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.

In a special edition of Talk of Iowa, more highlights from our award-winning historic sound project. It's an audio museum on the air with Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen. Among the destinations, Clear Lake where three rock and roll pioneers died in a tragic plane crash, plus the birth places of baseball great Bob Feller and actor George Reeves.

In a special edition of Talk of Iowa, more highlights from our award-winning historic sound project. It's an audio museum on the air with Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen. Among the destinations, an antique roller rink, the site of a nuclear explosion and the Amana Colonies.

John Wayne Birthplace Museum

They're remembering the Alamo this weekend in Madison County. Specifically, the epic film that was the first movie ever directed by John Wayne. Iowa Public Radio's Rick Fredericksen reports from the actor's home town of Winterset.

The original program in the series of Best of Iowa Archives. In Part One, Rick Fredericksen presents a collection of his features crafted with historic sound from Iowa's past, this hour with the voices of Nan Wood, Karl King, John Wayne and others.

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.

Rick Fredericksen

An Iowa soldier took along a small tape recorder for his tour of duty in Vietnam and sent tapes home to his family in Burlington. We witness the Vietnam War through the voice recordings of Lt. Robert McKnight. John Pemble provided technical assistance. The 1968 recordings are held by the State Historical Society of Iowa.

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.

Marshall County Historical Society

Railroad historians and several communities are remembering a grim anniversary; the worst train crash in Iowa history occurred 100 years ago on March 21st, 1910. More than 100 passengers were killed or injured. The story includes an original telegraph recording from the 1930s.

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 Surf Ballroom is holding its Winter Dance Party next week in Clear Lake. Among the rock and roll legends scheduled to attend is the man who performed the opening act at the tragic Winter Dance Party in 1959. This will be his first trip back.

He is one of Iowa’s most famous native sons. Norman Borlaug is credited with averting widespread famine by introducing revolutionary agricultural techniques to farmers around the world. He was a distinguished professor at Texas A&M when he died at the age of 95. Historic audio comes from You Tube, Texas A&M and Iowa Public Radio News.

This weekend, Iowans are remembering the visit of Pope John Paul the Second during his first year as leader of the Catholic Church. It was 30 years ago when the Pope stopped at a country parish near Cumming. Later, Living History Farms was overwhelmed by more than 300,000 people who attended a Papal Mass. Original audio from the historic occasion was recorded on Oct. 4th, 1979.

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.

Fortnightly Club

Jun 16, 2009
Fortnightly Club

Most of us listen to music on radio, CDs, iPods or smart phones. For one special audience, a club in central Iowa still performs live music, just as it has for a hundred years. Historic audio recorded in 1973 by Winifred Kelly.

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.

As medical authorities closely monitor the world’s newest flu virus, memories are still vivid from the deadly strain that swept the country long ago. We look back at the pandemic of 1918, through the voices of Iowans who survived the calamity. The oral history interviews were recorded around Iowa between 1977 and 1995. Thanks to the Gold Star Museum at Camp Dodge.

Big Band Museum

Apr 10, 2009
Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum

A museum, opened in 2010, commemorates musical legend Glenn Miller at his birthplace in Clarinda. We visited the birthplace prior to the new museum's groundbreaking ceremony. Our story features historic audio from the Big Band era, recorded around the U.S. and in England. Courtesy of Cary Hahn and Marvin Negley, the sound clips date from 1939 to 1944.

78s Galore

Mar 12, 2009

An Iowa City man who has been collecting 78 rpm recordings most of his life, is now at 7,000 and counting. His phonograph collection is equally impressive. We sample the recordings from the record vault of Dan Daly. Sounds from early to mid 1900s, recorded across America.

A trip to a garage sale leads to a mysterious batch of old private recordings. The plastic, metal and vinyl records are in terrible condition, but we were able to piece together a partial story of lost voices. The recordings were found in a box of cowboy folklore music at a garage sale in Ames. Sounds from circa 1940s, recorded at unknown locations.

Surf Ballroom

We conclude our series from the Surf Ballroom and the corn field where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper and pilot Roger Peterson were killed in a plane crash in 1959. Sounds from the late '50s in California, New York, and unknown recording studios. Historic audio is from YouTube. (Part One is posted below)

It was 50 winters ago when the fledgling rock and roll world was stunned by the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. We remember their last live performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. Sounds from the late '50s in New York, Denver and unknown studios. Historic audio is from YouTube.

Veronica Guyader

The Woolstock home where actor George Reeves was born has reached the point of no return. The owners plan to raze the building. We present the highlights of this legendary Iowan's career. Recordings from You Tube and a private collector. Sounds from 1939 to the 1950s, in California. Note: The birthplace house was torn down in 2011.

JFK Library

Sounds from the 1960s, recorded in Washington, Greenfield and Des Moines. Forty-five years after the slaying of President John F. Kennedy, we hear the voices of several Iowans whose professional lives were touched by the assassination. Recordings courtesy of WHO Radio and private collector Bill Sherman.

The U.S.S. Iowa

Sep 4, 2008
USS Iowa Veterans Association

Sounds from 1945 to 1991, from around the world. The USS Iowa was the first of the mighty "Iowa Class" battleships that projected America's global military power for more than a half century. Their potent, 16-inch guns made them the greatest fighting ship of all time. She opened as a museum in 2012 at the Port of Los Angeles. Historic sound from the State Historical Society and You Tube.

Amana Colonies

Aug 20, 2008
Amana Heritage Society

A Tri-Centennial is approaching for a breakaway sect of the Lutheran Church in Germany. Since its 1855 arrival, the religious settlement has evolved into one of the Iowa's most popular tourist attractions, but continues to honor its heritage every day. Sounds from 1934 to 1962, recorded around Amana.

Wire Recordings

May 7, 2008

Wire recorders were the hi-tech machines used to capture voice and sound recordings during, and immediately after, World War II. Listen to legendary Iowa jazz pianist Speck Redd on wire, as well as a field report from Germany with the sound of artillery in the background. Jazz recordings came from collector Don Moon and Herb Plambeck's war report is from the Gold Star Museum at Camp Dodge. Sounds from 1954 and 1945 recorded in Des Moines and Nuremburg, Germany.

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.

Everly family fan site

They lived in Iowa only about 8 years, but left behind a delightful recording from a Christmas broadcast in Shenandoah. We remember the Everly Brothers, on the passing of Phil, at the age of 74, on Jan. 3, 2014. This archival feature was first broadcast in 2007, when Phil was 7 and Donny was 9.  Sounds from 1946, 1957 and 1973, in Shenandoah and unknown concert locations. Recordings from KMA Radio and You Tube.