During the course of research for a history of University of Northern Iowa intercollegiate athletics, Professor Emeritus Jim Kelly came across an old scrapbook of photographs of UNI athletes and athletics teams. He gave the scrapbook to the University Archives in 2015. There are no inscriptions, labels, or identifying marks in the simple black scrapbook that Professor Kelly gave to the Archives. But the contents of the scrapbook seem to be centered around Iowa State Teachers College student Lawrence William Whitford and his sports teams from 1919 and 1920. It seems very likely that Whitford himself, or someone in his family, put the book together.
The scrapbook itself had deteriorated beyond the point of repair. It was torn, brittle, and falling apart. Its condition endangered the preservation of the photos that it housed. Those photos were loose and disordered within the book but nearly all of them were still in relatively good condition. In order to preserve the photographs and to make them available to a wider audience, University Archives staff scanned them.
Lawrence Whitford was a student at the Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa, just before and after military service in World War I. He graduated from the Teachers College in 1924. Several years later the Teachers College called him back to coach athletics and to become a member of the physical education faculty at this school.
We present most of the photographs here, with a few interpretative remarks. We believe that the photos present a close-up look at Teachers College basketball, football, and baseball teams and their equipment from around 1920. The photos also provide nice views of the athletics fields of that era, which were then located about where the Rod Library now stands..
Lawrence William "Mon" Whitford was born in Edgerton, Wisconsin, on July 10, 1897. He was one of a family of six children. In 1915 he graduated from Edgerton High School, where he was a star athlete. He began his studies at the Iowa State Teachers College in the 1916-1917 school year. In all likelihood he enrolled at the Teachers College, because his older brother Earl was entering his senior year there. Earl Whitford was a model student. He was a member of the Aristotelian Literary Society and the English Club. He played football for four years and was captain of the 1916 team. He was also a member of the basketball and baseball teams. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics and Chemistry in 1917. Clearly, Earl Whitford had set an excellent example for his younger brother Lawrence.
Lawrence Whitford's college education was interrupted. He enrolled at the Teachers College in fall 1916 and played on the football team. But, when the United States declared war on the Central Powers, he enlisted in the US Army in April 1917. He served in the American Expeditionary Force, with sixteen months in France and Germany, until June 1919. There is evidence that he suffered some sort of injury during his military service. There is also evidence that he played football during that time.
Lawrence Whitford enrolled once again at the Teachers College in the fall of 1919, just in time for the football season.
Until the mid-1920s, the western boundary of the Teachers College campus extended only as far as the current site of the Campanile. So, during the 1919 and 1920 seasons, football games were played in the area now occupied by the Rod Library. Game action shots from that era are rare.
Here are some of Lawrence Whitford's football teammates. It is interesting to see their equipment and also to note that the men varied considerably in age. A number of them had probably seen military service.
In 1920, the football team finished with a 5-2-1 record. The Cedar Falls Commercial Club gave a steak dinner for the team. Teachers College President Homer Seerley spoke at the dinner. Lawrence Whitford, team captain that year, also spoke on that occasion.
Once the football season ended, Lawrence Whitford was also a strong performer in basketball.
Football probably gave Lawrence Whitford the greatest opportunity for recognition on the Teachers College campus. And he did well in basketball, too. But baseball seemed to be a natural sport for him, both as a player at the college level and later as a baseball coach and professional level umpire.
Lawrence Whitford finished his undergraduate years at the Teachers College with a total of twelve letters in baseball, football, and basketball. Still a few credits shy of his degree, he left school to teach social science and coach athletics at Pocahontas High School in 1922-1923. He then returned to the Teachers College, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1924. After graduation, he taught social science and physical education, and coached athletics at Monticello High School from 1924 through 1926. But he received permission to leave his 1925-1926 Monticello contract early to join the faculty and coaching staff of the Teachers College in April 1926, just in time for the baseball season.
Lawrence Whitford served as coach or assistant coach in football and basketball over his long career at UNI, but he served as head coach of baseball for forty years. He coached two men who played in the major leagues: Eddie Watt and Duane Josephson. He retired in 1965, yet he continued to work on a part-time basis until he retired completely in 1968. He died in 1973.
The purpose of this page is simple. The University of Northern Iowa Archives staff wished to present at least the highlights of a strong collection of photos from a newly-acquired scrapbook in its collections. The scrapbook is anonymous; there are no identifying marks or labels. But it is almost certainly the creation of Lawrence Whitford, a well-known coach and faculty member of the University of Northern Iowa. The complete contents of the scrapbook are available for research and study in the UNI Archives.
This brief page offers only the early highlights of Lawrence Whitford's association with UNI, based on a collection of photographs from 1919 and 1920. Those who are interested in additional information about Whitford, or, indeed about UNI intercollegiate athletics in general, will find excellent historical resources in the University Archives.
Scanning and identification of photographs by Research Assistant Nick Jordan, February 2016; Web page presentation by University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson, February 2016; last updated, February 25, 2016 (GP).