Des Moines Images, 1907

From: Souvenir of Des Moines, L.H. Nelson Co., 1907.

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To see more images, visit Des Moines Public Library’s Special Collections photostream on Flickr.

Hoyt Sherman

Annals of Polk County, Iowa and City of Des Moines, 1898.

 Major Hoyt Sherman was born in Ohio in 1827, the youngest of 11 children.  His father was a an Ohio Supreme Court judge, his brother John became the U.S. Secretary of Treasury and Secretary of State, and his brother  William Tecumseh Sherman, a famous Civil War General.

Hoyt Sherman came to Iowa in 1848 and joined the Bar the following year.  In 1850, he was appointed Postmaster and served as such until he resigned and was elected clerk of the the District Court in 1853.  

On Christmas day, 1855, Sherman married Sara Moulton, an Ohio native.   They had five children.

Throughout his life, Sherman contributed to the development of Des Moines.  He served as an organizer of the Des Moines Coal Company, the Des Moines Water Company, Equitable Life Insurance Company, and served on the Board of Directors for the Iowa and Minnesota Railroad, as well as the Narrow Guage railroad.  He was also a pioneer member of many organizations and societies.

In 1850, Sherman purchased land at auction that would eventually be the setting for Hoyt Sherman Place:

On the day fixed, he was there and was offered five dollars to act as clerk of the sale, which he accepted.  When the tract he wanted was offered, it soon developed that others wanted it.  Bids ran up to the limit of his pile and halted for a time, when he added the five dollars–his day’s compensation–and got.  —  Pioneers of Polk County, vol. I, 1908

Sherman house prior to the building of Hoyt Sherman Place, A.T. Andreas' Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875.

Construction of Hoyt Sherman Place was finished in 1877.  Prior to then, the Shermans lived on the southwest corner of 6th and Locust.  Today Hoyt Sherman Place serves as home to the Des Moines Women’s Club and provides events space for authors, dancers, musicians, and other performers. 

His name has also been lent to the historic Sherman Hill Neighborhood, an historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Finding Your Home’s History

A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference session about researching your historic property.  Paula Mohr from the State Historic Preservation Office provided a great presentation.  You may view the presentation she shared with us below.

***You may access the Sanborn maps through the DMPL website here.  You just need your library card and PIN numbers (PINs are sometimes the last 4 of your phone number).

Historic Union Park Images

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For more historic Des Moines’ park images, go to our Flickr page.

Using a Dial Phone in Des Moines

A while back I was hunting for an item in our special collections room when I happened upon this nifty pamphlet from the early 1900s.  Are you ready for this?  It explains how to use the dial phone.  Moving to the dial phone was a major shift for the public.  Prior to this, callers would pick up the phone and speak with an operator who would connect them.  Click on the image at the left for a little phone instruction history.

Also, check out the Random Acts blog post on phone dialing.


Iowa College Football Facts

1890 Hawkeye Football Team, Courtesy University of Iowa Alumni Association

  • University of Iowa played its first intercollegiate football game on November 16, 1889, in Grinnell against Iowa College.  Above is the earliest team photo from 1890.
  • Kinnick Stadium is named after Nile Kinnick, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner.  It will hold 70,585 fans.
  • The Hawkeyes have participated in 24 bowl games.

1895 Cyclone Football Team from Iowa State University

  • The first Iowa State team came together in 1892.

Iowa State became the Cyclones after they leveled Northwestern in 1895.  As the Chicago Tribune (9/29/1895) noted:

Struck by a Cyclone
It Comes from Iowa and Devastates Evanston Town
“Northwestern might as well have tried to play football with an Iowa cyclone as with the Iowa team it met yesterday.  At the end of 50 minutes’ play, the big husky farmers from Iowa’s Agricultural College had rolled up 36 points, while the 15 yard line was the nearest Northwestern got to Iowa’s goal.”  From Iowa State University Alumni Association

  • Jack Trice Stadium is named after the first African American football player at Iowa State.   It will hold 55,000 people.
  • The Cyclones have played 10 bowl games.

1895 Panthers from the UNI Special Collections, Rod Library

  • UNI’s first team was organized in 1895.
  • University of Northern Iowa adopted the “Panthers” in 1931 after a contest was held to replace the “Tutors.”
  • UNI has played two bowl games.

Football reads:

The Ironmen:  The 1939 Hawkeyes, Scott M. Fisher

Cyclone Memories:  100 years of Iowa State Football, Roger Steward, 1991

Nile, T. Lidd, 2008

Gridiron Glory:  100 Years of Iowa Football, University of Iowa

Football’s Fallen Hero:  The Jack Trice Story, Steven L. Jones, 2000


Cedar County Cow War of 1931

On September 21, 1931, a battle ensued at the Jake Lenker farm in Cedar County, Iowa.   On this day, over 60 law enforcement officials and two veterinarians encountered 400+ farmers  carrying wood planks, rocks, pipes, and other items attempting to suppress tuberculosis (TB) testing of their cattle.  The farmers attacked law enforcement and their vehicles.   No one fired a weapon.   Due to the unrest, the governor sent over 1,400 National Guard troops to enforce TB testing and to keep the peace.

Humans can contract Bovine TB  through milk consumption.  An antibiotic to treat TB wasn’t available until 1934.  Testing cattle for a contagious disease sounds like a good idea, right?  Not so to many of the farmers in Cedar County.

The biggest factor in the cow war was money.  If a cow was found to have TB, then it was put down and the federal government would pay the farmer one-third of the animal’s value and the state would pay another third.  The farmers lost out on the last third.  Farmers didn’t just lose out on the animal value.  If the animal was put down, they also lost out on the income from the cow’s milk production.  Total, this could be a significant amount of money, especially during the Depression when banks were going under and people were losing their property to foreclosure.

The National Guard’s two month presence stopped the protests and cattle were tested.  It wasn’t the last time a protest over TB testing occurred in Iowa, but Cedar County’s cow war may have been the largest and possibly most violent.


Cedar County Cow War of 1931,,  Iowa State University Center for Agriculture and Rural Studies, Accessed Sept 28, 2010.

Get Away from Those Cows, Collier’s, February 27, 1932.

One-Armed Bandits and Other Stories of Iowa’s Past and Present, George Mills, 1997.

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