Tag Archives: Iowa

For 40 Years, Crashing Trains Was One of America’s Favorite Pastimes

3 Jul
The "Crash at Crush" explosion.


ON SEPTEMBER 15, 1896, TWO locomotives crashed head on 14 miles north of WacoTexas. The locomotives’ boilers exploded on impact, sending debris flying through the air for hundreds of yards, killing at least two spectators and maiming countless others. One man even lost an eye to a flying bolt.

But no one ran from the calamity. In fact, after the crash, thousands of bystanders ran toward the destroyed locomotives hoping to claim a piece of the wreckage. That’s because the 40,000 or so people scattered along the tracks that September day knew the locomotives were going to crash and had paid to be there.

So begins Justin Franz’s fascinating account of staged train wrecks. You may read his entire Atlas Obscura piece here.

An Iowa Governor Worth Remembing: Robert E. Ray, 1928-2018

9 Jul

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Image result for Robert Ray Tai Dam

My friend Jim Schaap has posted a fine remembrance of former Governor Ray. It is worth your read, here.

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Siouxland Ozymandias

8 May

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Oddly enough, the empire began by way of a very sore bum. An Englishman named William Brooks Close, who, with his brothers, was in Philadelphia for a rowing match in 1876, so banged up his posterior in practice, that he could not sit without pillows. While the rest of the crew continued to work out, but he had to sit out.

So my friend Jim Schaap begins his latest regional story at KWIT–this time, about the Close brothers of England who purchased large quantities of Siouxland acres in the 1870s and 1880s. You may read his entire story here.

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The Woodbury County Iowa Courthouse 100th Anniversary Virtual Tour

7 May

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

The Woodbury County Courthouse, Sioux City, Iowa is 100 years old, and it is a magnificent example of Prairie Style architecture. Take a look at this virtual tour and see for yourself.

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Siouxland and the Sioux

9 Oct

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

“So what’s the story of the Sioux?” she asks me. The question comes whistling out of the blue, or so it seems, and catches me off guard. “What do you mean?” I say. “I mean, I see the name all over the place—Sioux Falls, Sioux Center, Sioux City, Sioux County…so where are they? I don’t see many …

Read more of Brian Keepers’ post, and my comments on it, here at The Twelve: The Question She Asked Me – THE TWELVE

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Pietist “Communism”: The Amana Colonies

6 Jul

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Historian and self-identified Pietist Christian Chris Gehrz has finally made a visit to the Amana Colonies in Iowa. The trip was long overdue. Read his post on his visit here: Pietist “Communism”: The Amana Colonies – The Pietist Schoolman

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The island

5 Jul

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Amie Adams, a former student of mine, has written a wonderful reflective piece about an Iowa place dear to hear. Read it here at Topology Magazine: The island | Topology Magazine

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One Sloppy Land Surveyor Almost Caused a “War” Between Missouri and Iowa

27 Mar

In 1839, the outcome of the “Honey War” hinged on the exact location of the Missouri-Iowa border. Sarah Laskow concisely details the developments at Atlas Obscura: One Sloppy Land Surveyor Almost Caused a War Between Missouri and Iowa | Atlas Obscura

My Mom Grew Up in a Utopian Colony in Iowa

21 Sep

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

From my hometown of Toronto the drive to Amana, the dismantled utopian colony in Iowa, is 13 hours. I made it often in childhood, stuck in the backseat of my parent’s car, running batteries dead in my portable tape player, wondering if the long trip to a weird religious community was worth it.

But always, there was relief after we crossed the Mississippi river into the green rolling hills of my mother’s home state. “I feel better once I’m in Iowa,” she has said so often that I’ve come to believe it too. Most familiar of all to her is Amana, where she grew up, and where postcards of our family are still sold in the General Store: my great grandpa in front of a truck circa 1918, cousins hiking by the Iowa river, an aunt sorting cabbages.

If Amana sounds familiar it may be because it’s the name of…

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Why Religious History is Essential to a Thriving Democracy

3 Aug

Mother Mosque of America in Cedar Rapids, IA is the oldest standing mosque in North America. It was built in 1934. Photo via mothermosque.org.

Acquaintance John Fea, a historian at Messiah College, has a nice essay on American religious history at the American Association for State and Local History. You can read it here: Why Religious History is Essential to a Thriving Democracy | AASLH Blogs

Exploring the Past

Reading, Thinking, and Blogging about History

Enough Light

"In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." - Blaise Pascal

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The Text Message

Discoveries from processing and reference archivists on the job

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Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Wirelesshogan: Reflections from the Hogan

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

The Way of Improvement Leads Home

"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

the way of improvement leads home

reflections at the intersection of American history, religion, politics, and academic life

The Pietist Schoolman

The website and blog of historian Chris Gehrz

Reformed Journal: The Twelve

Reformed. Done Daily.


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Thoughtful Conversation about the American West

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"History is the record of our loves in all their magnificent and ignoble forms." Eugene McCarraher

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