Saturday, December 05, 2020

Chickens and Eggs - Iowa #1

 Chickens and Eggs - Iowa #1

Iowa is #1 in several categories, and noted for its pork and beef production but little did I know that every single 3.155 million Iowans could have 18 laying hens in their backyard and there would still be a few extra from the 59 million laying hens in the state.

# of Iowans x 18 = # of Laying hens in the state

Herbert Hoover (the only US President born in Iowa) promised a "chicken in every pot" during the 1928 presidential campaign -- I think even he would be astounded at the number of pots he could fill in Iowa today. Every Iowan today could have 18 chickens in their pot. There are 18 times more chickens in Iowa than there are people.

Iowa ranks #1 in the nation in egg production -- producing almost 16 billion eggs per year.

For more facts about the poultry industry in Iowa visit the Iowa Poultry Association site at .

And don't miss reading these books about chickens -- to get the conversation started.

Kurtz, Jane.  (2021). Chickens on the Loose.  Illustrated by John Joseph.  West Margin Press.

Chickens on the loose.
Chickens on the lam.
Zipping from the yard,
As quickly as they can.

Chickens don’t just live on farms―they’re in the city too! In the store, on the street, they bring mayhem and excitement to all the surprised people. See where these mischievous chickens go in this brightly illustrated picture book told in verse. Also included at the back are fun facts and tips for the urban chicken farmer.

And perhaps one of these - 

Caughey, Melissa. (2017) How to Speak Chicken: Why Your Chickens Do What They Do & Say What They Say. Storey Publishing, LLC.

How do flocks establish a pecking order?

How do chickens learn from each other?

How do hens talk to their chicks?

How do chickens express their emotions?

How do chickens greet each other?

Stein, David Ezra. (2010) Interrupting Chicken. Candlewick.

Stein, David Ezra. (2018) Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise. Candlewick.

 No matter the story Interrupting Chicken is ready to jump in and save Little Red Hen, Hansel and Gretel or whatever story character needs help.  And then she discovers the need for the element of surprise in every good story.

Chickens pecking for insects

And the serious chicken farmer just might want to learn more about raising chickens in some of the books list on the Murray McMurray Hatchery book page This hatchery is a full-service hatchery in Webster City, Iowa.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Who was Alexander Clark?

A Legend - All But Lost to History

Alexander G. Clark (1826-1891), was a barber, a lawyer, newspaper editor, and an activist - and an U.S. Minister to Liberia.  His many achievements have gotten little mention in the annals of Iowa history and certainly in the history of the United States.

Alexander G. Clark might be best known for his efforts to assist his 12-year-old daughter Susan, in her quest to gain entrance into the  Muscatine (Iowa) public schools.  Officially Susan Clark was the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in 1867, and she won.  That suit allowed Susan Clark to attend public school and prohibited segregated schools across Iowa.  It was the first decision in the United States to declare segregation unconstitutional. This was 86 years before the United States would rule favorably in the Brown vs Board of Education landmark ruling.  In fact, the attorneys presenting the case before the supreme court used the Clark case as a precedent setting ruling to support their case.  For more information about the Iowa Supreme Court Decision - Clark V Bd of Directors, 24 Iowa 266 (1868) see

Muscatine School Named After Susan Clark
In 2019 when the Muscatine School Board combined 2 middle schools, they decided to name the new junior high school in honor of the first Black to graduate from Muscatine High School, Susan Clark Junior High opened for the 2020-21 school year.

A year later, Alexander Clark, worked for the passage of  amendments to the Iowa Constitution (Amendments of 1868) which struck the word "white" from provisions in the constitution, involving electors, census, senators, apportionment, and the militia.  However, it wasn't until 1880 that the words "free white" were removed from provisions relating to the legislative department.  This amendment effectively gave African American men the right to vote in Iowa, two years before the U.S. granted that right with the 15th amendment.

During his lifetime, Alexander G. Clark won a historic court case, played a pivotal role in moving Iowa into an era of civil-rights for Blacks, helped recruit Black soldiers for the Union during the Civil War, and served his last days as the U.S. ambassador to Liberia.

Muscatine observes “Alexander Clark Day” on his birthday, February 25th.

Settled in Muscatine in 1842
Alexander G. Clark (February 25, 1826 – May 31, 1891), the son of former enslaved people - was born to John and Rebecca Darnes Clark in Pennsylvania.  When he was 13 he joined his uncle, William Darnes, in Cincinnati, Ohio where his uncle taught him the barbering trade.  He got a job as a barber on the steamboat, The George Washington.  At age 16, Clark came to Bloomington, Iowa (later known as Muscatine*) on that steamboat, and opened a barber shop.  Barbering would be his main occupation for 20 years. He became involved in other endeavors as well - including suppling wood for the boats moving up and down the Mississippi.  He grew vegetables on the timberland that he cleared.  He invested in real estate and parlayed his money into a sizable fortune.

Iowa's black codes were harsh at the time but Clark saw Iowa as an opportunity.  In 1848 (October 9), Alexander G. Clark (age 22) married Catherine Griffin of Iowa City.  Catherine had been enslaved, in Virginia, until the age of 3.  Together they raised three children, Rebecca, Susan, and Alexander G. Clark, Jr. (two other children died as infants).
That year (1848) was also the year that Clark joined 33 others in establishing the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church**.

More Work for Anti-slavery and the Union
Clark was a friend of Frederick Douglass, becoming a distributor for Douglass's newspaper The North Star. Their friendship is said to have dated from the 1840s and they were still in correspondence in 1880 (Rosenwasser, 2012).  Clark may be one of the foremost Civil Rights activists in the 1800s, perhaps in part because of his association with people such as Douglass.

Quakers and Abolitionists in Muscatine
The area became refuge for many Quakers and abolitionists, and to the largest population of Blacks in Iowa. Two Iowans were with John Brown.  Clark is said to have helped a Black man, Jim White, escape from slave catchers, and it is speculated that Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) might have used that story as the basis for the Huck Finn story about the escaped slave Jim.  During the Civil War Clark, age 37, volunteered but was barred from serving because of a physical defect. He helped to recruit over 1,000 Blacks to serve in the 1st Iowa Black Infantry (later re-designated the 60th Regiment Infantry, United States Colored Troops), and returned the $2 a head bounty for each recruit to the recruits so they could purchase items they needed.

Gaining a Law Degree
The first African-American law student to graduate from the State University of Iowa was not Alexander G. Clark Sr. but rather it was his son Alexander G. Clark Jr. who graduated in 1879***.

The Clark family had just been in their new house at the corner of Chestnut and Third Streets for a year, when Catherine died.  That year marked Alexander G. Clark Sr.'s move toward a law degree and continued activism.  After his wife's death Alexander G. Clark enrolled in the State University of Iowa's law school and became the second African American student to attend. He received his degree in 1884.  While in law school, 1882, he (and his son) purchased The Conservator. For a few years he practiced law with his son, in Iowa and Illinois.  But eventually he had moved to Chicago and became actively involved in the publisher and editorship of The Conservator - a position he held until 1887 when he sold the newspaper.  He returned to Iowa, and in 1890, Clark received one of the highest-ranking appointments of an African Americans by a President of the United States.  President Benjamin Harrison appointed Clark to the ambassadorship in Liberia

Alexander G. Clark - Minister to Liberia
On August 16, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Clark as U.S. Minister to Liberia.  The term ambassador was not used at the time.  Harrison also appointed Frederick Douglass to Haiti.  Clark was stationed in Monrovia, Liberia.  It was there that Clark caught a fever and died on June 3, 1891.  His body is buried in Muscatine in the Greenwood Cemetery.

A Legend in Time
History is often looked through the eyes of whites.  But Alexander G. Clark's life is finally in perspective thanks to the Iowa Public Broadcast System's (formerly Iowa Public Television [IPTV]) riveting biographical piece about him at

Kent Sissel's Mission is to Illuminate Clark's Place in History
Kent Sissel's chance meeting with the story of Alexander G. Clark came about because of his involvement in the historical aspects of architecture.  Alexander G. Clark's house in Muscatine was set to be demolished in the Mid-70s to make way for a municipal affordable housing 150 unit high-rise.  The city agreed to move the 30-room house 200 feet, to 205-207 W. Third Street to allow for its renovation.  In 1976, the Alexander G. Clark house was named to the National Register of Historic Places.  But the Historical Society that lobbied to save the house could not fund repairs, and eventually disbanded.  The house fell into disrepair.  D. Kent Sissel's interest in the history of Clark's life, brought him to purchase the house in 1979.  Sissel purchased the dilapidated structure, restored it, and now he hopes to establish a research center.  The high-rise apartment complex was named for Alexander G. Clark and is called the Clark House Apartments.

 "The Ambassador's House" in Muscatine is where Kent Sissel has continued to research and preserve the story of Alexander G. Clark's contribution to history, and to Iowa.  The house was originally built as a double-house at a cost of $4,000 (1878), and Sissel has preserved it as a dual residence.  For more than three decades Sissel has lived in the house. Kent Sissel lives in one side.  There are 3 apartments in the other side.  In 2009, Alma Gaul wrote a piece about the restoration for the Quad-City Times.

*Clark's Name lost in the History of Muscatine*

In 1833, Colonel George Davenport set up a trading post in the site now known as Muscatine, James W. Casey and John Vanatta soon followed.  Casey supplied wood for the many steamboats going up and down the river. The area became known as "Casey's woodpile."  Three years later a surveyor made a plat of the area and gave the name of "Newburg" to the growing settlement.  Vanatta soon named the area Bloomington after his hometown of Bloomington Indiana.  However, the name Bloomington was often confused for the name Burlington.  The name was sometimes confused by postmasters so on June 7, 1849 the town of Bloomington officially became known as Muscatine. By 1850 the name was used both for the town and the county.  More about the city and it's history can be found on the city of Muscatine site: Muscatine History-history of Muscatine., and on the Muscatine County: History site at

The city site mentions, Colonel George Davenport (established a trading post), John Fred Boepple (button factory founder), James W. Casey (a trading post), John Vanater (who bought Davenport's trading post, and named the town Bloomington), the H.J. Heinz plant, melon production, HON Corporation, Bandag, and Mark Twain who lived in Muscatine in 1854 - but not one word about Clark, or the fact that the town had the largest Black population in the state (62 in 1850 and hundreds more by 1860).

Many of those same people/companies are mentioned on the county site but not one mention of Clark.

A tourist oriented site Visit Muscatine does devote a page to Alexander Clark as one of its "famous & notable residents."

**The First Independent Black Denomination in the United States

In the early 1800's the AME church, founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania became the first independent Black denomination in the United States.  The history of the church's founding is available on the AME-church website at

***Notes about Clark's Immediate family
Alexander G. Clark (1826-1891) and Catherine Griffin Clark (1823-1879) were parents to five children: John G. Clark (circ.1851-1852), Rebecca Clark Appleton (1849-1906), Ellen G. Clark (1852-1854), Susan V. Clark Holley (1854-1925), Alexander Griffin Clark (1856-1939).

Rebecca, Clark's oldest daughter was born in 1846 and married George W. Appleton (1846-1898) at the age of 26, on October 10, 1872.  They were parents of two daughters: Clara (18731927) and Mabel (1883-1903), and one son, George Alexander Clark (18751876).  George W. Appleton was a barber like his father-in-law.  He died at age 51-52; Rebecca died in 1906 at the age 56.  All of Rebecca's family members are buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Muscatine.

Susan married the Reverend Richard Holley, AME.  Together they had one child, Edith, who died in infancy (1881-1882).  Susan was caring for her grandmother, Alexander Clark's mother, Rebecca Howard (at the time of Howard's death in 1887).  Howard had been twice widowed and was living with Susan and her husband Richard Holley, in Keokuk, Iowa at the time of her death.  Howard is surmised to be buried in the Greenwood cemetery as is Susan V. Clark Holley. 
Susan and her husband lived in Champaign, Illinois, Davenport, and Waterloo.  However, they lived most of their married life in Cedar Rapids, IA (1890-1914, some sources say 1887-1914).  She owned her own dressmaker shop.  Richard E. Holley left the pastorate of the AME church in Cedar Rapids after six years.  He died in 1914.  Susan moved to Chicago to and lived with her niece, Clara Appleton Jones - the daughter of Susan's older sister, Rebecca.  Susan died of diabetes, and it is surmised that Susan died in Chicago, although the location of Susan's death, at age 70-71, is not recorded.  No record is found of where Susan's husband, Rev. Richard E. Holley is buried.  Susan is (as is their infant daughter Edith) buried in the family plot in Muscatine.

Alexander Griffin Clark, Jr. is the longest living member of the Clark family and the only one it seems not buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Muscatine, Iowa.  Alexander settled in Oskaloosa where he died, in 1939 at the age of 82-83.  He left behind his wife Adeline (1856-1963) who died 24 years later at the age of 94-95.  Both are buried in the Forest Cemetery in Oskaloosa, Iowa.  A drive was begun in 2019 to establish an endowment in Clark's name  to encourage Black applicants to the State University of Iowa's law school.

For more information search for the name of the family member at ""

For more information:

Frese, Stephen J. From emancipation to equality: Alexander Clark's stand for civil rights in Iowa. The History Teacher. 40:1, Nov. 2006. pp 81-110.  Society for History Education.  DOI: 10.2307/30036943

Gaul, Alma. (2009, Feb 21). Clark house was saved from demolition.  Quad City Times (QCtimes).

Iowa Public Broadcast System.   Alexander Clark Fights for Equal Rights. (2012).

Longden, Tom.  (n.d.) Alexander G. Clark: Civil Rights Leader, statesman | 1826-1891. Des Moines Register - News DataCentral.

Rosenwasser, Marc, director. Lost in History: Alexander Clark.  Iowa Public Broadcasting System, 2012.  27 minutes.

Visit Muscatine. (n.d.) About Muscatine: Famous & Notable Residents - Alexander Clark.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Paper Cranes Taking Flight in Iowa (and Beyond)

Anyone who has read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr will associate the beautiful Japanese origami paper crane with good fortune and longevity; and with
Sadako Sasaki, who survived the bombing of Hiroshima, but died on October 25, 1955 of radiation induced leukemia.  There is a Japanese tradition that promised one wish to anyone who folded 1000 origami paper cranes.  Sadako set out to do just that, but despite folding more than 1,300 paper cranes and wishing for life. The bomb's impact took her life in 1955.
In 1977 Eleanor Coerr told her story and that story lives on decades later inspiring others to wish for peace, hope, good fortune and a long life.
After long being a symbol for hope and peace - cranes are now taking on an expanded role - that of a wish for hope and peace and support for solidarity among all groups of people.

Paper cranes have become a symbol for those wishes to be passed on to others.  In 1915, Hilary Parkinson wrote an article detailing how one of the last paper cranes folded by Sadako (folded from a cellophane wrapper) was donated to the Harry S. Truman Presidential library.  The crane was donated by Sadako's brother Masahiro Sasaki.  The article is published on the National Archives site.  Masahiro Sasaki donated the last five of Sadako's cranes as a gesture of peace and healing.  An account of Masahiro Sasaki's mission is told in the Japan Times News by Masamito.
Few Iowa families were untouched by the war. Most families had sent someone off to war or were at home supporting the warm efforts though work in factories.  And there were prisoners that were housed in Iowa.  Iowa Pathways recounted information about the prisoners that were incarcerated in Iowa - some German, some Italian, and later some Japanese.

Those who read and enjoyed  Sadako and the Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr might enjoy reading the memoir of Masahiro Sasaki, who wrote The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki: And the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Masahiro Sasaku and Sue DiCicco (Tuttle, 2020)

Over the years paper cranes have symbolized much - today in 2020 in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, paper cranes are being used to show solidarity with the protests.  Kudos to these Japanese Americans who are coming together to support other repressed minorities.  Their efforts recognize the mass incarceration and police brutality towards Black and Brown people, while recognizing the history of the Japanese American's experience with mass incarceration during World War II (Nagasawa, 2020).

When the atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, and a few days later on Nagasaki, the war came to a halt.  Iowa's soldiers came home, prisoners of war left Iowa, Japanese-Americans were eventually allowed to leave the internment camps to go back home to what was left of their lives (much had been lost).  And people of Japan were left to rebuild.  
It was during those next ten years that Sadako's family would struggle to survive.  When Sadako became ill, her family had no funds for her medicine.  Eventually she was in the hospital and it was there that she began to fold the paper cranes.  That is the beginning of the story about the paper cranes -- but in Georgia and in Iowa, and across our nation, Sadako and her paper cranes are still making us think about hope and peace, and friendship.

Recently my friend Tony Pope, a respected, enthusiastic librarian from Georgia set out to fold his own set of paper cranes.  Tony is retired now but I can't say ex-librarian or retired librarian, as no librarian ever stops being a librarian inspiring others to love books, research (he is the family genealogist it seems), maintain an interest in the Cherokee Nation, and above all else be a book lover at heart.  His cranes seem filled with joy and hope.

Well into the hundreds - Tony's cranes are creating a colorful tribute to Sadako and to peace and good fortune (and friendship).  One by one his cranes take flight to friends, carrying messages of inspiration. These came to Iowa -#82 Be a giver, #83 Be Calm, #84 Stand Tall,  #85 Be creative, #86 Bloom.

All of us should be so lucky to have such people in our lives.  These cranes that flew from Georgia to Iowa are destined to become part of a mobile much like those featured at the Iowa City Public Library, the University of Iowa's Belin-Blank Honors Center or at churches in Ames, Iowa and Urbandale, Iowa.

Thanks Tony, such friends don't grow on every bush.

Articles for more information about the events and so forth mentioned above:

Belinblank (admin). (2013, April 3). Cranes have landed at the center! Belin Blank. Retrieved from

Horton, Loren.  (n.d.) World War II prisoners of war in Iowa.  Iowa PBS: Iowa Pathways.  Retrieved from

Hurley, Kathleen.  (2015, April 9).  Folded cranes fill Urbandale church.  Des Moines Register.  Retrieved from

Iowa Conference: United Methodist Church. (2015, February 5).  Paper cranes at Ames First UMC symbols of 'God's love and peace'.  Retrieved from

Jennifer F. (2007. January 2007).  How to fold an origami paper crane (Orizuru).  Metacafe.  Retrieved from

Masamiito. (2012, August 24). Masahiro Sasaki: Donating one of last paper cranes to Pearl Harbor memorial: Brother keeps Sadako memory alive.  The Japan Times.  Retrieved from

Nagasawa, Katherine. (2020, June 8). Japanese Americans use thousands of paper cranes to show solidarity with protests.  National Public Radio (NPR): WBEZ Chicago.  Retrieved from

Parkinson, Hilary.  (2015, November 23). Flight of a Sadako Crane: World War II, News and Events, Unusual Documents.  National Archives.  Retrieved from

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr (illustrations by Ronald Himler) -originally published in 1977, Putnam.

Cite this post as:
McElmeel, Sharron. (2020, June 18). Paper cranes taking flight in Iowa (and beyond).  Iowa History: Bits and Pieces (blog).  Retrieved from

Friday, May 29, 2020

Backbone State Park - 1920 & Strawberries

On  May 28, 1920 Backbone State Park near Strawberry Point was officially dedicated making it Iowa’s first and oldest state park.  Located in Delaware County, southeast of Strawberry Point and northeast of Lamont, with a Dundee address, the park was named after the narrow (and very steep) limestone ridge carved out by the river.  That ridge is known as the "Devil's Backbone."  The park is over 2000 acres of nature in the valley of the Maquoketa River is open for fishing, hikers (21 miles of trails), campers (over 100 campsites), and aa myriad of outdoor activities.  Lacking swimming pools in. the area, children in the 1950s and 60s were given swimming lessons in the river that flowed through the park.  All types of water activities share the waterways that run through the park. Views of the park and many available activities can be viewed in a Travel Iowa  video on YouTube.  Several entrances can get visitors into the park.  And if you go in one its easy to miss many other attractions so be sure to pick up a map of the park from the rangers.

During the Great Depression the Civilian Conservation Corps provided work and the park was the site of many CCC historic structures.  Many of the park's stone buildings were constructed by the CCC between 1933 and 1941.  Visitors to the area can tour the CCC museum and view the structures and collections.  Information about visiting can be found on the Iowa Department of Natural Resource's (DNR's) park's website.    Kristi Holl (a longtime Iowa resident now living in San Antonio, Texas) wrote a mystery that takes place in Backbone State Park.  The Haunting of Cabin 13 was first published 1987 by Atheneum; but now out of print.  The book might be available in library collections

On the way to the park, up highway 313, Old Mission Road, from Dubuque to Fort Atkinson (get out your maps) travelers will pass through Strawberry Point, the home of the World's Largest Strawberry.  The history of the town is included on the city's website.  

The large strawberry is located outside of the town's city hall and library.  
That strawberry is approximately 15 feet tall and 12 feet across. The fiberglass sculpture weighs 1430 pounds.  It was created by a local ad agency and erected in 1967.  
Founders originally wanted to name their town Franklin, Iowa but that request was denied as there was already a Franklin, Iowa, in Lee County.  So the founders settled on using a name associated with the location of an original geographic marker for the town.  It seems that early in the area's history  there was a road from Wisconsin to Fort Atkinson Iowa called the Mission Road.  The road was a neutral ground that the United States Army used to move the Winnebago tribe, under their protection, protecting the Winnebagos from the hostile Sac and Fox tribes.  The road was marked with one mile stakes.  One of those stakes was near a prominent patch of wild strawberries and this is where the town was located.  Thus the town of Strawberry Point was incorporated officially as Strawberry Point in December of 1887. 

There are no commercial fields of strawberries in Strawberry Point and the wild patch is long gone.  None are known to grow in the Backbone park area either but the Historic Franklin hotel serves a delicious strawberry shortcake (and strawberry pie) commemorating the town's connection. Travel through Strawberry Point, and make your way to historic Backbone State Park.

Photos on this site originated from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources resources, or the city of Strawberry Point.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Wild Rose Becomes Iowa's State Flower - May 7, 1897

The Wild Prairie Rose was designated as the state flower in 1897.  The rose was chosen after it was used as the decoration on the silver service when the battleship USS Iowa was presented in that year 1897.  No particular species of the flower was designated by the Legislature, the Wild Prairie Rose (Rosa Pratincola) is most often cited as the official flower. Rosa blanda is most often given the honor of being the state flower, even though it is common only in the northern half of the state.  For more information see the ereference desk at

In our celebration of the day we celebrate all things roses.

A little tea time and a blooming flower are in order. You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. ~ C.S. Lewis. 

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Ernest Hemingway and Laura Ingalls Wilder

Literary Authors and their connections

So what is the name Ernest Hemingway and Laura Ingalls Wilder doing on this blog about Iowa and connections to its history?  As far I know Hemingway spent much of his life in Ketchum, Idaho where he is now buried.  For a time he lived and wrote from his home in Cuba.   
Laura Ingalls Wilder spent most of her growing up years (which she wrote of in her very famous Little House series), in Minnesota and DeSmet, South Dakota.  However, she did live for a time in Burr Oak, IA.  I've written about that connection in earlier blog posts both here and elsewhere:
And Hemingway - His parents Dr. Clarence Hemingway was a physician, and his mother Grace Hall Hemingway was an accomplished singer and very musical).  The family lived in Oak Park Illinois and often spent time at  their summer home near Walloon Lake in northern Michigan.  Never in Iowa but his grandmother's family, the Hancocks, had lived in Dyersville, Iowa for several years before his grandmother married Ernest Hall (Hemingway's grandfather)  and Ernest Hall tired of the rural life and moved his family, including his daughter Grace, to Chicago and then to Oak Park, Illinois.  Across the street lived the Hemingways and Grace Hall and Dr. Clarence Hemingway married.  Ernest was the second of the Hemingways's six children. There were four girls: Marcelline, Ursula, Madelaine, Carol, and the youngest child, a brother Leicester.  

Ernest Hemingway never did live in Iowa - even for a short time but his mother Grace Hall Hemingway had Iowa roots.  And there is an firmer Iowa connection, a more lasting collection.
 The connection is through Leicester, Ernest's younger brother, and Ernest's younger brother.  Leicester gives Ernest Hemingway the clearest connection to Iowa.  Leicester and his second wife, Doris Mae Hemingway 'nee Dunning had been married since 1956, and at the time of his death (suicide as his brother, father, and sister Ursula ended their lives)  in 1982, Leicester and Doris were living in Miami Beach, Florida where he had been publishing a fishing newspaper for five years or so.  Leicester's funeral was in Florida, but his cremated remains were returned to Iowa for burial in Alden Cemetery, Alden, Iowa, Hardin County, Iowa.  Doris Mae Hemingway died 15 years later (1997)  in Florida and is buried in Alden, Iowa as well.  Doris was raised in the Alden, Iowa area and many of her family members are buried in the cemetery.  So finally a firm connection from Ernest Hemingway to Iowa.

The Iowa Connection - A Passing Relationship

Both Ernest Hemingway and Laura Ingalls Wilder have a brief and thin connections to Iowa - but a connection never-the-less.  Ernest's brother is buried in Iowa, Wilder's youngest daughter Grace was born in Burr Oak, Iowa.  But Iowa was not either writer's residence (for long at least).

So What Is the Connection to One Another -- Hemingway & Wilder?

This question is answered by a little known fact - there are only two Presidential libraries that hold major collections of a literary figures papers and manuscripts.  One is the John F. Kennedy Presidential library in Boston, Massachusetts.  And the other - by now you've probably guessed it, or at least part of it.  
The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa holds the literary papers and manuscripts of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
For information about why Wilder's papers are at the Herbert Hoover library view the September 1, 2019 presentation at the museum :
Hoover Presidential Library. (2019 November 20) Long Way Home: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Sarah Uthoff.  Retrieved from

The Ernest Hemingway Collection

In a blog entry by Stacey Chandler, Reference Archivist at the John F. Kennedy Library, Chandler explains how the personal papers of Ernest Hemingway came to be part of the presidential library. 
Cahdler, Stacey.  (2018 July 18) JFK & Hemingway: Beyond "Grace Under Pressure. The JFK Library Archive : An Inside Look (Blog).  Retrieved from
Information about the Ernest Hemingway Collection is explained on the scope of the collection page:

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Collection

Information about the connection between Herbert Hoover, and Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter Rose Wilder Lane is discussed on this page on the Hoover site focused on Lane's connection to Hoover, and the link then to Wilder.  The Rose Wilder Lane Collection, retrieved from 
Information about the Laura Ingalls Wilder Collection is explained on the page titled: Rose Wilder Lane and Laura Ingalls Wilder. The page is part of the Herbert hoove Presidential Library and Museum site.  Page retrieved from

A brushing glance at Iowa from both Hemingway and Wilder - but their connection to one another as the only literary personalities to be so represented in Presidential libraries is more firmly implanted in the history of our society.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Redwork - and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Bear Paw Quilt

Redwork - and Laura Ingalls Wilder's
Bear Paw Quilt

Quilters look for inspiration in every corner of their lives.  On a visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Burr Oak, Iowa - Wilder lived there as a child and visitors will find the museum and visitor center filled with inspiration -- from the redwork that Laura might have stitched onto towels to quilts made with the patterns of the times.

The Ingalls family moved to Burr Oak in 1876 when Laura was just nine years old.  The family lived in the village for just part of the year, in the Master's Hotel  (a bar and tavern and refuge for travelers).  The family helped William Steadman to cook, clean, and do the daily chores.  The family lived in the basement of the hotel, and Ma Ingalls cooked for the traveling guests of the hotel. The museum at Burr Oak (the Master's Hotel) is the only Ingalls family home that is still on its original site.  Burr Oak is where baby Grace was born, however, Wilder did not publish a manuscript detailing her days in Burr Oak but instead incorporated some of the incidents into the stories (On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake) before and after the time the family lived in Burr Oak.
Two other writers have written about the Burr Oak days.  Historian and scholar William Anderson wrote The Iowa Story (Laura Ingalls Wilder Park & Museum, 1989; 62 pages), and Cynthia Rylant wrote Old Town in the Green Groves (HarperCollins, 2007). 
Read more about the Burr Oak Museum on this earlier blog post at

But back to the quilt inspiration.

When Laura was creating quilt blocks as a child there were not standard names or patterns as have developed in later years.  Researchers who have studied Laura's writings and artifacts at the many museums devoted to her life have consistently mentioned the Bear's Paw as one of the quilt squares she likely would have created for quilts.  So when the Herbert Hoover Museum (in West Branch, Iowa) which holds the Laura Ingalls Wilder (and Rose Wilder Lane) manuscripts decided to hold a quilting bee they solicited quilt blocks from quilters across Iowa (and other states) which were then to be sewn into a  quilt.  They sent out a focus fabric and from there quilters could use their own imagination to piece a block to send back to the museum.

Pattern for the 12 inch block.

I used the focus fabric the museum sent as the fabric #3; and choose a small blue floral for the complementary #4 fabric and for the #6 square.

The 8 1/2 inch square could have been the same fabric as the #3 (focus) fabric but I did not have enough of that for the 8 1/2 inch square.  Scraps of the fabric were all I had left.  I thought about putting a marbleized gray fabric in as the large square but decided that was too blah.  So I choose to use the scraps of the #3 and #4 fabric along with two shades of gray to create a scrappy 8 1/2 inch square.   There is are excellent YouTube tutorials for making a crazy scrap quilt pattern at:
  • Missouri Star Quilt Company. (2012 March 12).  The Crazy Quilt - The Ultimate Stash Buster!  Retrieved from
This one may be easier for the beginner, the pieces are sewn onto a foundation piece:

But the scrappiest crazy block technique is this one -- 
I love this one - so practical, quick - no pattern, no template, just creativity and fun.  You need a foundation piece - muslin, cheap cotton - use 100% cotton.
For my crazy quilt center block (actually taking the place of the #6 fabric) for the Herbert Hoover Museum Quilting Bee I used a piece of white cotton for the foundation and began with a five sided piece of focus fabric.  Then I incorporated the #3 and #4 fabrics, and two shades of gray together.
And finally using the pattern as a guide for how to sew the blocks together I stitched two claws onto the large scrappy square; and then created a strip with the small square and two claws and sewed it onto the side of the large square ... and here is the bear claw all ready to send off to the Herbert Hoover Museum for the quilting bee.

How fun was that?

Give it a try -- make twenty bear paw squares - and make a 4 x 5 block quilt.