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Primary Research

by on March 15, 2011


Waverly-Shell Rock High School AP History students rose early this morning to catch a ride to the Hoover Presidential Library. They left at 7:00 a.m. for the 112 mile drive through Iowa farmland. They were coming for a chance to do primary research, to hold the real deal in their hands — to look at the stuff history books are made from.

Thanks to Rick, Ken, and Sarah for driving the students to the Hoover Presidential Library!


Look above and you’ll see “History in the Making!”

Archivists Matt Schaefer, Craig Wright, and Spencer Howard pulled 61 boxes from the Archives collection. Topics ranged from WWI famine relief to the Stock Crash. Just think, this might be the dawn of a new career.


Seton Catholic School was the destination for the Presidential Troupe on February 28. It was a beautiful sunny day for the hour and a half drive northeast to the small town of Peosta, IA.  Peosta sits a few miles west of Dubuque, one of Iowa’s oldest towns, which was established by Julian Dubuque because of its nearby lead deposits.

Over one hundred 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders listened for 60 minutes while Ben Franklin, John Adams, a Loyalist, and Samuel Adams gave their personal opinions on the events leading up to the writing of the constitution. As you can see by the photo, Samuel Adams was getting his last point across even as the photographer was attempting to take the photo!

Franklin asked the students, “What questions do you have about the constitution?” The six students in the photo were part of the program and shouted out questions pertaining to their individual rights.


It’s Presidents Month! Who best to celebrate with than James Madison, 4th President of the United States. Dick McGaughy has portrayed President Madison for the Hoover Presidential Library since the year 1999. In the above photo he is conversing with a local historian before engaging the audience in a discussion about the Constitution.

HistoryAnecdote: In 1787, only four years after the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War, we created a new government under a constitution. We already had a government. Why did we need a new one?

The Articles of Confederation had created a weak central government binding the states into a league of friendship with each other. The states were separate nations for most purposes. We hoped that this would be the best way to safeguard our liberties. But quickly many difficult problems arose that had not been anticipated. The central government was not able to correct them.

To improve our government, approval was given for a meeting in Philadelphia in 1787. I wrote the Virginia Plan, which was the basis for all of the discussions during the meeting. The constitution was developed from the plan. Because of that, many people call me the Father of the Constitution. However, I would like to emphasize that the proposed constitution we signed on September 17, 1787 was the product of many hands and many heads. There were many changes, and I hope, improvements from my Virginia Plan.

I am sure many of you remember the first words in the constitution. “We the people of the United States…

Thanks Dick! Oh, I mean President Madison.


Here we are walking in the hallway of Camanche Middle School. The town of Camanche sits along the western bank of the Mississippi River. The drive north from Le Claire was quite pleasant — spotted one eagle and lots of geese.

The Presidential Troupe has performed for Camanche 5th graders several times in the past 12 years. This year’s visit had a surprise in the form of a fire drill, but the Troupe was undaunted as Benjamin Franklin ushered us out of the school.

History Anecdote: After a visit to Boston, Ben Franklin brought back ideas of improved fire fighting based on their methods. Franklin incorporated the Company in 1736. They were staffed by volunteers who nonetheless were specialists with hooks and axes and other tools. He had monthly business/social meetings where new ideas were discussed. The organization proved to be very effective. The size of the company was limited. If a man wanted to join he was denied but encouraged to start other companies. Franklin kept contact with the men even until he returned from Paris in the 1780s.

Next week the Presidential Troupe heads northeast to Seton Catholic School in Peosta, IA

Presidential Troupe

by on February 16, 2011

1st-trip-of-2011 for the Presidential Troupe

Here we are unloading the government van in front of Jefferson Elementary in Clinton, IA. This is the first stop on the Time Travel to Revolutionary America 2011 Tour for the Presidential Troupe. During the months of February, March, and April five docents, who volunteer for the Hoover Presidential Library,  don historical costumes and drive hundreds of miles crisscrossing IA to make history come alive for thousands of fifth graders.

Revolutionary America is a 60-minute program covering the years 1763-1789. The docents assume historical personae, dress in period costumes, and debate on behalf of Loyalists and Patriots. Students have the opportunity to interact with James Madison, Samuel & John Adams, a Loyalist, and Benjamin Franklin.

Our next stop is Camanche Middle School on February 22, 2011.

New Art on Display

by on February 1, 2011

Mt. Vernon's TAG Students

Education Assistant Pat, Volunteer Coordinator Kathy, Education Specialist Mary, and Artist Jim drove from the Hoover Presidential Library to present the Mt. Vernon school with a framed collage created  by author/illustrator Susan L. Roth. Washington Elementary was the lucky school to receive the collage by lottery after Mrs. Mauer and Mrs. Scearce’s fourth grade reading group attended a workshop with the author. Mary presented the picture and Jim engaged the students in a discussion of the elements of art present in the piece. Jim explained and let the students explore the collage’s visual lines, rhythm, and center of interest. The collage is on display in the 4th grade hallway in Washington Elementary School.

The Greatest Generation!

by on January 3, 2011


I have a story I’d like to tell you about the Veterans History Project and the Greatest Generation. Seven years ago the Hoover Presidential Library started interviewing military veterans. I saw an article about how the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. I asked the Director of the Hoover Presidential Library if we could get involved and that launched our partnership with the Library of Congress.

We have driven thousands of miles across Iowa to interview individual men and women who served in World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam War.  I have driven through snow storms, used my car’s GPS system to locate hard to find addresses, and learned to carry Milk Bones when driving to an out of the way farmhouse-one never knows what will happen when  greeted by a large farm dog.


To date we have interviewed 244 military veterans.  We have heard personal accounts of witnessing the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki, enduring the freezing cold of the Korean Conflict, surviving prisoner of war camps, bailing out of  flaming airplanes, working on the Home Front, organizing supplies behind the lines for foot soldiers. Each and every story contained the hope for a better America.


Dr. William Pontarelli drove 978 miles in the past four months interviewing military veterans. Dr. Bill has been a docent at the Hoover Presidential Library since 2004. He is an orthopedic surgeon and a history buff.  Please go to the Photograph Gallery to see Dr. Bill doing a live broadcast on Iowa Public Radio and at a reception given by Summit Pointe Retirement Center in his honor.


Shortly after the Iowa Public Radio broadcast Lisa called my office asking if she could be involved in anyway. She is currently a PHD candidate at the University of Iowa in Communications. Within a few days she was at the Hoover Presidential Library indexing veterans’ interviews for the Library of Congress.  She is a Teaching Assistant for the UI in the morning, attends graduate school in the afternoon, and spends hours each week fulfilling the requirements for having the military interviews preserved by the Library of Congress.

My story doesn’t end here–click to read more!

I Liked Looking at the Trees!

by on December 23, 2010


Washington Elementary first graders rode a bus to the Hoover Presidential Library to see the Christmas Trees decorated with a Laura Ingalls Wilder theme. They had a GREAT time!

LHH-Girl Scouts_web

On Saturday, December 11, fifty-four Girl Scouts came to the Hoover Presidential Library to learn about what life was like for Lou Henry Hoover–former First Lady and President of Girl Scouts of the USA. Even a snowstorm couldn’t dampen their enthusiasm for participating in activities: exploring the many countries that the Hoovers traveled to, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, and tours of the Hoover Galleries. The girls and adults enjoyed healthy snacks while earning their Lou Henry Hoover patch.


Rolly spotted a bobcat this afternoon by the edge of the 78 acres of restored tall grass prairie that surrounds the Hoover Presidential Library. The National Park Service maintains the prairie and protects the wildlife that live there. This includes deer, pheasant, turkey, groundhogs, fox, bobcat and many species of birds.  Lou Henry Hoover was an avid conservationist. In 1945 the Lou Henry Hoover Memorial Forests and Wildlife Sanctuaries tribute was established for the conservation of forest lands, soil, waterways or wildlife.