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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Abigail Van Allen papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1968-2008
Creator: Van Allen, Abigail (1922-2008)
Extent: 3.80 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0912
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Iowa City resident who worked to preserve and restore Iowa City landmarks including the Old Capitol building.

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use:

Acquisition: The papers (donor # 1317) were donated by Sarah Van Allen in 2012.

Preferred Citation: Abigail Van Allen papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Address: 100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5068
Curator: Kären Mason
Email: lib-women@uiowa.edu
Website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa

Abigail Fithian Halsey II was born in 1922 in Southampton, New York, to Jesse Halsey, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife. Halsey grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she graduated from the Lotspeich and Hillsdales schools. She attended Mount Holyoke College during World War II and graduated in 1944. Upon graduation, she took a position at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. It was there she met James Van Allen, whom she married in 1945.


In 1951, the Van Allens moved to Iowa City, Iowa, where James Van Allen had earned his masters and doctoral degrees, and where he would work as a professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iowa. The Van Allens had five children: Cyntha, Margot, Sarah, Thomas, and Peter. Abigail Van Allen was heavily involved in efforts to restore and preserve Iowa City history and landmarks, including the Old Brick Church and the Old Capitol Building, for which she served as a member of the Old Capitol Restoration Committee. She was a member of the Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as a non-resident sustaining member of the Cedar Rapids Junior League. Abigail Van Allen died in 2008.

The Abigail Van Allen papers date from 1968-2008 and are organized into three series: Personal, Restoration of Old Capitol, Iowa City City Council, and Artifacts.


The Personal series dates from 1968-2008 and is comprised of correspondence, community organizing materials, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia. The correspondence largely consists of notes and cards sent to Van Allen and her husband by family and friends, offering thanks for favors or updating the couple on life events. Additional materials reflect the Van Allen's membership in Iowa City's First Presbyterian Church and the establishment of Van Allen Elementary (named for James) in North Liberty, Iowa. Included as well are letters and educational materials reflecting Abigail Van Allen's support for the preservation and restoration of Iowa City's Old Brick Church, which was threatened with demolition in the 1970s and which required continued fundraising and repair in the decades following.


The Restoration of Old Capitol series dates from 1972-1976 and reflects Van Allen's work to restore the Old Capitol Building in Iowa City and educate the community on the building's connection to Iowa history. Much of the material in this series concerns Van Allen's service as the chair of the Iowa School Children's Campaign for the Restoration of Old Capitol, a project encouraging elementary school children to support the building's renovation and develop creative projects to celebrate the building and its history. The correspondence in this series records Van Allen's commissioning of a children's history of Old Capitol, her coordination of class trips and dissemination of learning materials, and even letters from children thanking her for presentations she gave at area schools.  Included also are scripts of those presentations, notes for speeches, lists of projects and learning activities to suggest to students and educators, and names of schools and students who contributed to the fundraising effort.


The Iowa City City Council series dates from 1972-1990 and reflects Van Allen's involvement in Iowa City's Planning and Zoning Commission. Included are meeting descriptions and schedules, correspondence, notes taken at meetings, and City Council reports. Much of the material concerns the environmental impact of flood plain development; in correspondence for this series Van Allen described herself as an "avid conservationist."


The Artifacts series is comprised of material related to the restoration of the Old Capitol Building. Included are drawings by school children, a jigsaw puzzle, and a brass plaque from the assembly room.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: PERSONAL
Series 2: RESTORATION OF OLD CAPITOL
Series 3: IOWA CITY CITY COUNCIL
Series 4: ARTIFACTS

  • Series 1: PERSONAL
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical - 2008
  • Cash record book and calendar - 1969, 1980-1981
  • Correspondence - 1968-1978
  • Correspondence - 1984
  • Correspondence - 1985
  • Box 2:
  • Correspondence - 1986
  • Correspondence - 1988
  • Correspondence - 1989
  • Correspondence - 2000
  • Correspondence - 2001-2008
  • Correspondence - undated
  • Box 3:
  • Dedication of the elementary school - 2005
  • Financial planning for Presbyterian Church - 1975-1982
  • Football - 1985
  • General, undated and - 1976-1977
  • Iowa City Presbyterian Church centennial - 1840-1940
  • James Van Allen - 1961-1988
  • Lectures, concerts, theater - 1989
  • Magazines about space - 1988-1989
  • Miscellaneous, undated and - 1984
  • Mt. Holyoke College reunion - 1989
  • Newspaper articles about James Van Allen - 1981-1985
  • Newspaper articles about James Van Allen - 1988-1989
  • Newspaper clippings about Reverend Jesse Halsey - 1969
  • Box 4:
  • Old Brick Presbyterian Church - 1975-1976
  • Old Brick newspaper clippings - 1976
  • Sightseeing brochures, undated
  • Theater programs - 1983-1985
  • Van Allen Day - 2004
  • Series 2: RESTORATION OF OLD CAPITOL
  • Box 4:
  • Articles about restoration - 1970-1975
  • Article in Junior League Magazine - 1976
  • Cedar Rapids speech, ca. - 1975
  • Correspondence - 1972-1975
  • Correspondence from schools - 1976
  • Donations report - 1975-1976
  • Box 5:
  • Iowa school children's campaign - 1976
  • Iowa school children's fund - 1975-1976
  • Iowa school children's fund accounting of money received - 1976
  • Iowa State Education Association - 1975
  • Letters about reopening of capitol (2 photos of Abigail Van Allen) - 1976
  • Lists of schools - 1975-1976
  • Box 6:
  • Miscellaneous - 1975-1976
  • Names of schools who donated money (folder 1) - 1976
  • Names of schools who donated money (folder 2) - 1976
  • Names of schools who donated money (folder 3) - 1976
  • Names of schools who donated money (folder 4) - 1976
  • Names of schools who donated money (folder 5) - 1976
  • Names of schools who donated money (folder 6) - 1976
  • Box 7:
  • Newspaper clippings - 1972-1976
  • Notes from third grade at R. Lucas school, Iowa City, undated
  • Notes on plans to involve school children, ca. - 1974
  • Plans for children's campaign - 1975
  • Photographs of restoration, undated
  • Requests for teaching packets - 1975-1976
  • Restoration Committee - 1972-1974
  • Box 8:
  • Restoration Committee - 1975-1976
  • Script for slide show - 1975
  • Tours of Old Capitol - 1976
  • UI News Service releases - 1972-1973
  • Series 3: IOWA CITY CITY COUNCIL
  • Box 8:
  • Council reports - 1989-1990
  • Dubuque Street corridor traffic study - 1989
  • Environment considerations - 1988
  • Flood insurance - 1983
  • Flood plain insurance - 1988
  • Land use regulation - 1988
  • Maps and plats of subdivisions - 1988
  • Meetings and committees, April - 1988
  • Notes taken at meetings - 1988
  • Box 9:
  • Peninsula area development problems - 1988-1990
  • Planning and zoning commission - 1988-1989
  • Planning and zoning commission: flood concerns - 1988
  • Planning and zoning commission: petitions - 1988
  • Plans for new public library - 1978
  • Writing for grants, undated and - 1972
  • Series 4: ARTIFACTS
  • Box 10:
  • Drawings by school children (Old Capitol Restoration), undated
  • Old Capitol jigsaw puzzle, brass plaque from assembly room, undated

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.