Official census records indicate that, in 1890, Iowa City’s population had actually stagnated during the late 1880’s (see chart below), but then, started to grow again throughout the coming decade, reaching close to 8,000 at the turn of the century.
1895 – one of the early street paving project in Iowa City. The corner of Washington and Clinton across the street from University Square. Read more here.
Above are two views of Old Capitol taken from the west – note the dirt road and wooden sidewalk – today’s Iowa Avenue – and some of Iowa City’s oldest cabins built in the 1850’s. During the 1890’s, this area west of Old Capitol – known as the Rinella Neighborhood – was rebuilt – beginning with Iowa Field (below). Read more here.
Certainly, one of the reasons for Iowa City’s growth in the 1890’s was due to the expansion of the State University of Iowa. In 1890, the SUI campus was limited to the five buildings located on University Square – Old Capitol (Central Hall), South Hall (1861), North Hall (1865), Medical Building (1882), and Science Hall (1884), plus the Mechanics Academy (1842) – used for the SUI hospital. But during the 1890’s, six additional facilities (see pics below) would be added – bringing SUI into what is, today, called “The Red Brick” Campus. Click here to read more details.
Without a doubt, The World’s Columbian Exposition – The Chicago World’s Fair – in 1893 caused a lot of excitement around the country, and across Iowa. Celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America (1492), the fairgrounds were dedicated on October 21, 1892, but not actually opened to the public until May 1, 1893.
The State of Iowa built its own exposition building (see pics above) at the Chicago World’s Fair, as did thirty-three other states. Wednesday and Thursday, September 20 & 21, 1893 were celebrated as Iowa Days at the fair.
(BH-114) The Iowa Columbian Commission issued a 438-page published report at the 1893 World’s Columbian Expedition in Chicago. Our hardcover volume is a very rare copy signed by S.H. Mallory, Commission Executive Committee.
(M-0135) Speaking of celebrating the State of Iowa – here’s a State of Iowa mini-button from the Whitehead & Hoag Button Manufacturing Company of Newark, New Jersey – the first and largest manufacturer of commercial pins/buttons in America. Our State of Iowa button was produced sometime after the company began producing commercial pins in 1896.
With the new Dental Building (in the center – above right) added in 1894 to University Square, things were starting to get a bit crowded with six large buildings and four smaller support structures on the central campus. (Read more here) In a serious attempt to address this uncontrolled growth, SUI President Charles A. Schaeffer (1887-1898) strongly suggested the Board of Regents adopt a long-range facility plan, and in October 1897, Schaeffer (below left) got the ball rolling by announcing a competition for the design of a new Liberal Arts Building.
The Board hired as contest judge – Henry Van Brundt of Kansas City (above right) – one of the architects of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Van Brundt chose a scheme in the grand style of the Chicago exhibition and recommended that the new building – The Hall of Liberal Arts – be built on University Square – immediately to the south east of Old Capitol – with construction beginning in 1898.
Which now, brings us to one more Columbian World’s Exposition postal cover…
Dr. John Clinton (J.C.) Shrader (above left) was one of the founding doctors of the University of Iowa School of Medicine in 1870 – specializing in medicine for women and children. J.C.’s oldest son – William Edwin (W.E.) Shrader (above right) opened Shrader Drug Company in Iowa City in 1879. Read more here.
(P-0212) 1897 – Come to the Johnson County Fair – August 23-26 – This unique advertising card was distributed to children in Iowa City to encourage them to bring parents, teachers, and “all your friends” to the 1897 Johnson County Fair, especially on Children’s Day – Tuesday, August 24 – free admission for “scholars” under 15 years old! Interestingly enough, our card comes from the Johnson County Fair President – Dr. J.C. Shrader.
Try to follow the numerous postmarks on this postal cover (below) from the new Dental Building on University Square…
(C-0052) An interesting business letter, dated January 22, 1898, from P. J. Regan, Proprietor of Iowa City Nurseries – established in 1849 – “The Oldest and Most Reliable in the State” to Frank O. Harrington of York Center, Iowa, stating an additional “fifty Ben Davis and fifty Willow Twig” (apple trees) will be added to his original order. York Center is in SW Iowa, in Pottawattamie County (Council Bluffs area).
(P-0239) This colorful “business card” from the 1890’s featured the Charter Oak Stoves and Ranges sold exclusively in Iowa City at Maresh & Holubar. Charter Oak Stove Company, of St. Louis, Missouri, came into business in 1885. Giles F. Filly, founder of the company, designed and invented wood stoves impressing the owners of the Excelsior Manufacturing Company, who saw great opportunities for expansion. The manufacturing company and equipment was turned over to Giles F. Filly, while the Fisher family (owners of Excelsior), relocated as a hardware business in Quincy, Illinois. Stoves, made in St. Louis, were then shipped to the Fisher’s up the Mississippi River, and from there Excelsior distributed the products throughout the country. Almost all households owned two wood stoves, one for cooking and one for heating, so the wood stove sales were thriving even in the smallest of towns. It was not uncommon in these times to see a boat going down the river with smoke coming from a wood stove to heat the occupants in the winter months. The Charter Oak Stove Company had many productive years until it finally closed its doors in 1949.
Here’s to Iowa City, Iowa of the 1890’s…
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.