Posts Tagged ‘history’


Magazines with Staying Power

by Heidi Lauritzen on March 30th, 2018

When the Iowa City Public Library opened in 1897, its reading room contained twenty magazine titles for visitors to read.  More than a century later, we still offer seven of those first twenty titles!  They are:
The Atlantic, Harper’s Bazaar, Harper’s Magazine, National Geographic, Popular Science, and Publishers Weekly.  The seventh title, Library Journal, is circulated among just library staff since it is primarily library news and reviews of new materials that help with acquisition decisions.

We receive only print issues of Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. For the other titles, we provide both the print issues in our magazine area in the first floor atrium, and a downloadable version via RBdigital Magazines. Find out more about downloading these and 100+ other magazines on this Digital Johnson County page on our website.

The Library typically keeps one year’s worth of issues for monthly magazines, and three months’ worth of issues for a weekly magazine. Back issues may be checked out, but the latest issue is always for in-house use only. You may place holds on magazine issues, just as you do for books or movies.

Each of these original seven titles is indexed in the Gale online resource called “PowerSearch”. Dates vary among the titles, but many of these magazines are indexed back forty to fifty years, and have full-text articles from the past twenty years or more.  PowerSearch contains more than 300 million articles, from thousands of sources. Find PowerSearch on our website here.

Are magazines that have been around for 120 years too stuffy for you? Try one of our newer titles at the Library: MaryJanesFarm (“simple solutions for organic living”), Plein Air Magazine (for landscape and plein air painting), Milk Street (cooking magazine from Christopher Kimball, formerly of America’s Test Kitchen), or Atomic Ranch which “celebrates mid-century houses from 1940s ranch tracts to 1960s modernist homes”.

Party Like ‘Tis 999

by Heidi Lauritzen on January 5th, 2018

There’s a great display on the second floor, next to the Information Desk.  Maeve has gathered books and DVDs on the Middle Ages from our nonfiction collection, and placed them under a showcase of objects reflecting medieval times.

The “Middle Ages” and the “Medieval Period” often are used interchangeably, and cover roughly the 5th to 15th centuries.  Among other things in the showcase, look for the silver coronet, a dagger, and a pewter spoon.

Walk down almost any aisle in the nonfiction collection, and you can find something of medieval interest:  religion, fashion, art, literature, travel, history, and biography are all represented in the display.  Some of the materials that caught my eye are: The Medieval World:  An Illustrated Atlas, full of colorful illustrations and arranged chronologically; Medieval Dress & Fashion by Margaret Scott and published by the British Library; Life in the Medieval Cloister by Julie Kerr; the DVD Medieval Siege (“catapult yourself into the chaos of medieval battle”); and The Bayeux Tapestry: the Complete Tapestry in Color

All the materials on the display kiosk are available for checkout.  Time travel back a millennium or so, and find out how to party like ’tis 999.

Charlottesville – Confronting Racism in America

by Maeve Clark on August 18th, 2017

maeves-booksWhy Charlottesville and why now? There have been tweets and Facebook posts, news stories and magazine articles offering explanations, but for longer more reflective and scholarly works, you can turn to your library. The website Bustle published a list by Sadie Trombetta of 17 Books on Race Every White Person Needs to Read. The library has almost all of the books on the list and multiple titles of many. It isn’t a new topic and more books will surely be written.

One of the most acclaimed books from the list, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by legal scholar Michelle Alexander, examines the legal structure of the courts, parole, probation and laws that effectively turn a perpetrator of a crime into a moral outlaw who is unworthy of rehabilitation. White rage : the unspoken truth of our racial divide by Carol Anderson, a professor of African-­American studies at Emory University, is the book Senator Al Franken selected when asked by the New York Times Book Review to name a book you wish all Americans would read right now.  Franken said, “There’s a book called White Rage by Carol Anderson about a history that most Americans don’t know: the history of oppression that African Americans have faced from the Civil War to the present day. If every American read it, maybe we could really begin to have a conversation about race in America.”

Richard Rothstein, a former columnist for the New York Times and a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, as well as a Fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has written The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated AmericaListen to Terry Gross’s interview of Rothstein on Fresh Air. In Stamped from the Beginning: the Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America , assistant professor of African American history at the University of Florida, offers this history through chronologically arranged sections based on the lives of five figures from American history: socially and politically influential Puritan minister Cotton Mather; President Thomas Jefferson; prominent abolitionist and social reformer William Lloyd Garrison; civil rights activist and author W. E. B. Du Bois; and political activist and writer Angela Davis.

Claudia Rankine, winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize and chancellor of the Academy of American Poets 2014 work Citizen: an American Lyric recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media.  Slavery by another name : the re-enslavement of Black people in America from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon, Wall Street Journal bureau chief, is the groundbreaking and disturbing account of a sordid chapter in American history, “the lease (essentially the sale), of convicts to “commercial interests” between the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th.

None of these books are easy reads and they shouldn’t be.

Read to Get Ready for STEAM Fest!: Picture Book Biographies of STEAM Pioneers

by Anne Wilmoth on May 15th, 2017

There’s nothing I love more than a good picture book biography of a little-known historical figure; something that makes you let out a surprised “Huh!” when you turn the final page.

In honor of this week’s STEAM Festival for children (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) here are a handful of books on STEAM trailblazers that promise to fascinate the adult reading them aloud just as much as the child listening.

ThThumbnaile Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman

When Paul Erdos was four years old, he liked to amuse strangers by asking them their age, then announcing how many seconds they’d been alive, after just a moment of mental calculation.  Paul grew up into a brilliant but eccentric mathematician – “he didn’t fit into the world in a regular way” and needed his mother and friends to see to his basic needs – who traveled the world working with other mathematicians, doing math up to nineteen hours a day, and coming up with new kinds of math.  Numbers are sprinkled throughout this simply-told, charming story.

Thumbnail Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone

Society tried to thwart her at every turn, but the first female doctor in America (she graduated from medical school in 1849), wouldn’t be dissuaded.  In a situation that seems laughable today but was all to real in our country’s history, all the other tenants in the building where she opened her first practice were so horrified that they immediately moved out.  Today, more than half of all U.S. medical school students are women, thanks to Elizabeth Blackwell.

Thumbnail Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wellmark

Who wouldn’t be fascinated by trying to wrap their mind around the leap from the first computer to the sophisticated, lightning-fast information machine that we all now carry around in our pocket?  Women have been instrumental in computer technology since its inception, starting with Ada Byron Lovelace.  This thinker, tinkerer, and girl fascinated by numbers went on to write the algorithm that allowed her colleague’s Thinking Machine to work – making her the world’s first computer programmer.

Thumbnail Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis

The Ferris wheel, that mainstay of summer amusement parks across America, got its start at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., a mechanical engineer, won a contest seeking a design more spectacular than the Eiffel Tower, which had wowed attendees at the previous World’s Fair.  The fair committee thought his design couldn’t possibly work and refused to give him the money to build it.  George, despite being laughed out of most banks, eventually secured a loan and paid for the wheel himself; he and wife took the first ride.  The story of this feat of engineering and nostalgic piece of Americana is depicted in illustrations washed in blue and purple that evoke twilight at a state fair, alongside text bursting with fascinating bits of detail.

Thumbnail Balloons Over Brodway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

The little boy who designed a rope-and-pulley system so he could feed the family’s chickens while lying in bed grew up to become the entirely self-taught “father of American puppetry,” the man behind those giant character balloons that millions of people watch on TV every Thanksgiving.  When Tony Sarg came to America, he designed mechanical marionettes for a Macy’s window display.  Later, Macy’s asked him to come up with something more spectacular for the parade than live animals, which were frightening the children – and Tony Sarg’s innovative balloons have risen on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1928.

After finding some inspiration in these books, come down to ICPL’s STEAM Festival and do some problem-solving and discovery of your own!  The STEAM Festival takes place on Friday, May 19 from 9:30-2:30 and Saturday, May 20 from 10-4.

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 »

Inauguration history

by Melody Dworak on January 20th, 2017

inauguration-quarrelWhen major historical events happen before our eyes, it can be fun to turn to the wayback machine and explore what it was like in the past. Thanks to the Historical New York Times database, I can take this trip down the collective memory lane. 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 »

1846: Iowa City

by Anne Mangano on May 25th, 2016

newhallWhat was Iowa City like 170 years ago? To get an idea, we can turn to John B. Newhall, author of A Glimpse of Iowa in 1846*. In this work, he states that one couldn’t help but think of Saint-Omer in France and he “speaks as an eye-witness.” I do not believe Newhall in this. He was a noted salesman in his day and his product was Iowa. He wrote a number of books and he lectured both on the east coast and in England proclaiming the wonders of the new state (or territory depending on the publication date of the book).

Despite what Iowa diarist T.S. Parvin calls “too flowery” of language, Newhall is extremely useful in providing a directory for the city in 1846. He lists sellers of dry goods, doctors, mills, schools, churches, and newspapers. For our purposes, Iowa City had two coffee houses, one owned by Charles Frink and the other by R. C. Keathy. Lawyers included G. Folsom, M. Reno, and W. Penn Clark. There was one insurance company.

Read the rest of this entry »

“The thing that I am seeking should not be far to seek”

by Anne Mangano on May 9th, 2016

bookOver the weekend, we were reunited with a book from long ago, Aline Kilmer’s Vigils (1921). We weren’t looking for it; the book was legitimately withdrawn from the collection. But, perhaps the book was seeking a return to us. Of course, I was interested in the history of this particular book and perhaps you are too. So, to the accession records!

In storage, we hold accession records for books we purchased dating back to January 14, 1897. In the ledger, each book was given a number, assigned in the order in which it was added to Read the rest of this entry »