CONTACT: DAN MCMILLAN
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6835; fax (319) 384-4638
Release: July 5, 2001
Newly discovered historic farm photos to be displayed at Terrace Hill
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and First Lady Christie Vilsack
will host the first public viewing of a newly found collection of photographs
of Iowa farming during the early and mid-20th century.
A selection of photographs by A. M. "Pete" Wettach (1901-1976),
a self-described "agricultural photographer" from Mt. Pleasant,
will be open to the public at Terrace Hill on the weekend of July 14-15. The
black-and-white photographs date from the mid-1930s to about 1960, and include
images from the Depression, World War II, and the postwar years.
The Wettach collection, estimated at about 50,000 images, was discovered
by editor Leslie Loveless and some of her colleagues at the University of
Iowa's Institute for Rural and Environmental Health (IREH) during a 1999 office
move. A small selection of these images had been used in the early 1990s for
an academic presentation at the IREH, which is a part of the UI College of
Loveless, who has since played a key role in bringing the collection to public
view, remembers the find. "The negatives were huge, many of them 5 by
7 inches in size. We had a few developed and they were just breathtaking,
both in terms of their compositions and their historical value. These photographs
chronicle a time of tremendous change in the lives of people in farming communities."
A. M. "Pete" Wettach worked for the Farm Security Administration
(FSA), administering loans to farmers. He was also an avid, self-taught photographer
and brought his camera along on his visits to farm clients in counties all
over southeast Iowa. He sold his pictures to many publications, including
Wallaces' Farmer, Successful Farming, and the Des Moines Register. In 1948,
Wettach left the FSA to take pictures full-time, traveling throughout Iowa,
the Midwest and many other states. He continued his work as a photographer
until shortly before his 1976 death.
Christie Vilsack, a Mt. Pleasant native, and Gov. Tom Vilsack were acquainted
with Wettach and remember him as a warm and amiable man. "As a photographer
and journalist, I find Pete Wettach's photos revealing, especially the photos
featuring children," Mrs. Vilsack said. "I want to display them
here at Terrace Hill to show the contrast between the everyday lives of urban
families, like the Hubbells, who were living at Terrace Hill during the 1930s,
'40s and '50s.
"This exhibit is a way to highlight a Mt. Pleasant artist and three
generations of his family who continue to make Iowa their home."
Robert Wettach, M.D., a Mt. Pleasant physician and the photographer's son,
kept most of his father's prints and negatives. With the rediscovery of A.
M. Wettach's work, Dr. Wettach has donated most of this collection to the
State Historical Society of Iowa in Iowa City, where they will be preserved
for use by future generations.
Mary Bennett, coordinator of special collections at the State Historical
Society of Iowa, is overseeing the process of archiving Wettach's prints and
negatives. She sees the Wettach photographs as a great resource for understanding
rural history in Iowa and the Midwest.
"Almost all of us have a connection to farm life, either personally
or through our parents or grandparents," Bennett said, "and we all
depend upon farming to put food on our tables. The Wettach photographs allow
us to remember our connection to the land and to a way of life that has changed
dramatically over the past century."
Since the rediscovery of this collection, Loveless has been working on a
book about A. M. Wettach. The book, which is due out in 2002, will be published
by the UI Press and will include some of the photographs that will be on display
at Terrace Hill. A selection of Wettach's photos will also be displayed at
the UI's booth at the Iowa State Fair in August.
The exhibit at Terrace Hill will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday,
July 14, and 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 15. Admission is free. The
exhibit is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Iowa.
At 5 p.m. Sunday, July 15, Scott Smith will perform for "Jazz in July"
on the Terrace Hill lawn.
NOTE TO EDITORS: A private reception will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday,
July 15, at Terrace Hill. Attendees will include First Lady Christie Vilsack,
members of the Wettach family, and people who were photographed by A. M. Wettach
years ago. Reporters are welcome to cover this event, but should R.S.V.P.
by calling (515) 281-7205.
Additional contacts for this event include:
Mary Bennett, State Historical Society of Iowa, (319) 335-3916
Cyndi Pederson, Assistant to the First Lady, Terrace Hill, (515) 281-6565
Kristen Mackey, Governor's Office, (515) 281-0176