The Iowa Files, an educational history lecture series, returns in 2022/23. This joint WDMHS-WDM Public Library program is 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.  The Iowa Files is an 8 month series showcasing 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.

Sunday, September 18: The Only Free Road

Local authors Patricia & Kevin Kimle’s book The Only Free Road; an Underground Railroad Saga Unveiled, introduces readers to prominent historical figures such as John Brown, James Jordan, James Grimes and J.B. Grinnell in this historical fiction account of the Underground Railroad and John Brown’s last trip through Iowa in 1859. The Kimmels present a one act play as part of their program. The Only Free Road will be available for purchase that day.

To watch a captioned recording of The Only Free Road, please click here.

Sunday, October 16: Fore! The History of Waveland Golf Course

Waveland Golf Course in Des Moines celebrated 100 years in 2001, and is the oldest municipal golf course west of the Mississippi.  Presenter Joe Wandro’s day job is designing and building golf courses around the country, and got inspired by playing on Waveland to learn more about the course.

To watch a recording of The History of Waveland Golf Course, please visit the WDMHS YouTube Channel.

Sunday, November 20: Orphan Trains in Iowa

Between 1854 and 1929 the United States was engaged in an ambitious, and ultimately controversial, social experiment to rescue poor and homeless children, the Orphan Train Movement. The Orphan Trains operated prior to the federal government’s involvement in child protection and child welfare. While they operated, Orphan Trains moved approximately 200,000 children from cities like New York and Boston to the American West to be adopted. Historian Carol Bodensteiner will talk about the history of this experiment in Iowa.

Sunday, January 15. 2023: State v. Novak; Murder & Arson in Walford

February, 1897. The general store in Walford Iowa burns down, and in the ashes is found a body presumed to be that of Frank Novak, part owner of the store who was known to sleep there to thwart burglars. But was it?
Hear about this story of murder, insurance fraud and one of the earliest cases that tested the legitimacy of circumstantial evidence. Presenter Kate Levasseur will take us from tiny Walford to the Yukon, and back to Fort Madison in this true tale.

Sunday, February 19: Scraps of African Heritage Workshop

Historical researcher and fiber artist Kyna Clemons will lead participants on a Sankofa journey through quilting traditions to discover their possible ancestral heritage. After a brief lecture on the history of African and African American quilting tradition, the audience will construct a small quilt block with colorful African fabrics and mixed-media supplies (provided).

Sunday, March 19: Rural Cathedrals; Iowa Barns

Barns symbolize the agricultural heritage of those who founded the state of Iowa. As barns are abandoned and destroyed, we lose an important tie to our past. Iowa Barn Foundation Board Member Ober Anderson will share information, photos of classic and beautiful Iowa barns, inside and out. Mr. Anderson will also be giving away a copy of a 70 page Barn Photo Book to a lucky audience member.

Sunday, April 16: Buttons, Buttons, Iowa Made the Buttons!

Muscatine, Iowa was the primary American manufacturing source for mother-of-pearl buttons made from Mississippi River shellfish, beginning in 1890 and by 1898 The Pearl City (Muscatine) was the largest manufacturer of pearl buttons in the world! Iowa State Button Society member Karen Leibold will share the history of buttons and manufacture of these small works of art!

Sunday, May 21: UFOs in Iowa

UFO sightings in Iowa are not just a modern phenomenon; the first inhabitants spoke of “Star People” and there’s been more than 1,156 reports recorded on the National UFO Reporting Center. Join Greg Anderson, Iowa MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) State Director, for a discussion of unidentified aerial phenomenon, both historic and modern.