Circuit Chautauqua

Special Collections holds an extensive collection of material related to circuit Chautauqua, 1904-1932. See our digital collection, Traveling Culture, and our holdings of the Redpath Lyceum Bureau.

The James Wills Bollinger Collection

5,000 books and pamphlets about Abraham Lincoln. Newly published and, less frequently, antiquarian materials are added.  Threre is much material about John Wilkes Booth. The collection was bequeathed by Judge Bollinger in 1951 and included his correspondence files and ephemeral items.  See also the Otto Eisenschiml Papers and on “Resources by Subject” page, our guide to Lincoln and Civil War materials.

The Harvey Ingham Collection

Consisting of over 500 volumes of Western Americana, this collection is particularly strong in works on Native Americans. Ingham, editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune, bequeathed the collection in 1950.

Iowa Politics and Political Leaders

Over 100 manuscript collections document politics in the state of Iowa. Includes papers of a president, vice-president, governors, state and national representatives and senators, and mayors, as well as groups wielding political influence, such as the Progressive Party, the Farmer’s Holiday Association, the Iowa Chapter of the United Nations Association of the U.S., and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. A subject guide to these materials is available.

The Progressive Party in the United States

Led by Henry A. Wallace, the Progressive Party, 1948-1954, was short-lived but had lasting influence on American political history.  A subject guide lists the several collections that document this phenomenon.

Voyages and Travels

Endowment funds provided by the Sara Conn & Dr. Harold Lincoln Thompson Collection of Travel Literature and Ethnic Arts, perrmit the acquisition of travel books on nineteenth and twentieth century European, Asian, Oriental, and American travel, and such categories as women’s travel narratives. The Thompsons also bequeathed a collection of artifacts gathered in the course of their own travels.


Distinguished manuscript collections include the Levi O. Leonard Railroad collection on the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad, the corporate records of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, and the extensive John P. Vander Maas Collection of Railroadiana. To complement and give context to these collections, the Department acquires books and other printed material principally on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific, and Union Pacific Railroads. In addition, important and expensive works on general railroad history in the United States not acquired by the Main Library are sometimes added.

History of Hydraulics Collection

Important collection gathers historic writings on the science of hydraulics. See also the Hydraulics Institute page.

Culinary Arts

The Chef Louis Szathmáry II Collection of Culinary Arts contains more than 15,000 items, some from earlier centuries, relating to the art and science of cooking and eating. Included in the collection are a collection of more than 100 manuscript books dating from the 18th to the 20th century and some 3,000 pamphlets. A separate listing of these ephemeral publications, which were generally distributed by food producers and appliance manufacturers, can be found in Recipe Pamphlets in the Chef Louis Szathmáry Collection. We acquire books with particular emphasis on national, regional and ethnic cuisine, beverages, and gastronomy.

Social Documents Collection

An assemblage of ephemeral materials (pamphlets, newsletters, etc.) published by conservative and libertarian organizations in the United States and donated to the Libraries by individuals and organizations. Bibliographic records for this large collection can be found only in the Department’s card files, although a portion of the collection was microfilmed and is available with an accompanying guide.

Early Iowa Imprints

A card file recording Early Iowa Imprints, arranged in chronological order, was maintained for many years in the Department of Special Collections. Discontinued in the 1990s, the file was incomplete but may be a useful source for information on the history of printing in the Territory and State of Iowa before 1900. It can be viewed online.

The French Revolution Collection

Includes more than 8,000 pieces covering the years from 1788 to 1799 on a comprehensive range of subjects. Bibliographic records for this collection can only be found in the Department’s card files. The department also holds the Mabbott Collection of Medals from the French Revolution of 1848.