Sunday, October 10, 2010

You Scream, I Scream, We all scream for Ice Cream!

While it may not share the same importance in a culture as majority of the historical artifacts at the museum, I thought it was kind of cool to find something so mainstream come from Iowa. I can't quite say why it caught my attention, maybe it was because it was around lunch time and I was hungry or because it was part of the "Iowa IQ" exhibit and I found myself clueless. Would you know the answer?

Onawa, Iowa native Christian Nelson created a new ice cream treat in 1921. It became a national sensation selling over one million servings daily. What is it called?

Drumroll.......Eskimo Pie. Christian Nelson ran a candy store in Onawa. A boy could not decide whether to buy a candy bar or an ice cream sandwich, and Nelson invented a way to combine both by making chocolate-covered ice cream bars without sticks.

Ice cream is a big part of the American food culture. Whether it is paired up with cake at a birthday party or in a cone on a hot summer day, ice cream is a favorite among the American people. I had no idea Eskimo Pies originated in Iowa. While this may not be nationally known, I feel that things like these give people of Iowa pride in what we produce. Granted, it's only an ice cream treat, it's nice to see that Iowa is on a national stage. It's always cool to see things from Iowa get out into society, movies, sports, etc.

I think it is important to the culture because it is a staple in frozen treats. 80+ years of success shows its popularity, and to be from Iowa is another plus. I doubt people in Iowa know where the Eskimo Pie came from, and at the same time, I would bet there are plenty of other things out there that have a direct connection with Iowa. People take pride in their roots and what comes out of their state, and that's what, to an extent, the Eskimo Pie as well as many other things do for Iowans...make them proud to be an Iowan. While an ice cream bar isn't as significant as war hero's or olympic athletes, it is still something we can take credit for.

-Doug L.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

An Iowans Role in WWI

by Kaitlin

I am choosing to write on the exhibit "Over Here, Over There" from the State Historical Society Museum. I can't lie, being a history major I was very much excited to come to the museum and had visited before as well. I really enjoy museums in general, I think they are some of the best learning tools available. The exhibit focuses on Iowans and their part in WWI. I want to focus specifically on Herbert Hoover, European Iowans and just a few things I learned.

Hoover played a significant role in distributing food and aiding nations affected by the First World War in Europe. Without trying to repeat this article, President Wilson recognized Hoover's dedication to others and made him the Wartime Food Administrator. Some people assume that because Hoover was the president during the depression he was not a successful person. But before he was president, during this time of Wartime Food Administrator, he was able to persuade the American public to conserve food so the excess food could be shipped to their European counterparts. I think this is a person Iowa can be proud of because I know many of us would or have tried to exude these qualities when helping others.

In the early twentieth century, immigration from Europe was still very common and many Midwesterners (more likely from Western Europe or Scandinavia) had relatives still back in Europe. The exhibit had some great materials such as 'newsletter' type writing from the home country which showed how it was very difficult to decide who to support in the war. Were people supposed to support the U.S. and its allies (which could have been the homeland) or was it acceptable to follow Germany even though they were the enemy? A whole paper could probably be written on how German Iowans and a few other ethnic groups in Iowa were segregated and excluded from society. We are so far removed from WWI and the events of WWII tend to overshadow its predecessor but I think it was a difficult topic at the time of the war.
I also met a man from the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge who just happened to be stopping through to trade some military machinery with the Historical Society. It was nice of him to explain a few of the posters and pieces of the collection. Interesting facts specifically about the Des Moines area:

There was a picture of Edward Fleur in the exhibit which is where Fleur Drive comes from and that also prompted the explanation of Merle Hay. I'm sure we've all heard of those streets but if you are curious about these soldiers' backgrounds or what they did in the war, Polk County helps explain in this brief article. I think changing the names of these streets reflects that Iowans are aware who is fighting for their freedom and they respect those who died in service to protect the country.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I never would have thought growing up in Des Moines, Iowa there would be so many exciting artifacts. Iowa isn’t known for being a very big place. The state continues to grow every day. Last week I visited the Iowa Historical Society and got the chance to see that up close. As a big sports supporter and graduate of Valley High School I decided to write on the exhibit profile of local gymnast Shawn Johnson and her quest for the gold. Growing up in West Des Moines and attending Valley High School we had a few things in common. I did some outside research where I found that we also shared the same birthday. I thought it was pretty cool knowing what she has accomplished and that I had a few things in common with a famous person where I’m from. I remember watching her compete in the Olympics due to the fact of her being from Iowa. It was fun to keep track of how she was doing and whether or not she would get the gold. She has gone from gymnast in the Olympics winning a gold medal to Dancing with the Stars Champion and A celebrity not only locally but nationally recognized making celebrity appearances on Oprah, Ellen Degeneres and Tonight Shows to name a few. She has put Iowa on the map but it all comes down to her attitude being positive, hard-working, and helping others for example through charitable functions when she appeared on “Who wants to be a Millionaire” and gave her $50,000 winnings to charity.

Shawn Johnson has been a big role model for the youth of our state, from the beginning she made a big impact on the local community and was heavily supported with her mission for gold. I remember being at the Iowa State Fair and there was pavilion set up with TV’s just to watch the Olympics. It was always packed when Shawn was competing. She was also made into a butter sculpture for the annual Iowa State Fair. In 2007 with her World Championship performances, Iowa Governor Chet Culver set October 17 as “Shawn Johnson Day”. She has defiantly made a big impact on the state and hopefully more people from Iowa emerge into a star like her.

Everyday more Iowans are getting recognized in their sports profession. Another emerging star that I can also relate to is Hoover graduate Jeremy Hellickson who is now a Major League Baseball Pitcher. When I was growing up playing AAU baseball I got a chance to actually face him in the batter’s box even then he could really throw a baseball. To see him succeed into the professional rankings is very cool with knowing I played against him.

I have realized that anything is possible you just have to work hard, be determined and sometimes just be gifted. Shawn Johnson is one of those gifted talents who worked hard, didn’t give up and grew to be a well known Iowan. She has a good personality, caring whether it’s to the community or anywhere else, but also gives back to new gymnast that are training to be like her at Chow’s gymnastics. By having individuals like her makes Iowa a better place to live, raise a family and know you have people like her who give back.

By: Cody

Deer Hunting in Iowa

By: Keith

When you think of tourism attractions in Iowa I would bet a considerable amount of money that you wouldn’t say deer hunting. But nonetheless it has been a major attraction for many avid hunters for years. So when I saw this display at the Historical Society I thought back to when I would visit friends and see similar deer heads hanging in their homes. I by no means fall into the category of a dedicated deer hunter but growing up in a small town in southwest Iowa it was hard to avoid the occasional tag along trip with my buddies. I lived in town and didn’t have parents who were hunters but I had plenty of friends that lived in the country and had cases of rifles in their homes. If the random fall weekend got a little boring then someone would pitch the idea and we all would hop in someone’s truck and head out. This probably sounds very country to everyone that was born and raised in Des Moines but yes I am the product of a po-dunk town if you can believe it. Please don’t judge me for it.

So over the past three years living in Iowa City I haven’t had the time to go back to Creston very often, let alone fit in a little deer hunting if I even had the desire. But I have met some friends from Chicago at school and they are amazed with the deer population back home and in Iowa in general. They literally beg my friends and I to go back home so they can hunt.

They are not the only people in this country that appreciate how the fertile soils and abundance of nutritious food attracts some of the most sought after whitetail deer in this country. Deer populations vary according to available cover and in Southern Iowa, adequate cover has produced a good deer population. Even though deer are normally associated with forested areas and Iowa only has about 10% hardwoods timber, the brushy draws, fencelines, marshes, grassy areas and expansive crop fields provide the ideal habitat for whitetail deer (Inside IA Hunting, 2010). Not only is it an ideal habitat for deer populations but the success rate for hunters is big factor. Well-defined food sources, clear travel corridors and limited bedding options make harvesting a large buck just a little easier than in other regions (Inside IA Hunting, 2010).

Anytime you see a pack of deer along the side of the road or have to actually swerve and miss one ON the road then you can understand why their presence is so prominent here in Iowa. So even though you all may not be interested in this topic or hobby at all, it has a little more significance in my life and helps me appreciate what Iowa has to offer.

Inside Iowa Hunting. (2010). Retrieved October 7, 2010 from

Recreation in Iowa

By: Lauren S.

While Iowa is not necessarily known for its lakes or recreational activities, I was drawn to the Recreation exhibit because of personal interests. My family used to have a cabin at Clear Lake and I finally went to Okoboji for the first time last summer. I love the outdoors and Iowa has a charming landscape rich with natural resources. Even though many people find Iowa’s abundance of corn fields to be boring, many more exciting opportunities can be found when looking beyond the stalks.

We talked in class about bringing people to Iowa and getting people to stay in Iowa. I think one attraction is the state’s setting for a variety of recreational activities – sailing, swimming, fishing, cross-country skiing… Iowa is also well-known for RAGRAI, “the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world (RAGBRAI, 2010).” RAGBRAI supports the greater Des Moines area, local communities, and central Iowa. It contributes to the culture in Iowa and gives many people the opportunity to experience the state in a unique way. RAGBRAI went through Clear Lake this past summer and I remember hearing stories about riders doing all kinds of fun things – from the locals giving them boat rides and jet skiing to parasailing and swinging from a rope into the lake, Iowa can be a setting for all kinds of fun. I think part of the challenge is the many modern attractions available today which I won’t go into here.

In another part of the Historical Society I found a quote by Pope John Paul II that I thought related to preserving Iowa as a place for good recreational enjoyment: “You who live in the heartland of America have been entrusted with some of the earth’s best land, the soil so rich in minerals, the climate so favorable for producing bountiful crops, with fresh water and air available all around you. You are the stewards of some of the most important resources God has given to the world. Therefore, conserve the land well, so that your children and generations after them will inherit an even richer land than was entrusted to you (II, 1979).
Whether Iowa is a good place for recreation is up to each individual and their interests, but the way we present Iowa and the possibilities and opportunities available is up to us. Iowa may not have mountains or be near the ocean, but it has plenty of charms and a beautiful landscape to offer. Sometimes you just have to look for the fun.

Works Cited
II, P. J. (1979, October 4). Iowa, Irish Settlement.
RAGBRAI. (2010). Retrieved October 6, 2010, from What is Ragbrai?:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Culture of War

Justin H.

The State Historical Society has a large number of well-designed exhibits. With themes including Native American History, African-American culture in Iowa, the Caucuses and others, there are a variety of collections that can reach many different interests. I was particularly interested in the Iowa and World War I exhibit. I was never aware of Iowa’s level of involvement in World War I, so to see that my state had taken part in such an important conflict made me proud to be an Iowan.

I thought of expanding this entry to include a number of different images of wartime propaganda, but decided to focus on the one that caught my attention the most. This particular image isn’t striking at first glance, but upon further examination it proves to have a depth to it that warrants further analysis.

As stated before, this exhibit in particular caught my attention. It was a picture of four soldiers in full battle-dress, brandishing weapons and protecting civilians. The soldiers represented four nations that combated the Triple Alliance. From the left to the right, the soldiers represent Great Britain, the U.S., France, and Italy. They all hold their weapons at attention, as if ready to sally forth from a city and defend their homes. This picture depicts the wartime culture that permeated warring nations during World War I.

This particular picture makes a number of appeals to the viewer. First, and most obvious, is the appeal to the sense of patriotism. It leaves little to the imagination in terms of precisely how it views patriotism. These soldiers, their stance, their dress… all are elements indicative of the wartime mentality and the regard with which these soldiers were and are held. These soldiers proudly represent their nations’ collective military histories. This is not a judgement on the merit of the cause for which they were fighting. Whether having or lacking merit, this image appeals to the sense of patriotism inherent to citizens of a wartime nation (or, in this instance, several). While people may debate the merits of a particular war, they rarely debate the patriotism of the actions of the soldier. In this regard, this image reflects the wartime culture of patriotism above all.

The picture also makes an appeal to the protective aspect of humanity. Let the men go off and fight the battles, all in the name of protecting the women, children, and elderly. There are few looks of sadness among the citizens; only a grim sense of inevitability. They know that the majority of these soldiers will never see home again, as do the soldiers themselves. They personally have their faces set in a determined, confident look. They are prepared to throw themselves into the meat grinder that was trench warfare during World War I. This sense of duty and sacrifice also exemplifies the culture of a nation at wartime. These men seem prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, and no one in the picture appears particularly broken up about it. They all accept the natural wartime order of things. This is yet again a reflection of the mindset and culture of a nation at war. This is a culture we've come to be all too familiar with, considering the constant state of war we seem to be in.

"Caucus Iowa"

By: Tamra

Seeing the “Caucus Iowa” exhibit immediately made me think of my first Iowa caucus. I attended the democratic caucus in 2008 it was a chaotic mess that took several hours. It was hard to believe that a group of adults had come up with this process. We began by getting into groups based on candidates. After each group was counted if your candidate did not have the most people you had to then join another candidate’s group. This process was repeated until it was narrowed down to the top candidate.

This was the memory that came to mind when I saw the “Caucus Iowa” exhibit. I found it interesting that this exhibit focused on the national attention that Iowa gets when the caucus comes around every four years. When you first walk into the exhibit you are greeted with cardboard-cut-outs of people portraying each critical member of the campaign. You move from a diner, to a porch, to someone’s living room each one filled with people of different ethnicities, careers, and families. These different scenarios demonstrate the “small town” one-on-one contact Iowan’s get with candidates trying to win over our votes.

As you progress through the exhibit it turns into a news room, this is the point in the exhibit that focuses on the national attention Iowa receives during this crucial time in the election process. As the opening billboard to the exhibit states “Iowa voters shape the race for the White House.” All eyes are on Iowa weeks even months before the caucuses begin. As Iowans we know this is our time to shine, we invite the national media into our diners, onto our porches, and into our homes. We bask in the spotlight because we know once that fateful day is over; it will be another four years until we shine again.

The Iowa caucuses create a culture of recognition for Iowa. It brings, for a small moment in time, recognition to the hardworking people of a state that otherwise goes unnoticed. It calls to attention the different problems we face in Iowa and the day to day struggles of the common Midwesterner. The national attention brought by the caucuses if nothing else gives Iowa a name, at least every four years.

Art in Everyday Life

by Christine K.

I was really excited to see the temporary exhibit Art in Daily Life in the Historical Museum. I enjoyed seeing how much effort went into making the every day items of Native Americans. While reading through most of the information on the materials what really caught my eye was the moccasins. Most people know what they are, and can relate them back to the Native Americans, but what I did not realize was that they served a much greater purpose in the way of life of the Native Americans than I originally thought. Native Americans played a big role in Iowa’s history. Several different nations occupied the area for many years before the European settlers arrived. Some of the major nations were the Chippewa, Potawatomi, Otto, Dakota, Sauk, and Fox (
Iowa Indian Tribes).

After a little research I discovered that moccasins were the one constant throughout all Native American nations, but they were all different (
History of Moccasins). One of the information cards in the display mentioned that Native Americans wore different moccasins for ceremonies than they did for everyday use. Moccasins for special occasions were heavily decorated with several beads of different colors, porcupine quills, and feathers. The women traditionally made the moccasins but the men would carry tools with them to repair the shoes if needed. Several rites of passage were shown with moccasins; such as a young Pawnee Indian would be allowed to wear black moccasins after he killed a buffalo. Menomiee parents would give their new born babies moccasins with holes in the bottom to keep spirits away that would try to take the baby into the Otherworld, and the Mexican Kickapoo were doing this until the 1970’s. One way Native Americans could tell which tribe someone else belonged to was by their moccasins. Even some major nations like the Blackfoot and Chippewa were named after their unique moccasin styles (Charles 14-16).

Moccasins became part of American fashion in the 1920’s for men women and children. Believe it or not, moccasins still influence our culture today. The loafer design was inspired by the Native American moccasin. In fact, it is literally just a slip on version of a moccasin. It is desired as the loafer design because it is one piece of leather wrapped around the foot and sewn together. Since it is one piece then it allows the loafer to be customized to each individual and only gets more comfortable with time (Charles, 14-16).

The moccasin has been around for many years, and is a lasting sign of just one of the many influences the Native American culture has had on our present day culture. It will be interesting to see if this simple shoe continues to stick around for years to come.

Works Cited:

Legacy of Native American Words in North American Culture: Tracks that Speak (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company), 14-16.

Iowa Indian Tribes

History of Moccasins (2006).

Farming in Iowa

History = my worst subject. I used to believe that history was uninteresting, dull, and just plain boring. Actually, now that I think about it, I still think that. However, going to the Iowa Historical Society Building in downtown Des Moines was an interesting experience. Being 21, I now have a greater appreciation of Iowa’s history than I was going on that second or third grade tour of it back in the day. It’s pretty cool how things in the building were like that in Iowa decades ago, and seeing how things have changed.

I chose to write on farming in Iowa. Yes, everyone thinks of corn when we say we’re from Iowa and yes, people have asked me if I ride tractors to school. This isn’t true in my case because I’m from Des Moines…but who knows someone out there might. Anyways, farming is a definite culture of Iowa and there shouldn’t be any embarrassment of that. It’s a successful and needed business and iconic in Iowa’s culture. Iowa is acknowledged as a world leader in agricultural production and it ranks second in the nation for selling its farm products to the world, according to an informational card at the Historical Museum. It not only feeds people and livestock, but it fuels cars as well, as corn is in ethanol gas.

Farming is an important culture and has been since the beginning of time. It has changed dramatically over centuries. I took a picture of an old plow from the 1800’s.

It is incredible how technology has changed to benefit us. I cannot imagine farming with this; however, it is how people used to do it and it needs to be remembered how cultures used to be. Technology changes in the plow and other farming tools has made farming labor more efficient.

By: Hannah