Preserving Grinnell’s History
Our archival collections focus on the history of Grinnell and the surrounding area. They include microfilm of area newspapers from 1871 to the present, city directories, records of many local organizations, Grinnell High School yearbooks, and various personal papers and photographs. See a sampling (pdfs) of some of our materials lower in this page.
Click here to view a current list of archive collections
Click here for a list of items in our archive pamphlet file
Click here to view a current list of family histories available
A sampling of some items from our archives
Gordon VanTine Co. Catalogue of 1920’s Homes (large file, may take some time to load)
|The Gordon Van Tine Co. of Davenport, Iowa would ship (freight paid) the materials needed to build your new home. The catalogue advertises the Van Tine Co. as “World’s Largest Specialists in Home Building since 1865”. Price did not include cement, brick, plaster or stucco. Many of these mail order homes can be found in Grinnell today.
Grinnell Commercial Architecture Walking Tour, “Focus on Grinnell Architecture” series by Jeanne Burkle and Audrey Vandercook May 9, 1982.
|The packet has sketches of buildings and a short summary of the building’s style, architect, and other architectural features. The buildings included are the Poweshiek County National Bank, Grinnell State Bank, Spencer Building, Masonic Temple, and Grinnell Federal Savings and Loan Building.
Grinnell Public Service Buildings, “Focus on Grinnell Architecture” series by Charles Manly III and Lorna Caulkins May 15, 1982.
|The packet has sketches of buildings and a short summary of the building’s style, architect, and other architectural features. The buildings included are Grinnell Community Center, Grinnell Post Office, and Stewart Library.
Grinnell College Walking Tour, “Focus on Grinnell Architecture” series by David Jordan and others May 2, 1982.
|The packet has sketches of buildings and a short summary of the building’s style, architect, and other architectural features. The buildings included are Goodnow Hall, Herrick Chapel, Carnegie Library, Alumni Recitation Hall, and The Forum.
Grinnell Residence Walking/Riding Tour, “Focus on Grinnell Architecture” series by Tim Chasson and others April 18, 1982.
|The packet has sketches of buildings and a short summary of the building’s style, architect, and other architectural features. The building styles included are New England Cottage Style, Victorian Cottage Style, Victorian Mansion, Richardson Romanesque Style, Shingle Style, Prairie School Style, Split Foyer Ranch Style, and Earth-Sheltered Solar Style.
Grinnell Church Architecture Walking Tour, “Focus on Grinnell Architecture” series April 4, 1982.
|The packet has sketches of buildings and a short summary of the building’s style, architect, and other architectural features. The churches included are United Church of Christ-Congregational, Grinnell United Methodist Church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and First United Presbyterian Church.
Theatres in Grinnell, John Kleinschmidt Dec 30, 1989.
|This article describes the development of playhouses to movie theatres in Grinnell. It includes the Colonial Theatre, Preston’s Opera House, Strand, and Bijou.
Louis Sullivan: The Jewel Box, by Diane Lee Dec 12, 1986.
|Louis Sullivan designed the Jewel Box Bank that is today Wells Fargo Bank. The article has a description of the design and purpose of the bank. It also gives a history of Sullivan and the buildings he created.
Daring Death for an Idea: J. B. Grinnell and the Underground Railroad – from Grinnell Herald Register by Nicole Etcheson
Nov 21, 1983.
|Grinnell participated in the Underground Railroad. The article tells about J. B. Grinnell’s fight against slavery and the assistance he gave to the underground conductor and abolitionist John Brown.
|The article is a brief summary of John Brown and his involvement with the Underground Railroad through Grinnell, J. B. Grinnell starting a cemetery, and the deacons of Grinnell.
J. B. GRINNELL:
Hon. J. B. Grinnell, from the Grinnell Herald Register April 7, 1891.
|The article gives a biography of Grinnell’s founder, J. B. Grinnell. It also tells who spoke at Grinnell’s funeral services and what they said about him.
Josiah Bushnell Grinnell: A Man of Many Avocations, from Grinnell Herald
Register April 22, 1971.
|J. B. Grinnell founded the town of Grinnell. This biographical article tells all of the major accomplishments that he made during his life and what he felt strongly about.
It also tells where he came from and why he ended up in Grinnell. Photograph of his house is included.
The “Josiah B. Grinnell” is Added to Uncle Sam’s Merchant Fleet, from Grinnell Herald Register May 20, 1943.
|The photograph is of the ship named after Grinnell’s founder. A caption is included.
GRINNELL THE TOWN:
Grinnell History from 1856 to World War I
|The article is a timeline of Grinnell that notes some key events and the building of commercial buildings and houses from 1856 to 1917.
Our Community: Outline History of Greater Grinnell, by John Nollen April 24, 1950.
|The timeline includes events from the town, county, and college, from 1840 to 1940.
Early Grinnell As I Knew It, by Roy E. Bates 1964.
|The memoir of Roy Bates is his recollection of where things used to be in Grinnell and his move from pharmacist to florist.
Fire Ravaged Grinnell in 1889, from Grinnell Herald Register April 22, 1971.
|The article gives details of how much damage was done in the blaze of 1889.
See Also: BILLY ROBINSON HERITAGE DIGITAL PHOTO EXHIBIT
Billy Robinson Birdman of the Prairie
|An article telling the story of the pioneer aviator, by Grinnell’s own Lynn Cavanagh. Published in Iowa Heritage Illustrated, Summer 2014 edition
Roy Adkins’s Memories of Billy Robinson – transcribed by Mary Ashby 1975.
|Roy Adkins lived in Grinnell at the same time as Billy Robinson. The article tells what Roy Adkins remembers about Robinson, the planes he flew, his mechanic, and the crash.
GRINNELL DURING THE WAR:
Wake up Grinnell, from Grinnell Herald Register Dec 13, 1941.
|Everyone was required to help with the war effort. This article is an advertisement for all Grinnell citizens to help.
Auxiliary Police Force is Organized, from Grinnell Herald Register June 22, 1942.
|The Civilian Defense program came to towns as small as Grinnell. Its purpose was to train men to handle any situation that could arise. This article tells about Grinnell’s Civilian Defense meetings, men, and hours.
The Old Fire Bell Goes to Scrap, photograph from Grinnell Herald Register
Oct 29, 1942.
|A lot of metal was needed for the war. To contribute as much metal as possible, Grinnell took down its fire bell located in the tower of the fire hall. This picture shows the bell and the men who took it down.
Registration Will Be Feb. 23-26 Inclusive, from Grinnell Herald Register Feb 18, 1943.
|To make sure the troops had enough food, the government began to ration the nation’s food. This article talks about the rationing system coming to Grinnell and how it was to work.
Layettes Sent to British Babies, Photograph from Grinnell Herald Register January 30, 1941.
Historical, Genealogical Group Hears Adkins on 19th Century Orphan Trains, from Grinnell Herald Register Oct 29, 2001.
|Charles Loring Brace was horrified with the conditions children were living in the 1850’s. He founded the Children’s Aid Society. This article give more information about the finding of his records, the movie that was based off of the information found, and the history and outcome of the orphan trains.
Three Articles on the Orphan Trains, from Grinnell Herald Register 1893-1904.
|Information is included about the adoption of the children brought to Grinnell, the lack of hotel space for the workers of the Children’s Aid Society, and an ad giving information about the adoption of orphan train children. NOTE: see page two for the typed, legible version.
Orphan Trains Brought ‘Waifs’ Here in Earlier Era, from Grinnell Herald Register, Aug 1, 1996.
|The orphan train movement of the early 1900’s made stops in Grinnell and the surrounding area. This article details the Grinnell stops and relays stories from old newspaper clippings and from some people with direct knowledge of these events.
See also: Spaulding Collection in Heritage Iowa
Spaulding, from “Grinnell-A Century of Progress”.
|The article gives a short history of Henry Spaulding and the beginning of the Spaulding Company.