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Museum exhibit looks back at Morningside College's 125 years
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Museum exhibit looks back at Morningside College's 125 years

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SIOUX CITY -- A new exhibit at the Sioux City Public Museum takes a look back at Morningside College, the city's oldest college, as it celebrates 125 years of educating students.

"Morningside College: Celebrating 125 Years 1894-2019," features historic photographs, homecoming pins, old yearbooks, sports memorabilia and more, as it highlights the private four-year liberal arts institution's triumphs and tragedies. The exhibit is on display through Nov. 17.

Matt Anderson, curator of history for the museum and a Morningside College alumnus, said the majority of the items featured in the exhibit were already in the museum's collection. The college loaned an oil-on-canvas portrait of Lillian Dimmitt, a Latin professor who served as the college's Dean of Women for 26 years, as well as a few panoramic photographs.

"Of the three-dimensional artifacts, we used most of what we had in the collection," said Anderson, who hopes the exhibit draws residents, as well as visitors coming to town for homecoming and other events at the college, to the museum. "We do have pretty much all of the yearbooks and a lot of the old course catalogs and newsletters. We just picked out choice examples of those to sprinkle in."

Encased in glass are two off-white letterman's sweaters that belonged to the late Dwight Hauff. Hauff founded Dwight Hauff Sporting Goods Co. in Sioux City in 1933.

"He went to Morningside back in the 1920s. He was a basketball star at Morningside at that time," Anderson said. "He lived to be 104."

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Morningside fire
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Morningside Avenue paving
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Morningside football
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Morningside vs. Notre Dame
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Morningside College

To the right of Hauff's sweaters, a long black-and-white picture of campus buildings hangs on the wall. One of the prominent buildings featured in the panoramic photograph is a former chemistry building that caught fire in August 1914. Just two years earlier, Anderson said Main Hall burned and had to be rebuilt.

"Officially, the chemistry building fire was attributed to spontaneous combustion of chemicals in storage. The Main Hall fire, which had been a couple years earlier in 1912, was attributed to faulty wiring or something like that," Anderson said. "And then at the end of 1914, what was called the Conservatory of Music, which today is Charles City Hall, burned and it was almost certainly the result of arson."

[Beginning an art collection: Sioux City Art Center curator offers tips.]

Anderson said the shell of Main Hall was still standing after the fire, so the college enlisted the original architect, Wilfred W. Beach, to rebuild it. The Conservatory of Music was also salvaged, according to Anderson. He said the reconstruction of both buildings was a rapid process.

"It burned in April of 1912 and they reopened it by December of 1912," he said of Main Hall. "They kind of did the same thing with the conservatory where they were basically able to rebuild it within a few months. But that was a run of bad luck for them."

Prominent alumni of Morningside include advice columnists Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, who were known as Eppie and PoPo Friedman growing up in Sioux City. The twin sisters launched their careers at the college in the 1930s, writing for a gossip column that they developed called "The Campus Rat." An unauthorized biography of Landers and Van Buren is part of the exhibit, as well as a bobblehead of former Major League Baseball starting pitcher Paul Splittorff.

"The most successful athlete to come out of Morningside was Paul Splittorff, who was a pitcher on the baseball team back in the mid-to-late '60s," Anderson said. "He went on to become a Kansas City Royals team hall of famer."

[Read more: Morningside Garden to Table Experience gives students a real-world education.]

The exhibit also highlights a few mascot changes at the college. A handkerchief printed with a cartoon depiction of a Native American chief dunking a basketball is displayed. Anderson said the Morningside Maroons became the Maroon Chiefs in 1959, and then the Mustangs in 1998.

"I'm not sure about the change of the Maroons to the Chiefs. There was a contest that they held. Of course, Sioux City had always prominently used Native American symbols for publicity purposes, so it may have had something to do with that," he said. "Already in the 1960s, there was some resistance to the Chiefs name and the logo. By the 90s, there was more resistance to that imagery, so another naming contest was held."

During the height of the Iowa farm crisis, local business leaders sponsored the "Corn Bowl" festival in conjunction with a Morningside College football game to promote local agriculture and ag-related businesses. A downtown parade, tailgate party, pregame show and special halftime show were held. 

 "They had some fun memorabilia to go with it," Anderson said with a chuckle while looking at a yellow, plastic kazoo affixed to a cob of corn.

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