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State Historical Society of Iowa

State Historical Society of Iowa announces state's highest history awards

May 25, 2021
Excellence in History Awards recognize people, organizations and community groups

The State Historical Society of Iowa today announced the state's highest awards for history, including a lifetime achievement award for sisters Bonnie Smola of Monona and Donna Story of Hawkeye and their late husbands, John Smola and Steve Story.

The State Historical Society of Iowa Board of Trustees bestows the annual Excellence in History Awards to recognize individuals, organizations and communities who make outstanding contributions to the study and practice of Iowa history.

The historical society is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which will announce additional awards for historic preservation during a virtual ceremony at the annual Preserve Iowa Summit on June 3-5. (Registration details are at

"This year’s award recipients have offered endless hours of their time to make sure our state’s history is preserved and shared today and into the future,” said Tyler De Haan of Van Meter, chair of the State Historical Society’s board of trustees. "We congratulate the recipients for their remarkable achievements with gratitude for all they have contributed in sharing the stories of Iowa history.”

The Smolas and Storys received the William J. Petersen and Edgar R. Harlan Lifetime Achievement Award for their work across five decades to preserve and promote Iowa history. The citation for the award, which is named for two of the historical society’s early leaders, highlights numerous projects the Storys and Smolas championed, including the successful pursuit of a Save America’s Treasures grant to conserve and revitalize the 1896 pipe organ at the Union Sunday School in Clermont. Steve Story was a talented organist and performed more than 25 historical concerts there.

At the nearby Clermont Museum and Montauk Historic Site, the former home of Gov. William Larrabee (1832-1912), the Smolas and Storys helped preserve and document books, furniture, hand tools and equipment, nearly 350 pieces of Larrabee family clothing and an array of other historical artifacts. After discovering an unusual contraption, they even founded the Circular Sock Machine Society of America to encourage use of an antique sock-knitting machine that dates back to World War I.

Over the years, the two couples helped restore and preserve pioneer cemeteries and also identified fabrics, ribbons and other materials used to create artifacts in the Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum in Tama.

Today’s announcement also recognizes the following contributions to Iowa history:

Loren Horton Community History Award

This award recognizes an individual, group, or organization whose outstanding local history project was completed during the previous calendar year. Its namesake represented the State Historical Society of Iowa in many capacities from 1973 until his retirement in 1996.

  • Winner: The Linn County Conservation Department for its successful effort to rename the county park at the junction of Iowa Highways 13 and 100 in Marion. The new name, Wanatee Park, honors the late Adeline Wanatee (1910-1996), an advocate for Native American and women’s rights.
  • Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Project related to Museum, Library, Archives, Historic Preservation, or Education: LGBTQ Iowa Archives & Library in Iowa City.
  • Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Program or Event: Dick De Angelis and Fair Field Productions of Fairfield, for “ A Place to Grow,” a documentary about the evolution of agriculture.
  • Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Research or Publication: Katy Swalwell of Des Moines for her books “Amazing Iowa Women” and “Amazing Iowa Athletes.”

George Mills & Louise Noun Popular History Award

This award recognizes the author of the most significant popular history article on an Iowa history topic published during the previous calendar year. It’s named in honor of Mills, an Iowa reporter and popular historian, and Noun, a philanthropist and expert on women’s history.

  • Winner: Josh O’Leary of Iowa City for “If You Write It: The University of Iowa Author Who Inspired the Field of Dreams” (Iowa Magazine, summer 2020).
  • Certificate of Recognition: Rachelle Chase of Ottumwa for “Buxton: A Coal Mining Town Ahead of Its Time” (Iowa History Journal, January/February 2020).
  • Certificate of Recognition: Brian Button of West Des Moines for “Early Park History: The Long, Noisy Road to Places of Quiet Beauty” (Iowa Outdoors, summer 2020).

Mildred Throne & Charles Aldrich Academic History Award

This annual award recognizes the author of the most significant article on Iowa history in a professional history journal during the previous calendar year. It is named in honor of Throne, longtime editor of the Iowa Journal of History and Politics, and Aldrich, who founded the third series of the Annals of Iowa.

  • Winner: Szabolcs Laszlo of Budapest, Hungary, for “The Shock of Seeing the Freedom of American Life: The Iowa International Writing Program as Cultural Diplomacy during the Cold War” (The Annals of Iowa, spring 2020).
  • Certificate of Recognition: Jason Shurley of Wales, Wisconsin, for “How about Some Muscle?: C. H. McCloy and Strength Training Research at the University of Iowa, 1940-1959” (The Annals of Iowa, winter 2020).
  • Certificate of Recognition: Emily Prifogle of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for “Winks, Whispers, and Prosecutorial Discretion in Rural Iowa, 1925-1928” (The Annals of Iowa, summer 2020).

Benjamin F. Shambaugh Book Award

This annual award recognizes the author of the most significant book published about Iowa history during the previous calendar year. Its namesake was a professor at the University of Iowa and served for 40 years as the superintendent of the State Historical Society of Iowa.

  • Winner: H. Roger Grant of Clemson, South Carolina, for “A Mighty Fine Road: A History of the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad Company” (Indiana University Press).
  • Certificate of Merit: Kenneth Lyftogt of Cedar Falls for “Iowa and the Civil War, Volume 2: From Iuka to Red River, 1862-1864” (Camp Pope Publishing).
  • Certificate of Merit: Sue Taylor of Portland, Oregon, for “Grant Wood's Secrets” (University of Delaware Press).

More information about the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is available at

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.