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The Original Cyclones: Stories of 1895

Petition: Change Iowa State’s nickname to “Cardinal-Hued Knights of the Pigskin.”

1924 BOMB, page 148

In this piece, I will share with you the stories of tragedy and triumph that defined the players following their time at Iowa Agricultural College, as well as the stories of the games that season.

The first game of the 1895 season takes place in Butte, Montana, which features a weird away experience in Iowa State history. Not only did they have to take a train to Butte, they also ran out of food due to a blizzard that kept the team stranded. The following is an excerpt quote courtesy of The Des Moines Register from November 1, 1944:

Coach “Pop” Warner wagered his entire $80 salary on the game. The (then) Cardinals fumble the ball multiple times, in part to the dirt field. The first half was subject to poor calls and trickery by Butte A.C. (It should be noted, I have also seen the squad named “Silver Bowl Athletic Club”.) The first half score was 12-10 in favor of Butte, however, I.A.C. should’ve been up by a score, but the Butte native referee disallowed it. By the time the second half started, Butte became unable to stop the I.A.C. rushing attack, so they resorted to unsportsmanlike means. So much so, that the crowd of 3,000 was appalled. To make things worse for the efforts for I.A.C., the local miners would shoot their guns in the air whenever a call went against Butte A.C. The game ended at the midway point of the second half due to the Ames squad walking off the field in disgust.

Final score: Butte A.C. 12 - Iowa Agricultural College 10.

Following the bullsh-- at Butte, the team traveled east to West Lafayette, Indiana, to take on Purdue at Stuart Field on September 26th.

Final score: Purdue 6 - Iowa Agricultural College 0.

On the way back home to Ames, I.A.C. played in one of the most well known games in school history against Northwestern. They played on what is now Deering Meadow, an open field next to the university’s library. The game played out similarly to the Texas Tech game from 2016. This game is especially important because this is the game that gave the team their “Cyclones” moniker. I.A.C. would take advantage of many Northwestern mistakes, preventing any possible offense produced by the Wildcats. The game was so much in the favor of the Ames team, that it was as if Northwestern was “struck by a cyclone”.

Final score: Iowa Agricultural College 36 - Northwestern 0.

Following the erasure in Evanston, The “Cyclones” stormed up to Madison, Wisconsin to face the Badgers. The two teams had a poor defense, and Wisconsin would move slowly with the ball, whereas Ames had quicker plays. Unfortunately, I.A.C. would lose this game, and Wisconsin still* holds the record for most points for a Big Ten team in a football game.

Final score: Wisconsin 28 - Iowa Agricultural College 6.

* That’s actually not a true fact, sorry to disappoint.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, 06 Oct 1895

Next on the schedule for the 1-3 Cyclones would be a game in Sioux City against the local athletic club. This game is really interesting to me, as it is listed as the incorrect date (and score) in every Iowa State based reference material I looked at since 1982. The game is incorrectly listed as October 12, 1895 with a final score of 6-0. However, when looking at newspapers from the era, the truth is that we played on the fifth and we actually let them score. In the game, future head coach (1899) Joe Meyers broke his right cheekbone against the Sioux City club.

Final score: Iowa Agricultural College 24 - Sioux City A.C. 6.

In the penultimate game of the season, the Cyclones went up to play Minnesota. The crowd of 1,500 likely expected a better game than produced as the Golden Gophers produced a shutout.

Final score: Minnesota 24 - Iowa Agricultural College 0.

Finally, the tumultuous team had one last test: at Iowa. To be honest, Iowa wasn’t much of a threat as they were the only school in the conference of four not to be a co-champion. The Hawkeyes only beat (defunct) Parsons College 28-0 and William Penn 14-12.

The Des Moines Register, 30 Oct 1895

As seen in the article from the Register above, the Cyclones has a very successful game winning easily. The score at halftime was 18-0.

Iowa Agricultural College 24 - Team Out East 0.

Now that you know the stories of the games, let us learn about the stories of the players.

Richard J. “Dick” Blanche: A left guard from Conrad, Blanche only played in 1895. He received a doctorate in veterinary medicine. Following his time at Iowa Agricultural College, he became meat packing inspector (Brittain and Co. in Marshalltown, folded in 1918) for the government which came about before Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. He also was a territorial inspector in New Mexico. Dr. Blanche died on September 4, 1910 due to tuberculosis of the lungs. He was 38.

H.E. Dyer: Unknown

Robert Eckles: Unknown

Frank C. French: A key substitute for the 1895 Cyclones. Following his time at I.A.C., he became an Assistant Topographer on the U. S. Geographical Survey in Houghton, Michigan.

Bert/Burt German: Iowa State player-coach(?) in 1894 and 1896-1898. He went 22-10 as a coach. After his coaching stint, Bert/Burt was a widely known real estate developer within the state. He died on September 13, 1956, in a nursing home after complications from a stroke he had the year prior. The Maquoketa native was 83.

M.J. “Mike” Hammer: “a champion football player and "general overseer" of the dining room.” 1898 BOMB. Hammer would get a job in Newton, Kansas as an engineer for the railway there. After some time in Kansas, he went down to work with the Santa Fe railroad. By May 1900, he was working in Mexico with Mexican Central.

He was 6’2” 190 pounds while a student athlete.

Clarence “The Beard” Lewis: The starting left end from Nira, Iowa only played in 1895. After graduation, the beard went to Carlsbad, New Mexico and opened a 15 ton refrigerating and a 5 ton ice making equipment in 1904. It was named the Carlsbad Ice Factory. On February 18, 1907, misfortune struck C.C. Lewis, per the El Paso Herald:

“A most peculiar accident happened last afternoon which caused a loss of $500 to C.C. Lewis, proprietor of the Carlsbad Ice Factory. John Lewis had driven the team attached to one of the heavy ice wagons down near the river railroad bridge, and stepped into a nearby house to use the telephone. When he returned the team had disappeared. The horses had been seen going toward the river with the wagon, and there they were found, both drowned.”

Fred Lyford: The starting left tackle from Marshalltown got a job as a resident engineer for the Iowa Central Railway.

Edward Arthur Mellinger: Born in 1874 near Morning Sun, Mellinger is the most famous name on this list. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. While at I.A.C., he developed a lifelong interest in the telephone. He looked over the development, building, and installation of telephones around the globe. He also has 17 United States patents that are still used today. He died in 1933.

Joe Meyers: Joe was born December 5th, 1871. The Roselle native broke his right cheekbone against Sioux City A.C. and was a starting right halfback all season. He would become the coach of the Cyclones in 1899 posting a 5-4-1 record. Tragically, in 1910 his wife of eleven years would pass away at 34 or 35. I believe Joe is the longest living 1895 Cyclone member, living until April 11, 1959. He was 87.

William Parsons: The 5’10” 165 pound Columbus Junction native had a 60 yard rush against Iowa.

Stephen O. Rice: Not much is known about the left tackle from Decorah.

Maitland Van Campen: The big 6’2” 210 pound center (his son said he was as big as 6’4”/250 pounds) from Boone was a key figure in I.A.C.’s successes. The following is the life of Van Campen according to his son:

“My Father, Maitland, was born June 13, 1873, in Boone, Iowa. He worked on the homestead, and finally got to go to, and graduate from the Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. He was majoring in Animal Husbandry, planning to raise cattle on the old homestead. While he was at the college, he played center on the Iowa State football team. He was a large man, about 6 foot 4 inches tall, and his weight was 250 lbs. at that time. He was mentioned in Walter Camp's choice for 1890, as the best middle-west football center. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1893, out Father went to Louisiana to join the army, when they checked him in, they found that they had no shoes large enough to fit him, if he was out in the field as an infantryman. They put him on the job as a fireman on the locomotives, hauling army materials. This was the start of his career of railroad service. After the war was over, he returned to Iowa. He got a job firing the locomotives for the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad, in Davenport, Iowa. In 1908, my Father quit the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad. He then established a homestead, in the later to be, town of Burns, Wyoming, planning to go ahead with his cattle breeding. This homestead of 640 acres was adjoined by his brothers-in-laws, Bill and Wright Postin and another close relative, who had the four properties in a square area. This was later known as the City of Burns, Wyoming. My Father was having lung and breathing problems. He stayed with us and finally had to quit work, on March 31, 1932, at 59 years of age, my Father died right there at Mrs. Davis's house.”

B.W. Wilson: The 6 foot 170 pound right end moved to Butte and laid claim to the Highland Mary Lode, before selling it in 1906.

O.P. Woodburn moved to Rock Rapids according to a 1905 document from Iowa State College.

Special thanks to Northwestern University’s Special Collections department for providing the scan of the I.A.C. Student.