2020 Presentations

Please note: presentations are subject to change.

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Title Description Presenter(s)
Iowa’s Militant Suffragist—Eleanor Gordon and the Clergy’s Fight For Women’s Suffrage Eleanor Gordon was one of Iowa’s staunchest and most militant suffragists. She used her faith as a justification for suffrage, just as many women in the clergy did, but as she grew older she became more militant in her actions. She assembled a group of women who worked to remove barriers to voting; in one case, shoveling the ballot box out of a coal shed to find an empty whiskey bottle next to it. This presentation will examine her life and it’s impact on women’s suffrage, her role as a clergy member and how she used her pulpit for change. Hayley Ellis
Lost Flyboys: Marvin Dille and William Meehan in WWII During WWII, Marvin Dille, a bombardier from Belle Plaine, and William Meehan, a navigator from Des Moines, both flew in B-17s and earned the Purple Heart. Through their wartime experiences, attendees will learn about US Army Air Corps strategy, the brave men who flew in B-17s over Nazi-controlled Europe, and conditions in a German POW camp. Walsh recreates Dille and Meehan’s powerful stories using their diaries, letters, artwork, and loved ones’ recollections. Prof. Matthew Walsh
Activist Agriculture: Farm Protest in Iowa, 1929-1969 In this presentation, we take a closer look at the mobilization of farmers to confront and obstruct tuberculosis testing of cattle during the Iowa Cow Wars of the early 1930s and the commodity holding actions of the National Farmers Organization (NFO) in the 1960s. We will cover the actions and methods used by the farmers as well as how they leveraged the media to affect change. Olivia Garrison & Amy Bishop, both with Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives
Dear Governor Branstad: Iowans respond to the Farm Crisis of the 1980s It’s the last day before the bank takes your farm. What do you do? You write your governor. This presentation will highlight some of the thousands of letters Iowans wrote to their governor during the hard times of the 1980s, and will discuss how Iowans met the challenge of agricultural disaster. Professor Pamela Riney-Kehrberg
Iowa’s Townships: Why Do We Have Them? Before Euro-Americans settled Iowa, the US General Land Office (GLO) surveyed township lines and section lines as a framework for land subdivision and sales. After settlers purchased land and established farms and towns, they saw a need for local governments to provide services, such as voting precincts, cemeteries, road maintenance, and fire protection. The Iowa Legislature passed laws that provided representation, consistency, and funding mechanisms for grass roots governance. Some township names and boundaries changed over time as more farms were established and towns grew in population, resulting in confusion. More confusion resulted from multiple meanings of the word township: civil, political, Congressional, survey, and row of townships. In this presentation, we’ll help untangle the confusion. You’ll learn these and other uses of “township” and how each affected the lives of Iowa’s settlers. Paul F. Anderson, Emeritus Professor, Iowa State University
Kenny and Helen Uncle Kenny and Aunt Helen contains experiences to touch your heart and your funny bone and leads to more love and laughter in He Has a Boat… experiences with my three brothers.  All are lifelong Iowans whose adventures make Iowa history come to life in people we can recognize and enjoy.  If you have needed a wrecker, wanted some advice, or loved the people of Iowa; this is the place for you to have some fun, learn some history, and leave with three magic wishes. Patricia Coffie
Iowa’s Own Al Swearingen This presentation will cover the life and times of Al Swearingen, featured in HBO’s Deadwood series and recent (2019) movie. Al was born in Oskaloosa, Iowa and travelled throughout the West from 1860 through 1904. He died in Denver under mysterious circumstances and is buried in Oskaloosa, a few miles from the family farm. Robert L. Harrison
Two stories from Iowa Confederates in the Civil War David Connon has documented 76 Iowa residents who left our state and served the Confederacy. He will tell two stories, shedding light on their motives — and on the emotional and political pressures in wartime Iowa. David Connon
Strangers in the Dark: A reflection on the Strangers seen in Villisca on the Weekend of the 1912 Ax Murders The 1912 ax murder in Villisca Iowa was never solved, but has remained a viable subject for historical analysis. During the weekend of the murder several strangers were seen in and about town. A close look at these individuals, who choose a bad time to be wandering around Villisca, should stimulate interest in a fascinating byway of Iowa history. Edgar Epperly
How and Why Newton Became the Industrial Center of the Mid-West Newton is well known for her washing machine history, but the fact is Newton was much more diverse and her impact on Iowa Industry started before Maytag and continues to this day. It is in the very bloodlines of her residents Kenneth Barthelman
The Power of One: Lost Stories of the Granger Homesteads How can you help people who are down on their luck? Sometimes it just takes one person who cares, along with a public-private partnership that’s more of a hand-up than a hand-out. That’s the lesson of the Depression-era Granger Homesteads housing and farming project in central Iowa, which was promoted tirelessly by Monsignor Luigi Ligutti in the early 1930s. The homestead project was designed to provide 50 modern homes and small acreages on 225 acres in Dallas County to help coal mining families better their lives. Learn how it became one of the most successful New Deal projects in the nation. Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, author
Connecting America! The Golden Spike was driven home 150 years at Promontory Summit, Utah, making completion of the Transcontinental Railroad between Council Bluffs/Omaha and Sacramento. Learn about it and President Abraham Lincolns pivotal role in building this landmark railroad. Phil Borleske
’John Barr: River Pilot’ by Virginia Struble Burlingame During the 1950s and 1960s, historian Virginia Struble Burlingame conducted research into the life of steamboat captain and pilot John Barr. This Iowa native was one of the first female steamboat historians. Her work sadly went unpublished and the significance of it unrecognized. Through the course of her research Virginia helped preserve the memory and legacy of a colorful character in the history of the American West with the assistance of his niece and her friend, Grace McGeehan. This presentation tells the interwoven stories of John, Virginia, and Grace. Kassie L Nelson
A Corny Idea and a Museum Mystery Jules Cool Cunningham, a horticulture professor at Iowa State College, proposed an idea in the 1930s to establish a National Maize Museum on Campus. Objects were collected, an interpretive plan was developed, and plans for a building were proposed, but what happened to this grand plan? Jerome Thompson
“You Nevada Fellers Had Better Watch Out a Little, We Ames Folk Eat Bearmeat!” Ames vs Nevada and the Story County Court House Fight, 1864-74 In the late 1860s and early 1870s Ames fought Nevada over the Story County Court House. What began as a war of words became a series of controversies over the county fair, the county jail, and the county court house, which ended in law suits filed with Secretary of State’s office over accusations of voter fraud. Dr. Douglas Biggs
Iowa’s Amazing Public Exposition Palaces Iowa helped launch the “public exposition palace” movement in 1887 by creating successful corn palaces, blue grass palaces, flax palaces and coal palaces. This movement spread to various states primarily in the Midwest. The creation of these temporary palaces helped mid- size communities feature the most important product that was the key to their economic well being. William Sherman
Depression-era Dramatics: How an Iowa company lifted small town spirits The Universal Producing Company of Fairfield, Iowa, was one of the most successful home talent theatrical companies in the U.S. Founded in the early 1930s, it took shows on the road to county seat towns. Featuring amateur actors and local cast members, local sponsoring groups used a portion of the proceeds to pay for church steeples, band uniforms, park benches and fountains–and more! Cheryl Tevis
Tomfoolery and Tuberculosis: Adolescent Health, Mortality, and Mortuary Treatment at Dubuque’s Third Street Cemetery From 1833 to 1880, members of St. Raphael’s Cathedral, a largely Irish parish in Dubuque, Iowa, interred their dead in the Third Street Cemetery. In the 20th century, the unmarked burial ground was disturbed by construction several times before 935 of the remaining burials were removed by the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist between 2007 and 2011. Forty-three of the excavated graves held the remains of adolescents, several of whom were buried with atypically decorative clothing and nonreligious grave goods. New research focused on these young people incorporates information from historic death records and biographies, as well as skeletal evidence of disease and trauma, to explore the health and mortality of Dubuque’s nineteenth-century teenagers. Remnants of coffin hardware, burial clothing, and grave goods shed light on the population’s changing views of the afterlife, as well as the identities of adolescents, as expressed by the mourners. Jennifer E. Mack, Bioarchaeologist, Office of the State Archaeologist
Drake University Phi Alpha Theta Panel “Phi Alpha Theta panel Moderated by Drake University Professor Amahia Mallea, this panel will feature four Phi Alpha Theta students discussing their research.
Presenters:
Kelly Current, Drake University, “The Salem Witch Trials and Public Memory”
Alexander Jungman, Iowa State University, “Duels and Dueling in Early Modern England”
Crystal Brandenburgh, Iowa State University, “Why Woman Suffrage?: The Road from Abolition to the Vote”
Sara Feldman, Drake University, “Not All are Deserving: Reproductive Rights in the US”