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Forest C. Ensign Papers

Identifier: RG99.0220

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Scope and Contents

These papers include the writings and addresses of Forest C. Ensign on the history of education, in particular within Iowa. Between 1905 and 1948, Ensign was invited to speak at conferences and commencements, and he presented radio addresses between 1925 and 1935. These are included.

Faculty biographical notes, in box 2, were written by Ensign in 1923 in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the College of Education, 1873-1923.

The second United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) summer seminar in Education for International Understanding, was held in Paris, France, April 28, 1948. Included in this collection are the 1947-1948 annual report, the June 1947 newsletter, the 1948 program, and five addresses delivered at the 1948 seminar.

German language periodicals and books dated 1934-1940 were collected by Paul C. Packer, Dean of the College of Education, and are housed in this collection.

From 1922 through the 1940s, Ensign solicited information regarding academies in Iowa, with the intention of writing a history of these institutions. In this endeavor, he corresponded with school superintendents and accepted referrals to their aging relatives who recalled such defunct institutions from their generation. This correspondence often included pamphlets and historical vignettes. This material is filed alphabetically by institutional name or county name. Ensign corresponded with some notable figures. He wrote to architect Frank Lloyd Wright in August 1939 regarding the Hillside Home School in Spring Green, Wisconsin, which was designed by Wright in 1903 to replace the original 1886 structures. Wright's secretary replied to Ensign on the status of the slow restoration process. Another correspondent, Dexter Edson Smith, was the first graduate of the State University of Iowa in 1858.

Included is a leather-bound volume with gilt pages and leather book case, which is a collection of over 200 letters of appreciation (primarily mimeographed; some letters are pasted in) written February to March 1942, to Forest C. Ensign, who was a charter member of the Epsilon Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa, and advisor for the founding of the Theta Chapter of Pi Lambda Theta.

Genealogical materials of Ensign and his wife, Lucy, are housed in boxes 5 and 6.


  • Creation: 1845 - 1948


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

Forest Chester Ensign was born March 22, 1867, on a farm in Defiance County, Ohio. Ensign attended a normal college and business college in Fayette, Ohio, from 1885 to 1887. He attended the State Teachers College in Cedar Falls, Iowa, a member of the class of 1895, where he met his future wife, Lucy Maria Smith. They were married December 29, 1896. Both Forest and Lucy attended the State University of Iowa, Forest from 1895 to 1897.

After receiving his Bachelor of Philosophy degree in June 1897, Ensign served as principal of the Iowa City High School, followed by principal of the Council Bluffs High School, 1900 to 1905.

In 1905 he returned to Iowa and served for one year as acting professor in the SUI Department of Education and as inspector of Iowa high schools, an appointment he held through 1911. He was named professor of history and philosophy of education in 1906. Ensign served as University Registrar and Dean of Men from 1911 to 1915.

As registrar, Ensign established the beginnings of a campus mail system, saving more than $200 in postal mailings. In addition, in January 1912 he instituted two changes to the undergraduate registration process in order to ease the long wait in lines. First, he assigned advisors to undergraduates, who provided the requisite schedule approvals prior to registration. Second, he limited the first three days of the registration period to those in the professional schools, followed by one week of registration designated for College of Liberal Arts students.

Ensign served twice as acting Dean of the College of Education, during the fall semester 1938 and again in the spring semester of 1943, when Dean Paul C. Packer was called to serve in the U. S. Army. Ensign worked with other faculty during the early 1920s to establish the School of Religion in 1927.

He served as chair of the Iowa Memorial Union Planning Committee, and continued to serve as secretary until 1954. Ensign also served as chair of the Homecoming Committee for a number of years. He worked to bring the Epsilon Chapter of the Phi Delta Kappa Education Honor Society and the Theta Chapter of the Pi Lambda Theta International Honor Society to SUI. He was a founder of the faculty Triangle Club. During six months in 1927, Ensign was on leave of absence to the University of Bristol, where he taught one undergraduate course and one graduate course in the philosophy of education. This was the first SUI faculty exchange with a foreign institution. Ensign's research focused on the history of education, as well as child labor and the care of the insane. Ensign retired in 1950. In recognition of his service to the University, a wing of the Hillcrest Dormitory was named for him in 1959.

Forest and Lucy Ensign were members of the Presbyterian Church. The couple had two children, Dwight (1899) and Elizabeth (1902). Forest Ensign died April 11, 1961.


4.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Method of Acquisition

Transferred from College of Education prior to 1970 and from Professor Bradley Sagen in May 1998.

Related Materials

Folder, "Ensign, Forest C.," Faculty and Staff Vertical Files collection (RG01.0015.003)

Records of the University Schools (RG09.0007.001)

Ensign, Forest C. "Fifty Years of Education." The Iowa Alumnus, vol XX, no. 7 (April 1923) p. 217-220.

Ensign, Forest C. Introduction to the History of Education. Iowa City: State University of Iowa, 1926.

Ensign, Forest C. The First Century of Teacher Training in the State University of Iowa. Iowa City, Iowa: F. C. Ensign, 1947.

Processing Information

U Unprocessed

Denise Anderson, December 2011
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242