The Iowa Files, an educational history lecture series, returns in 2019/2020. Free and open to the public, thanks to the generosity of West Des Moines Historical Society members, the Iowa Arts Council and the Friends Foundation of the West Des Moines Library, this 8 month series showcases interesting people and events in Iowa history.
Each program begins at 2:30 and runs for one hour in the Community Room of the West Des Moines Public Library, 4000 Mills Civic Parkway. Each presentation will be recorded and made available online.
Sunday, September 15, 2019
Brothers in War- the Littleton Brothers
Presented by Tom Woodruff & John Busbee
In the 1840s pioneer family James and Martha Littleton moved from Maryland to Iowa, via Ohio. They were able to buy 200 acres of land near Toolesboro in Louisa County. James and Martha had 10 children, 6 boys and 4 girls. Both parents died before the six sons volunteered to fight for the Union in the Civil War. Thomas, George, Kendall, Noah, John and William all fought, but only George came home after being captured and imprisoned, and died soon after of disease. The other 5 died in battle and of disease and are buried near their battlefields. This is the largest loss of life known from any immediate family in any war fought by the United States.
To watch the video of the program, click on the WDMHS YouTube channel.
Sunday, October 20, 2019
How Iowa Met Baseball
Presented by John Liepa
Historian John Liepa presents a fascinating and fun program about the myths regarding the “invention” of baseball, the origins and evolution of the early game in the U.S., how the Civil War played a role in spreading the game, and much more. John brings to life some of the first Iowa players, and does his presentation dressed as Iowa’s first major Leaguer, Cal McVey of Montrose, who played for the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. John also brings his extensive collection of memorabilia and cards for participants to see beginning at 2pm.
Watch the video of “How Iowa Met Baseball” by clicking here.
Sunday, November 17, 2019
Pursuit of a Dream; James Jordan
Presented by Louise Gately
Iowa pioneer James Cunningham Jordan was important in the development of the state and Central Iowa. Among many things Jordan was a family man, religious leader, stockman, politician, and railroad promoter, but most well known is his role as Chief Conductor for the Underground Railroad in Polk County. Author M. Louise Gately has created a well researched, fascinating and unique look into this family’s roots in West Des Moines. Copies of “Pursuit of a Dream” will be available for purchase from the West Des Moines Historical Society.
Watch the video of “Pursuit of a Dream; James Jordan” by clicking here.
Sunday, January 19, 2020
Susan Clark & the End of Segregated School In Iowa
Presented by Leo Landis
State curator Leo Landis of the State Historical Society of Iowa will review the history of segregated schools in Iowa from the 1850s to the 1870s. Susan Clark, an 11-year old from Muscatine, was the plaintiff in the case that led to the end of segregated schools in Iowa in 1868, 86 years before Brown v. Board of Education. Even after the Clark case some towns including Des Moines maintained separate schools for African-Americans into the 1870s. The program will discuss Susan Clark, her father Alexander, and Iowa’s history of offering equal access to K-12 education.
Sunday, February 16, 2020
Buxton, A Black Utopia in Iowa?
Presented by Rachel Chase
Buxton was a small, unincorporated coal mining town bordering Mahaska and Monroe counties, was unusual for the 1900s in that African American and white residents lived and worked equally, side by side. With as many as 10,000 residents, it was the largest town in America where African-Americans were in the majority. Author Rachelle Chase listened to interviews of over 60 Buxton residents, combed through archives and documents to write her book, “Creating the Black Utopia of Buxton, Iowa.” Ms. Chase will share the stories she discovered and what the legacy of Buxton is today.
Sunday, March 15, 2020
Bonnie & Clyde After Dexfield Park
Presented by Rod Stanley
Former teacher and historian Rod Stanley returns to the Iowa Files with the end of the story for Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. After the 1933 gun battle in Dexter which left every member of the gang either wounded or dying, the two romanticized criminals met their end in Louisiana 10 months later. But they returned to Iowa at least once to rob a bank before that, and the story of their last year is fascinating.
Sunday, April 19, 2020
Presented by Lori Vicker
From 1854-1929, more than 200,000 children from urban cities in the East were sent on trains westward. Children, both boys and girls, ages from babies to 14 years old were placed with new families, sometimes with great success, other times not. Presenter Lori Vicker will show vintage clothing similar to that worn by these children and a bibliography that highlights non-fiction and historical fiction about orphan trains.
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Buffalo Bill Cody
Presented by Roy Behrens
William F. Cody (1846-1917), better known as “Buffalo Bill,” was born near Le Claire, Iowa, in Scott County, just north of Davenport. By the end of his life, he had become what some have called “the most famous American in the world.” He was a Pony Express rider, an Army scout, a buffalo hunter for the railroad, and the founder and central attraction of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, which traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe for thirty years. This talk is an overview of Cody’s life, both tragic and heroic. It was tragic because of the role that he played in the near extinction of the American Bison (he himself is said to have shot nearly 3,000 buffalo in eight months), and, even more deplorable, in the subjugation of Native Americans. If his life was heroic, it was because of his later support of the rights of Native Americans, his friendship with many of them (most notably with Sitting Bull), and his link with colorful characters like Annie Oakley and Wild Bill Hickok. As a Wild West performer, it is thought that Cody probably played to a collective audience of more than 50 million, including at various Iowa towns. This is a face-paced and entertaining 45-minute talk, illustrated by projected vintage photographs, film clips and animated graphics.