TOP2November-December 2012 




On Dec. 11, 1987, the "new" State Historical Building was dedicated and opened to the public. Now, the Department of Cultural Affairs, along with Honorary Chairs Governor Terry Branstad and First Lady Chris Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds and Mr. Kevin Reynolds, invite you to join them at the State Historical Building 25th Anniversary Gala Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, from 7-11 p.m. at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust, Des Moines. Tickets are $100/person or $75/young professional and may be purchased by calling (515) 281-7471 or emailing


The evening will begin with a VIP reception and vault tour with the Honorary Chairs (Gala Presenting Sponsorship required). Hors d'oeuvres and wine, food stations and performances by the Hot Club of Des Moines, Flying Pig Fiddle & Banjo and Gabriel Lueders will take place from 7-9:30 p.m. At 8 p.m., Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds will make remarks, followed by a special performance by Simon Estes. The evening concludes with live music by Decoy, late night food stations and dancing. Complete details will be posted soon at


Making Headlines in 1987

  • Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made a visit to the United States to attend a summit with President Ronald Reagan;
  • "Faith" by George Michael was number one on the Billboard chart;
  • On Dec. 9, 1987, Microsoft released Windows 2.0;
  • On Dec. 11, Johnny Carson welcomed guests Danny Devito, the Pointer Sisters and Yakov Smirnoff; and
  • The top grossing film for Dec. 11 was "Throw Momma From the Train."


Cornerstone Contents

The cornerstone of the State Historical Building includes these items:

  • Constitution of Iowa
  • Recent issues of the Annals of Iowa, the Palimpsest, the Iowa Historian and the Goldfinch
  • Report recommending allocation of the Herrick bequest to the State Historical Building
  • Public information materials of the Iowa Historical Museum Foundation
  • Blueprints for the Historical Building
  • Trustees for Tomorrow
  • Selected photographs by David Plowden
  • Historic road maps
  • Dedication invitations
  • Dedication program
  • Dedication ribbon
  • State Historical Society of Iowa Board members photograph
  • Treasures of Iowa
  • Iowa Official Register
  • Iowa Archeological Society Newsletter
  • Iowa Archeological Society Journal
  • Bicentennial of the Constitution of the United States address by Secretary of State Elaine Baxter, Sept. 13, 1987
  • Bicentennial of the Constitutions of the United States address by the Honorable Ward Reynoldson, Sept. 13, 1987
  • Bicentennial packet
  • Copy of the Constitution of the United States
  • Governor's Proclamation Designating U.S. Constitution Week



Holidays on the Trail Dec. 1-2, 7-9

The annual traditional event Holidays on the Trail at Western Historic Trails Center will include events both this weekend and next.


Holidays on the Trail will be Dec. 1-2 and 7-9, 2012, at WHTC, 3434 Richard Downing Avenue, Council Bluffs. All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. The schedule follows or call (712) 366-4900 for more information:


Craft show with local crafters set up to sell fun holiday gift items. Show open each day. 

Used book sale paperbacks: $.50 & hardbacks $1. Sale open each day. 

Photos with Santa: Saturdays, Dec. 1 & 8, 12-2pm

Family geo caching: Sundays, Dec. 2 & 9, 12-2 pm

Holiday Evening Jam: Friday, Dec. 7, 5-9 p.m. Also free family crafts from 6:30-7:30 p.m. 

Recycling Program: Saturday, Dec. 8: Council Bluffs Recycling Center will be here to provide information on what can and can not be recycled through the holiday season. Plus show us how to re-use some items!

Crafts for kids: Dec. 1, 2, 8 & 9, 12-2pm
Make an advent calendar, photo frame, and much more

Crafts for adults: Dec. 1, 2, 8 & 9, 1-3pm 

  • Holiday CD Coasters: Dec. 1
  • Cake/cookie Holiday Plate: Dec. 2
  • Winter candle holders/luminaries: Dec. 8
  • Braided sweater scarf: Dec. 9 (bring an old sweater)


Montauk to Host Christmas Open House and Vesper Service

The staff at Montauk Historic Governor's Mansion in Clermont invite the public to celebrate the holiday season in a historic way this year. 


The annual Montauk Christmas Open House will be Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, from 1-4 p.m. Catch a ride to the front door in a horse drawn wagon before you stroll through the beautifully decorated home and enjoy music from area piano students being played on the 1874 Steinway piano. Refreshments will be served throughout the afternoon courtesy of the Clermont Historical Society.


The afternoon events continue at Union Sunday School for the traditional Vesper Service beginning at 4:30 p.m. The congregation is invited to join in singing traditional hymns accompanied by the historic Kimball pipe organ and to help decorate the community Christmas tree.


Montauk is located one mile north of Clermont on Hwy. 18. The Union Sunday School is located at 406 Larrabee Street in Clermont. Admission to both events is free and open to the public. These events are co-sponsored by the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Clermont Historical Society. Call (563) 423-7173 for more information.




Iowa's Cultural Treasurers in Peril 

By Michael D. Gibson and Timothy Walch


This article previously appeared in the Nov. 10, 2012, issue of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. It has been edited for space.


Devastating losses that result from natural disasters like superstorm Sandy and the flooding in Iowa in 2008 are dramatic evidence that we need to do a better job of protecting our precious cultural patrimony. We need to raise public awareness across the nation about the importance of documents in our daily lives. Failure to do so will deprive our descendants of their heritage.


What are we talking about? Just about every aspect of our lives - our rights, privileges, responsibilities and achievements are recorded for posterity. In some instances this information is recorded on paper, some of it is in photographs, other information is on audio or videotape. And don't forget all those Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and emails!

Documents are the blueprints of our lives. They mark the moment we enter the world and the day we leave it. They record our achievements in school and the compensation we receive for our employment. They capture our covenants with the ones we love and the people we respect.


Finally, documents reveal who we are as a nation and as individuals. Without documents, we would be anonymous. It is hard to overvalue such treasures.


Not all documents are of equal value, of course, and we all face the challenge of deciding what to keep, what to donate and what to dispose. It is often a problem we put off until we sell our homes, or experience a crisis such as a fire or flood. By then, it can be too late.


A related problem is storage. To save space, we often put documents in attics and basements - the worst places to store fragile, unique materials. The wide swings of temperature in most attics break down the fiber in paper and the emulsion in photographs. The high humidity in most basements is just as destructive. Finding a solution can take some time and effort.


That's where archivists can help. Our most important documents are stored in thousands of local, state and national repositories. The archivists who work in those institutions are ready to help you, so don't be shy. Here's another idea: If you work for a non-profit organization in need of archival assistance, hire a consultant through Iowa's Technical Assistance Network. The network is sponsored by the Iowa State Historical Advisory Board and the cost is minimal. More information is available at:  


It's also important for all of us to support collective efforts to save the documentary heritage of our state and our communities. Support your local, county, and state historical societies with charitable donations. Ask your elected representatives to increase appropriations for the preservation of documentary materials. Unleash your inner passion for history.


We should not neglect our responsibility to pass on our documentary legacy, as well as the legacy of our ancestors to future generations.



Michael D. Gibson is the director of the Center for Dubuque History at Loras College. Timothy Walch is the director emeritus of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. Both are members of the Iowa State Historical Records Advisory Board.





High School Class Serves Community, Gives Students Research Skills

For Scavo Alternative High School students enrolled in the Community Based Social Science (CBSS) course, the State Historical Building is more than a field trip, it's a learning lab. Instead of textbooks, there are exhibits, collections, historical library and archives to learn from.


Since 2009, CBSS has engaged students in project-based learning that explores important topics from a local perspective, according to Carl Stamey, who helped design the innovative course.


This year, students enrolled in CBSS classes are conducting research for the Des Moines Park & Recreation department as the organization prepares for its 125th anniversary. Students in the first session (August-mid-October) laid the groundwork for the rest of the year's classes by doing the initial research on the history of selected parks in Des Moines. They began their journey at the State Historical Library and Archives Reading Room under the guidance of Shari Stelling, who showed them newspaper clippings, annual reports, brochures, and other primary source documents.


"The students from Scavo who have used our library and archives resources have discovered how much fun it is to use primary source material in their research," Stelling said. "While searching for information regarding the parks in Des Moines, they even found a piece of evidence that was not generally known-a real life example of detective work in the library!"


As they conduct their research, the Scavo students-equipped with iPads-categorize and record information collaborating with Park & Recreation department officials to standardize the format for this long-term project. Information and photos from various sites are stored online, where the information can be updated throughout the year by students in subsequent classes and accessed by Park & Recreation department personnel. First quarter students conducted research on 15 parks of different sizes. In October, officials from the Des Moines Park & Recreation department met with Scavo students at the Historical to view the students' end-of quarter presentations and provide feedback related to their work.


"[The students' research] helps us begin the journey to understanding Des Moines' history, growth and the personal stories that go along with these public spaces," said Callie Le'au Courtight, Park & Recreation Supervisor. "It is important that we create these connections in our community as these students touch part of their past, understanding and valuing it so they are informed decision makers."  


In the first quarter alone, 25 Scavo students devoted a total of 375 hours to this project. Stamey anticipates the project will continue throughout the school year and grow with each new class involved.


The community-based learning environment has proven to be transformative for many of the students involved. One student reflecting upon her experience said, "In my community experience, I went from learning what something is to applying it to real life. I learned why I need to know the things that I learned in class. I had a chance to work with some neat people who let me try things out for myself. [Mr. Stamey] really seemed to care about me as a person and we had fun learning."


Scavo students also fulfill a community service requirement by volunteering in the Museum in exchange for use of space.


"I am impressed with Carl's work as a teacher and with the level of engagement and achievement demonstrated by his students," said Millie Frese, Education and Outreach Manager for the Department of Cultural Affairs. "Carl is a creative teacher who is passionate about his subject matter and always looking for new ways to connect with at-risk students. He has turned the Museum into a giant classroom-all students should get to experience history in this way!"





History for Lunch: Amana's Connection to the Land Dec. 12

The area around Iowa's Amana Colonies is as known for its beauty as for its history. These two components come together during a special presentation that will focus on the historical importance of the natural environment to the Amana community.


The State Historical Society of Iowa - Iowa City will host "History for Lunch: Amana's Connection to the Land" Wednesday, Dec. 12, from 12-1 p.m. at the Centennial Building, 402 Iowa Avenue, Iowa City. The event is free and open to the public. Call (319) 335-3911 for more information.


Photographer David B. Heusinkveld began taking photographs of the natural environment surrounding his Amana home following a car accident that took the life of his son and left him with life-changing injuries.


Heusinkveld's evocative photographs of the  natural features of the 26,000 acres of Amana Society owned farmland, woodland and water ways near his home have been featured in several area exhibitions and are the subject of a book, The Amana Landscape, published this year by Penfield Books. Peter Hoehnle, Executive Director of the Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council, authored the text for Heusinkveld's book and will present a talk about the Amana people's relation to the natural world, the key features of the Amana landscape and Heusinkveld's work.


Hoehnle is an Amana native. David Heusinkveld is a retired special education teacher who lives in Amana with his wife, Carol. Heusinkveld's mother, Joan Liffring-Zug Bourrett is a well-known Iowa documentary photographer and publisher.





Iowa Inventors Hall of Fame: Sharen Brower & Soy Ink

Part of a series highlighting Iowa inventors


Born in 1948 to parents Chris and Harriet Laursen of Ida Grove, Sharen Brower graduated from Newell-Providence High School in 1967. She went on to complete a double major in speech and drama at Wayne State University in Nebraska. She also finished with a minor in art and English before returning to Iowa.


Brower met her husband, Arlin, in Newell. In the mid-1980s, she opened her own art studio where her artwork quickly earned her a range of clients and budding popularity. She began to experiment with inks in order to find one most suitable to her work.


In 1988, Brower attended the World Ag Expo, held in the Amana Colonies in Eastern Iowa. While browsing through the different booths, she stumbled across a soy ink booth. Later, she read an article about the ink in a farm publication. Her interest was piqued. Soy ink was brighter, richer, and lasted longer than watercolors and other inks. It was also better for the environment, expelling fewer Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which help create smog and pollution, and was easier to recycle. Another part of Sharen's interest was that soybeans were one of Iowa's leading agricultural products.


With her new interest in the soy ink, she ordered a tin of the ink from Flint Ink, the largest ink distributor in the nation. However, she soon found it was too thick and didn't dry as fast as she liked. Determined to continue using the ink, Brower decided to experiment.


The teacher-turned-artist took a teaspoon of ink and added it to some turpentine to make the ink more fluid. The only problem was she didn't record her first success. She worked for days to re-create the ink until she came up with the winning formula. The next challenge was the smell. Her solution was to use soy-based varnishes to create a long lasting, odorless, fluid ink.


Word of her new ink began to circulate. Soon a man from Heartland Press in Spencer began talking about her ink after seeing it in a display at the Iowa Soybean Association. Printers from across the country began calling her, wanting to know more about her ink, but Brower refused to tell them.


She eventually took her formula to Flint Ink, signed a confidentiality agreement and later wrote them the exact formula for a better soy ink. Her invention guaranteed to make the ink more fluid and decrease rub-off, which were two problems that existed with the ink that was being used at that time.


When Flint Ink found out that Brower already had a patent pending on her formula, they sued her for patent infringement. Brower's lawyer referred her to one of the top patent law firms in the country, and invested thousands of dollars into researching the case.


In 1996, Brower won one of the largest damage awards ever given to an independent inventor: $48.7 million. While Brower's patent was not reinstated at its December 2000 expiration, her formula for soy ink is still the standard in the printing industry today.


Sharen Brower passed away in an automobile accident April 17, 2001. She was on her way to her Saratoga, Wyo., ranch that she and her husband maintained. Brower was 53.





"The Dust Bowl" Airs on IPTV, Features SHSI Photographs

The worst man-made ecological disaster in American history is the subject of Ken Burns' latest documentary, "The Dust Bowl," now airing on Iowa Public Television.


The frenzied wheat boom of the "Great Plow-Up," followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. Vivid interviews with 26 survivors of those hard times, combined with dramatic photographs and seldom seen movie footage, bring to life stories of incredible human suffering and equally incredible human perseverance. There are many opportunities to see the series. Visit for schedule.


Special Collections Coordinator Mary Bennett said SHSI provided several scans to Florentine Films back in January 2011. Since the A.M. "Pete" Wettach images appear in a book, it was easier to give them visual examples of what our collection contains.


Bennett added though the impact of the Dust Bowl was largely felt in western Iowa, President Franklin Roosevelt and Iowa Governor Clyde Herring convened a National Drought Conference in Des Moines Sept. 3, 1936. Articles regarding the Dust Bowl's impact on Iowa can be found in the Palimpsest, copies of which are available in both Des Moines and Iowa City historical libraries.    


Iowa State University Professor and expert on the 1930s dust bowl Pamela Riney-Kehrberg was interviewed for the documentary. She is also the director of the ISU Center for Agriculture History and Rural Studies Program.  


Iowa and states to the west were suffering from drought at that time. As plants died from lack of water, there was nothing to hold the soil in place. Strong winds easily picked up the soil and carried it in dark, swirling clouds of dust into Iowa.


Author James Hearst wrote, "We found it hard to believe. We all knew about dust storms in the dry plains of the Southwest, but for drought and wind and dust to sweep, like a plague, over the fertile fields of Blackhawk County, Iowa, seemed a bad dream." 






Call for Nominations: 2013 Most Endangered Properties

Preservation Iowa seeks nominations for its 2013 Most Endangered Properties list. Each year since 1995, the organization has designated 10 properties, including archaeological sites, churches, landscapes and a variety of buildings. Successful nominations are based on four criteria: historical significance, present condition, urgency and nature of threat, and possible solutions to remove the threat.


The Most Endangered Properties program provides an excellent resource for media coverage and introduces owners of an endangered property to preservation advocacy and resources that can help preserve their historic property. Additionally, there have been interest groups who have used the designation as a mechanism to leverage other financial resources to restore and preserve properties. 


Nominations are due Jan. 4, 2013. Find more information and the nomination form and guidelines at  


Photo: The Lucas County Sheriff's Residence and Jail, Chariton. Listed as a Most Endangered Property in 2012.




In This Issue
State Historical Building 25th Anniversary
Holidays on the Trail Dec. 1-2, 7-9
Montauk to Host Christmas Open House and Vesper Service
Iowa's Cultural Treasurers in Peril
High School Class Serves Community, Gives Students Research Skills
History for Lunch: Amana's Connection to the Land Dec. 12
Iowa Inventors Hall of Fame: Sharen Brower & Soy Ink
"The Dust Bowl" Airs on IPTV, Features SHSI Photographs
Call for Nominations: 2013 Most Endangered Properties


SHSI Calendar of Events
All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.
What's Happening at...



The State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City



MuseumState Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust, Des Moines 

Dec. 14: State Historical Building 25th Anniversary Gala, 7-11 p.m. See related story.


Dec. 16: 15th Iowa Civil War Living History, 12:30-3:30 p.m. Meet and interact with living historians from the Civil War, dressed in period clothing.


Dec. 25: All state offices, Historical Museum, libraries and archives closed for Christmas holiday.


Jan. 1: All state offices, Historical Museum, libraries and archives closed for New Years holiday. 


WHTCState Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City 

Dec. 12: "History for Lunch: Amana's Connection to the Land," 12-1 p.m. 


MontaukEventsMontauk Historic Site, Clermont 

Dec. 2: Christmas Open House and Vesper Service, 1-4 p.m. See related story.



WHTC2Western Historic Trails Center, 3434 Richard Downing Ave., Council Bluffs

Dec. 1-2: Holidays on the Trail. History programs, shopping, children's activities, and refreshments. Call (712) 366-4900 for details.


Every Thursday, 1-4 p.m.: Jam 'n' Bread. Local musicians invited to gather at Western Historic Trails Center to play old time country, bluegrass, blues, etc. Open to anyone who plays, sings or just wants to listen. Free homemade bread!






Support National History Day in Iowa by shopping at your local Barnes & Noble on Saturday, Dec. 1. Volunteers will be on hand at the University Avenue location in West Des Moines to wrap gifts. There will also be a book signing at the store with Pat Bettendorf, author of Ruby's Tale. 


B&N stores statewide will honor the bookfair voucher since we are a statewide organization. In addition, online orders placed Dec. 2-6 will count toward the NHD bookfair if shoppers enter the Bookfair ID 10862373. Contact Millie Frese at (515) 281-6860 for the printed voucher or more information. 




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The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is responsible for developing the state's interest in the areas of the arts, history and other cultural matters with the advice and assistance from its two divisions: the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council. DCA preserves, researches, interprets and promotes an awareness and understanding of local, state and regional history and stimulates and encourages the study and presentation of the performing and fine arts and public interest and participation in them. It implements tourism-related art and history projects as directed by the General Assembly and designs a comprehensive, statewide, long-range plan with the assistance of the Iowa Arts Council to develop the arts in Iowa. More information about DCA is available at