GRADUATION PORTRAIT FROM IOWA STATE NORMAL SCHOOL (UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN IOWA) IN CEDAR FALLS, IOWA

CEDAR FALLS GRAD_0002Cabinet cards frequently present interesting mysteries. This cabinet card inspired a number of questions. I wondered what the story was behind this unusual image. The cabinet card was out of the ordinary because of the mini photograph in the left hand bottom corner of the image. The previous owner of the photograph suggested it was a memorial card, but I was dubious. I hypothesized that the image was a graduation portrait and that the buildings in the photo insert was the college from which he graduated. I set out to learn what colleges were located in Cedar Falls, Iowa. I discovered that the University of Northern Iowa is located in Cedar Falls. From 1876 through 1909 the college was called the Iowa State Normal School. The name was changed and between 1909 and 1961, the educational institution was known as Iowa State Teachers College. Further research confirmed my hypothesis. The photo below, from the University of Northern Iowa library web site, shows the same buildings that are in the cabinet card photograph. The building on the left is South Hall (later Gilchrist Hall) and the building on the right is North Hall (later Central Hall). These buildings were located on the campus of the Iowa State Normal School. Research uncovered the photo postcard below which was identified as being from 1885. My initial hypothesis seems to be correct. This cabinet card is most likely a graduation picture. The subject in the image had just graduated from the Iowa State Teachers College. The cabinet card’s photographer was named Hahnemann Lancaster and he was located in Cedar Falls. The reverse of the photograph has printing advertising that Lancaster had won two first place prizes at both the 1884 and 1886 Iowa State Fairs. Lancaster (born in 1858) was 41 years old when he appeared in the 1900 US census. He was born in Canada. He was married to Sarah (age 39) and the couple had two sons and three daughters at the time of the census.

Gilchrist

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Awesome research. Mystery solved! 🙂

  2. Congratulations. Fine Research. Did the school possibly publish a yearbook which might identify the student?

    • Yes they did. It was named OLD GOLD and can be found in the ROD LIBRARY on campus.

  3. I have seen this style image called trompe l’oeil. I would have wanted the photo as well, it is an interesting find.

  4. Great detective work! Hahnemann & Whitfield Lancaster are my great grand uncles, and I have been looking for information about them, trying to figure out when/why/where they came to the US from Canada and did their family members (mother, siblings) come with? Thank you tons for this tid bit of juicy knowledge!!! Z


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