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Captain's Log: Iowa's Call to Guard the Mexican Border 1916-1917

by Jeffrey A. Rothermel

The Captain's Log:

A Week of Iowa Historical Story Telling

Iowa's Call to Guard the Mexican Border (1916-1917)




Bookstore life is a story of random snapshots of time. This essay's snapshot is:

"A Week of Iowa Historical Story Telling."

Coincidence and random probability are books that get placed in the mystery section. How one random event ties into another random event is a recurring storyline. Coincidence is the spice of bookstore life. Bookstore proprietors see and hear many a story. Once in while we meet the storytellers.

Captain's Log: April 2024: The award winning, local documentary filmmaker Kevin Kelley was in the store searching through some of the shoppe's books. We discussed his documentary about an Iowan from the town of Winterset (birthplace of John Wayne). The subject of his documentary was not the actor John Wayne, but a University of Iowa graduate and former editor of the Daily Iowan Newspaper, George Stout. Stout served in both the first and second world wars. A fictionalized Hollywood version of the story was in the George Clooney, John Goodman, Matt Damon, and Bill Murrey 2014 film: Monuments Men. More about the other (non fiction) film: Stout Hearted: George Stout and the Guardians of Art at the end of this essay.

Used bookstore proprietors jump from one subject to the next due to the trade winds and customers varying interests that enter the store. One moment it is books such as: The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel and The Rape of Europa by Lynn Nichols.  The next moment we are back to Iowa before the First World War.

A book that remotely ties into the George Stout story entered the store within a few days of the filmmaker's visit. Was it coincidence?




Published by Dick Dreyer, Iowa City, Iowa

"The book" that walked into the store was a collection of pictures in time. It was the history for 4,500 Iowans before the war to end all wars was formally declared by the United States (World War One). The book originated in a time that Europe was at war while the United States tried to avoid conflict. The First World War began in Europe in 1914. As tensions continued to escalate, President Wilson activated Iowa Guardsmen on June 18, 1916 to protect the U.S. southern border. The United States would officially enter World War One on April 6, 1917. What the soldiers from Iowa decided to write as their history and what they chose not to say is an interesting read a century later. Later "during the years of American Involvement..., 114,224 men and women from Iowa served in the armed forces for the United States."[1] One of those Iowans was George Stout.

The book pictured above was made in Iowa City, Iowa by Dick Dreyer around the year of 1917. There is only one bookseller selling a similar book currently available on the internet. The website reports that the bookseller has eighteen copies. It is a print on demand book, bound in leather from India for $35.[2] The entire book can be viewed digitally on the Internet Archives site due to digital scanning the U.S. Library of Congress item for free[3].

Knowing that one can digitally download the entire book for free, or one can buy a new reprint of the book for around $35, what is the monetary value of this original book?

The short answer is at least $200. Is it worth more? Probably.

There was a slight issue with the back-cover of the book. The client wanted to know what it would cost to have the back hinge of the book repaired. He wanted to know the value of the book before repair, approximate cost of repair, and value of the book when repaired. I sent out inquiries to a select group of book repair / binding specialists requesting an estimate for repair. Sixty-six percent promptly replied. The client was given the estimates. [1a.] These types of questions are common for an appraiser / bookseller / bookbinder.

This story is a common snapshot of used (rare) bookstore life.

People find interesting books. They bring the find into the store wondering about its monetary value. Often, the books with broken bindings, dirty covers, and torn pages have minimal value. Occasionally, I meet people unwilling to hear my professional opinion. I must then confess to that person that is convinced their broken book has value: I am a terrible bookseller. "In all the years that I have sold books, I have rarely found someone that bought such a book. Even if you donate this to me for free, it is doubtful that I can sell it for a profit. I must decline your offer to sell it to me. Currently, my clients are looking for other types of books."

Occasionally, a broken book has value. Try explaining to your wife why you just paid $200 for a book you can download for free on the internet. Such factors are why bookdealers are known for trading in secrets.

What is so interesting about this book?

Military Camp Life

"The 1st Iowa Brigade, under command of General Allen consisted of three regiments of infantry, one battalion artillery, and one squadron of cavalry, with sanitary detachments, field hospital, and ambulance company." They were assigned the Brownville, Texas District and "guarded" the Rio Grande for six months. An enemy invasion and combat never materialized. Eight men died in accidents during the deployment. The authors that penned each company history in the book were very aware of disease and often stressed that no one died of it in their unit. Note: A few years later, what became known as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic was in a U.S. Army camp in Kansas. The camp was known as Camp Funston which is now part of Fort Riley. The frontispiece photo in the book has a photo of three U.S. Army general officers. One is Major General Frederick Funston.

Photo left: FREDERICK FUNSTON Major General.

Photo center: H. A. ALLEN Brigadier General

Photo right: JAMES PARKER Brigadier General

The squadron of cavalry originated in towns surrounding the current location of the Captain's Book Shoppe. What those units wrote, I found interesting...

Eastern Iowa Geography

The elite horse troopers recollection of where Camp Young was located, was humorous. Troop A called it being in Iowa City and Troop C stated it was near North Liberty. The humor quickly disappears when one arrives at D Toop. Troop D's history disclosed two deaths in the unit. Both were stated as "accidental discharge of pistols."

The first three Iowa Cavalry units originated in a geographical area of on average 13 miles distance between the two towns. Oddly, Troop D spanned a distance 71 miles. Something was amiss with D Troop. On June 22, 1916 at Camp Young 48 men "refused to sign and were returned to their home station." Then, the two deaths while deployed from "accidental discharge of pistols." A very grim last page of the book causing me to wonder about what happened to the unit that originally formed in West Branch, Iowa in May of 1915.

Troop A, 1st Cavalry was from Marengo and Ladora, Iowa. (Approximate distance 9 miles between towns.) They initially mobilized at Camp Young, Iowa City on June 21, 1916. They moved to Camp Dodge, Iowa on June 30, 1916.

Troop B, 1st Cavalry was from Riverside and Lone Tree, Iowa. (Approximate distance 12 miles between towns). They left Iowa for the border on July 23, 1916. Based and operated from Donna, Texas.

Troop C, 1st Cavalry was from Oxford and Williamsburg, Iowa. (Approximate distance 17 miles between towns.) Unit trained in Iowa City from August 16-25, 1915. Upon activation by the President on June 18, 1916 the C Troop had 67 men. They initially formed up in Iowa City, recruiting one man. Unit moved to Camp Young (near North Liberty) on June 21, 1916 then to Camp Dodge on June 30, 1916.

Troop D, 1st Cavalry was from Grinnell and West Branch, Iowa. (Approximate distance of 71 miles between towns.) Troop D formed in May, 1915 in West Branch, Iowa with 3 officers and 63 enlisted. All personnel had their own private mounts (horses). Unit sent their private mounts home and departed from Camp Young to Camp Dodge on June 30, 1916. 24 men from a separate Infantry Company in Grinnell were transferred in Troop D on or about June 30, 1916 while at Camp Dodge.

Machine Gun Company, 1st Regiment, Tipon, Iowa. (Formerly Company F, Iowa National Guard).

Hundreds of Eastern Iowans were horse mounted in the 1st Cavalry. Some from Tipton, Iowa had the honor of sweltering in the Texas heat of an armored mobile machine gun.

The big river cities of Iowa were where the artillery units were located. Battery A was located in Clinton. Battery B was located in Davenport. Battery C was located in Muscatine. All three cities are situated on the western bluffs of the Mississippi River.

Battery A, 1st Artillery, Clinton Iowa organized on February 2, 1914. The history mentions cannon unit competitions against three other states in which Battery A excelled. The ability to place cannon fire "on target" has always been a historically significant factor. It causes units to compete against one another to determine whom are the best shooters. You can feel the unit's pride in their history.

You can read more about the history of U.S. Army's artillery along the Missouri River in 1823 at the following link:

Company A, 3rd Infantry was from the town of Winterset, Iowa. It is the bridge that creates the transition back to George Stout. Before Robert James Waller's 1992 fictious romance novel, Bridges of Madison County there was the real person: George Stout whom came from Madison County (Winterset, Iowa).

The documentary: Stout Hearted: George Stout and the Guardians of Art begins with Winterset, Iowa.

While the Iowa Army National Guard was making their history on the Mexican Border, Stout was attending Grinnell College (Grinnell, Iowa). Once America declared war, Stout went into the U.S. Army and served in a hospital unit in France. Stout saw the devastation of warfare which would impact his actions later in life. Once discharged from the U.S. Army he returned to Iowa and attended the University of Iowa where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1921. He earned his master's degree from Harvard in 1929.

"As Director of Technical Research at Harvard’s Fogg Museum and part-time Conservator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, he became a pioneer of scientific techniques in art restoration. Fascinated with the science behind the artistic process, he conducted in-depth laboratory research on color spectroscopy, paint composition, methods of authentication, and the influence of atmospheric conditions on works of art."

"...His many publications, which remain today at the cornerstone of art conservation research, include Technical Studies in the Field of the Fine Arts (editor, 1932-42), Color and Light in Painting (editor, 1941), Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopedia (1942), The Care of Pictures (1948), and Treasures from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (1969). [4]

He returned to military service in 1943. Rather than return to the U.S. Army, he went into the U.S. Navy. His first assignment was naval camouflage development. He was then assigned to the "Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA)" military unit.[5.]

The Iowa, not for profit company "New Media Mile Arts" made the documentary, Stout Hearted...

“Stout Hearted” tells the story of Iowa Native George Stout and his impact on the fields of Art Conservation and Monument Protection. During World War II, Stout led the Monuments Men through Europe on the greatest treasure hunt in history, protecting and recovering priceless art from the Nazis. Stout’s legacy with the Monuments Men continues presently with the US Committee of the Blue Shield, an organization that is protecting precious art from destruction in areas of global conflict. Stout’s innovative methods of art conservation, created some 90 years ago, are still used today in major museums around the world."[6.]

You can watch the documentary by going to the Heritage Brodcasting Service link: Stout Hearted: George Stout and the Guardians of Art | Heritage Broadcasting Service (


Owning a used (and occasionally rare) bookshop is like being a cab driver. One never knows who the next fare will be or where it will take you. Bookshop life is a similar adventure. One never knows what book will walk into the store or whom will be the next customer. While I cannot predict the exact future, I believe it is safe to say more interesting books and patrons are the future at Captain's Book Shoppe LLC. You are most welcome and encouraged to stop in the store to discover more interesting stories.


= = = = = NOTES

[1a.] My client has given me verbal permission to write about this book, and the inquiry.

[3.] Link to the Internet Library (U.S. Library of Congress) digital copy of entire book: Iowa troops in Mexican border service, 1916-1917. : Dreyer, Richard Henry, 1885- : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive  (Accessed April 14, 2024)

[6.] Kevin Kelley's description of the documentary: Stout Hearted: George Stout and the Guardians of Art  Stout Hearted: George Stout and the Guardians of Art | Heritage Broadcasting Service ( (Accessed April 29, 2024). Also refer to the not-for-profit New Media Mile Arts website: Home ( (Accessed April 29, 2024).


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