History

For nine days, starting next week, Iowa will be railroad heaven for fans of old trains. Thousands of people will be climbing aboard, photographing, or just admiring the romance of an earlier time. An organization of railroad buffs is bringing its national meeting to Iowa for the first time.

One hundred years ago, an entire family was wiped out by an axe wielding killer in the southwestern Iowa town of Villisca, a crime that remains unsolved to this day. Host Ben Kieffer re-examines Iowa’s worst mass homicide with award-winning filmmakers Tammy and Kelly Rundle who made a documentary about the incident. Ben also talks with historian Edgar Epperly.

This Sunday, a new exhibit opens at the German American Heritage Center in Davenport, called "Suds."  The Quad Cities has a long and glorious brewery legacy.   This hour, we'll find out about the exhibit, which describes the breweries and taverns that operated in the area during the 19th century and the saloons where settlers gathered for their favorite brands.  The second-largest private beer can collector in America lives the Quad Cities and many of his 25,000 cans are on display.   "Suds" also features material on how Prohibition affected local brewery traditions and the lives of working

Steve Berry

May 29, 2012

Steve Berry has captivated millions of readers with his best-selling novels, he is also the co-founder of History Matters, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving our heritage. Charity talks with Berry about his latest novel, The Columbus Affair and his work in historic preservation.  

Early next Sunday morning will mark the moment exactly 100 years ago that the magnificent steamship R.M.S. Titanic sank in the N.

If everything you know about Iowa history you learned in fifth grade, now might be a good time for a refresher course. In a program that originally aired last September, Charity speaks with historians Dorothy Schwieder, Professor Emerita of History at Iowa State University and Thomas Morain of Graceland University in Lamoni. Their book is Iowa Past to Present: The People and the Prairie.

Iowa in the Civil War

Mar 12, 2012

The Battle of Pea Ridge, fought in Arkansas in March of 1862, is known as the Civil War battle that secured the West. It was also the first time Iowans saw major combat. This hour we’ll remember the Battle of Pea Ridge and Iowans young and old who fought in the Civil War. Charity speaks with David V. Wendell, curator of "More Than Any: Iowa in the Civil War," a new exhibit at the Marion Heritage Center. Later, we speak with historian Floyd E. Pearce of Cumberland, about "The Graybeards," older Iowans who served in the Civil War.

The Meskwaki people, often known to outsiders as the Sac and Fox Tribe, have long been a part of Iowa history. In 1856 the Iowa Legislature passed an unprecedented act allowing the Meskwaki to purchase land in Iowa. A year later, the Tribe purchased the first 80 acres in Tama County. Today the Meskwaki Settlement is a thriving community of over 4,000 residents which maintains a tribal school and a profitable casino. In a program that originally aired last September, we look at the history of the Meskwaki people in Iowa and the challenges they face today.

As Iowa tries to retain its last jet fighter base in Des Moines, a non-profit group is hoping to save one of the last remnants of an air station that closed at the end of World War Two. Historic audio from Stearman training film and You Tube.

Why are you an Iowan? How did your family wind up here? What is the explanation in your family lore? If you wanted to verify the tales, how would you do it? Wednesday on Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe will speak with Theresa Liewer of the Iowa Genealogical Society and Steve Williams of IAGenWeb.org about genealogical research, the things you can learn from it and what resources are available in the state.

The White House

One of the most tragic days in America's history comes flooding back this weekend, as we commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9-11. Citizens of Iowa were casualties, mourners, and heroes. Our historic sound project looks back at those terrifying days, using audio recordings gathered by IPR reporters.

Sullivan Brothers

May 27, 2011
Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum

On Memorial Day weekend 70 years ago, a large Irish family was at home in eastern Iowa enjoying its last spring together. No one knew that the five Sullivan brothers were bound for history, in a tragedy that would shake the nation in a time of war. Historic audio from 1943-1944.

Cherokee Chronicle Times

It was 150 years ago this week when the “Iowa Lunatic Asylum” opened in Mount Pleasant and the state’s first mental health patient was admitted. Just about everything has changed since then, but a series of old television documentaries reveals a glimpse of the dark days of mental health care in Iowa, including frightening treatments now abandoned. Original WOI-TV documentary was filmed in 1952.

Long before email, and even the Postal Service, the fastest way to get a letter from point-A to point-B, was on horseback. This is the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express, and an Iowan was one of these early mail carriers. Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen profiles the man, who would later become an icon of the Wild West. Historic audio clips go back to 1914.

An author researching the life of famous agricultural scientist George Washington Carver has compiled a rare collection of his recordings. For a man who was educated in Iowa and contributed so much to mankind, Carver’s unusual voice was just as prominent as his vocation. Our oldest recording is about 1938.

A Man and a Truck

Feb 10, 2010
Gold Star Museum

Camp Dodge has one of the last, operating, Liberty trucks in the country. One story linked to the rare vehicle details one of the Iowa National Guard’s most difficult missions, enforcing martial law. Note: The new Gold Star Museum is now open for visitors.

The conclusion of our series marking the 50th anniversary of Nikita Khrushchev's visit to Iowa. (Part One is posted below) Additional historic audio comes from a Walter Cronkite documentary from CBS News.

Fifty years after Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States, we re-live the historic two day visit to Iowa with original audio. Recordings are from the ISU Library, University Archives, Jack Shelley's papers, and You Tube.

Khun Ohm

She is named Liberty Belle, a proud B-17 bomber that was built in 1945. The aircraft brings back memories, good and bad, for the veterans who flew them. More than 40,000 men went down in B-17s. Iowa Public Radio strapped in for a ride, in this look back at the Flying Fortress. Historic newsreels are from You Tube, circa 1944. Note: Two years after we did this story, The Liberty Belle was destroyed when she made an emergency landing and burned in a cornfield near Chicago.

Gold Star Museum

For its 100th birthday, we present oral histories from the people who worked and lived at Iowa’s largest military training facility near Des Moines. The recordings are held at the Gold Star Museum.

Soon after V-E Day, Iowa G-I's were invited to say hi to mom, in a special Mother's Day radio broadcast back home. Sixty-three years later, an emotional Gerald Pepper of Ames hears his voice as a young Army PFC, for the first time. The original WHO Radio recording was found at the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting, at Wartburg College in Waverly. Sounds from May 1945, in Rosenheim, Germany. Note: Pepper passed away in 2011.

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).

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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