History

Courtesy of Jim Peters

Dogs have always had a knack for finding bones. Trained dogs can sniff out explosives, drugs, victims of disasters.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with the owners of some canine archeologists who put their bone finding skills to good use. The founders of Samaritan Detection Dogs use trained dogs to help in some unusual ways with archaeological research, conservation work, and human remains cases.

The History Press

Murders were uncommon in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the 1940s, and especially a murder at the very high-end Roosevelt Hotel, sometimes called the Ritz-Carlton of Eastern Iowa.   On Dec. 15, 1948, a hotel chambermaid found aircraft engineer Byron Hattman dead in room 729.  

Pete Zarria

Even before the Declaration of Independence was signed, the founders of the United States established the post office as the circulatory system of America’s body politic.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with New York Times best-selling author Winifred Gallagher, author of How the Post Office Created America.

On Thanksgiving night in 1858, two women left their Nebraska City home, and, with the help from abolitionists, Celia and Eliza traveled more than 500 miles to Chicago in search of freedom. 

Arlington Nebraska High School History Teacher Barry Jurgensen learned about them when he read the book Necessary Courage by Lowell Soike in 2013, and now he has set out on foot to recreate the Journey that Celia and Eliza took. He’s walking 527 miles across Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois with three of his students in an attempt to raise awareness about modern day slavery.

WIKICOMMONS / Farragutful

An eastern Iowa town of 2,800 people is investing in its future by reviving the past.

Wilton was recently awarded a $500,000 federal grant to restore its downtown.

That's money it plans to match through tax increment financing and funds from local businesses. 

Becky Allgood of the Wilton Development Corporation says she hopes that renovating the facades of 18 downtown buildings to their original 19th century aesthetic will draw new businesses to the community. Soon, structures will display features like original brickwork and iron columns. 

ACE Foundation / Flickr

The University of Northern Iowa's Jazz Hall of Fame has a new inductee - Roger Maxwell. Maxwell is a talented trombone player, in addition to a teacher and composer. He's also a trailblazer and advocate for the African-American community in Iowa. 

During his childhood in Marshalltown, segregation was very real. He couldn't go to the pool, except for a two hour period on Sunday mornings, and blacks weren't allowed to stay in local hotels. 

"We just accepted the conditions. We knew where we could not go, and we just accepted that," he says. 

Victor Daly / Ft. Des Moines Museum

Nearly 100 years after the Army's first black officers' training program debuted in Iowa, dozens of old photographs have been discovered showing what life was like when Fort Des Moines was gearing up for World War I. 

The country's oldest African American fraternity returned to its early roots this month when the Fort Des Moines Museum welcomed members of Alpha Phi Alpha in remembering their brothers from generations ago. In 1917, the national fraternity helped recruit black college students to become officers, and a racial barrier was broken. 

Iowa Governor's Office

A restoration project honoring a former governor and Civil War veteran will receive the first grant from the Iowa History Fund, which was set up as part of Governor Branstad’s longest serving governor observance.  

The $6500 grant will complete fundraising to restore the mausoleum at Woodland Cemetery of Samuel Merrill. 

YUVAL PELEG

The Bible is the most read book of all time. For billions of people around the world, it provides answers, and it also leaves many questions.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with archaeologist and biblical scholar Robert Cargill, who has worked long, hard, and traveled far to find an answer to the question of - Where did the Bible come from?

He's written about what he has found in his new book, The Cities that Built the Bible.

Louis / Flickr

In the spring of 1916 war raged in Europe and tensions rose in the United States. In response, some far-sighted Iowans decided it was time to bring the Red Cross to Iowa.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a discussion on the history of the American Red Cross, the work of its volunteers, and the mission of the Red Cross in Iowa today. Volunteer Nancy Kintner remembers an experience she had in Cedar Rapids during the 2008 flood recovery.

Lee Wright / Flickr

In January, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs announced a plan to renovate and modernize the state historical building of Iowa. That comes after the department scaled back hours and made staffing changes at the historical building in Iowa City. The new plan has some Iowa historians very worried.

Dianne Dillon Ridgley

Two events put Henry Hampton on the path to creating an award-winning documentary series about the Civil Rights movement. That's according to his friend, human rights and environmental activist Dianne Dillon Ridgley.

Photo by John Pemble.

Fifty years ago this week, students in the Des Moines school district were suspended for wearing black armbands to silently protest the Vietnam War. They sued the district and lost, but eventually a Supreme Court decision ruled in their favor in a case considered a landmark for first amendment rights. This week those students are visiting Des Moines schools to share their history-making experience with a new generation. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad met wellwishers in his formal office this morning on his 7,640th day in office.   That makes him the longest-serving governor in U.S. history.  

Childhood friends and longtime supporters came to the open house to congratulate Branstad on the milestone.  

Branstad explains his longevity this way.

"Growing up on a farm and learning to work hard at an early age," Branstad says.  "I had great teachers who encouraged me to go into public service."

Principia School / Flickr

There's more than a century between the candidacies of William Jennings Bryan and Bernie Sanders, but history is still repeating itself when it comes to the elections of 1900 and 2016.

"The Industrial Revolution was creating that same gap that the technological revolution has expanded. There was a sense of dizzying inventions that were being made, that the pace of life was speeding up. People were moving from the farm to the city, so it was a disorienting age much like our own. So that was really the spur for the populist movement."

Daniel Hartwig / Flickr

In Iowa, state-specific history is taught in fourth grade. For most Iowans, that's the last they'll learn about their state's past. Tom Morain, Director of Government Relations at Graceland University and former head of State Historical Society of Iowa, is working to change that. He's developed a curriculum, an online course he's dubbed Iowa 101, that anyone, anywhere in or out of state, can access and participate in.

What makes Iowa, Iowa?  How did we get to be ‘us?’ These are questions that Michael Luick-Thrams, of the TRACES Center for History and Culture based in Mason City, set out to answer. 

"I grew up in a very different Iowa. Iowa has changed," he says. "Moving forward, there will be more changes, and the questions is 'how thoughtful will it be?'" 

Fourth Wall Films

U.S. Highway 6 runs from California to Massachusetts, the longest of all highways.  It has traversed Iowa in one form or another since about 1910, when parts of it were made from wooden planks.  We don't sing songs about Route 6 and it doesn't carry the historical mystique of the Lincoln Highway, but it's a road with a fascinating history and many associated stories from over the decades.

Photo by John Pemble

Small science fiction booklets created by amateurs in the 1930s gave birth to the independent publication known as zines or fanzines. The University of Iowa special collections department is storing thousands of rare zines, which are now are in the process of being digitized for the first time.  They are stored in a secure area of the University of Iowa libraries where the ceiling lights have special filters to prevent damage to priceless documents.

John Pemble

Forty years ago, the U.S. withdrew its last troops from Vietnam, marking the end of what was then America’s longest and most wrenching war.

On this edition of River to River, four Iowa veterans reflect on their time in Vietnam.

Dan Gannon, Roger Elliott, Ron Langel, and Caesar Smith join the program to share their experiences as medics, repairmen, career soldiers, and draftees. Host Ben Kieffer talks with them about post-traumatic stress disorder, what it was like to come home to those not in support of the war, and how they have viewed military conflicts since.

PaulAdamsPhotography / flickr

The history of Iowa isn't flashy, but the state is home to many fascinating stories and hidden treasures.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe sits down with Jessica Rundlett of the Iowa State Historical Society to learn about some of Iowa's most interesting hidden gems. Rundlett helped create the new Iowa Culture Mobile App, that can act as your guide on a road trip or reveal some of the historical treasures around at any given time.

Iowa Public Radio / Clay Masters

CLAY MASTERS: Last October we brought you the story of $3 million worth of illegal construction productions at one of the nation’s most sacred Native American burial grounds. And it happened under the watch of the National Park Service.

Now this we’re talking about is Effigy Mounds. It’s up in northeast Iowa. And new evidence shows that the National Park Service has covered up a report on the Effigy Mounds scandal.

Ryan Foley is with me. He’s a reporter with the Associated Press here in Iowa. Hello Ryan.

RYAN FOLEY: Hello Clay.

Jasperdo / Flickr

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government incarcerated 110,000 Japanese Americans in interment camps. When the war ended and those Americans were allowed to go home, the thousands of barracks that they called home were left behind. The government sold them to any one who could move them, often for just a dollar a piece.

Guimir / Wikimedia Commons

There's more to Madison County than covered bridges, and some significant historical preservation work will be on display at the Preserve Iowa Summit later this month.

Photo by Christopher Gannon

When Iowa history is taught the focus is usually on settlement and early statehood, but interesting things have happened since 1846.

A new summer course at Iowa State University is designed to fill in some of the gaps.

This summer, a first of its kind online history course focusing on civil rights in Iowa is being offered to ISU students, teachers, and the general public.

manhhai / flickr / Jim Stanitz Collection

Thirteen years, four months and one week after the death of the first American killed in open combat with the enemy, American troops withdrew completely from Vietnam on April 30th, 1975.

On this archive edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Bob Drury, author of a book about the final hours of the withdrawal. Also joining the conversation, former Marine platoon commander in Vietnam Dan Gannon. Gannon is now a Vietnam of America representative to the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs. 

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

The University of Iowa’s museum on wheels is gearing up for another summer on the road, this year with new exhibits.  

2014 exhibits focused on the natural history of Iowa and the human body. This year visitors will find exhibits about Iowans in space, World War II and water.

JC Gillett travels with the 38-foot converted RV.

Battle Buddies

Apr 8, 2015
Cory Smith Photography

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, Eric and Leonard Myszka of Cedar Falls will be sharing their 650 square foot diorama of the Appomattox courthouse and battlefield. The display features more than 7,600 hand painted toy soldiers in elaborate detailed terrain with imbedded sound and special effects.  The Myszkas will host an open house this weekend. The diorama can also be seen by appointment.  

William Whittaker

Did you know that Iowa is home to approximately 27,000 recorded archaeological sites? All over the state there are records of Iowans who came before us.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with William Whittaker and Mary De La Garza, authors of “The Archaeological Guide to Iowa”.

Whittaker and De La Garza touched on some of their favorite sites across the state, from the Blood Run site outside of Sioux Falls to the Palace site outside of Des Moines.

screen shot

In 1956, female students at Iowa State College had to be back in the freshman dorms by 8:45 p.m. on weeknights with lights out at 11:00 p.m. 

Gracia Willis graduated from ISC, now Iowa State University, in 1959. She says, in those days, there were strict standards for how co-eds were to behave.

“There were rules on nearly every aspect of our life. Groups of 12-15 ladies shared a telephone. The telephone was not to be used during study time. We were not allowed to wear slacks to class.”

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