prescott, Sheldon, and Frank Price. Holstein-Friesian History. [Lacona, NY]: The Corse Press, 1930. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924003051020

Reynolds, Howard, ed. Thomas B. Wales Dead. The Holstein Breeder and Dairyman, Mar 8, 1922.

Stothard, Paul, Jung-Woo Choi, Urmila Basu, Jennifer Sumner-Thomson, Yan Meng, Xiaoping Liao, and Stephen Moore. Whole Genome Resequencing of Black Angus and Holstein Cattle for SNP and CNV Discovery, BMC Genomics 12, p. 559, 2011. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2164-12-559

Thompson and Everts, Combination Atlas Map of Johnson County, Iowa, 1870. Copy available at Iowa Digital Library. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/

Wales, Thomas. Holstein Herd-Book, Vol. 5 Containing a Record of All Holstein Cattle in America. Holstein Breeders Association of America, 1881. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924066650270

Holstein Herd-Book, Vol. 8 Containing a Record of All Holstein Cattle in America. Holstein Breeders Association of America, 1885. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924066650254

Holstein Herd-Book, Vol. 15, revised and corrected. Holstein Breeders Association of America, 1885. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b761984;view=1up;seq=11

Weldenegodgaud, Melak. Ruslan Popov, Kisun Pokharel, Innokentyi Ammosov, Yao Ming, Zoya Ivanova, and Juha Kantenen. Whole-Genome Sewuencing of three Native Cattle Breeds Originating from the Norhternmost Cattle Farming Regions. Frontiers in Genetics January 11, 2019 https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2018.00728

[1] Library Bureau Catalog, 1890, p. 75

[2] Iowa City Daily Republican, Oct 15, 1883, p 2. 

[3] Reynolds, 1922, p 155; Prescott 1922, p 1227.

[4] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 4, 1882, p 4.; Houghton, 1897, p 267.

[5] Prescott, 1922, p 1227.

[6] Who We Are, Holstein Association, USA, 2019.

[7] Iowa State Press, Dec 12, 1888, p 3.

[8] Western Rural, Dec 31, 1881. p 418;  Iowa City Republican, Semi-Centennial Edition with Directory of Iowa City, October 20, 1890; Iowa City Daily Republican, Dec 3, 1886, p 3; Iowa State Press, Dec 12, 1888, p 3.

[9] Federal Census, 1860.

[10] Federal Census, 1860.

[11] Pearson, 1853, p 123.

[12] Ellis, 1911, p 247; Federal Census, 1860

[13] Marriage Record; Morrison and Sharples, 1897, p 776.

[14] Earp, 2017.

[15] Morrison and Sharples, 1897, p 776

[16] Iowa City Daily Press, Apr 5, 1911, p 1.

[17] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 24, 1883, p 4.;  Prescott 1922, p 1248; Breeder’s Gazette, Sep 3, 1885, p 383.

[18] Johnson County Independent, August 14, 1913, p 8.

[19] Iowa City Weekly Republican, March 9, 1892, p 6.

[20] Federal Census, 1870.

[21] The cow was Maud; Wales, 1885b, p 58.

[22] USDA Cooperative Extension website.

[23] Federal Census

[24] Wales 1885c.

[25] Houghton, 1897, p 42–43.

[26] Benninger, 1893, p. 439.

[27] Iowa City Daily Republican, Apr 19, 1883, p 8.

[28] Prescott and Price, 1930, p 5.

[29] Chenery, 1872, p 9.

[30] Prescott and Price, 1930, p 1.

[31] Prescott and Price, 1930, p 1.; Lush, Holbert, and Willham, 1936, p 1.

[32] Wales 1885c., p 9; Houghton, 1897, p 9.

[33] Houghton, 1897, p 9.

[34] Lush, Holbert, and Willham, 1936, p 1.

[35] Weldenegodgaud et al., 2019; Stothard et al., 2011.

[36] History of the Holstein Breed, Holstein Association USA, 2019.

[37] Wales 1885c, p 9; Lush, Holbert, and Wilham, 1936, p.1.; Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 24, 1883, p 4;  Western Rural, Dec 31, 1881, p 424; Iowa City Daily Republican, Nov 1, 1882, p 4.

[38] Hoxie, 1880, p 3.

[39] Prescott and Price, 1930, p 17.

[40] Wales, 1885a, p 14, and similar at Wales, 1885b, p 5.

[41] Prescott and Price, 1930, p 8., Wales 1885c.

[42] Prescott and Price, 1930, p 8.

[43] Lush, Holbert, and Willham, 1936, p 62; Prescott and Price, 1930, p 4.

[44] Prescott and Price, 1930, p 5.

[45] Prescott and Price, 1930, p 6.

[46] Wales, 1885b, p 43–67.

[47] Naming conventions for the cattle are set by the breeding association. Generally they indicate the pedigree of the animal as well as sex.

[48] Bennett, 1924, p 696.

[49] Prescott 1922, p 1248.

[50] Prescott 1922, p 1248.

[51] Iowa State Press, Oct 1, 1884, p 3; Iowa City Republican, Jun 21, 1887, p 3; Iowa City Daily Republican, Mar 21, 1888, p 6.

[52] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 4, 1882, p 4

[53] Houghton, 1897, p 267; Wales 1885c; Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 4, 1882, p 4.

[54] Chenery 1872, p 1; Wales 1881; Prescott 1922, p 1227.

[55] Iowa City Daily Republican, Apr 21, 1885, p 4;  Iowa State Press, April 9, 1885, p 2.

[56] Iowa City Daily Republican, Apr 21, 1885, p 4; Prescott 1922, p 1227.

[57] Aurner, 1912, p 422; Iowa City Daily Republican, Page4, 1883-03-18

[58] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sept 4, 1882, p 4.

[59] Iowa City Daily Press, Mar 26, 1880, p 4.

[60] Iowa City Daily Republican, Oct 19–25, 1881, p 1.

[61] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 4, 1882, p 1.

[62] Western Rural, Dec 31, 1881, p 418.

[63] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 4, 1882, p 4.

[64] Iowa City Daily Republican, Nov 1, 1882 , p 4.

[65] Iowa City Daily Republican, May 13, 1883, p 4.

[66] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 24, 1883, p 4.

[67] Schwieder, 1996, p 134.

[68] Winters, 1990, cited in Schwieder, 1996, p 136.

[69] History of Johnson County, Iowa, 1883, p 673.

[70] Iowa City Weekly Republican, Mar 21, 1883, p 6.

[71] American Agriculturalist, 1887, p.426.

[72] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 4, 1882, p 4.

[73] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 24, 1883, p 4.

[74] Iowa City Daily Republican, Mar 18, 1884, p 1.

[75] Kentucky Stock Farm, vol 4, no 19, p 12.

[76] Library Bureau Catalog, 1890, p 75.

[77] Iowa City Daily Republican, Page3, 1887-03-29

[78] Iowa City Daily Republican, Nov 5, 1886, p 3; Iowa City Weekly Republican, Nov 10, 1886, p 5.

[79] Iowa City Republican, Semi-Centennial Edition with Directory of Iowa City, October 20, 1890.; Iowa City Daily Republican, May 23, 1889, p. 3.

[80] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 4, 1882, p 4.

[81] American Agriculturalist, vol 45, 1886, p 425.

[82] American Agriculturalist, vol 45, 1886, p 425.

[83] Iowa City Daily Republican, Jan 13, 1881, p 3. 

[84] Novak, 1889, plate 10 ; Thompson and Everts, 1870, plate 18.

[85] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 4, 1882, p 4.

[86] Weber, 1987, p 77.

[87] 1909 city directory; Iowa City Republican, April 5, 1911, p 4.

[88] Iowa City Daily Republican, Jun 21, 1887, p 3.

[89] American Agriculturalist, vol 45, 1886, p 425.

[90] Iowa City Daily Republican, Mar 18, 1884, p 1.

[91] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 24, 1888, p 4.

[92] Western Rural, Dec 31, 1881. p 418;

[93] American Agriculturalist, vol 45, 1886, p 425.

[94] Wales 1885b, p. 205.

[95] Prescott, 1922, p 1248.

[96] Iowa City Daily Republican, Apr. 13, 1883, p 4; Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 24, 1883, p 4.

[97] Prescott and Price 1930, p 12.

[98] Prescott and Price 1930, p 12.

[99] Iowa City Daily Republican, Nov 1, 1882 , p 4.

[100] Houghton, 1897, p 257; Breeder’s Gazette, Jul 30, 1885, p 160

[101] Iowa City Daily Republican, October 15, 1882, p 2.

[102] Iowa City Daily Republican, Mar 18, 1883, p 4.

[103] Prescott 1922, p 1227.

[104] Iowa City Daily Republican, Nov 1, 1882 , p 4.

[105] Prescott, 1922, p 1248.

[106] Breeder’s Gazette, Nov 19, 1885, p 796;  National Stockman and Farmer, 1885, p. 796; Iowa City Daily Republican, November 23, 1885, p 4.

[107] Breeder’s Gazette, Oct 1, 1885, p 525.

[108] Iowa City Daily Republican, Friday, Nov 18, 1887, p.3.

[109] Hoard, 1891, p 78.

[110] National Livestock Journal, Sep 13, 1887, p. 580.; Houghton, 1897, p 65.

[111] Iowa City Daily Republican, Oct 15, 1883; p 2.

[112] Prescott, 1922, p 1248; Houghton, 1897, p 42.

[113] Iowa City Daily Republican, Mar 18, 1884, p. 1.

[114] Houghton, 1897, p 65.

[115] Houghton, 1897, p 65.

[116] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 4, 1882, p 4.

[117] Hoxie, 1891, p. 165

[118] Houghton, 1897, p 43.

[119] Iowa City Republican, May 13, 1883, p 4.

[120] Iowa City Weekly Republican, Mar 21, 1888, p 6.

[121] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 4, 1882.

[122] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 4, 1882, p 4.

[123] Prescott and Price, 1930, p 17.

[124] Houghton, 1897, p 43.

[125] Houghton, 1897, p 65.

[126] Prescott, 1922, p 1248

[127] Houghton, 1897, p 283.

[128] The Cultivator and Country Gentleman, 1888, p. 341; National Stockman and Farmer, 1888, p 55; Breeder’s Gazette, 1888, p 405; 519

[129] Breeder’s Gazette, 1883, p. 383.

[130] Iowa City Weekly Republican, March 9, 1892, p 6.

[131] Iowa City Daily Republican, Jan 1, 1893, p 3; Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 21, 1893, p 3.

[132] Iowa City Republican, Semi-Centennial Edition with Directory of Iowa City, October 20, 1890;  City Directory for 1891–1892; Iowa City Weekly Republican, March 9, 1892, p 6.

[133] Iowa City Republican, Semi-Centennial Edition with Directory of Iowa City, October 20, 1890.

[134] Iowa City Daily Republican, Sep 5, 1893, p 4.

[135] Reynolds, 1922, p 155.

[136] Prescott and Price, 1930, p 13.

[137] Prescott, 1922, p 1248.

[138] Iowa City Republican, Apr 5, 1911, p 4.

[139] Prescott, 1922, p 1248; Reynolds, 1922, p 155.

[140] Iowa City Press Citizen, Feb 24, 1922, p 9.

[141] Iowa City Republican, Apr 5, 1911, p 4.

[142] Johnson County Independent, August 14, 1913, p 8.

[143] Bennett, 1924, p 695



American Indian Archery Technology

Cover ArtAlthough projectile points found on archaeological sites are commonly referred to as “arrow heads” American Indians* did not always have the bow and arrow. It was not until about A.D. 500 that this technology was adopted. Other tools were used in the more than 10,000 years previous to this. The first projectiles people used in Iowa were likely spears. The main advantages of the bow and arrow compared to the spear are more rapid missile velocity, higher degree of accuracy, and greater mobility. Arrowheads also required substantially less raw materials than spear heads. A flint knapper could produce a large number of small projectile points from a single piece of chert. Bow and arrow technology was retained into the early part of the Historic Period.

In some instances, as recorded by Jesuit missionary-explorer Père Claude Aloués, bows continued to be used after the introduction of guns. Even with the many advantages of guns, bows and arrows are much quieter and much more rapid than early muzzle-loading guns, allowing the hunter more chances to strike at the prey. Indians used arrows to kill animals as large as bison and elk. Hunters approached their prey on foot or on horseback, accurately targeting vulnerable areas.

Parts of the Bow and Arrow

Bow and Arrow Terminology

Raw materials were not randomly chosen for constructing bow and arrows. Some materials were generally more readily available than others. Humidity alters the effectiveness of wooden bows. Temperature affects horn and antler. The intended use of the bow and arrow system, on foot or horse back, for instance, affects the final design. Bows used while mounted on horseback tend to be shorter than bows used when on foot.

The length of the bow determines the amount and kinds of stress placed on the bow when drawn. For this reason, shorter bows tend to be made of composites of different materials while bows used when on foot tend to be made of wood. Indians used a variety of materials to make the bow stave, relying on materials that met certain requirements, the most important of which is flexibility without breaking.

Examples of North American bows

Examples of North American Bows

Several species of plants and some animal materials common to Iowa and surrounding areas met these requirements. Ash, hickory, locust, Osage orange, cedar, juniper, oak, walnut, birch, choke cherry, serviceberry, and mulberry woods were used. Elk antler, mountain sheep horn, bison horn, and ribs, and caribou antler also were used where available.

Bow designs used included a single stave of wood (self bow), wood with sinew reinforcement (backed bow), and a combination of horn or antler with sinew backing (composite bow). Hide glue was used to attach the backing. Bow strings most frequently were made of sinew (animal back or leg tendon), rawhide, or gut. The Dakota Indians also used cord made from the neck of snapping turtles. Occasionally, plant fibers, such as inner bark of basswood, slippery elm or cherry trees, and yucca were used. Nettles, milkweed, and dogbane are also suitable fibers. Well-made plant fiber string is superior to string made of animal fibers because it holds the most weight while resisting stretching and remaining strong in damp conditions. However, plant fiber strings are generally much more labor intensive to make than animal fiber strings, and the preference in the recent past was for sinew, gut, or rawhide.

Arrow shafts were made out of shoots, such as dogwood, wild rose, ash, birch, chokecherry, and black locust. Reeds from common reed grass were also used with some frequency throughout North America with the exception of the Plains where reeds did not grow. Shoots were shaved, sanded, or heat and pressure straightened. Tools made of bone, wood, sandstone, pumice and naturally occurring clinkers or burnt lignite were used to straighten the shaft wood. Experimental archaeology has found bedrock outcrops in the Des Moines River Valley in Iowa to produce excellent raw materials for shaft-abraders.

Examples of North American arrows

Because they are hollow and light, reed-shaft arrows typically have a wooden foreshaft and sometimes a wooden plug for the nock end of the arrow. If a foreshaft was used, it could be glued to the main shaft, tied with sinew, or fit closely enough to not need glue or sinew.

Points were attached to the arrow shaft with a variety of methods. Most frequently, the arrow shaft would have a slit cut into the end to accept the point. Sinew would then be wrapped around the shaft to pinch the slit closed. Points could also be hafted directly by wrapping sinew around the point and the arrow shaft. Metal points generally were attached using the same techniques and only infrequently attached by means of a socket.

Examples of point types

Indians made many types of arrowheads. In addition to the traditional triangular stone arrowhead, carved wood or leather points have large, broad surfaces. Prehistoric points or heads were made of stone, antler, or bone. Thin metal, bottle glass, and flint ballast stones also were used to make points in the historic period. Different types of arrow tips were used for different purposes, such as for large game versus small game. Large, blunt-tipped wooden points were used for birds. Small triangular stone points were used on large animals because the small, sharp points could more easily penetrate their thick hides. Harpoon-like points also exist and were used in fishing as an alternative to hooks, nets, or weirs.

Fletching of bird feathers was sewn to or inserted in a groove cut into the arrow shaft. Fletching balances the weight of the arrowhead to prevent the arrow from tumbling end-over-end in flight. When fletched properly, an arrow may spin in flight producing an ideal trajectory. A similar effectiveness is gained by placing grooves in the barrel of a rifle to cause the bullet to spin. In fact, until the invention of rifled guns, bows generally proved to be more accurate and could shoot arrows further than powder-thrown missiles. Feathers of wild turkey were preferred but many other birds, including eagle, crow, goose, hawk, and turkey, were often used. Sinew was generally used to attach the fletching by first stripping some of the feathers from the front and back of the vane and then tying the vane to the shaft in front of and behind the remaining feathers. Sometimes plant twine was used to sew through the quill. Hide glue was used with or instead of sinew ties. Animal products like sinew have the advantage of tightening as they dry.

The bow and arrow is a complex technology. Each element of the bow, arrow, and archer must be in balance to the proportions of the others to make an effective tool. The power of a bow is measured in terms of draw weight. The bow acts as a pair of springs connected by the grip or handle. As the string is pulled the material on the inside or belly of the bow limbs compresses, while the outside or back is stretched and is placed under tension. This action stores the energy used to draw back the string. When the string is released, the limbs quickly return to their state of rest and release the energy stored in the drawn string. The height and strength of the archer determines the ideal draw weight of the bow. A combination of the length of draw and the draw weight of the bow determines the cast (propelling force) of the bow. Adjusting either or both of these features allows the arrowhead to be made larger or smaller as needed.

Bow physics

The draw weight of the bow also determines the ideal weight and diameter of the arrow shaft. Even a bow with a high draw weight can only throw an arrow so far. If the arrow is too heavy, it will not fly far or fast enough to be very useful. A shaft that is too thick or too thin will also lead to problems. The shaft must compress enough to bend around the bow stave as the string launches it. If it does not bend, the arrow flies to the side of the target. If it bends too much, it will wobble, reducing the striking force. The arrow may even shatter.

Archers Paradox

The length of the draw, also determined by the body of the archer, determines the length of the arrow. The maximum cast of the bow determines the maximum weight of the point. This is how we know that certain “arrowheads” can not really have been used on an arrow, at least not to any good effect. A general rule of thumb is that a stone arrowhead will be less than 1½-x-¾-inch in dimensions and will generally weigh less than one ounce. Larger “arrowheads” probably would have been spear, dart, or knife tips.


Ackerman, Laura B. (1985)  The Bow Machine, Science 85, July/August, pp. 92-93.

Allely, Steve, and Jim Hamm (1999)  Encyclopedia of Native American Bows, Arrows & Quivers: Volume 1: Northeast, Southeast, And Midwest. Lyons Press, New York.

Allely, Steve et al. (1992)  The Traditional Bowyer’s Bible, Volumes 1-3. Lyons & Burford, New York.

Hamilton, T.M.  (1982)  Native American Bows. Special Publications No. 5, Missouri Archaeological Society, Columbia, Missouri

Hamm, Jim (1991)  Bows & Arrows of the Native Americans. Lyons and Burford, New York. [Guide to construction]

Hardy, Robert (1992)  Longbow: A Social and Military History. Lyons and Burford, New York. [Appendix has detailed description of physics related to bow and arrow]

McEwen, Edward, Robert L. Miller, and Christopher A. Bergman (1991)  Early Bow Design and Construction, Scientific American, June 1991, pp. 77-82.

Pope, Saxton T. (1962) Bows and Arrows. University of California Press, Los Angeles.

Stockel, Henrietta H. (1995) The Lightening Stick: Arrows, Wounds, and Indian Legends. University of Nevada Press, Reno.

Thwaites, Ruben Gold, ed. (1900)  The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France 1610–1791 (60). Burrows Brothers, Cleveland.

Hurley, Vic (1975) Arrows Against Steel: The History of the Bow. Mason Charter, New York. [Discussion of effectiveness off the bow compared to firearms]

*Various terms are used to describe the indigenous or native peoples of North America, including Indian, American Indian, Native American, and so on. Each proves problematic in certain contexts. Professor June Helm, for whom I was a research assistant, preferred Amerind or American Indian. Others I worked with preferred Native American. However, communication with the OSA Indian Advisory Council indicated Indian was a good a term as any.

The text and illustrations originally appeared in print form in the Office of the State Archaeologist Series in Ancient Technologies. I’ve republished it here to restore the images of from the pamphlet. The text and illustrations are by Tim Weitzel. The cover art by Pranik Saiyasith who won a competition hosted by the OSA Education Committee. The original pamphlet was made possible through a grant from the Iowa Science Foundation administered by the Iowa Academy of Science

History of Ferries in Johnson County

First, a note. This entry will continue to be updated as I intend to do more research. This is in keeping with the Iowa City Downtown Architectural History post.

Sturgis Ferry Park was acquired by Iowa City in 1972. The name commemorates the early pioneer period of Johnson County and the use of ferries to cross major waterways. Though unconfirmed, a ferry may have crossed the river near the location of the park nearby its location.

William Sturgis was one of the early settlers of Johnson County, arriving in June of 1837, about six months before the county was established by the Wisconsin Territorial legislature in December of that year and four months before the second Black Hawk purchase was ratified in October. The land cession officially opened the area for settlement. Prior to Sturgis, John Gilbert had been in the area for some time, moving with and trading with the Meskwaki tribe under the leadership of Poweshiek. In the year prior to Sturgis’ arrival, Eli Meyers and Philip Clark had set up claim cabins in the area with Gilbert’s help.

Historian Jacob Van der Zee related that the Iowa Territorial Legislature, meeting in Burlington on January 8, 1840, provided for county commissioners to hear and settle matters for each county in a commissioner’s court. Included in these determinations was the licensing of private ferries, the charges they could make, the length of the term for the license, and the cost of obtaining the license.

Sturgis and Luke Douglass, both involved in county government, obtained the first license in the county on March 6, 1840. Their service operated under the name of Sturgis Ferry. The location of the ferry is not known, though the locations of other ferries in the area were recorded, namely one just above the old Napoleon town site, which is the location of the railroad bridge at Napoleon Park. Another ferry was licensed to to run between Sections 15 and 16 on the National Road, but that location is not otherwise clarified and the operation of the ferry was not ever actually established. A third known ferry location was located at what today is the Iowa Avenue bridge. This ferry was licensed in 1840 and this is the location that historian Benjamin Shambaugh considered the location of the National Road.

The rates of Sturgis ferry were established by the commissioner’s court to be 12½ cents for a footman, while a man and a horse were double that at 25 cents. It was 37½ cents for a horse and wagon. A yoke of oxen and wagon or a span of horses and wagon were each 50 cents. Each additional horse or yoke of oxen was another 12½ cents. A head of cattle in neat droves was 6¼ cents. Sheep and Hogs were 3 cents per head.

Although Sturgis Ferry was the first to be licensed, it was actually the second ferry in operation in the county and just one of at least eleven ferry services operating in the county at one time or another, including a ferry near Sutliff on the Cedar River. In part the large number was due to the fact the Iowa River cuts across most of the county, so many ferries are needed to shorten the time to cross the river. Also, it was due to the fact that licenses were limited to a time period and frequently the operators turned over when the license expired, sometimes after just one year.

The first ferry in the county was run by Benjamin Miller. He ran a ferry at about the location of the rail bridge on the north side of Napoleon Park. He operated from his homestead on the west side of the river during the winter of 1838–1839 and settlers paid him to use it. This was prior to the act allowing county commissions to issue ferry licenses and territorial laws regulated only ferries on the Mississippi at that time. Its location is shown in a map contemporary to when it was operating. The Government Land Survey Map 1836–1839 of T79N-R6W (Figure 1) shows cultural features in Section 22 including Miller’s Field, visible near the center of the image. This ferry location was licensed in 1840 to another individual.

Location of a ferry was not entirely random. They occurred where people would tend to cross the body of water, but also needed to be in an area with predictable and hopefully mild currents. The known ferry locations seem to indicate a preference for locations also picked by designers of bridges. This may indicate a preference for areas where the channel is shallower and may also occur near bedrock or other stone outcrops (Figure 3). The operator would live nearby on one side of the landing and a signaling device, such as a tin horn, would be kept on the opposite bank to summon the ferry keeper.

The construction design of the Johnson county ferries is not known for certain, but by inference to other known ferries they typically consisted of a type of flat boat, were constructed out of hewn logs, or were made of slab cut lumber. Since a saw mill was in operation at the time, all of these options were possible. They were steered with poles or paddles. Ferries in other locations in the country sometimes used sails to help move them or guide ropes where currents were constantly strong. Later, ferries became mechanized through steam and, later still, internal combustion engines.


________. History of Johnson County, Iowa: containing a history of the county, and its townships, cities and villages from 1836 to 1882. Iowa City. 1883. Available at Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/historyofjohnson00iowa

________. Iowa Geographic Map Server. Iowa State University Geographic Information Systems Support & Research Facility.

Aurner, Clarence Ray. Leading events in Johnson County, Iowa, history. Western historical Press, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 1912. Available at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=JHwUAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA186&dq=sturgis%20ferry%20johnson%20county%20iowa%20history&pg=PA186#v=onepage&q=sturgis%20ferry%20johnson%20county%20iowa%20history&f=false

Irish, Frederick M. History of Johnson County, Iowa. Annals of Iowa, vol. 6, no. 2. State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa CityF. 1868. Available at Iowa Research Online: http://ir.uiowa.edu/annals-of-iowa/vol1868/iss1/5

Shambaugh, Benjamin Franklin. Iowa City: a contribution to the early history of Iowa. State historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City. 1893. Available at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=woUUAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA41&ots=HnnvQ6zlbj&dq=f.m.%20irish%20iowa%20city&pg=PA41#v=onepage&q=f.m.%20irish&f=false

Thompson, William H. Transportation in Iowa: a historical summary. Iowa Department of Transportation, Ames, Iowa. 1989. Available at Iowa Department of Transportation: http://publications.iowa.gov/id/eprint/18911.

Van der Zee, Jacob. The Roads and Highways of Territorial Iowa. Iowa Journal of History and Politics, vol. 3, no. 2. State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City. 1905. Available at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=MgtKAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA175&ots=1iKKuRbx8d&dq=Van%20Der%20Zee’s%20’The%20Roads%20and%20Highways%20of%20Territorial%20Iowa&pg=PA174-IA3#v=onepage&q=van%20der%20zee&f=false



The Architectural Firms of Joseph George Durrant

Joe Durrant200dpi

Joeseph G. Durrant. Public Document

Joeseph G. Durrant (1907–1985) was an architect active from the 1930s to 1980s the in the region of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. A competent creative designer in his own right, Durrant was an even better manager of his prolific firm, continually earning commissions that the firm responded to with designs having lasting results. Many of the firm’s buildings are still in use after fifty years or more, albeit with modifications of some flat roofs. With the assistance of many skilled assistant and partner architects, his firms grew to be recognized in much of the United States and at least one project obtained a national merit award from the American Institute of Architects. A few projects were built internationally before the firm folded in 2012.

Born 1907 in Maywood, Illinois—an inner-ring suburb of Chicago, Durrant graduated from high school and took two years of night courses and then two and a half years of day courses to obtain the necessary education to begin work in 1926. He worked first as a drafter for two years and then began doing design work. He worked at a number of studios for four years, including three in Chicago and one in Madison, Wisconsin before he opened his own firm, Joseph G. Durrant—Architect, in 1933 (Durrant and Bergquist 1947). The firm bore that name until 1945. Durrant was a member of the Wisconsin Association of Architects and the Illinois Society of Architects in 1947, and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) from 1953 until his death in 1985, though he retired from active practice in 1981 (Ellis 2011, Balousek 2006). He served as president of the Wisconsin Chapter of AIA in 1966 and was named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) in 1973. He obtained his license to work in Wisconsin in 1931 and in Illinois in 1944 (Durrant and Bergquist 1947).

Durrant’s early work was mostly on New Deal government projects funding by the Public Works Administration and similar agencies (Hohenfeldt 2013, Wisconsin Historical Society). Examples from this time include three buildings built in 1934—a community center and two bathhouses (Wisconsin Historical Society). A sense of proportion and style is evident in these early buildings.


Bathhouse (1934), Boscobel, WI. Wisconsin Historical Society


Community Center (1934), Lone Rock, WI. Wisconsin Historical Society

It is notable the community center that the Wisconsin Historical Society has classified as a Quonset form actually predates the existence of true Quonset huts. Durrant may have made use of laminated roof beams that had become a popular material in use in barns and other buildings that required large open spans.

From 1934 to 1940, Raymond G. Bergquist (1907–1962) worked as a drafter with Durrant on some of the break out designs of the firm, primarily working in the Streamlined Moderne style (Durrant and Bergquist 1947). Bergquist held a B.S. in architecture and had worked as a drafter for seven years, and then moved to Boscobel and worked as a drafter for Durrant for six years. Work from this time period included two community centers with theaters (1934), a newspaper building (1935), a school (1938), and a highway garage building (ca. 1938). A number of these projects have been documented by the Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory (Wisconsin Historical Society).


Community Center and Theater (ca.1934), Montfort, WI. Durrant and Bergquist


School (1938), Cobb, WI. Durrant and Bergquist


Chronicle Building (1935), Dodgeville, WI. Wisconsin Historical Society


Highway Department Building (ca. 1938), Grant County, WI. Durrant and Bergquist


Blaine Community Building and Theater (1934), Boscobel, WI. Wisconsin Historical Society

Durrant closed shop during the Second World War. From 1941 to 1943, he worked for Mason & Hanger in New York, a venerable firm that today promotes itself as the oldest architecture and engineering firm in the U.S. and, as of 2017, nearly two centuries of work, largely in public projects (Durrant and Bergquist 1947). He apparently then returned close to home to work at the Badger Ordinance Works, a US Army ammunition plant located near Sauk City, Wisconsin (Balousek 2006).

Bergquist had left for Detroit during the Second World War, likely on defense projects during 1940 and 1941 while he was working as a drafter for Albert Kahn in Detroit, who is known primarily for Neo-Classical styled homes as well as an Art Deco office tower and modernist industrial complexes (Durrant and Berquist 1947, Bently 2017, Historic Detroit 2017).

Two very large projects were being designed in 1940 to 1941—The Willow Run (1943) manufacturing complex near Ypsilanti, Michigan and the earlier Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant (1941) in Warren, Michigan (Bently 2017). Both were short, sprawling, war time assembly buildings but Khan ensured a high level of style was used in the appearance of Willow Run, which was used to assemble B-24 aircraft (Brennan 2015). It was appropriately designed in the Streamlined Moderne style—an outgrowth of Art Deco that Khan had worked in for the Fisher Building in Detroit.

In fact, Khan had previously designed an early system for fireproof factories and had perfected systems to allow ample light and open floor plans (Bently 2017, Historic Detroit 2017). Bergquist may have been introduced to the technique here. The first of the Khan reinforced concrete buildings was the Packard Plant in 1903 (Historic Detroit 2017). A number of people were working in reinforced concrete at the turn of the 20th century, but it is likely the Pacific Coast Borax Refinery (1897) in Bayonne, New Jersey, which survived an extensive fire in 1902, convinced Kahn to use this method of construction. It presented not only a fireproof alternative to wood but allowed more open floor plans and walls could be whatever they were wanted to be. Though Khan certainly did not invent reinforced concrete structures, he clearly had figured out how to use them early on for large scale, low-rise buildings, something Bergquist seems to have taken home with him after the war.

Bergquist spent the rest of the war as an steel processing engineer and designer at firms in Chicago and Des Plaines. He rejoined Durrant in 1945, now with a total of 17 years experience including two as an engineer in steel production and three years as an architectural designer (Durrant and Bergquist 1947). In 1946 they formed a partnership named Durrant & Bergquist. The name was in use from 1946 to 1962. Durrant remained in Boscobel and Bergquist was located initially in Chicago (Durrant and Bergquist 1947). It seems Durrant retained Boscobel as his professional and home address throughout his career (Durrant 2010, Ellis 2011).

Durrant and Bergquist and their associates worked on projects primarily in southwest Wisconsin and northwest Illinois but soon began to expand into Iowa. In 1948, the firm moved its main office to Dubuque, Iowa (Leonard Parker Associates 2017). Six years later they moved into their own building at 666 Loras Bolevard. (Lyon 2017). It seems likely the firm designed it, given it was a new building (Dubuque County Assessor 2017).


666 Loras Blvd., Dubuque, IA (1954). Google Street View 2017.

Their work in the 1950s remains somewhat poorly documented, as photographs are not easy to find of the very few works listed in the AIA directories. Success came to them, however. They continued to work mostly on publicly funded buildings including a mental health hospital, a retirement home, a power company major addition and, schools. Durrant had positioned his firm to work on publicly funded buildings with some private commissions as indicated in the AIA directory. Beyond this, Durrant took advantage of the increasing number of available architects who were paying for college with the GI Bill. The long economic boom that began about 1950 and continued into the early 1970s sent many government contracts their way. The firm expanded by five times its size in the 1950s (Hohenfeldt 2003). Over the 10 year period of 1949 to 1959, a number of staff members were hired. By 1953 there were 18 in the firm. An architectural engineer was added in 1961 (Gordon 2010). Previously, they subcontracted for this work (Durrant and Bergquist 1947).

Four partners were added in 1961 (Leonard Parker Associates 2000). The AIA directories indicate these included George E. Denninger (1923–1994), Jerold W. Dommer (1930–), Donovan D. Kramer (1927–), Gene P. Gordon (1930–) and in the late 1960s, the number of partners returned to six with the addition of Norman E. Wirkler (1937–). Much of their work involved reinforced concrete for at least slabs and columns. At least one project utilized steel beams at the Iowa Interstate Power Company building addition (1956), and while this may have been for contractor or client demands, shortly after the beams in their buildings were reinforced concrete, as seen in their University commissions of the 1960s (NRHP Form for Iowa Interstate Power Company Building, Dubuque Iowa, AIA Directories).


Addition to Iowa Interstate Power Company Building, Dubuque, IA. Architect’s sketch. Telegraph-Herald, January 30, 1955. NRHP Form. Note: Load bearing elements are fireproofed steal.


Construction on original section of Van Allen Hall, The University of Iowa, July 1964. Fred Kent photographer. Iowa Digital Library, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City. Note: All load bearing elements are reinforced concrete, while the cladding is a cast concrete curtain wall with concrete masonry infill and partition walls.

Denninger joined in 1950 after serving in the Navy during the Second World War and earning his Bachelors Architecture (B.Arch) degree in 1950. He was a drafter as well as specifications writer and inspector for the firm and was a member of the AIA Wisconsin Chapter and National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) certificate, which would allow him to apply for reciprocal licensing in the region (Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa) and elsewhere. He also served as chair of the building code advisory board for Dubuque. His practice is listed in Boscobel, WI along with Durrant in the AIA directories’ geographic sections (Dommer 2010, Durrant 2010).

Dommer earned his B. Arch. in 1953 along with that year’s AIA School Medal (Now the AIA Henry Adams Medal) and George W. Cart scholarship. He worked with Durrant and Bergquist for two years as a drafter, obtained another year of internship and joined Durrant and Bergquist as a partner in 1959. He joined the AIA Iowa Chapter in 1960 and had an NCARB certification (Dommer 2010). In 1962 he was also listed in Boscobel but by 1970 he was listed in Watertown, so it is likely he ran that office for the firm. His address was listed there for his Illinois license which was valid and from 1974 to 1996. He was licensed in Wisconsin 1977 to 1980 under his own service corporation following the reorganization of DDDKG into The Durrant Group.

Kramer joined the firm as a partner in 1959 after serving as a technician in the Army Medical Corps from 1945 to 1947. He had a B. Arch. and five years experience as a drafter when he joined the firm. He also joined the AIA Iowa Chapter in 1959 and held his NCARB certification. He was licensed in Wisconsin from 1971 to 2002 (Kramer 2010).

Gordon joined the firm in 1961 with a B. Arch. and Bachelors in Architectural Engineering (BSAE). He joined the Iowa Chapter of AIA that year and was also certified by NCARB in Iowa and Minnesota. At the time Gordon had and seven years experience. He served in the Air Force as an installations engineer and planner for two years concurrent with his work as a designer-drafter with James A Burran (Gordon 2010).

Wirkler joined in 1959, the same year he earned his B. Arch and mostly worked on health care facilities including a number of hospitals and nursing homes. He was made a partner by 1970 and became a Fellow of the AIA in 1986 (Wirkler 2010).


Public Library (1960), Marshfield, WI. Wisconsin Historical Society

The partnership was renamed Durrant Deininger Dommer Kramer Gordon (DDDKG) in 1963 following the death of Bergquist (Leonard Parker Associates 2000). This name continued until 1977. That same year the firm opened an office in Watertown while retaining the Dubuque and Boscobel locations (Daily Times 1963). Dommer ran the Watertown location, which had a number of commissions through the 1960s (Dommer 2010, Daily Times 1963). The firm designed a distinctive addition to the Sauk County Courthouse (1907, 1915, 1963), which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and included in the Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places in 1989. It and the Mayville High School were also completed in 1963. The high school included a very early multi-purpose auditorium that used partitioning walls to allow smaller or larger rooms as needed, an idea that is common today in convention centers, libraries, and schools (Balousek 2006).



Courthouse Annex (1963), Sauk County, Baraboo, WI. Courthouses.co.



High School (1963), Mayville, WI. Daily Citizen. Note: A similar brick work detail seen here was used in the lecture rooms of Van Allen Hall at the University of Iowa.

As the firm worked through the 1960s, they were taking on still larger commissions including a number of large university buildings and whole campuses for small colleges, notably including in 1969 what was then the Wisconsin State University, Fond du Lac (Gordon 2010).

They primarily worked in modernism, especially mid-century modernist style, which emphasized new forms, function over form, and limited ornament typically coming in the form of window spacing and placement and form of other necessary elements. This beauty through utility was part and parcel with the minimalism common in this time period which de-emphasized ornament and emphasized utility and structure. Though a few buildings stand out with unconventional roof lines or curvilinear walls, the majority are rectilinear with strong horizontal lines punctuated with narrow, vertical elements.


Chapel (1964), Rusk County Memorial Hospital. Wisconsin Historical Society

The firm made ample use of reinforced concrete superstructures—columns and floors, a mixture of brick and cast concrete curtain wall cladding, as at Van Allen Hall (1965, 1970) at the University of Iowa, or infill masonry, such as the Nursing building (1969) at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire and the Hilltop Center (1969) at the same location. Brick cladding was frequently used, often in a buff or cream tone with notable exceptions while the cast concrete remained either light gray or bright white in all cases and provided crisp boarders and broad defining elements that accentuated necessary horizontal and vertical structural elements. In a number of projects, cast awnings were used, hearkening to Eero Saarinen and Walter Gropius, though the firm’s style is evident and original. The firm’s style also closely aligns with Meisian buildings in some cases. For example, the S.R. Crown Hall (1956) at the Illinois Institute of Technology by Ludwig Meis van der Rhoe is suggested in their offices at 122 Rockdale Road, Dubuque built in 1964 (Dubuque County Assessor), while a somewhat Wrightian influence is suggested in the Sauk County Courthouse Annex and and the Fond du Lac Public Library with the broad banding of cast concrete at the rooflines (1967), while the University of Wisconsin—Fond du Lac makes use of an original interpretation of Dickey Roofs—the original Hawaiian style inflected roof line.


1122 Rockdale Rd., Dubuque, IA. Dubuque County Assessor

Affirming satisfaction among clients, they were commissioned for more buildings and additions to buildings on the same campuses where they had previously completed successful designs. To a large extent, this was the Golden Age of the firm. It was largely the same working group who designed both sections of the Physics Research Center, now Van Allen Hall at the University of Iowa (1965, 1970), which was designed in 1962 and 1967, as well as L.E. Phillips Science Hall (1964, 1967), the Hilltop Center (1969), and the School of Nursing building (1969) at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire, the Molecular Biology and Biophysics, now R.M. Bock Laboratories (1967), and Educational Science (1971) buildings for UW—Madison, and seven buildings, including Bessey Hall (1967) and Carver Hall (1969), for Iowa State University in Ames.


L.E. Phillips Hall main entrance, University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. Wisconsin Historical Society



L.E. Phillips Hall from parking lot, University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. Wisconsin Historical Society


Van Allen Hall (formerly Physics Research Center, Physics Building) University of Iowa, Iowa City. Tim Weitzel Photographer


 R.M. Bock Laboratories (formerly Molecular Biology and Biophysics), University of Wisconsin—Madison. Wisconsin Historical Society


Public Library, Fond du Lac, WI. Wisconsin Historical Society

Bessey Hall Dedicated in 1971, Iowa State University Ames

Bessey Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA. Postcard image by ES-N-LEN, Aurora, IL


Carver Hall, Iowa State University, Ames. Public Domain image


Propelled by successes with many government and university commissions, the firm began to expand and open offices or acquire subsidiaries across the upper Midwest in the 1970s. The firm reorganized as the Durrant Group in 1977, with subsidiary corporations Durrant Architects, Inc. and Durrant Engineers, Inc. The firm employed 80 people by the end of the 1970s (Balousek 2006).

Durrant died while pheasant hunting in South Dakota in 1985 (Ellis 2011). After his death, the firm went on to acquire additional firms across the country, including smaller firms in Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, California. By 2005 the design influences of Joseph Durrant on the firm that bore his name had all but completely faded.

Editorial Notes: Wherever possible, the dates of buildings cited are those of completion with dates of major alterations indicated following a comma. I’ve compiled a fairly extensive but likely incomplete list of projects completed by the firm which goes well beyond the projects discussed in this article. Contact me to discuss it or let me know about other projects they worked on. Copyright holders are indicated for all photos.Please contact me if you are the owner and would like an image taken down. This written educational work is issued here as CC-BY-NC. You must obtain permission for any other use.

The Clay Brick and Tile Industry of Mason City, Iowa

From 1871 until 1979, a major industry in Mason City grew, then flourished, becoming at one time among the largest manufacturers in finished clay products in the nation (Loomis 2011). Until the energy crisis of the 1970s, the demand for Mason City clay products was strong enough to survive the coal shortage of 1903 and labor strike of 1909 (Minnesota Bricks 2011) as well as labor shortages caused by the world wars (c.f. Brick and Clay Record 1917).

american-brick-and-tile-company-mason-city-iowa-postcard-california-brick-societyAmerican Brick and Tile Company, Mason City, Iowa. Postcard. California Brick Society

Despite numerous challenges, the combination of labor, transportation, raw material and an active and engaged management lead to great successes. By 1913, a manager of a local brickworks wrote to a trade journal to protest the proclamations made in other areas of the Midwest and to indicate how much more impressive the Mason City operations were:

…a trifle over thirty hollow block chimneys in Mason City, ranging from a 115 to 150 feet high. All but four of these have been put up by a local mason whose name is Joseph Maddy. Overburden Stockpile -Myron W. Stephenson, Gen. Supt. Mason City Brick and Tile Works. (Brick and Clay Record 1913)

The success can be attributed to a combination of local available and abundant raw material and a superior transportation network, especially rail freight. Much of the success of the Mason City Brick and Tile industry was achieved under the leadership of O.T. Denison, who was a proprietor in three of the many of the brick yards, including the largest, the Mason City Brick and Tile Works. Under his direction, the company came to own most of the brick works in town, the North Iowa Brick and Tile Works being an exception. Denison was given the place of primary eminence in the biographical volume of the 1910 History of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa (Wheeler 1910).

Mason City Brick and Tile Company, Mason City, Iowa. Post Card. California Brick Society

The first Brick fired in Mason City by Nelson Gaylord in 1861 (American Clay Magazine, Bucyrus, Ohio, December 1910, Volume 4, Number 4). It appears Gaylord employed temporary clamp kilns on site. Nels M. Nelson and Henry Brickson opened first brick yard west of the river in the NW ¼ of Section 34, Lime Creek Township in 1871. In 1877 Nelson became the sole proprietor. By 1908 the Northwest States Portland Cement Company was in operation and they would eventually obtain the same land parcel. By then Nelson had moved to SW Mason City.

In Iowa, like much of the Upper Midwest, Clay is an abundant mineral resource, occurring in loess-deposited windblown and colluvial sediments, river valleys as alluvial sediments, and in sedimentary clay shale rock formations such as those present in the Mason City area. Clay and clay shales are used in brick, tile, and pottery manufacture but also as components of cement manufacture and specialty applications (Anderson and Bunker, Anderson 1998). In Mason City, brick and tile and cement were and are the main uses of locally mined clay and clay shale.

clay-pit-of-the-mason-city-brick-and-tile-companyClay pit of the Mason City Brick and Tile Company, Geologic Age: Devonian, Lime Creek Shales., Photographed by: Samuel Calvin. Photograph No. 91, Calvin Collection, Iowa Digital Library

Naturally occurring industrial grade clay shales of Lime Creek Formation of the Devonian system and lacustrien lake deposits are present at Mason City, along with Sioux City, Ottumwa, Clinton, and Van Meter, Dallas County (Anderson 1998). In the 1920s there were more than 300 brick and tile works in the state.

Samuel Calvin was educated in classical studies and natural sciences. A self-trained geologist, Calvin eventually earned a position on the faculty and taught at the State University of Iowa, now known as the University of Iowa, in Iowa City. He was interested in the applied sciences of Geology. Several photos in the Samuel Calvin collection at the University of Iowa Libraries show images of the early brick and tile works facility. The images document production facilities, products made, the name of the company and the clay mine operations.

The type of raw material has much to do with the final product that is derived from the material. For instance, raw clay derived from loess or alluvial sediments most often forms an earthenware used in soft brick and drain tile while clay shales are useful in high-fire, hard materials such as face brick, fire brick (refractory brick), brick pavers and has the name of flint clay, fire clay, stoneware and so on. More to the point, clays that have accumulated due to geological mechanical transport tend to be higher in oxides, especially iron, as well as mixed with impurities such as organic matter. These clays therefore have a much lower refractive nature, meld at a lower temperature, but remain porous when fired and perform poorly under high kiln temperatures. Conversely, clays that form in one place due to the chemical or mechanical leaching of soluble materials and leaving the clay deposits as residual accumulations tend to be low in oxides and in localized areas are free of impurities, and therefore are less plastic and more refractive. These clays tend to be nearly pure derivatives of feldspar and perform well at high temperatures, become fully fused (vitreous) and approach glass in final characteristics when fully fired. There are exceptions and it is based more on parent material and the presence of the impurities than anything else but in general primary weathered sedimentary materials and weathered igneous form the most pure clays—i.e., kaolin (Searle 1912, Rhodes 1973). Ball clay is secondary clay that is extraordinarily free of iron and sand and therefore is an excellent plastic additive for Kaolin, which is too stiff for most applications. Using a variety of clay types and other material additives, stone grit, previously fired clay grog, sand, and so on can also allow clays to be designed for specific purposes.  Brick and tile industrial applications favor iron–rich, natural accumulations of soft clay that has or to which an appropriate amount of sand can be added without too much trouble (Rhodes 1973).

Initially, brick was made in clamp kilns on a building site, after the basement cellar had been dug.  According to experts in the plaster industry, building pits are also useful in that industry as well. For this, limestone was needed on site or needed to be brought to the site. Both brick and plaster require a considerable amount of fuel to make. Later, kilns were built and were first fired with wood.

The conversion to coal was likely for mixed reasons. First, wood had become scarce by the late 19th century. Importantly, the writer’s for the Calvin Project at The University of Iowa Libraries observed the denuded landscape in late 19th century Iowa, remarking that

Most striking and useful for geologic interpretation is the lack of trees in Calvin’s photographs. The pioneers and industries consumed most of the trees for buildings and fuel. Today, Iowa is more wooded, and many of the geologic localities that Calvin photographed, as well as the new roads and railcuts, have since been overgrown or lost to new construction. The photographs are potentially useful for the study of agricultural changes and land use. They give a glimpse of the native prairie that existed in Iowa in the late 1800’s. (Iowa Digital Library 2011)

And although large scale industrial brick works require coal to fire the kilns and as source of power to run pug mills, mixers, and extruders (Weitzel 2005, Bleininger and Greaves-Walker 1918, Windsor and Kinfield Publishing Co 1897–ca.1950), there were a number of issues when converting to coal but also expanding it as a fuel source (Dornback 1910).

In 1866, the Mason City and Fort Dodge railroad line was established. The railroad opened the door for Mason City to grow quickly providing transportation for people, raw materials and finished goods. The first to make use of these factors was the Mason City Brick and Tile Company (Visit Mason City, Iowa 2011).

The Mason City Brick and Tile Co. brick works plant was located inside the corporate boundary, in the south part of the 3rd Ward at the time. It began operations in 1892 (Brick and Clay Record 1909).  The location was northwest of the Elmwood Cemetery at a location corresponding to SW ¼ of the SE ¼ of Section 9. The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad was shown running east to west near the south section line. The intersecting line from the southwest was operated by the Mason City and Fort Dodge Railway. Further east a north to south line was operated by the Iowa Central RR, the Mason City Junction was located near the SW corner. The Brick & Tile plant was serviced by a rail spur from Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. The Patron’s directory listed the Mason City Brick and Tile Company as “Manufacturers of Wire Cut Brick and Drain Tile, Vitrified Paving and Sidewalk Brick, Dealers in St. Louis Firebrick and Fire Clay. O.T. Denison President and Manager.

view-of-works-of-the-mason-city-brick-and-tile-company-from-the-southeastView of works of the Mason City Brick and Tile Company, from the southeast. Photographed by: Samuel Calvin. Lantern Slide No. 1481. Photograph No. 98. Calvin Collection, Iowa Digital Library

In 1909, an additional plant in operation by the American Brick and Tile Company was located 2 miles southwest of the post office, in the NW ¼ of Section 17, due south of the west boundary of Elmsly and Adam’s Subdivision located south west of First Street and Inland Ave in the NW ¼ of the NW ¼ of Section 16 (Sanborn 1909). In 1912, the county atlas depicts the North Iowa Brick and Tile in operation in the SE ¼ of Section 8. The Farmers Cooperative Brick and Tile Co. was located in the west half of the same section. By 1930, the Hixson plat map and trade journals indicate there were 10 plants operated by 8 companies.

Originally, clay was dug by hand and most brick works used human or animal power to move barrows or carts of clay to the brick works (Lienhard 1997, Terrell 200, Webber 1976–1992). Depending on the type of clay, the amount of impurities or inclusions and the desired final product, different processes were used. Some clay works will spread out the raw material to dry, sieve, and then crush, re-sieve and rehydrate. This process allows consistency by using a dry weight measure, in turn facilitating more precise mixtures of clays (Rhodes 1873, Weitzel 2005). For extrusion products, the clay would be mixed with other additives to facilitate the process (Propst and Clark 2003). The resulting slurry would then be fed into an extruding machine. This machine could be fitted with differently sized or shaped dies for square building block or round drainage tile. A different type of process was necessary to make silo tile or sewer brick because these generally are made in the form of an arc, the diameter of which determines the size of the final structure. The extrusions were cut in the desired lengths, usually 12 to 14 inches for drain tile, longer for sewer tile. Building blocks were typically sixteen inches (Propst and Clarke 2003). The specialty fittings were of necessity made by hand. Originally, brick was also made by hand using a specialized set of tools and molds (Terrell 2000, Lienhard 1997, Weber 1976–1992, Weitzel 2005).

Eventually, the dry process of pressed bricks was developed, wherein a ball with a clay body containing a lot less water is placed into mold and the pressed into the desired shape using force from any of a number of methods. The tiles were placed on drying racks before being fired in the kilns. Depending on the type of kiln, the bone ware must either be handed onto ware carts, moved to the kiln and it loaded. After a cooling period the tile was removed from the kilns and either stockpiled or loaded directly into boxcars. Later innovations involved rail cars and tunnel kilns. In this process the formed ware is loaded onto rail cars and the cars slowly move through a long, multi-chambered kiln, with each chamber set to the proper temperature to correctly fire the ware from bisque through to vitrification. Today, the process of extrusion to the final shipping point is one long rail with drying and cooling and even glazing accomplished without rehandling the ware. The brickyard would shut down for a short time each winter for repairs and improvements.

mason-city-brick-and-tile-company-view-from-northeastMason City Brick and Tile Company, view from northeast. Photographed by: Samuel Calvin. Photograph No. 81. Calvin Collection, Iowa Digital Library

Eventually, several of the Mason City brick works installed steam powered cable cars made by the Vulcan Iron Works, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania or the Hathorn Foundry & Machine Co., Mason City that were elevated to the top of the clay works by a mine tipple (Brick and Clay Record 1909). When under mutual ownership, several plants would mine from the same pit. As distances grew and labor shortages mounted during WWI,  improvements in efficiency for labor and energy drove the further mechanization of the plants and mines.

The Mason City Brick and Tile Works Company installed a rail track with mine cars driven by a steam locomotive some time before 1915 (Propst and Clocke 2003, Sanborn Map 1915). The introduction of steam powered, later diesel powered, draglines and the conversion from coal to gas fired kilns was at this time but were not perfected until the 1920s. At the same time other efficiencies increasingly were introduced, such as hydraulic presses for face brick (Brick and Clay Record 1917, The Clay-worker 1922). Again changes came about as the Second World War approached. The haul line was electrified in 1940 and two side dump engines were purchased from The Clinton, Davenport & Muscatine Railroad (Ross 2011). The engines were made by the Differential Steel Car Company of Findley, Ohio, a company that developed innovations in mine cars and locomotives (Ohio Vintage Coal 2009). When the pits were located farther away from the factories, the rail line was not extended. Instead trucks transported it from the pits to the railhead (Popst and Clocke 2003).view-of-differential-steel-car-purchased-from-the-clinton-davenport-muscatine-railwayView of Differential Steel Car purchased, from the Clinton Davenport & Muscatine Railway. Photograph from the Don Ross Collection (Ross 2011)

By 1956, the transportation of clay to the factory was done all with trucks. Consequently, the rails were removed and the rail equipment was scrapped (Propst and Clocke 2003). By 1979, the demand for brick had greatly reduced demand for the products and the last of the operations ceased.

Components of a Typical Clay Brick or Tile Facility
Clay Pit

Processing Plant/Brick Works

Machine Room/Black Smith Shop/Clay Room

Crushing and pulverizing mills, Mixers, Pug Mills, Extrusion Mills, Brick Press and molds, Conveyors, Ware Cars/tracks, Ware Shelving

Power Plant (to generate steam and electricity)

Drying Sheds

Kiln Array



Drying Sheds


Cable Car/Railroad/Haul Road
Pit mine conveyors/tipple
Tunnel system to duct  heat from furnace fire rooms to kilns and drying shed
Steam powered Corliss type engines to haul equipment and for the use of the Power Take Off. The manufacturers were located at Sioux City and Burlington, IA

Products: Pavement brick  (street and sidewalk types), drain tile, structural tile (wall block, window caps, window sills, farm silos), common brick (structural brick), hollow brick (face brick).

Company Name or Other Significant Dates Board or Management Location
Lime Creek Brickyard


1871 (1)





1882 (8, 5)

Nels M Nelson and Henry. Brickson to 1877, Nelson sole proprietor after 1877



N.M. Nelson and Barr

First pit and works were in Lime Creek Twp,


Later moved to Southwest Mason City in 1882. 4,000 brick from this yard in 1882.


Mason City Brick and Tile Company

Later acquired the American Brick and Tile Company and consolidated the Denison companies under this name, 7 facilities


1884 (2) (founded)

Incorporated 1892 (2)

O.T. Denison, President and L.W. Dension Secretary-Treasurer SW-SE-9-96-20
  1910 (4) C.E. Smith General Manger  
Added Clay handling plant in clay pit and tramways before 1914 1913 (4) M.W. Stephenson General Superintendent  
  1914 (8) Keeler consolidates four operations into one company  
American Brick and Tile Company

Built on site of the original Nelson and Barr brick works of 1882 (5)

Second Plant (Plant No. 1), due north across railroad track.


1900 (6)








1910–1914 (7)



1914 (7, 8)


Ira Irving Nichol Organizer

Albert F. Shots General Manger










Both acquired by MCB&T

Farmers Cooperative Brick and Tile Company

Same proprietor in Sheffield

1910 (3) James H. Brown

William M. Colby (Promotional Agent)


Mason City Drain Tile Company

Built second plant

1907 (2)





1914 (7, 8)

O. T. Denison, president; F. A. Stephenson, vice-president; F. E. Keeler, secretary, and L. W. Denison, treasurer.


Acquired by MCB&T


Mason City Sewer Pipe Company

Sewer tile and brick.


Completely lit by electrical lights when built


1905 (2)




1914 (7, 8)

O.T. Dension, president L. W. Denison, secretary, and F. E. Keeler, treasurer.


Acquired by MCB&T

Mason City Clay Works

Drain tile, common brick, and hollow block tile.

Uses cable cars built by Vulcan Iron Works, Wilkes-Barre, PA

This company used mechanical explosives to loosen shales that they worked to a depth of 45 feet below surface. (2)


1900 (2)





1914 (7, 8)

F. A. Stephenson is president; O. T. Denison, vice-president; L. W. Denison, secretary, and F. E. Keeler, treasurer. Stephenson also had work or was working with plants in Des Moines and Illinois



Acquired by MCB&T

National Clay Works     3 Miles west of Court House(7)
  1. Lime Creek Township. Union Publishing 1883
  2. Brick and Clay Record 1909
  3. Brick and Clay Record 1910
  4. Brick and Clay Record 1913
  5. The Iowa Engineer, Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa, October 1910, Volume XI, Number 1
  6. Wheeler 1910
  7. Sanborn Maps
  8. Loomis 2011


Anderson, R.R. and B. J. Bunker Fossil Shells, Glacial Swells, Piggy Smells, and Drainage Wells: The Geology of the Mason City, Iowa, Area, GSI-65, Iowa Geological Society, Iowa City 1998.

Anderson, Wayne l. Iowa’s Geologic Past: Three Billion Years of Earth History. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City. 1998.

Becker, Sharon R. Cero Gordo County, IaGenweb Project. Accessed September 22, 201

Bettis, E. Arthur III. Soil Morphological Properties and Weathering Zone Characteristics as Age Indicators in Holocene Alluvium in the Upper Midwest. Chapter 4 in Holliday, Vance T. Soils in Archaeology: Landscape Evolution and Human Occupation. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 1992.

Bleininger, A.V and A.F. Greaves-Walker. Fuel Economy in Burning Clays. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 1918

California Brick. Historical Brictures, California Brick Society Website, http://californiabricksociety.com/HistoricalPictures.html, Accessed September 23, 2011.

Cerro Gordo County Assessor website http://www.co.cerro-gordo.ia.us/WebAccess/showimage PDF.asp?docid=10000000042000026809, Accessed September 22,  2011.

Dornback, W.E. The Iowa Engineer, Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa, October 1910, Volume XI, Number 1

Hirst, K. Kris. Archaeological Investigation at the Brown Brothers Tile Factory, Washington County, Iowa. Journal of the Iowa Archaeological Society. Vol. 47. 2000.

Brick and Tile Bibliography. Brick and Tile References: Technical Treatises for the Archaeologist. Tennessee Archaeology Net Bibliography Page. Frank.mtsu.edu/~kesmith/TNARCHNET/Pubs/Bricks.html. Accessed September 23, 2001.

Hixson. Plat Book of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. W.W. Hixson & Company, Rockford, IL. 1930.  Copy available at Iowa Digital Library http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/u?/hixson,297. Accessed September 23, 2011

Iowa Digital Library, Calvin Image Database, Digital Library Services, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City. http://www.uiowa.edu/~calvin/calvin_search.html. Accessed September 23, 2011.

Iowa Geographic Map Server, Iowa State University Geographic Information Systems Support & Research Facility, Ames, Accessed September 22, 2010

Iowa Geological and Water Survey web site, Bedrock and Quaternary Geologic and Maps of Iowa, Iowa Department of Natural Resources web page, Accessed September 22, 2011.

Lienhard, John L. Engines of Our Ingenuity. No. 1249, Bricks. http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi1249.htm. Accessed September 23. 2011.

Minnesota Bricks, 10 – Out of State Brick, Iowa Brick, Mason City Brick, http://www.mnbricks.com/mason-city-brick, MNBricks.com, 2011. Accessed September 23, 2011.

National Brick, The Clay-worker, Volumes 77-78, National Brick Manufacturers’ Association of the United States of America, Indianapolis. 1922.

North West Publishing. Plat book of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. North West Publishing Company, s.l. [probably Philadelphia], 1895.  Copy available at Iowa Digital Library http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/u?/atlases,644. Accessed September 23, 2011

Ohio Vintage Coal, Differential Steel Car Co., http://industrialrail.5u.com/photo_44.html, Ohio Vintage Coal Company, Pataskala, Ohio, 2009. Accessed September 23, 2011.

Online Iowa Site File database and LANDMASS predicative and interpretive models, Office of the State Archaeologist, The University of Iowa,

Prior, Jean C., Landforms of Iowa, The University of Iowa Press, 1991

Propst, Clark and Chuck Klocke, “27) Mason City Brick and Tile Works”, Chuck Klocke contributor. Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway Company: Mason City Industry by Clark Propst on Minneapolis & St. Louis, Iowa Central, Chicago & Northwestern Website, Lyndon “Cash” Groth on RailServe, Internet Railroad Database. http://www.cashgroth.com/index.html. 2003, Accessed September 23, 2011.

Rhodes, Daniel, Clay and Glazes for the Potter. Chilton Book Company, Radnor, Pennsylvania. 1973.

Ross, Don. Mason City Brick & Tile Co., Mason City Brick & Tile Company, Don’s Rail Photos, http://donsdepot.donrossgroup.net/dr145.htm,Don Ross Group. 2011. Accessed September 23, 2011

Searle, Alfred B. The Natural History of Clay. Cambridge University Press, G.P. Putnum,’s Sons New York, 1912.

Soil Survey Staff, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Web Soil Survey. Available online at http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/. Accessed September 22, 2011.

Terrell, Michelle M. Nineteenth Century Soft-Mud Brick Kilns: Two Examples From Lost Creek Valley, Mahaska County, Iowa. Journal of the Iowa Archaeological Society. Vol. 47. 2000.

Union Publishing, History of Franklin and Cerro Gordo Counties, Iowa, Union Publishing Company, Springfield, Illinois. 1883.

Visit Mason City, Iowa. About Mason City: Mason City History, Visit Mason City, Iowa website. http://www.visitmasoncityiowa.com/html/history.htm, Accessed September 23, 2011.

Wall, Joseph Frazier. The WPA Guide to 1930’s Iowa Pp. 285-88. Federal Writers Project. University of Iowa Press. Iowa City. 1986.

Weber, Irving. Historical Stories about Iowa City (Irving Weber’s Iowa City). Lions Club (Iowa City, Iowa). 1976–1992.

Weitzel, Tim,   An Armchair Walking Tour of the Longfellow Neighborhood, Library Cable Chanel 4, August 1, 2005, Iowa City Public library, Iowa City. 2005

History Notes: The Oakes Brickworks and “1142” in The Long View [Newsletter], Longfellow Neighborhood Association, November 2005, Iowa City, Iowa. 2005.

The Longfellow Neighborhood Historic Markers, in Past, Present, Future, Spring 2005, Friends of Historic Preservation, Iowa City, Iowa. 2005.

The Oakes Brickworks, Sign #2B, Longfellow Neighborhood Art Project. Historic Markers and Public Art in the Longfellow Neighborhood, Iowa City. http://www.icgov.org/default/?id=1684 and http://www.icgov.org/site/CMSv2/file/publicArt/LNAbrochure.pdf, Accessed September 23, 2011, City of Iowa City, Iowa City, Iowa. Updated 2008.

Wheeler, J.H., History of Cerro Gordo County Iowa, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago. 1910.

Wikipedia online encyclopedia (www.wikipedia.org). Accessed; September 22, 2010

Windsor and Kinfield Publishing Co. Brick and Clay Record, Windsor and Kinfield Publishing Company, Chicago, 1897–ca.          1 950.

Volume XX, Number 2, Page 93, February 1904

Volume XIX, Number 2, Pages 4, 41, August 1903

Volume XXX, Number 1, Pages 1, 11, 12, 13, 14, January 1909

Volume XXIX, Number 6, Page 532, December 1908

Volume XXIX, Number 2, Page 345, August 1908

Volume XXXIII, Number 3, Page 135, 121, September 1910

Volume LI, Number 1, Page 692–693, July, 1950

History of Eggnog

Eggnog (archaically egg nogg, egg milk punch) is generally eggs with beer, wine, cider, or spirits and sometimes served hot (OED). It originates as an Americanism where egg and nog were combined between 1765 and 1775 to describe a drink, that at the time was served for occasions other than holiday parties.

Nog is usually described etymologically as being of East Anglian origin around 1623, where in the local middle english dialect of Norfolk, East Anglia nog was a strong ale (OED). Humphrey Prideaux wrote a letter in 1693 from the county of Norfolk, describing “a bottle of old strong beer, which in this country they call ‘nog.’ ”[1] Being called an old beer, it was probably an old ale or keeping ale, which could have started as a strong beer (higher alcohol content) and then was aged to develop a carmally, estery, and thick flavor.

Egg nog is generally considered to be have developed as a type of posset (ca. 1425). Posset was spelled in many various and wondrous ways because this was the time of middle English. A posset is a usually warm or hot milk drink with alcohol, typically wine, strong ale, or liquor, and flavored with sugar, spices, and herbs (Hieatt 1988, OED). Care must be taken in the order in which the ingredients are added, or the milk will curdle. The recipe was of course originally recommended for medicinal use. The oldest discussion of its medical virtues appears to be John Russell’s Boke of Nurture, a form of manual for manservants and is dated tentatively at 1460 to 1470 (Sloan MS. 2027, British Museum).[2]

Nog certainly could have been used to make a posset. A similar but later drink was syllabub.[3] Syllabub (1573), is a drink of milk or cream that is sweetened, flavored, and mixed with wine or cider (OED). Eggnog also appears to follow in the history of punches (1630s) in that they traditionally are a mix of ingredients that include alcohol and since the 17th century, often several types mixed. While they are similar, punches generally don’t include milk or eggs. The Spanish made similar drinks with sherry, The Portuguese used Madeira, and the French used brandy. Scandinavians make a drink called glögg, gløgg, and the Germans and Austrians glühwein.

As colonists moved to the New World, they took the tradition with them, with variations being found in South America and the Caribbean. Punch in particular had become a very popular drink and it tended to use a mixture of alcohols, usually distilled, not just the one ale or fortified wine. So rum naturally came to be used in the Caribbean and the American colonies. A Chilean version not surprisingly includes cocoa powder and chillies. Puerto Rico uses coconut milk and calls the drink Coquito.

George Washington’s recipe called for domestic and imported spirits and sherry. The recipe was prepared for George Washington and Martha Dandridge’s wedding at her plantation, located near the small town of White House, New Kent County, Virginia on January 6, 1759. Egg nog was commonly served at weddings and other occasions. The Wedding was known by participants as the “Twelvth Night Wedding” or the the “Old Christmas Wedding.”[4] The recipie Washington devised included a pint of brandy, some rye whiskey and Jamaican rum. To this mixture Washington added a healthy dose of mellow sherry to provide the drink with “good fumes.”[ibid.]

Note that 1750 is considerably before Washington’s farm manager, James Anderson, suggested he build a distillery sometime not long after he was hired in 1796.[5] An article in a 1979 newspaper translated the recipe as follows:

One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, 1/4 pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days.[6]

The number of eggs is estimated to be about a dozen based on the extant recipe of Jane Gilmore (Mrs. B.C.) Howard ca. 1879.


Egg Nogg.

Beat the yolks of twelve eggs, and the whites of two as light as possible. Allow an even table-spoonful of pounded sugar to each egg, pour slowly into the above one pint of brandy, and quarter of a pint of peach brandy, stirring rapidly. When well mixed, add three pints of new milk, and four pints of cream. No liquor must be added after the cream and milk, or the egg nogg will be thin and poor.

The peach brandy may be omitted, if desired.[7]


A diary entry from another family about 10 years earlier suggests the nog bowl was simply left out on the porch for refrigeration.[ibid.] Then again, global temperatures on average were a good deal cooler at the time.

Pierce Egan (1772–1849), a period author, published a book in 1821 titled Tom & Jerry : Life in London, or, the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, esq. and His Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom, in Their Rambles and Sprees Through the Metropolis. To publicize his work Mr. Egan made up a variation of eggnog he called “Tom and Jerry”. It added the instructions to serve the drink warm but otherwise was not that different than the earlier recipes. Being warm it seems to signal a continuation of the posset concept. The drink perhaps introduced the common spices we use in egg nog today–nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon, but it is hard to tell since posset recipes rarely if ever specify which herbs and spices to use.

Jerry Thomas (1830–1885), the famous bartender who created a lot of mixed drinks in the the mid- to late-19th century published a number of different types of Egg Nogg, also called Egg Milk Punch, in 1862 (Wondrich 2015:129–130). The single serving recipe for egg nog called for a tablespoon or two of fine white sugar, two tablespoons of water, one egg, two ounces of cognac brandy, an ounce of Santa Cruz rum, into a half tumbler of shaved ice, fill the tumbler with milk, shake well and add some grated nutmeg on top. The same recipe appears in Thomas as milk punch leaving out the egg (Wondrich 2015:82–83). Thomas mentions the fact that every good bar has a tin eggnog shaker for this purpose, which is possibly the earliest reference to a cocktail shaker. Thomas also provided a Sherry Egg Nogg recipe, wherein two ounces of oloroso sherry replace the cognac and rum, though in the party size of the drink titled Baltimore Egg Nogg, he calls for madeira along with the rum and cognac. This is a good point also to mention the size of the measures as Thomas called for wine glass measures, which actually are two and not six or eight ounces in size. One other recipe that Thomas published was General Harrison’s Egg Nogg, which called for no milk but used hard cider, which was a nod to Benjamin Harrison who ran on the Log Cabin and Hard Cider slogan for his populist ticket during his 1832 presidential campaign.

Wondrich (2015) goes on to say that whiskey in eggnog originated in the backwoods of the eastern frontier (Western Pennsylvania and Kentucky) and that “swells and epicures” preferred brandy, rum or fortified wine in theirs. It is interesting to note the Irish milk punch scáiltín includes whisky, so the use of whiskey is not unlikely by the Scots-Irish frontier folk. Wondrich (2015) goes on to say a recipe from the Republic of Texas (1836–1846) called for mezcal in their eggnog. Probably around the middle of the 19th century Southerners who used the backwoods version of eggnog began to use bourbon in place of rye in their eggnog, as this spirit was becoming increasingly popular at the time. But notably, gin doesn’t appear in any period recipes found, but just about anything goes in modern mixology and gin, tequila, and even ginger liqueur show up as suggestions in current recipes for eggnog.

The thing we buy in the store that is called eggnog is a distant relative of what it originally was. The A&E Dairy Classic Eggnog is touted at a recipe they have used for more than 50 years.[8] It contains milk, cream, sugar, nonfat dry milk, whey, egg yolks, gelatin, nutmeg, annatto and turmeric (for color), natural and artificial flavors. Unless you make it yourself, this close to what you will buy from any brand due to cost constraints, packaging and storage concerns, and modern manufacturing requirements. That said, Esquire magazine has rated Organic Valley as the best Eggnog brand, Serious Eats rated it second best behind another regional brand from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—Turkey Hill.


Hieatt, Constance B. An Ordinance of Pottage. Prospect Books, London. 1988.

OED. Oxford English Dictionary. OED Online. Oxford University Press, Oxford, England. Continually updated. Accessed December 2, 2015.

Wondrich, David. Imbibe! Updated and Revised Edition: from Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar. Penguin Publishing Group, New York. 2015.

History of Carols

We know music was part of the prehistoric world due to finding instruments that date between 30,000 and 45,000 years old and it is generally thought that singing proceeded instrument making as singing is closer to language than playing instruments.[1][2] Being prehistoric, there is no written record of the songs played or when or why they might have been performed. The earliest historic record of music is on clay tablets in a number of languages from the Ugarit site in Syria dating to 3,400 years ago, or about 1,450 B.C.E.[3]

The site was populated by Amorites, a northwest semitic people living in southwestern Mesopotamia (modern day Syria into Iraq) who were in contact with Sumaria, Cyprus, Egypt, and Akkadia based on the exonyms, names for a people from other people, in those languages. Another more recent interpretation of the song has been performed on a  lyre.

The earliest extant songs for Christmas date to about the time that the December 25th date was adopted in the Roman Empire,which w during the 4th Century C.E.. They are not carols as we think of them and are in cant  form. A good example was written by  Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan. It is typical of liturgical songs of the time being in the form of chant.[3] During the 9th century, chant became polyphony, which was common in secular songs as well as religious. As time passed, and heading into the early Middle ages,  the Christmas sequence, poems composed to be sung during the mass, between the Alleluia and the gospel reading, consisted of modal melodies in rhymed stanzas.[4] Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153) introduced it in north European monasteries, developing under the Cistercian Order (Miles 1976).

Popular or folk music continued as usual, primarily being learned from oral sources only and was the entertainment of the common people.  In the twelfth century the Parisian monk Adam of St. Victor began to derive music from popular songs, introducing something closer to the traditional Christmas carol. Then in the thirteenth century, as songs became more folk based, a strong tradition of popular Christmas songs in the native languages developed, particularly due to the work of Adam of Saint Victor (d. 1146) and Francis of Assisi (c.1181–1226).

During the high middle ages, the musical form of carol (carole or carola) was a circle dance, and related to bransles and rondels that are thought to have begun as country or peasant dances, but had by that time become common among the landed gentry (Randle 1986). The songs that accompanied the dances initially were sung, but as they became adopted by court, instrumentation was written to accompany the dances (Scholes 1976).

By the 12th century  Troubadour songs of courtly love and chivalry became common in documentation.[4] By the time of the Renaissance, dance songs were still common but the new courtly music was madrigals, which were not Christmas songs at all, but many today find them pleasingly similar and they are most often performed during the holidays. Most madrigals were songs of love, songs of romance.[6] Madrigals eventually merged with other forms of song, such as cantatas,  forming a new form of music—the lyric opera and in particular arias, which is heading in another direction entirely.

None of these preceding forms are actually Christmas carols as we know them today. Modern Christmas Carols appear to actually be more related to a practice called mumming, an ancient, secret rite where a usually all male troupe dresses up and goes about the town, singing and dancing songs that were passed only within the secret society known as Mummers Play and only by oral tradition. Earlier still, this was a probably Celtic, but certainly Germanic custom of visiting the orchards to sing incantations to the trees for a bountiful harvest. This is the tradition that became known as wassailing in the 18th and 19th centuries. The mummers sometimes wore costumes or black face and sometimes cross-dressed for female parts. They would appear on holidays and as entertainment at festivals. Usually lyrics and gestures could be quite lewd. The mumming practices were so lewd and related to pagan, probably Celtic and Germanic customs, that the Church actively banned it.[7] The practice was not ended, however and continued, despite one religion officially frowning on the practices. Mumming has been retained in the tradition of pantomime, usually performed on a stage as a sometimes burlesque review with acting and singing during the Christmas season in the U.K., St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland, and as Mummers Parades on New Year’s Day in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Mumming was not just done at Christmas originally, but also Candlemass and Halloween and probably other holidays.[ibid.] During the 19th century it transformed to wassailing.  In Scotland,  the practice became associated with the New Year celebration of Hogmanay a seemingly similar but etymologically difficult custom of parading about town.

It is unclear when the first actual religious carol was written but it is believed that the first such carols followed the verse-refrain pattern, as they were liturgical and followed out of the tradition of chant.[8] It is thought that these liturgical carols appeared between the 13th and 14th century and were based on Christ, Mary, or other biblical figures, and sometimes mixed Latin and local languages.[ibid.]

One of the earliest recorded pieces of a secular carol the early 13th century Anglo-Norman piece, Seignors Ore Entendez À Nus.[9] About on hundred years later, John Awdlay, a blind Shropshire chaplain, wrote caroles of Cristemas in 1426, probably sung by groups of ‘wassailers’, who went from house to house (Miles 1976:47–48).[10] The practice suggests the growing influence of the clergy in making the winter solstice a church holiday.
Carols gained somewhat in popularity after the Renaissance and Reformation in the countries where Protestant churches gained prominence (as well-known Reformers like Martin Luther authored carols and encouraged their use in worship). This was the consequence of the fact that most protestant churches of the reformation warmly welcomed music in vernacular languages.[11]

However the most lasting influence on both carols and Christmas traditions took place in the Victorian period when many new carols were introduced and old lyrics were recast in new arrangements.[ibid.]  For some reason, things seem to have fossilized here in the era of Dickensian tales and the opulence of Empire. Greenery is clearly Christian, wassailing is strictly above board and so on.

The proper Anglo Saxon toast is Wæs þu hæl, which is To your health. in Middle English, it is Waes Hael, and the response Drinc Hael!


Miles, Clement.Christmas Customs and Traditions. Dover Publications, New York.1976.

Randel, Don Michael, ed. “Carole,” New Harvard Dictionary of Music. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. 1986.

Reid-Walsh, Jacqueline. “Pantomime”, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, Jack Zipes (ed.), Oxford University Press, New York. 2006.

Scholes, Percy A.. John Owen Ward, ed. The Oxford Companion to Music, tenth edition. Oxford University Press, New York. 1970.