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Chapter 6 (translation): Iowa's Public Institutions

Joseph Eiboeck, Die Deutschen von Iowa: Chapter 6

Chapter Six
Iowa’s Public Institutions.

The state includes eighteen institutions, which are supervised by a state control authority consisting of three members who receive an annual salary of $3,000 each and are appointed by the governor for a period of six years. Until April 6, 1898, all institutions were administered by inspectors; the 27th legislature found this method too costly and created the control authority consisting of Ex-Governor Wm. Larrabee, L. G. Kinne and John Cownie as primary members. L. B. Wilkinson functioned as secretary and Henry F. Liebbe was elected as architect.

The public institutions fully controlled by this authority are the following: the Soldiers’ Home in Marshalltown; the Mental Asylums in Mount Pleasant, Independence, Clarinda and Cherokee (the latter still under construction); the Home for the Blind in Vinton; the Deaf-Mutes’ Asylum in Council Bluffs; the Asylum for Mentally Retarded Children in Glenwood; the Soldiers’ Orphanage in Davenport; the Work School for the Blind in Knoxville (revoked by the legislature in January 1900); the Industrial School for Boys in Eldora; the Industrial School for Girls in Mitchellville. (In consequence of repeated riots by the girls in 1899, a section in the Anamosa State Prison was established for the bad girls and the Industrial School in Mitchelville has been kept under stricter control); and the State Prisons in Fort Madison and Anamosa.

The control authority also has to examine the reports and actions of regents of the State University, the trustees of the State Normal School and the State College for Agriculture and Mechanical Arts.

The State University in Iowa City is Iowa’s most significant educational institution. In July 1840, Congress assigned 45,928 acres of land in the former Iowa Territory to be used as location for a state university as soon as Iowa would become a state, which happened in 1846. According to an act by the legislature of February 25, 1847, the university was established in Iowa City. Ten acres of land were assigned for the buildings. After the relocation of the seat of government from Iowa City to Des Moines in 1857, the public buildings of the former city were made available to the State University and have since been used alongside other newly constructed buildings. Every two years the legislature grants an allowance of $70,000 to $120,000 for new buildings, extensions and improvements alongside $20,000 to $30,000 for running the university and for unforeseen expenses. The buildings and the plot of land have an estimated value of half a million dollars.

The University is under the management of a president, a director, a secretary, a treasurer and a council of regents. The latter consists of the governor, the state’s superintendent of school, ex-officio, and a representative of each congress district; these representatives are elected by the legislature for a duration of six years.

In 1899, the university had 1,257 students.

In the college, there are four courses of study: Classics, Philosophy, Science and Engineering. Four years are necessary to finish one of those courses and after completion the Bachelor’s degree is granted.

In the Department of Law, the course extends over a period of two years of study and after completion the student receives the L. L. B. degree, which entitles him to practice in state and United States courts.

The Medical as well as the Homeopathic Medical Department require six months of study per year over a period of four years and after completion the M. D. degree is granted.

The Dentistry Department requires nine months of study per year over a period of three years to receive the D. D. S. degree.

The pharmaceutical course requires six months of study over a period of two years to receive the Ph.D. degree.

The State Agricultural College in Ames.

In 1858, the legislature granted $10,000 for the purchase of a lot where an agricultural academy was to be established. One year later, the state bought 640 acres of land near Ames in Story County, and in 1862, Congress donated every state 30,000 acres of land for each United States Senator and Congressman to which that state was entitled at the time. In 1887, Congress passed a bill according to which every state was granted $15,000 annually for farming experiments of the agricultural academies. In 1890, Congress passed another bill, which granted the agricultural colleges a full endowment and a higher allowance. The annual income of the Iowa College currently amounts to $80,000, not taking into account the allowances, which the legislative body of the state grants from time to time to repair buildings. So far, the allowances granted amount to $500,000. The endowment is $679,784. The main building is five stories tall and is located on a property that spans over 900 acres of land. In 1899, this educational institution counted 690 students of which more than a third were female.

Alongside the president, secretary, treasurer, financial agent and an administrator, the administrative authority consists of eleven trustees – one for each congressional district of the state – whose term of office is six years.

Classes include Science, Philosophy, Mechanical and Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mining, Economy, Veterinary Science and classes on Dairy and Agriculture.

The College owns complete laboratories, scientific devices and workshops, equipped with all the necessary machines and tools. The museum and the library of over 10,000 volumes are especially destined for the institution, [.]

The State Normal School in Cedar Falls.

This educational institution for the training of teachers was established in 1876 and opened September 6 of the same year with 155 students. In 1899, there were 1,492 students at the school, of which three quarters were female. The faculty comprises 38 professors and teachers and the lessons are especially designed for the training of public school teachers. It became apparent that only a fraction of the graduates of this splendid school devoted themselves to the profession for which they were or should have been trained – the same holds true for the students of the Agricultural College. The ladies marry after having worked as a teacher for a few years and the gentlemen devote themselves to law or another more profitable profession, because, as is commonly known, teachers in the whole world are paid poorly.

The school in Cedar Falls owns a library of 6,000 volumes. The property and the buildings have an estimated value of $100,000.

Only those who graduated from high school and are at least 16 years old, are admitted to the school. A four-year course is required for graduation. The school fee amounts to $5 for a term of twelve weeks.

The Soldiers’ Home in Marshalltown.

This home for elderly union soldiers was opened November 30, 1887. Since then some other buildings aside from the impressive main building have been constructed, among them a commodious hospital, 131 feet long, 60 feet wide and two stories tall, and a row of small residential houses for those veterans, who still have wives that live there with them and are able to tend to themselves splendidly. In 1899, there were approximately 600 veterans in this home, alongside 30 veterans’ wives.

The state bought the lot – (and it is a pretty one near Marshalltown) and constructed the buildings. Every two years the legislature grants the required sum for the enlargement or improvement of the home and for its maintenance. The state spends $14 monthly for each resident of the institution. The government of the United States pays $100 annually for every resident of the home; this sum is used for feeding and clothing the soldiers. Those members of the home, whose pensions exceed $6 monthly, are obliged to transfer the surplus to the treasury. Half of this is deducted and added to the alimentation fund. Only those veterans are admitted to the home, who have no possessions and are incapacitated for work. If they receive a pension after having been admitted to the home, but [and] have other means to make themselves independent, they will be dismissed.

The Soldiers’ Orphanage in Davenport.

This institution was founded on July 13, 1864, by an act of the legislature of the state. Initially, only soldiers’ orphans were admitted, later though – in 1880 – the legislature passed another act that other parentless children should be accepted as well. In 1898, the average number of children was 406. Children are only kept until the age of 16. Barely 20 percent of them stay until that age.

Connected to the orphanage is a large, nice school building, and also a well-chosen library has been purchased consisting of 900 books, especially suited for young people. The institution is managed by a superintendent, doctor, administrator and a matron.

The state grants an annual allowance of $10 per month for every child, and each county is charged for the alimentation of its orphans, except for soldiers’ orphans, who are alimented entirely by the state. Special attention is paid to the correct discipline of the children.

School for Deaf-Mutes in Council Bluffs.

This school is one of the best of its kind in the United States. For more than 14 years it has been under the able and conscientious direction of the German-American Ex-Senator H. W. Rothert, who also was vice governor in his day. Under him are a senior teacher, a doctor, an administrator and a matron. All deaf-mutes of the state are admitted to the school. There they are trained to be craftsmen, such as printers, shoemakers, carpenters, tailors. Also, agriculture, gardening, drawing and painting, light housekeeping, sewing and knitting are being taught. In 1899, the institution had 281 students. The state grants $18,000 annually for officials’ and teachers’ salaries and $35 every quarter year for the support of each child. School starts on October 1 and goes on until the end of June each year.

State Asylum for Mentally Retarded Children in Glenwood.

This institution is managed similarly to the one previously mentioned. It was opened in September 1876. The state has spent $200,000 for land and buildings. On August 29, 1896, the main administrative building of the asylum was struck by lightning and destroyed by fire. A temporary construction was executed, which cost $40,000, and the next legislature granted a sum of $72,000 for the reconstruction of the building.

The purpose of this very meritorious institution is to create a home for those children, who are mentally weak and, unlike children in a normal state, are not able to follow regular school classes and at the same time to train them through special, well-tried methods in such a way that they can become independent or almost independent. Personal discipline and education in useful activities are being taught by competent teachers.

The state pays $12 per month for every child. On January 1, 1899, there were 794 pupils in the asylum.

College for the Blind.

In 1853 the College for the Blind was opened, first in Iowa City. It remained there until 1862, when it was moved to Vinton in Benton County. Since its establishment the state has almost spent one million dollars on the institution, i.e. for the buildings, clothes etc. In 1899, the institution had 161 pupils. The school is managed by a superintendent, doctor, administrator and a matron. The state pays $35 for every student per quarter year. The school is open to all children of the right age and with the required intellectual qualifications, as long as they are blind or have an eye condition. They are instructed in the same educational fields as those who are able to see. They learn how to read through the palpation of elevated letters. After having mastered this, they study other subjects like calculation, geography, zoology, chemistry, geometry and literature. The school term starts on the first Wednesday in September and ends in the third week of June. In the Department of Music, there are 23 pianos, one big and several small organs and enough other instruments like violins, guitars, flutes and brass instruments. In the Industry Department for Girls, knitting, crocheting, stitching and all sorts of sewing are taught. The boys make nets, mattresses and cane-bottoms for chairs.

The state expects the relatives of the students to pay for the travel there and back and to send them clothes. If they are too poor, the institute covers the sum and sends the bill to the corresponding county.

In 1892, a Work School for the Blind was opened in Knoxville, Marion County. The intention was to create a home for the blind and to give them the opportunity to earn their living by learning a trade. The plan, however, did not seem to work properly, because in 1899 only 50 people were in the asylum, even though right from the start the state granted $40,000 for a building, which could hold 200 people. The pupils learnt to make brooms and the manufacture of hammocks and nets. The legislature of 1900 shut the institution.

Iowa Industrial School in Eldora.

Since September 1868, the state maintains an industrial or reform school for boys, who rollick and are wicked and whose parents or friends are not able to discipline them. This school was not founded as a penitentiary, but was to be a disciplinary institution and the intention was to educate those boys, who are not yet entirely spoiled and who still have noble seeds in them, to become good men through benevolence and discipline. This school has already caused good and has made many a wild boy to a useful citizen. Boys from the age of 7 to 16, who have committed offences and who withstand all attempts of improvement by their surroundings, can be sent to the institution by any judge. After one year boys who have shown satisfactory proof of improvement, can be released or set free on probation.

Public Industrial School for Girls in Mitchellville.

A similar school to the one for boys in Eldora is the Industrial School for girls in Mitchellville; that is to say an institution, which has the improvement of the students in mind, unfortunately with little success as recent events have shown. In case of the depraved boys, benevolence is combined with strictness without reserve, in order to bring them little by little to a better way of life; in case of the girls they only wanted to use benevolence. As the official book about the two institutions says: “It shall not be a prison. It is a Forced Educational Institution. It is a school in which wayward girls who have criminal tendencies are sent and are to be taught better instincts through influence and example of benevolent teachers as well as through rules. It is an educational school, in which the moral, cognitive and industrial education of the child is accomplished all at once.”

Only girls between 7 and 16 years of age can be admitted to the institution if they are considered criminal, prowling or in any other way depraved by any recording court of law. The theory of making those children better only by means of benevolence was nice but proved to be impractical. The institution in Mitchellville was almost run like a big private school for girls, as a sort of boarding house in which the students had about as much freedom as if they were the best children out there. By kindheartedness of the judges too many of those girls were brought to the institution who had already been too long into a life of crime and had morally sunk too low to submit to a gently regulated life. This class does not tolerate any reins, it does not want morality because morality does not meet its animalistic desires; it ridicules religion and only strives to escape the institution in order to relapse into vice and crime. Such girls also spoil others in whom there are still traces of morality and goodness and thus thwart the purpose of the reform school.

In the fall of 1899, the girls of the Mitchellville Reform School went on strike and refused to do anything as long as the new superintendent was managing the school. It seems that the girls did not like the dismissal of the former superintendent who had managed the institution for a long time and as the new superintendent used more severity to discipline the girls, they rebelled – more than a hundred at once, smashing doors, windows, beds, dishes and furniture, behaving like wild animals so that neither police nor constable and sheriff could get through to them and therefor had to let them riot since they were girls who could or should not be treated like depraved boys. Days after days passed without gaining control of the stubborn girls without violence. Finally, seventy or more of the worst among them had to be brought to the county prison to stop their rebellious rage.

This revolt cost the state several thousand dollars; but it also demonstrated to the superiors and the state council that certain classes of uncontrollable girls do not belong in such an institution in which they enjoy too much freedom and kindliness. Thus, the legislature later decreed that the worst girls should be accommodated in a department of the state penitentiary in Anamosa. There they are in good hands; some of them are being brought to reason by strict discipline, and most of all, their separation will prove beneficial to those girls who are still able to improve. According to the current rules of the institution, the girls can be released or set free on probation after one year if they had behaved well and shown satisfactory proof of improvement.

The state grants $9 per month for every boy and $10 for every girl in the reform school; this has proven to be sufficient; in the future, it will most likely cost more, if more guards have to be employed and broader precautions have to be taken for those children.

Iowa’s Mental Asylums.

The state already has three big mental asylums and a fourth is almost ready to take in patients. The first three are in Mount Pleasant, Independence and Clarinda. The new one is in Cherokee. The first mental asylum in Iowa was opened in Mount Pleasant in 1846, but only in January 1855, it was turned into a public institution by an act of the legislature of the same year. The new asylum was opened to accept patients on March 6, 1861. The buildings cost the state several million dollars. Twelve dollars monthly are provided for each patient. The amount may not exceed $14 per month. In 1899, there were 820 patients in the asylum.

The second mental asylum was opened on May 1, 1873, in Independence. To date, more than two million dollars have been spent on the buildings. In January 1899, there were 989 patients in the asylum. The amount spent per patient is the same as in the Mount Pleasant asylum.

The mental asylum in Clarinda was opened on December 15, 1888, and cost somewhat more than one million dollars. It holds 1000 patients. In January 1899, there were 843 patients in the asylum. The state pays $13 monthly per patient in this institution

The new Cherokee Mental Asylum is supposed to be finished in 1901. Already $800,000 have been granted. The entire construction will most likely cost a bit more; the state is simply obliged to care for the unluckiest of the unlucky, and those are the crazy whose number increases year after year. In the past years, county mental asylums have been built in different counties, where the incurably mad of the respective counties are accommodated, and yet the big, spacious asylums are getting too small, every 10 to 15 years a new one has to be built.

Iowa’s State Prisons.

The construction of the first penitentiary in Iowa was decreed by the territorial government in Fort Madison on January 25, 1839, and since then, this state prison has repeatedly been altered, improved and enlarged so that the building counts as one of the most solid and best suited in the west. In January 1899, there were 525 convicts in this prison. Their manpower is leased to industrialists, who pay the state a certain sum. The state provides the workshops, supervisors and guards. In 1899, the Iowa Farming Tool Compagnie and the Fort Madison Chair Compagnie were the leaseholders.

The construction of the state prison in Anamosa began 28 years ago and since then further work has been done on it nearly every year. The state grows and alongside the growth of population, the number of criminals increases as well. In January 1899, there were 615 convicts in the prison. They mostly work on the new buildings of the prison and in the quarries close by. This prison also has a well-equipped department for female convicts [.]