An American Red Cross nurse at a railroad station in St. Etienne, helping wounded soldiers in July 1918.

Iowa History: Iowa’s Gold Star Women

“There is a handsome bronze tablet in the Army and Navy building in Washington, memorializing the mules and horses who died in the war; but nowhere is there found a record of the women who died,” declared Helen C. Courtney, a member of the Women’s Overseas Service League. The organization led an effort to establish a memorial for women who died in World War I, including a list of 161 names of “gold star women.” Among the names were several Iowans.

Eugene Ely, photo circa 1911

Iowa History: Iowa’s World-Known Air King

“Eugene Ely Fatally Injured in Airship Accident.” In July 1910 newspaper headlines announced the death of the Iowa native. However, it turned out the reports were greatly exaggerated.

A postcard from around 1900 shows the Iowa Institution for the Education of the Blind in Vinton, Iowa.

Iowa History: Gov. Shaw Wants Salary Increase

Iowa’s Governor Leslie M. Shaw delivered his annual message to the legislature and the citizens of the state in January 1900. He had a number of items on his mind, and he wasn’t shy about making his ideas known. The text of his speech was splashed in newspapers throughout the state.

An 1898 print shows the "U.S.S. Merrimac", a cargo ship, under fire as it passes between fortifications at the entrance to Santiago de Cuba Bay, Cuba, during the Spanish-American War.

Iowa History: War Hero Not Trying to Get Kissed

I’m not going around trying to get kissed. I haven’t done anything brave. No one but a darned fool would have gone on that Merrimac trip.” Stuart, Iowa, native Osborn Warren Deignan was being modest when he claimed he hadn’t done anything brave. Most Americans in 1898 disagreed with the Spanish-American War hero when it came to his statement about bravery.

A 1908 Model T Ford is pictured.

Iowa History: Rubber Neck Jaunts In Eastern Iowa

In February 1910 a small group of individuals in Iowa City formed the Iowa City Automobile Club which allowed them the opportunity to enjoy the sights around the eastern part of the state. Their “rubber neck wagon jaunts” took them to various small communities where the sight of automobiles was not an everyday occurrence.

Boyer River Valley as it looked about the time of the threatening letter mystery.

Letter-Writing Robber In 1913: Git That Money Out There

Iowa History, a weekly column, appears at IowaWatch on Saturdays. Cheryl Mullenbach is a former history teacher, newspaper editor, and public television project manager. She is the author of four non-fiction books for young people. Double Victory was featured on C-SPAN’s “Book TV” and The Industrial Revolution for Kids was selected for “Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People.” Her most recent book, Women in Blue traces the evolution of women in policing. Visit her website at:

“I want you to fetch me 385.00 dollars and I want it by 3 o’clock.

A poster from 1900 featuring aerial acrobats.

Iowa History: Circus Train Derails Near Eddyville

Doctors from Eddyville and Ottumwa rushed to the scene of a train wreck near Eddyville in August 1885 when news of injuries reached the two towns. The circus train consisted of several cars loaded with wagons containing tents and seats that could accommodate 8,000 audience members, as well as animals and performers.

Chickamauga Creek at Reed's bridge in Chickamauga, Georgia. Photo taken between 1900 and 1915.

Iowa History: Iowa Soldier’s Mom Investigates

“Whatever you hear that is bad about the division hospital—do not discount it,” Evelyn Belden of Sioux City warned. She had recently returned from a month’s visit to the US Army’s Camp Thomas at Chickamauga, Georgia, in the fall of 1898.

Engraving of the external anatomy of a bee shown in three full views and various details with key at bottom, circa 1630.

Bee Queen is Insane

“Every eye is turned upon her, every voice is hushed, and everyone leans forward so they may catch her every word.” It was a beekeepers’ national convention held in the mid-1870s, and the person who was about to speak was an Iowan. Her name was Ellen S. Tupper. She was known as the Bee Queen of Iowa.

Panoramic view of an almost totally destroyed town; Sign reads, "this was Forges." Photo taken in 1918.

The Sooner, The Better

It was both a “horrible and wonderful spectacle.” That’s how Roger Lewis, a Manchester, Iowa native, described the view from his billet near the town of Monthairon, France, where he was stationed with the 110th Ammunition Train during World War I in 1919. They were situated in the Meuse River valley, and Roger reported the soldiers could see gently rolling hills for miles in either direction.