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Hired Hands Oral History Project records

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MS-0533

Scope and Content

The collection (1998-2010, undated) contains correspondence relating to Hired Hands grant awards and scholarships; grant application materials for the hired hands project proposal; ledgers detailing time committed to project; award recommendations for the Outstanding Project Award in the Public Humanities; promotional material; and a scrapbook containing newspaper clippings about the Hired Hands book as well as announcements of scholarship winners. The grant application materials do not include the entire grant application, but include a rough draft of grant sections for the first grant, and the award letter and grant sections for the second grant which funded the second volume. The award recommendations contain recommendations from a variety of people, including those who read the books, participated in activities related to the promotion of the project, and some who were involved in the project itself.


  • 1998-2010, undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


The Hired Hands Oral History Project was dedicated to interviewing and collecting stories of hired farm help from southwest Iowa's agricultural history. Organized and envisioned by the Hired Hands Committee (based in Cumberland, Iowa), the project at first focused on Cass County but later grew to include all of southwestern Iowa. The project began in 1996 when Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities offered $2000 grants (entitled "The Way We Were") during Iowa's sesquicentennial (1996). The Hired Hands Committee submitted their grant application, and it was accepted in December of 1996. Karen Thomson served as Project Director and Floyd Pearce as Editor.

It was the intent of the Hired Hands Project to document historical information regarding how the rural farm economy of Iowa functioned, how it functioned in relation to hired farm labor, and whether class stratification existed. Hired Hands intended to compile the transcribed interviews into book form in order to preserve this rare glimpse into history for future generations. Interviews were tape recorded with seniors from Cass County who either had experience as hired farm help or had a supervisory role over hired hands. The committee interviewed for about a year.

The first project was completed in 1999, followed by funding to compose a second volume of stories, completed in 2001. The first finalized book contains 30 stories, all of which were transcribed by the interviewers. This first book was completed for the grant's deadline, but since the committee had collected more interviews than had made it into the first book, a second book was eventually produced. The proceeds received from the sales of the completed books were distributed as scholarships to university students originally from Cass County. The project received a Citation of Merit from Humanities Iowa.


0.21 Linear Feet (1 half-document box)


The collection is organized Alphabetically.

Related collection materials

The books produced by the project, Hired Hands: An Oral History, first book (call number HD1527 I8 H57x 1998) and Hired Hands: An Oral History, second book (call number HD1527 I8 H572x 1999) can be found in both the General Collection and Special Collections.

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

MS-0533. Hired Hands Oral History Project records, 1998-2010, undated
December 12, 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672