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Jean Cutler Prior papers

Identifier: IWA0786

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Scope and Contents

The Jean Cutler Prior papers date from 1857 to 2003 and measure 15 linear feet. The papers are arranged in eight series: Biographical, Project Files, Correspondence, Appointment books, State Preserves Advisory Board, Iowa Academy of Science, Publications, and Historical Resources.

The Project files series contains information on exhibits, field trips, minor publications (articles usually written in conjunction with a field trip), workshops, and annual conferences. These were Prior's working files and their original order has been preserved. The series is arranged in chronological order. Some correspondence is included in the project files. One of the correspondents, Andy Killborn was an elementary student who met Prior on a field trip. He continued to attend field trips for many years and maintained correspondence. His letters describe his experiences at the field trips.

An audio reel recording of Genesis ch 1 verse 1-10 that was used in the Pikes Peak State Park Tri-Centennial Commemoration in 1973 is also included in this series. It is located with the audio visual materials [AC 1355].

Files pertaining to the Loess Hills, Mines of Spain, and Waubonsie Creek Watershed make up large portions of the series. The Loess Hills and Mines of Spain portions of her program files concern seminars, National Natural Landmarks, and field trips. In the Loess Hills topic area, information requests from 1975-2001 are also included, information about the landfill dispute of 1998 can be found in this folder. The Waubonsie Creek materials are court case materials, involved in the Waubonsie Creek Watershed case.

Files pertaining to the Flood of 1993 are also contained in this series, including post flood reports, press coverage, and research materials. Information on the Mount Saint Helens eruption in Washington State can be found in box 11.

The Correspondence series includes letters from 1966-2003 and is located in boxes 14-17. The letters are arranged in folders according to year as per Prior's original order. Many of the letters regard requests for information about areas in Iowa; however, some professional correspondence, thank you notes, and copyright permission requests are also included in the series. Letters sent by Prior and received from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Geological Survey, University of Oklahoma, and individuals concerned about geology are included. Photos and rock samples are scattered in the series. The Iowa Geological Survey information request log sheets for 1970-1997 are located at the end of the series in box 17. These are an important reference when looking for correspondence about a specific topic.

The Appointment book series includes eight appointment books from the years 1988, 1989, 1996-2001. These books contain Priors hourly schedule for these years.

The State Preserves Advisory Board series mostly consist of board meeting materials from Prior's appointment duration. The records span the years 1969-2002, but the bulk of the materials are from 1983-1989. Materials are arranged by month and year with some over-lapping correspondence. Correspondence was placed in the meeting that had corresponding topics in the agenda. Correspondence included in this series pertains only to State Preserves Advisory Board business. Also included in this series are materials from the 1997 reunion meeting in which Prior presented a long-range plan for Geological preserves with Robert McKay, and materials from the 1985 Government Re-organization Preserves task force which was formed during the 1985 state government re-organization plan. The task force was formed due to the proposed action of eliminating the State Preserves Advisory Board during the re-organization.

The Iowa Academy of Science series contains the Board of Directors meeting minutes, agendas, and correspondence from 1981-1995. Also included are Conservation and Preserves Committee materials from 1978- 1987 which contain correspondence to and from the committee, proposed resolutions, and annual report forms. Annual meeting materials, including programs (1966-1998) and paper abstracts (1973-1998), are also included. The end of the series is made up of an almost complete collection of the ISA Bulletin, the Iowa Academy of Science newsletter spanning the years 1967-1990.

The Publication consists of the materials that Prior used in her many publications. Copies of books and articles in various stages of completion, resource materials, and correspondence with publishers, editors, and authors can be found in the publication series. The series has been broken into the sub-topics of Loess Hills, Mines of Spain, Iowa Geology, Orestes St. John Landscapes, Land between Two Rivers, Regional Guide to Iowa Landforms, and Iowa-Portrait of the Land. The Loess Hills materials contain many resources on articles Prior contributed to or wrote and the Land of Fragile Giants book. The Iowa Geology Journal is the official annual journal of the Iowa Geological Society. The 1982-2001 publications are included because Prior acted as editor for these years.

The Land between Two Rivers portion contains information about the Iowa Public Broadcasting educational television series. Prior was a contributor to the project. The research materials and correspondence involved in the project and the script is included in the series. The video recordings of the program can be found in the audiovisual section (v430-v433). The television series teaches about the geology and ecology of the Des Moines, Nishnabotna, Little Sioux, and Upper Iowa Rivers.

The Orestes St. John Landscapes section contains photographs, articles, research, drawing reproductions, and exhibit resources pertaining to five Iowa landscapes drawn by Orestes St. John while he was an assistant geologist at the Iowa Geological Society in 1868.The drawings were used for exhibits and an article, materials on both are included. Correspondence between Prior and Fritoiof Fryxell, a geologist at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, is also included. Fryxell shared research and biographical information about St. John with Prior for the Exhibit. Caroline Milligan and Prior retraced St. John's survey in 1978. They mapped and photographed the sites and Milligan sketched the sites originally drawn by St. John. Both the original St. John drawing and the 1978 sketches by Milligan were mounted for display. These oversized materials are housed in boxes 32 and 33.

The last series is Historical Reference. This contains publications that date between 1850 and 1910. These materials were used by Prior while she worked on the centennial edition of Iowa Geology. Also included in this series are the volumes of the 1870 Report of the Geological Survey of the State of Iowa. Some of the lithographs contained in this book were made from the drawings that Orestes St. John drew.


  • Creation: 1857-2003


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Jean Ellen Cutler was born in 1940 to Martha (Perry) Adams Cutler and Thomas Edward Cutler. She graduated from North High School in Akron, Ohio, in 1958 and then entered Purdue University and obtained a B.A. in Geology and Political Science. She continued her education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated in 1964 with a master's degree in physical geology. That same year she married Stanley Prior. In 1965, the couple moved to Iowa City and she began what was to be a long career at the Iowa Geological Survey.

At the Iowa Geological Survey, Prior worked as a research geologist and was promoted in 1986 to senior research geologist. Throughout her distinguished career she gave educational presentations and lectures, led field trips, and corresponded with geology enthusiasts. She also produced many publications including text books, guide books, pamphlets, and scholarly and popular articles. Prior also edited Iowa Geology from 1984 to 2002. Her publications cover a range of geology topics including the Loess Hills, glaciations in Iowa, 1868 Iowa landscape drawings of Orestes St. John, and the history of the Iowa Geological Survey. All of these achievements and activities are reflected in the collection.

In addition to her work at the Iowa Geological Survey, Prior belonged to many geological organizations and held various leadership positions throughout her career. One of the earliest organizations she joined was the Geological Society of Iowa in 1965. She became newsletter editor in 1968, and president of the organization in 1978. She was also active in the Iowa Academy of Science as a member of the board of directors in 1982, and the public information committee in 1986, and as president in 1993. She was appointed by the Governor to the Iowa State Preserves Advisory Board in 1983, and was a member of the Mines of Spain Scientific and Historic Advisory Committee.

Prior retired from the Iowa Geological survey in 2003, but in her retirement continued to work on writing projects with her husband James Sandrock, whom she married in 2003.


15.00 Linear Feet

Artifacts in boxes 9, 15 and 16; 4 videocassettes [V430-433]; 1 CD [d0065]; 1 reel-to-reel [AC1355]; Photographs in boxes 1, 5-10, 13-14, 22-27; Slides in S-10 and S-11; Microfiche in Box 2 boxes

Language of Materials



Geologist who worked with the Iowa Geological Survey in Iowa City for 38 years.


The Orestes St. John oversized series consists of 2 oversized boxes with two folders each in them. The first box (box 32) is titled Milligan Sketches and contains reproductions of the 6 Orestes St. John drawings in folder one and 11 mounted originals and Milligan reproductions in folder 2. The 11 mounted originals and Milligan reproductions include:

1) Clamont Farm, Manhattan, Kansas, Valley of Cedar Creek, Autumn, 1868

2) View of the Valley of the Missouri, looking up the stream to the Northwestward, from bluff on south side of Thompson's Creek (Floyd Bluff), Woodbury Co. Iowa, 13 Aug 1868

3) View of the Valley of the Missouri, looking up the stream to the Northwestward, from bluff on south side of Thompson's Creek (Floyd Bluff) Woodbury Co. Iowa, March 1978

4) Gypsum Quarry in ravine 3 miles south of Fort Dodge on east side of Des Moines, Webster Co. Iowa- The largest exposure at this locality-The gypsum 20 to 30 feet in thickness. 1868

5) Gypsum Quarry in ravine 3 miles south of Fort Dodge on east side of Des Moines, Webster Co. Iowa- The largest exposure at this locality-The gypsum 20 to 30 feet in thickness, April 1979.

6) View on the Des Moines R., above Keosauqua. 1868

7) View on the Des Moines R., above Keosauqua, November 1978.

8) Spirit Lake, from ridge north of Spirit Lake Village at the Southern end of Lake- Looking Northward, Upper extremity of East Okoboji in foreground on the right, 1868

9) Spirit Lake, from ridge north of Spirit Lake Village at the Southern end of Lake- Looking Northward, Upper extremity of East Okoboji in foreground on the right, March 1978.

10) Lake Minne-tonka (West Okoboji) from upland ridge (45 feet above lake) at southern extremity of the Lake- looking northward, 1868.

11) Lake Minne-tonka (West Okoboji) from upland ridge (45 feet above lake) at southern extremity of the Lake- looking Northward, March 1978.

Box 33 consists of the materials from the Five Iowa Landscapes traveling exhibit. These materials are separated into 2 folders. The first contains mounted materials including Captions, Photo of St. John, Map of Sioux City, IA area, 1870 Map of Iowa, Map of Okoboji, Map of Spirit Lake area, Ft. Dodge area, and a Map of Des Moines River area by Keosauqua. The second folder contains mounted including images of Keosauqua area, Spirit Lake area, Fort Dodge, Lake West Okoboji, and Sioux City.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 1121) were received from Jean Prior in 2008.

Annette Bramstedt, 2010.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)