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O. R. (Orland Russell) Sweeney papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 11/4/14

Scope and Content

The collection (1916-2002, undated) contains biographical information, correspondence, research papers, and patents relating to the work of Orland Russell Sweeney. The collection includes personal and administrative correspondence, but the majority of the letters are in regards to his research projects and patents. The collection also contains an assortment of technical papers authored by Sweeney including a copy of his dissertation. The material relating to Sweeney's patents include applications, correspondence with the patent attorney, and copies of the patents. The collection also includes correspondence and reports related to his research and consultation projects. Contracts, correspondence, and publications relating to the Maizewood Products Corporation can also be found in this collection. Original copies of several newspapers printed on newsprint made from cornstalk pulp are also contained in this collection.


  • 1914-2011, undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Orland Russell Sweeney was born to Robert and Elizabeth Sweeney on March 27, 1884, in Martins Ferry, Ohio. He received his B.S. (1909) in chemical engineering and his M.S. (1910) from The Ohio State University. He received his Ph.D. (1916) from the University of Pennsylvania. He was Instructor of chemistry at The Ohio State University (1910-1911) and at the University of Pennsylvania (1911-1916). After receiving his doctoral degree, Sweeney joined the staff at North Dakota Agricultural College (North Dakota State University) as Associate Professor (1916-1917) of industrial chemistry.

During World War I, Sweeney entered the Trench Warfare Service of the U.S. Army Ordnance Department as Captain. He was promoted to Major, and when the Chemical Warfare Service was organized he was sent to the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland to develop and operate some of the larger chemical plants. He developed a method for the manufacture of chloropicrin gas which he patented in the name of the United States government.

After the war, Sweeney became Head (1919-1920) of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Cincinnati. He joined the staff at Iowa State College (University) as Professor (1920-1952) and Head (1920-1948) of the Department of Chemical Engineering and remained there until his retirement.

Sweeney was a pioneer in the commercial utilization of agricultural waste products. He developed methods for manufacturing paper and wallboards out of cornstalks and corncobs, researched the production of the industrial chemical furfural from oat hulls, and developed processing methods for soybeans. Sweeney's research in synthetic lumber from cornstalks directly resulted in the development of the Maizewood Products Corporation manufacturing plant at Dubuque, Iowa. Sweeney also researched the zeolite process for softening water, the production of Dakin's solution (a medical antiseptic), the manufacture of chemical poison gases, and numerous other topics of interest. His research and inventions resulted in over 300 patents which he held or co-held.

Sweeney served on several professional organizations and governmental boards. He was Chairman of the Greater Iowa Commission and during World War II he served as consultant to the chemical branch of the War Production Board in Washington, D.C. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, Iowa Engineering Society, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Sweeney married Louella Dubois Smith on October 25, 1919. Together they had two children, Elizabeth and Jacqueline. Sweeney died on April 21, 1958, and is buried at Martin's Ferry, Ohio.


5.04 Linear Feet (8 document boxes, 1 oversized box, and 1 map case folder)


The collection is organized into five series:

Series 1, Biographical Information, 1917-2011, undated (alphabetical)

Series 2, Correspondence, 1917-1970, undated (alphabetical)

Series 3, Papers, Speeches, and Statements, 1914-1953, undated (alphabetical)

Series 4, Patents, 1922-1944, undated (alphabetical)

Series 5, Research and Consulting Projects, 1923-2006, undated (alphabetical)

Items in related collections

RS 11/4. Iowa State University. Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering records, 1900-2013

RS 11/4/14. O. R. (Orland Russell) Sweeney papers, 1914-2011, undated
May 9, 2019
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