Ames Historical Society Presentations

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Need a program for your group or club?  Contact us to schedule a presentation on museum activities or historical subjects. See our Program Use Policy.

The following programs are presented at no charge:

About Ames Historical Society

Learn about our organization, including our history, funding sources, collections, and programs. Program can be adjusted to focus more on collections or upcoming programs. This program is best when time is included for questions and answers from the audience.
Presentation length is flexible: 20 to 60 minutes

Ames History Center Tour

Includes a guided tour of our current exhibits, overview of our resources available for research, and behind-the-scenes look at our archives storage. Tour can include time with hands-on artifacts including our player piano and stereoscope.
Presentation length is flexible: 30 to 45 minutes

A $50 fee will be charged for the following local history programs:

All the Smoke and Cinders You’ll Ever Want: The Ames & College Railway’s “Dinkey,” 1891-1907

The “Dinkey” carried passengers, mail, freight and building materials between downtown Ames and Iowa Agricultural College for sixteen years during a period of rapid growth of both entities.  This PowerPoint presentation combines dozens of vintage images with anecdotes and facts about the incorporators, route, terminals, rolling stock, passengers, freight, and advertising.  A sole surviving artifact is also shown.
Presentation length: 20 minutes

Baseball Player Turned Evangelist: Ames Native Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday was born on his grandparents’ farm just south of Ames, Iowa in 1862, two years before the platting of the town. After becoming a professional outfielder in baseball’s National league during the 1880s, Billy became the most celebrated and influential American evangelist during the first two decades of the 20th century. This program gives an overview of Billy’s life and details his visits to Ames over the years.
Presentation length: 30 minutes

The Carr Family & Carr’s Pool

This program relates the remarkable story of a unique Ames family, Emmet and Alpha Carr, and highlights their best-known ventures - raising over 80 foster children and building the first public swimming pool in Ames near the banks of the Skunk River.
Presentation length: 30-40 minutes

Early Ames History

This program begins before Ames even existed. It consists of a brief overview of the platting and early history of the Ames community, providing some background about how the city was formed. The longer version includes the history of the community through about 1920.
Presentation length is flexible: 20 minutes (short version); 60 minutes (long version)

Footnotes in Ames History

This slide program is an overview of early Ames history that weaves in stories about interesting individuals, colorful events and architectural landmarks, highlighted with interesting small details – such as the cornerstone contents of the building on Main Street now occupied by Bar La Tosca restaurant.  It was the first poured concrete structure in Ames, and was built by a local nursery and seed company, Olsan’s.  Audience members will gain an understanding of how Ames was established, and who influenced its early growth.
Presentation length: 30-45 minutes

Historical Walking Tour of Downtown Ames

This walking tour features stories of historic downtown buildings, including Wallace Greeley's mansion, Parley Sheldon's bank, the Frank Morris Livery, and the Depot. The tour covers 10-12 blocks, so wear comfortable shoes.
Presentation length: 60 minutes

A History of Early Churches in Ames

The early history of church congregations in Ames is rich and varied and indicates a strong need for spiritual fulfillment on the part of pioneer settlers.  Even though those congregations subscribed to different religious philosophies, there were many common challenges and triumphs as churches grew and expanded. The talk covers 10 churches that were established between the early 1850s and 1916.
Presentation length: 60 minutes

The Library Story: From Grocery Shelf to Gigabytes

The public library in Ames grew from loaned space in a grocery store in 1892 to the multi-story, high tech, growing facility we know today. Learn about the dedicated group of local citizens - especially Ames women - who sought to ensure the existence of a library in our city, and the influential leaders who built the institution into the place we know today - one of the top ten libraries in the US for cities our size!
Presentation length: 30 minutes

Mad for the Movies

Joe Gerbracht started in the movie theater business in 1912 when he was a senior in high school. By the time he retired in 1962, he had owned and operated six theaters, including the Ranch Drive-In. Learn about his colorful 50-year career in the entertainment business, during which he weathered controversy and embraced changing technology.
Presentation length: 45-50 minutes

Mischief and Mayhem - History of the Ames Police Department

Human nature in all its variety is often revealed in police files, and here in Ames there are a number of tales to tell! You'll hear several stories, ranging from campus pranks to serious crimes, as well as a brief history of the Ames Police Department.
Presentation length: 30-40 minutes (short version), 60 minutes (long version)

Mystery Suitcase

A suitcase discovered in Ames 70 years after it was packed is the only remaining clue to a woman’s life.  This “mystery suitcase” provides clues to a persistent historical detective. As the suitcase is opened, the story behind its contents is revealed.
Presentation length: 45-60 minutes

The Railroads of Story County

This lecture is a brief history of the railroads that served Story County from 1864 to 1995. It shows where the railroads operated in the county and where you could travel by train from many cities in Story County. Emphasis is on the routes and passenger trains, but also some information on the freight that was carried by these railroads.
Presentation length: 45 minutes

Tales From Tiles

The seventeen unique, interpretive art tiles on sixteen brick piers along Fifth Street in downtown Ames begin to tell the stories of people, places, and events in the city's history. This seated tour reveals the background for each terra cotta tile.
Presentation length: 30-40 minutes

A Time of Expansion: Life in Ames a Hundred Years Ago

By the year 1916 Ames had experienced a decade of growth, economic development, and infrastructure improvements. Enrollment at Iowa State College had significantly increased, roads were being paved, a new sewer system was installed, and plans for the new power plant were approved. Ames got its first electric street car, hospital, and first-class hotel. This program shares the story of what it would have been like to experience all the changes as an Ames resident 100 years ago.
Presentation length: 60 minutes

Treasures from the Tribune Trashbin

Among the thousands of negatives received in the Tribune Photo Archive were a number that showed deterioration. Experts advised separating and discarding them, so they were thrown into paper sacks and cardboard boxes to await disposal. By chance, they never were pitched and scanning revealed amazing, one-of-a-kind images of Ames in the 1950s. Audience members will get to see these rare (though imperfect) images.
Presentation length is flexible: 20 to 40 minutes

Virtual Historical Walking Tour of Downtown Ames

A seated tour of historical downtown Ames reveals the people and places that influenced the early growth of our community from its establishment to the current day.
Presentation length: 40-50 minutes

Who is that Hoggatt Guy Anyway?

Of all the names closely associated with the early development of Ames, few rank ahead of the very colorful Col. Lucian Q. Hoggatt. He hailed from Indiana and long before the town of Ames was proposed, Hoggatt settled on a farm west of what became Grand Avenue, extending from Lincoln Way north for a quarter of a mile. He was a veteran of the Mexi­can war and was big influence in local and county politics. He and his wife became the namesake for the first schoolhouse in the area when they donated land for its construction – a schoolhouse that is still preserved in Ames. This program tells the story of this “bigger than life” character!
Presentation length: 30-35 minutes

Women in Ames History

This presentation allows the audience to "meet" ten capable and visionary women from different time periods of Ames history. These women shaped our community with their unique talents - often leading the way for other women to follow.
Presentation length is flexible: 20 to 40 minutes