2015 Presentations

Download the History Camp Iowa 2015 schedule (PDF). Please note: the schedule is subject to change.

Title Description Presenter(s)
“Democratizing Digitization: How thousands of strangers across the world are helping preserve Iowa history.” In 2011, the University of Iowa launched a pilot project with a new web-based platform and invited members of the public—anyone, anywhere—to transcribe historic documents, including wartime diaries, letters, and manuscripts, cookbooks and other personal papers. Since that pilot, the program has been expanded and today thousands of people have transcribed more the 60,000 pages of documents. We’ll take a close look at one of these projects. You’ll learn how this works, how you can get involved, and why this program continues to grow. Mark F. Anderson, Digital Collections Librarian, University of Iowa Libraries
History in Fast Forward: 12 million years in just 30 minutes From woolly mammoths to Woodland period burial mounds, from the Nation’s 34th First Lady to the girl who saved a train, from record-breaking bridges to heart-breaking pioneer deaths. Boone County has a fascinating past and a really fun future. How do we do it in just 30 minutes? That’s history in FAST FORWARD, and you’ll just have to come and find out! Pam Schwartz, Executive Director, Boone County Historical Society
A Question of Friendship: Iowa U.S. Senator George Wallace Jones and his Confederate Son Early Iowa slave-owner George Wallace Jones later became an Iowa U.S. Senator. His rise to power in the Iowa Democratic Party helped condition two of his sons to serve the Confederacy. David Connon will share the stories of Senator Jones and one of those sons. Connon has documented 74 residents who left Iowa and served the C.S.A. David Connon, interpreter, Living History Farms; independent researcher and writer
A War of Ideas—U.S. Propaganda Posters of the Second World War In the aftermath of the Second World War, the U.S. shifted from a largely isolationist nation toward one with enormous global influence. This dramatic transition was matched by, internal social changes, in part, unchained by the necessities of a society waging total war. The posters that promoted the government’s war time initiatives are a imperfect outline for the social upheaval and political change that would come to dominate the second half of the 20th century. Everything from civil rights and labor movements to the women’s rights movement and the model for contemporary advertising was evident in the designs that both prefigure social change and project an underlying resistance to the same. As a result the posters that were produced to support the efforts of the the United States and it’s allies against fascism remain provocative and insightful. John Fender, MFA, Associate Professor of Design, Drake University
Outside In:African-American History in Iowa, 1838-2015 “Outside In: African-American History in Iowa, 1838-2015” is a 17 minute audio-visual, movie-like experience that presents the highlights of African-American History in Iowa, 1838-2015, largely based on the content of the collaborative, 600 page, 20 chapter, richly illustrated book of the same name produced by 39 authors who have not and will not receive any compensation for their six years of research and writing. Hal S. Chase, Ph.D., co-author of “Outside In: African-American History in Iowa, 1838-2015”
The Museum Curator and the Meskwaki State Historical Department Curator, Edgar Harlan (1908-1937) developed a relationship with the Meskwaki tribe to bring multi-cultural studies to Des Moines Public School teachers. Harlan’s personal relationships with tribal members is also explored in this presentation Jerome Thompson, state curator (ret.)
Evaluating the Role of Women in Underground Railroad Activities in Iowa through Genealogical Research It is often hard to determine the extent of women’s involvement in Underground Railroad activities prior to and during the Civil War from the documented historical sources. Genealogical Research has provided a new way to evaluate the role of women in Underground Railroad activities even when there is a lack of documented participation. This presentation, originally presented at the 2014 National Underground Railroad Conference in Detroit, Michigan, will explore examples of current research on a number of women involved with Abolitionist and Underground Railroad activities in Iowa. Douglas W. Jones, Iowa Freedom Trail Project Manager, State Historical Society of Iowa
History of Military Communication I will talk about military communication, specifically focusing on the American Civil War and World War One. In a day when troops on the battlefield can communicate instantly with an HQ on another continent, historical problems of military communication are hard to imagine. A General on a Civil War battlefield relied upon his runners and his staff to coordinate with other officers and keep him informed. In World War One, soldiers relied on a mish-mash of different methods to stay in contact with command including runners, carrier pigeons, and wire radios. Effective communication was crucial to success on these battlefields. Dan Rasmussen
Abraham Lincoln at Council Bluffs When, why and how did Lincoln visit Council Bluffs, Iowa. More than a year before the presidential election Lincoln traveled to the small town of Council Bluffs where he met Grenville Dodge. Although he actually owned some land in Iowa, it was the only extensive trip he took into the state. Why? Come and find out. Marvin Foss
Happy Danes on the Plains For some Danish immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries, preserving Danish culture was an important value, even as they adapted to life as Americans. Communities in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska were established as intentional colonies of Danish culture, continuing to celebrate Danish traditions like folk dancing, singing, gymnastics, and Scandinavian mythology – these have been called the “Happy Danes”. In contrast, other Danish immigrants followed a more pietistic lifestyle – sometimes referred to as “Holy Danes.” For several generations, the difference between Happy Danes and Holy Danes created very different ways of expressing Danish-American identity. Tova Brandt, Albert Ravenholt Curator of Danish-American Culture, Museum of Danish America
Iowa’s Amazing Public Exposition Palaces This power point presentation will describe how and why people in Sioux City decided to create a series of corn palaces beginning in 1887. The success of the corn palaces encouraged other Iowa communities to try this idea. Creston created blue grass palaces. Forest City produced flax palaces and Ottumwa developed coal palaces. The public exposition palace movement spread to other states. More than 50 “palaces” covered with grain and minerals were erected in 30 states between 1890 and 1937. Bill Sherman
Central Iowa’s History Trifecta: Billy Sunday, T. Nelson Downs and the Green Mountain Train Wreck Did you know that the most famous magician of the 20th century was from Iowa? Or that Iowa’s own Rev. Billy Sunday was the most famous orator of his day? Or that one of the worst train wrecks in U.S. history occurred in Iowa? Robert Kerr, Author of Completely Restored
Plowing, Milking, Weeding and Scrubbing: Growing up on a Turn of the Century Farm While growing up on a farm today has become somewhat exotic, a hundred years ago, it was the way most Midwestern children lived. In this talk, I will be exploring the work, play and school lives of Midwestern Farm children in the period from 1870-1920. While there was much to recommend this way of life, there was also a good deal about the experience that helps to explain rural depopulation in the 20th century. Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, Ph.D., author and professor of history, Iowa State University
An Incomplete Guide to Teacher Preparation in Iowa Professor of Education Steve Rose walks you through several unique features in Iowa’s teacher preparation and licensure system and how they might affect your history classroom. These features include:

  1. A government agency dedicated specifically to teacher licensure and monitoring, the Iowa Bard of Educational Examiners.
  2. A “home grown” approach to monitoring and approving the teacher education program.
  3. Per capita, Iowa has a hugely disproportionate number of teacher preparation programs.
  4. Iowa teacher preparation programs have become national leaders in their attempt to inculcate and monitor pre-service teacher dispositions.
Steve Rose, Ed.D., professor of education and coordinator of secondary education, Simpson College
George Washington Didn’t Sleep Here: Famous people and places in Des Moines, Iowa As Iowans/Midwesterners we often forget that some very important things happened here and some important people were from here. I see this as sort of a whimsical Roadside America view of some of the little known Des Moines area history. Justin Alliss, CPM, MPA, state government professional, independent historian
“Whoa. Why Haven’t I Been Here Before?”: The Coolest Historic Site You’ve Never Visited…Yet. Where can you see 5th-century BC pottery, medieval manuscripts, Native American artifacts, Tudor architecture, and world-class art, all under one Iowa roof? Salisbury House! It’s an historic site like no other in our state. Explore Salisbury House’s history and discover its incredible cultural legacy. Trust us: your first question will be, “Why haven’t I been here before?” Megan Stout Sibbel, Ph.D., curator and historian, Salisbury House
Clang, Clang Went the Trolley! Iowans throughout the state once rode street cars, interurban cars and even cable cars to and from work, school and shopping. Ridership, over 15 million in peak 1918, quickly declined as people took to autos and buses on improved streets and roads. The last street car bowed out in 1958. One freight-carrying railroad and a couple of museum trolley lines keep Iowa’s electric railroad heritage alive. Relive the days with a slide show presentation by Phil Borleske. Phil Borleske
The Almost President A six-person case study of former presidential candidates who still made a significant impact on American society and foreign policy though they never achieved their goal of the highest office in the land. Robert Bibens
From Military Reporter to ‘Mary Manners’: Dorothy Ashby Pownall’s ‘Feel for the Game’ of Journalism This talk explores the professional life and journalism of Dorothy Ashby Pownall, one of Iowa’s most versatile and prolific women writers during the first half of the twentieth century. Pownall’s career embodied the range of roles then available for women, including “sob sister,” literary lady, advice columnist, and society editor. Her story demonstrates a strong “feel for the game” that enabled Pownall to enjoy a long career despite the limited opportunities available to her. Tracy Lucht, Ph.D.
Dakota Prisoners in Davenport and their Uses of Literacy Dakota prisoners held in Davenport, Iowa learned to read and write from Protestant missionaries. This talk will examine the materials that the missionaries used to teach them to read and write, and how the prisoners used this knowledge to plead for better conditions in the prison and, ultimately, their release. Linda Clemmons, Ph.D.
From Prairie to Farm: How the General Land Office survey shaped Iowa Two hundred years ago, Iowa was completely covered by prairies, forests, and a variety of wetlands. Now, prairie, forest, and wetlands cover less than 8 percent of the state. The remainder of the state is covered by farms, roads, towns, and cities. How did that happen? Who influenced the patterns that we see today? From 1832 to 1859, surveyors from the US General Land Office (GLO) surveyed Iowa to prepare for settlers moving from eastern states. They used surveying technology and methods used by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others. They encountered a variety of obstacles, both natural and cultural, making their survey work quite challenging. You’ll learn how GLO surveyors met these challenges and prepared the way for Euro-American settlers. You’ll learn what the surveyors wrote about their work and the landscape of Iowa. You’ll learn how ecologists today use GLO maps and notes to help manage Iowa natural areas. Paul F. Anderson, Emeritus Professor, Iowa State University
Family Genealogy Newsletters: Monthly History Lessons Family genealogy newsletters provide information, document history, teach history lessons, and generate interest in family history. Newsletters can help generate discussion and interaction among current family members. For those who create or contribute to genealogy newsletters, they also provide a vehicle for learning about family history that yields a deeper understanding and appreciation of the lives of ancestors. This level of understanding produces feelings of empathy and brings family members closer. Newsletters can be monthly or quarterly, short or long, electronic or hard copy, single author or multi-author, text only or illustrated. What does it take to make this happen? It takes facts about your family members, attention-grabbing family stories, writing and newsletter production skills, and willingness to learn. It’s a labor of love, but well worth it. You’ll see examples of newsletter topics, illustrations, organization, and design. You’ll learn about strategies and family documents that help make your newsletters interesting, informative, and creative. You’ll learn about equipment, hardware, software, search techniques, and other tools to help you succeed. You’ll learn how to get started and make newsletters that have a lasting impact among your family members. Paul F. Anderson, Emeritus Professor, Iowa State University
World War I Camp Dodge During WW I Camp Dodge was selected as the organizational and training and site for the 88th Infantry Division. By the end of WW I over 100,000 personnel were inducted into the US Army. The slide show presentation of period images and maps will relate the activities conducted at what became the largest military base in Iowa’s history. Michael W. Vogt, Curator, Iowa Gold Star Military Museum
Border Skunks and Heartland History of Lancaster Today, an active church and a two-story 134 year old schoolhouse along with four homes remain after a short period in the 1850’s when Lancaster was the county-seat of Keokuk County. Included in the presentation will be special attention to General M M Crocker, the schoolhouse history, the “town square”, the Christian Church and the Lancaster Heritage non-profit organization. George W. House
“McGregor, tell me thy Weird Story”: The American School of Wildlife, 1919-1941 This presentation will explore the dynamic history of the American School of Wildlife in McGregor, Iowa. This unique school, which at its height drew over 5,000 students to northeast Iowa, laid the foundation for the activism that led to the grass-roots development of Effigy Mounds National Monument. My paper will examine the relationship between the School of Wildlife and the national park movement in northeast Iowa and will explore the unique ways in which the school marks and juncture in national park development. Mary Wise
Tools historical societies and other local history organizations can use to attract more visitors and members As a board member of an all-volunteer, member-supported historical society, Lee knows firsthand the challenge of reaching beyond an organization’s existing membership base to attract guests to programs and special events. In this talk he’ll review several free resources and tools, including a new weekly e-mail in development, “History Events in Iowa,” and the annual “Make this holiday historic!” campaign. Both are open to organizations of all types presenting history programs. Lee Wright, founder of History Camp and The History List, and a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Marlborough Historical Society