Recent Stories

Iowa Gold Seekers Headed For The Dakota Black Hills in 1874. What Did They Find?

For about $100 a man could secure all the necessary articles he needed in Sioux City, Iowa, to outfit himself for a gold digging expedition to the Black Hills in 1874. Items included a rifle, revolver, flour, salt, ammunition, blankets, cooking utensils, a pick, shovel and gold pan. This was valuable information for a group of 26 men and one woman with her 10-year-old boy, who were preparing to make the trek into the Dakotas in search of riches. Charles Collins, editor of the Sioux City Times, was organizing the expedition, along with an experienced frontiersman named Thomas H. Russell. Eph Witcher and John Gordon were leading the group from Sioux City to the Black Hills.

The Toxic Chemical Whack-a-Mole Game

When her black cat rapidly dropped from a healthy 14 pounds to a skeletal five pounds, it was natural for Arlene Blum to investigate whether a toxic chemical in her home might be to blame. The veterinarian’s diagnosis raised that possibility, and Blum had expertise in the harm that chemicals can cause. Her research as a chemist in the 1970s helped reveal the possible health hazards posed by flame retardants used in children’s sleepwear. What surprised Blum, executive director of the nonprofit Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley, Calif., was the chemical she discovered in Midnight’s blood, in the foam of her couch and in dust throughout her house. It was a substance only slightly different than the one that, decades earlier, she encountered in kids’ pajamas, leading to a federal ban on the compound for that sort of use.

Cattle Queen Becomes Lawsuit Magnet: From Iowa History

Mary Harrah had been a popular teacher in Newton in 1890. Within just a few years she had made a name for herself in the family cattle business. The Des Moines Register labeled her the “cattle queen” of Iowa and reported that she was central to the success of the 600-acre enterprise where the Harrah’s raised shorthorns. But Mary didn’t stay on the farm. In 1903 she was living in Davenport and had formed a partnership with a local businessman.

110 Years Ago: Women Not Welcome

Early in 1906 a group of former Iowa residents living in New York City decided to form a club they named the Iowa Society of New York. It was described by the Des Moines Register as “a little Iowa oasis in the desert of the great metropolis.” Club members included insurance executives, railroad presidents and “plain millionaires,” as well as politicians, military and newspapermen. Iowa History, a weekly column, appears at IowaWatch on Saturdays. Cheryl Mullenbach is the author of non-fiction books for young people. Her work has been recognized by International Literacy Association, American Library Association, National Council for Social Studies, and FDR Presidential Library and Museum.