Author Archive for Candice Smith



Let us now give thanks, and eat.

by Candice Smith on November 10th, 2017

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914), Pilgrim Hall Museum

I love finding out what is behind our holidays and traditions–why do we put a tree in the house? why the painted eggs? why did he put ashes on my forehead?–but Thanksgiving is one of those that I hadn’t given much thought to. According to Bruce Forbes and his excellent America’s Favorite Holidays, the holiday we celebrate today is pretty straightforward and connected to events that happened in our country’s past, although not in the way I had imagined.

We can thank the Puritans for getting us started with the holiday. Much of the reason they wanted to leave England was to have their religion the way they wanted it, and one of the things they wanted was fewer holidays. The Church used to be pretty big on them, with lots of days to recognize saints, have feasts, practice penitence–well over 100 days per year for a long time, including Sundays–and all of this time off meant less work, less pay, more goofing off. Puritans felt that Sundays should be used for worship and other religious acts, and aside from that there should only be a few days a year for either giving thanks and feasting (when good things happened) or for fasting and penitence (when not-so-good things happened). These days were most often proclaimed by religious authorities, and started to be somewhat common, although only when warranted. However, as the population of the colonies grew, the desire for the traditional harvest festival did as well, and even the Puritans were swayed by that. Read the rest of this entry »

Murderous reads for the season

by Candice Smith on October 4th, 2017
Murderous reads for the season Cover Image

When I was a child, I used to love watching scary movies with my dad. He had this great La-Z-Boy chair that the two of us could fit in, and on weekends we would rent a movie or two (VHS, mind you), make popcorn, and terrify ourselves silly. Well, I was terrified (hence, two people in one chair), but I don’t think he was. We watched all the biggies from the day: Halloween, Carrie, The Shining, Friday the 13th, Alien (I made him take me to that in the theatre, I was like 6, what was he thinking?), The Omen, The Exoricst, The Amityville Horror…the list goes on. I loved it, letting myself be scared just as much as I wanted to, but being safe and able to cover my eyes whenever I needed to. As I got older, I didn’t really enjoy being scared as much (real world too scary, maybe?), and I stopped watching horror movies for the most part. I still enjoy a good mystery and have a certain predilection for murder stories, so in honor of the upcoming Halloween season (who doesn’t like a bit of scare for Halloween?), I’ve rounded up some new books about murder. They are all nonfiction, which makes them all the more scary. Read the rest of this entry »

A Historical House and a Holy Hooligan

by Candice Smith on August 31st, 2017

sanxay2The Press Citizen recently had an article about Gloria Dei Lutheran Church’s plans to relocate a historical home on their property, before selling said property to the UI. That house was at one time owned by Theodore Sanxay, one of Iowa City’s early citizens and business owners. He was also one of the founding members of the First Presbyterian Church, and you can find his name on the Church’s original 1847 Constitution, as well as two letters written by him, on the Library’s Digital History website. Those two letters tell a small part of a very interesting story: the beginnings of the First Presbyterian Church, and the Reverend Michael Hummer. The letters were written to Rev. Hummer while he was out east raising money for the new church that was being built, and they discuss various details related to the ongoing construction and various costs, but also relate gratifying little bits of information and news: “Mr. Trowbridge has married the widow Willis!” and “I am commencing business here once more…My father wanted me to try business in some other place as he thought I had made a perfect failure here.” Reverend Hummer eventually returned to his flock, and the Church was completed in 1850. Before that, though, things got a little weird. Read the rest of this entry »

Upcoming B.Y.O.Book events

by Candice Smith on July 28th, 2017

37380B.Y.O.Book, the Library’s books-in-bars book club, has some new events coming up! Grab a book, then pull up a chair to discuss it with us, while enjoying some food and drink at a great, local restaurant. Find more information and register for events by clicking on the links below.

August 15, at The Mill, 6 p.m., we’ll talk about Carson McCullers’ The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

September 19, at Basta Pizzeria Ristorante, 6 p.m., we’ll talk about Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend

October 24, at Share Wine Bistro & Small Plate Lounge, 6 p.m., we’ll talk about Jeff Speck’s Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

A limited number of each title will be available at the Info Desk on the 2nd floor of the Iowa City Public Library for checkout; there are also copies in the Library’s print, audio, and digital collections. Please call the Info Desk at 356-5200 for more information, or email candice-smith@icpl.org

Pox in the park

by Candice Smith on May 26th, 2017

pesthouseThere are many reasons to take some time and visit Hickory Hill Park: have a picnic in the shelter at the Bloomington St. entrance, take a leisurely stroll and see some native wildflowers, go for a run and get a good workout on the hill up to Pappy Dickens’ Preserve, or go and have a nice, quiet sit at one of the many benches that have been installed recently. But hey, maybe you prefer a little disease and/or history when you’re in the park? If so, then I’ve got a walk for you…we’re going to visit the pest house in Hickory Hill Park!

Pest houses were used for a number of years to provide quarantine of patients who were infected with communicable diseases such as small pox and tuberculosis; this was the solution during a time when many hospitals did not have isolation wards and vaccinations had not been implemented to such a degree that the disease was wiped out. It may seem incredibly antiquated, but even Iowa City had a number of pest houses during the years of 1881-1920s; the one in Hickory Hill was the last. While there is very little to see there, we will be able to fill in the picture a bit with information from old Press Citizen articles and a few pictures from Margaret Beck, Assistant Professor in the UI Anthropology Department, who did a mapping project of the site in 2011. If you can’t make the walk with us, but are interested in learning more, stop by the Info Desk at the Library to use our databases, microfilm, and other historical resources.

The Road to Jonestown

by Candice Smith on April 19th, 2017
The Road to Jonestown Cover Image

A couple days ago, I found myself uttering a sentence that seemed impossible, not only to say, but to believe: “Jim Jones did a lot of really good things!” Amazingly, it’s true; as a pastor in Indianapolis, IN, he served for many years and helped a great number people in various ways. Much of that gets overshadowed, though, by that one really bad thing he did. Jeff Guinn’s book The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple sets out to tell the whole story, the good and the bad.

I was six years old when Jonestown happened, and for most of my life, pretty much all I knew about the whole situation was that ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ meant that you’d fallen victim to the words and ideas of someone, most likely not a good someone. I knew nothing about Jim Jones the person, what he did, who followed him, why they were in Guyana (for a while, even the location of Guyana was a mystery to me). What happened in Jonestown is, of course, interesting in its own, horrific way, for many reasons: you’ve got a cult and its charismatic leader, some poison, meddling politicians, guns, and a very bad ending. Just as interesting, though, is how Jim Jones became that leader, and how he and his followers ended up the way they did. Read the rest of this entry »

This just in: St. Patrick, not actually Irish.

by Candice Smith on March 3rd, 2017
This just in: St. Patrick, not actually Irish. Cover Image

Is that a load of blarney?? No. Okay, many of you probably knew that, but I confess that I did not, or that I had forgotten. St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, was born in some part of Britain while it was under Roman occupation. It’s not known for sure whether his parents, Calpornius and Concessa, were also born in Britain, or Italy. Little is known about his family and upbringing; his biography, Confession, gives some details, but for the most part is pretty vague about locations and dates.

So, what do we know about this very popular (especially in March) and beloved saint? Read the rest of this entry »

A holiday for everyone

by Candice Smith on December 9th, 2016
A holiday for everyone Cover Image

I grew up with a Christmas experience that I think will be familiar to many in one way or another. I was raised Catholic, so for the first 18 years of my life I did attend mass; this was usually on Christmas Eve, and it was very exciting to me as a child because the church lights would be turned off as the priest walked down the aisle, swinging a thurible filled with smoky incense. It seemed very exotic, not the regular day at church. We would hear the story of the birth of Christ and the three wise men, sing songs, and depending on which mass we were at, there would be a children’s pageant. After, we would go home and have a meal together, and my sister and I would head to bed while my parents stayed up a little longer. In the morning, we would be led from our rooms to the kitchen, eyes covered so that we couldn’t peek at the presents under the tree. Only after breakfast were we allowed to go open the presents; one person was designated to pass out the gifts, and they were opened one at a time. In this way, a good hour or two was spent opening presents and watching others do the same, eventually covering our living room floor with colored paper. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding a Family, part 2: From Missouri to Iowa

by Candice Smith on September 17th, 2016

In my last post, I’d found my grandfather Carl in the 1925 census. I also found out that his father and his grandfather were born in Missouri, which came as a surprise to me. For as long as I’d known them, my father’s family of aunts, uncles, and cousins were all in Oelwein, Iowa, and I’d never thought to ask if they’d moved there from somewhere else. Oelwein can kind of seem like a place where, the people who live there, they’ve always just been there and nowhere else. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, just that it’s a small town and community, everyone knows everyone and all their family members, all of their stories, and the stories of their parents and grandparents. They know where everyone works, who built what, who lives where, who everyone’s children got married to, etc. Oelwein is familiar and self-contained.

So, just who were these Missourians that came to Oelwein? Read the rest of this entry »

Calling all artists: Get your Art Purchase Prize entries in!

by Candice Smith on August 26th, 2016

Recovering_AnnaThere is still time to get your art entered into this year’s Art Purchase Prize contest! Maybe you need a little help coming up with something to submit? Let us help!

We’ve picked a theme for this year — New Covers for Old Classics. Pick a book that is in the public domain, and use your creativity and imagination to design a cover for it. The idea for this comes from Recovering the Classics, a national campaign to give classic, important works of literature new and inspiring covers. When a title becomes part of the public domain, anyone can publish it; often times, very little time or thought is spent on what the book’s cover looks like. Recovering the Classics wants to change that. If this sounds like something you can get behind, please think about creating a new cover and submitting for the contest.

Who can enter the contest? Artists over 18 who live, work, or exhibit in the area. For this special, themed contest, we’re also letting previous winners submit entries. Get all of the details here.

If you don’t meet the criteria for the Purchase Prize, but are still interested in creating a cover, you can submit your work for ICPL’s Recovering the Classics exhibit, open to everyone.

All covers will be on display during the Iowa City Book Festival, October 4-9, and for several weeks afterwards.

If you have questions about the Purchase Prize or the exhibit, please contact Candice Smith at candice-smith@icpl.org