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Posts Tagged ‘Local History’


Post From the Past.

by Candice Smith on October 13th, 2014

letter2   A couple weeks back the Info Desk received a letter in the mail from someone who had recently purchased a postcard mailed from Iowa City. The card had been sent in 1875, and had a unique stamp that was the postage cancellation mark. This person wanted to know if we were able to determine anything about that mark and what it might mean.

Where to begin, right? I’m not very familiar with the collecting and/or research of letters and stamps, and we had little to go on. The cancel mark itself looked like the letters ‘JIC’ and didn’t appear to be handwritten. I didn’t even know what to call the mark, so I started by looking at some general resources about the postal system. I found that, before the advent of machine-generated stamping and marking, postmasters would cancel postage in various ways, including uniquely-carved stamps that were often made of cork. The marks that these stamps made are often called ‘fancy cancels.’ I then started looking for other postcards that had been recorded or auctioned that were sent from Iowa City, as well as looking though numerous different fancy cancels from Iowa. I eventually did find one other postcard that had been sent from the area that had a very similar cancel, but was unable to find any specific information about it. However, that was enough to make me think that we were indeed dealing with a stamp that was regularly used by one of our postmasters.

Without ever being able to positively identify what the initials stood for, a good guess would be ‘Johnson Iowa City.’ Other fancy cancels served a similar purpose of identifying place of origin. I also wondered that it might be the initials of a postmaster…but how would I find that out? I started browsing some of the resources contained in the database Ancestry, and lo and behold, it contains the aptly titled Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971. I was easily able to view all of the postmasters from Iowa City who had appointments during the time this postcard was sent, and…nothing. No names matched those initials. What I did find, though, was that several of the area’s well-known people were appointed as postmasters, including Samuel Trowbridge, Chauncey Swan, and Edward Lucas, son of Robert Lucas. There were other notable names too, such as landowners Jacob Ricard and George Clark, and store owner John Whetstone. Finding these names in this database tells a little more of the story of Iowa City, of the people who lived here and helped build it.

In the end, I was not able to provide a definitive answer for our patron, but I did enjoy trying. If you have any information or ideas related to old postage marks from Iowa City, please leave a comment.

Want to try out Ancestry Library Edition? Stop by the Info Desk for help!

Want to see some old letters mailed to Iowa City? Check out our Digital History Project!

Want to read an oddly fascinating book about postal systems? Check out The Crying of Lot 49!

How East Iowa City Came to Be

by Maeve Clark on May 13th, 2014

East east iowa cityIowa City?  Really, there is an East Iowa City? Learn about the growth of the eastern part Iowa City and its early history as a manufacturing center during Irving B. Weber Days. Weber Days are held every May in honor of Iowa City’s unofficial historian, the late Irving B. Weber.  Every Wednesday in May, the Library will host an event that delves into Iowa City’s history.  This Wednesday, May 14  Dr. Thomas Schulein, another citizen historian,  will share the story of East Iowa City at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A. How East Iowa City Came to Be is one of the library’s WOW – Weber on Wednesday programs.

What would you like to learn about Iowa City history?  Share your ideas with the library and help us plan  Irving B. Weber Days for 2015.

WOW: Iowa City Public Library celebrates Weber on Wednesday

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on April 30th, 2014

Are you fascinated by local history? Do you look forward to Iowa City’s Irving B. Weber Days every year? If you answered yes to either of those questions, be prepared to say WOW in May.weber-days2

WOW — Weber on Wednesday – is a new twist to Irving B. Weber Days, which are held every May in honor of Iowa City’s unofficial historian, the late Irving B. Weber. On every Wednesday in May, the Library will host an event that delves into Iowa City’s history.

“Instead of having events scattered throughout the month, we redesigned this year’s Irving B. Weber celebration to focus on once-a-week programs,” says Maeve Clark, the Library’s coordinator of adult services.

May also is National Historical Preservation Month, and the Library will partner with The Friends of Historic Preservation for a special Saturday presentation on May 10.

“Learning about local history enhances our community. It gives us a better understanding of Iowa City and how it came to be,” Clark says. “You can’t plan for the future unless you understand the past.”

Weber on Wednesday Events:

Archives Alive!: Teaching with WWII Correspondence

Wednesday, May 7 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Meeting Room A

Learn more about a teaching project from the University of Iowa Libraries and the Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning (IDEAL) initiative based on the transcription of letters from Evelyn Birkby’s World War II scrapbook. Birkby, an Iowa native, is a longtime newspaper columnist, author and radio personality.

The Annual Irving Weber History Lecture: The History of Transportation in Iowa

Wednesday, May 7 at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A

Leighton Christiansen, Librarian at the Iowa Department of Transportation, will present “A Journey in Transportation: The Iowa DOT Centennial and Iowa Transportation History Highlights,” including a focus on Iowa City and Johnson County.

How East Iowa City Came To Be

Wednesday, May 14 at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A

This presentation by Dr. Thomas Schulein will trace the history of early manufacturing concerns in the neighborhood and describe the suburban development of “East Iowa City” up to the present.

Caring for Keepsakes: What do you do with a family memento or keepsake?

Wednesday, May 21 at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A

Preservation staff from the University of Iowa Libraries, Archives, Special Collections, and University Museums will talk about caring for your collections at home. Have a question about a special heirloom? Bring it with you. After a brief presentation, you can ask the experts how to best store and protect your keepsakes for future generations. Please note: No appraisals will be done.

ScanIt! @ ICPL – The Digital History Project

Wednesday, May 28 from 5 to 8 p.m. in Meeting Room A

Do you have old photographs of Iowa City or Johnson County or family photos that have recognizable locations or buildings in the background? Would you like to turn them into digital images and donate a copy to ICPL’s Digital History Project? During ScanIt!, librarians will teach you how to scan photographs. Storage media (CDs) will be provided. Appointments are one hour each and registration is requested. Drop-ins will be accommodated if space permits. To register, call the Library at 356-5200.

A bonus event will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 10, in Meeting Room A. Join us as local historian Bob Hibbs presents “College Green Park: Covered Wagons to Tornadoes.” Sponsored by the Iowa City Public Library and the Friends of Historic Preservation, this program is held in conjunction with the Friends of Historic Preservation’s Historic House Tour of the College Green neighborhood on May 11. For additional information, visit http://www.ic-fhp.org/

Stump the Librarians Day: Sabin Elementary School

by Beth Fisher on April 24th, 2014

sabin2Today we received a call at the Reference Desk from a patron that has us stumped.   The patron asked for information about a time capsule they believe had been placed in the former Henry Sabin Elementary School building at 500 South Dubuque Street here in Iowa City.  The building was built 1917, but the patron didn’t know when the time capsule would have been placed.

Unfortunately, after searching a variety of online and print resources like the Newspaper Archives and the Irving Weber’s Iowa City volumes, and even calling the ICCSD, we’re at a loss.  We couldn’t find even a hint of information about a time capsule.  So now we’re looking for help.   Does this sound familiar to you?  Did you attend Sabin Elementary?  Have you heard stories about a time capsule being buried there?   Any information you can provide would be a great help.

In general, Librarians are a curious bunch, and we really hate being stumped.   And now we all want to know the answer too!




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