Iowa Archives

Iowa Public Radio’s historic audio project is the most accessible collection of Iowa voice and sound recordings that we know of. Since we launched Iowa Archives in 2007 we have broadcast hundreds of sound clips, including some that go back to the 19th century. We have discovered these sound treasures in libraries, museums, broadcast archives, on the Internet, and in private collections.

If you have unique old recordings or an idea you’d like to suggest, send an email to Iowa Archives producer Rick Fredericksen.

Iowa's Music Man

Dec 2, 2007
The Music Man Square

It has been 50 years since Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" premiered on stage (Dec. 19th, 1957). Our sound portrait of this talented Iowan extends back to his early days in radio. Audio courtesy of The Music Man Square Museum, Mason City Foundation and KGLO Radio. Sounds from the 1930s to 1960s, primarily in Mason City and Los Angeles.

Andy Woolfries

Oct 31, 2007
WOI Radio / Iowa State University

One of Iowa's first broadcasting personalities remembers the dawn of radio and his arrest by doubters of the new technology. Andy Woolfries was interviewed by Doug Brown, during an on-air anniversary program marking WOI's 50th anniversary. Sounds from 1972, on WOI Radio in Ames.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Commercials, and an unusual marketing project from radio personality Arthur Godfrey, are featured in this nostalgic look back at memorable radio-TV ads broadcast in Iowa. Thanks to the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting, the American Popcorn Company, the State Fair Museum, desmoinesbroadcasting.com and an anonymous collector. Sounds from the 1940s to 1970s, from broadcasters and production studios.

riverboatgallery.com

The Mississippi Belle II ended 16 years of riverboat gambling in Iowa, with an historic trip on Oct. 10th, 2007 from Clinton. Iowa Public Radio was there, along with hundreds of passengers, for the nostalgic cruise.

Chuck Offenburger

A one-of-a-kind roller rink continues to delight Iowans at Spring Lake Park in Greene County. In operation since the late '20s, the antique rink is extremely rare today. Most have burned down or been replaced. One name is forever linked to the rink; the beloved Noni Mylenbusch, who started playing the organ there before WWII. Sounds from circa 1980, recorded in Jefferson and unknown locations. Noni's recordings came from private collectors Don Dodd and Bob Wullenwaber.

State Historical Society of Iowa


Since we first discovered Nikita Khrushchev's gift to Iowa (see February 2007 posting), musicologists and Soviet experts across the country, including Khrushchev's son, have been consulted. Just what is the "Khrushchev Collection?" Here are the findings. Thanks to former First Lady Amelia Loveless, who donated the 20-album set to the  State Historical Society in 2006. Sounds from 1959 and before, from artists throughout the USSR.

From the USSR

Sep 18, 2007

Bonus hit from the Khrushchev Collection. The Federova Sisters sing "The Cockoo Bird Calls. From the 1950s.

Arizona State University

In the days when one-room schools were common, kids learned how to sing with the help of phonograph records. This is the story of the Fullerton "Choir Plan." Recordings courtesy of Marjorie Goodman.

Presidents Past

Aug 14, 2007
Hoover Library

The Iowa caucuses aside, there is nothing new about presidents and presidential candidates visiting Iowa. It has become a long tradition. The 31st president spent much of his life here. Sounds from the 1940s-70s, recorded in Guthrie Center, Cedar Rapids, Dexter, West Branch, and Des Moines. Thanks to the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. 

American Folklife Center / Library of Congress

A tip from a public radio listener led to the oldest recordings in the Iowa Archives project. Learn the story behind the sacred songs of the Omaha Indians, thanks to the Federal Cylinder Project and the Library of Congress. Sounds from 1895-96, recorded in Macy, Nebraska.

Iowa State Fair

Striptease shows and daredevil acts are part of the Iowa State Fair's history, which dates back to 1854. Vintage recordings revive memories of some of the big attractions from fair's past. Audio clips courtesy of the State Fair Museum, Iowa Public Television, and desmoinesbroadcasting.com. Sounds from the 1930s onward at the fairgrounds in Des Moines.

desmoinesbroadcasting.com

"The Greatest Generation" includes the veterans who fought World War II as well as the reporters who covered their harrowing stories. One of them was WHO Radio's Herb Plambeck, who left behind a treasure of historic recordings. The original reports, broadcast across Iowa, are held by the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting at Wartburg College in Waverly. Sounds from March-May, 1945, with the U.S. Army in Europe.

Iowa Broadcasters

May 29, 2007
Rick Fredericksen

Sounds from radio and television broadcasters from decades past, across Iowa. The story is introduced by Jeff Stein, Administrator of the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting at Wartburg College, who provided the various on-air sound-clips embedded in this report.

Relatively unknown today, the Iowa Flag Song was adopted in 1949, when the legislature paused for poetry and a performance. Song composer Ester May Clark donated the recording to the State Historical Society of Iowa, in Des Moines.

Karl King

Apr 4, 2007
Karl King Municipal Band

The voice, music and historical sound clips from the career of Iowa composer and Fort Dodge band leader Karl King. Reporting assistance from 6th grader Kristen Holvick. Various sound recordings from the Karl L. King Municipal Band of Fort Dodge. Sounds from 1950 - 1971, New York and Iowa.

Sidney Robertson Cowell / American Folklife Center

His name is George Vinton Graham and while he is no "American Idol," his singing is considered an important example of Anglo-American folk music. The Graham recordings were made by ethnographer Sidney Robertson Cowell in 1938 and are found at the Library of Congress (American Memory).

American Gothic House Center

Grant Wood's sister, Nan, talks about the famous Iowa artist, and a fire at his studio that burned them both. The interview with Nan is held by the State Historical Society of Iowa, in Iowa City. Sounds from 1976, recorded in Cedar Rapids.

Iowa State University Museums

Danish born sculptor Christian Petersen was the nation's first artist-in-residence. An art museum, opened in 2007, bears his name at Iowa State University. Recordings courtesy of ISU Parks Library and University Museums. Petersen interview originally from WOI-TV. Sounds from 1961, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

State Historical Society of Iowa

Forty eight years after the communist leader visited Iowa, the gift Nikita Khrushchev left behind has been rediscovered. The Soviet record collection was gifted to Iowa by former First Lady Amelia Loveless and is preserved at the State Historical Society of Iowa in Iowa City. Sounds from September, 1959, Coon Rapids, Iowa.

Ozark Folk Center


A seventy year old recording of dulcimer music leads to the story of an Iowa ghost town and an uncommon musical instrument. The Thomas Mann recordings are courtesy of the American Folklife Center, Sidney Robertson Cowell Collection, Library of Congress. Sounds from July, 1937, in Ortonville, Iowa.

Bill Kooker

Forty years before Disneyland opened, central Iowa had Riverview Park. Original sounds from the arcade, the steam engine train and the Riviera Ballroom. Recordings are courtesy of Bill Kooker, who provides a wealth of information at his Riverview website. Kooker was the park's last General Manager. Sounds from pre-1978.

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