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Pete Knapp Papers

Identifier: RG99.0333

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Scope and Contents

The Pete Knapp papers include correspondence, meeting minutes, reports, grant contracts, speeches, writings, and photographs, which document the establishment and activities of the Institute of Agricultural Medicine (IAM). Activities include farm product safety testing and farm accident investigations, as well as education.


  • Creation: 1938-1996


Conditions Governing Access

These papers are open for research.

This collection is stored at an off-site location, please allow two-three business days for retrieval.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for 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 University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & Archives as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Lafayette Whitmore "Pete" Knapp, Jr., was born July 19, 1925, in Erin, New York, and graduated from Dryden High School. He received his B. S. degree (1951) and M. S. degree (1955) at Cornell Universty. Knapp married Jacqueline Frost on July 20, 1946, and the couple had two children, Deborah and Christopher.

Knapp was assistant professor and Extension Agricultural Engineer at the New York State College of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Engineering at Cornell University from 1951 until February 1, 1959, when he joined the faculty at the State University of Iowa. His focus at Cornell was on farm safety education for adults, including tractor maintenance and proper operation of machinery. He also trained young people in 4-H Club.

At SUI, Knapp was assistant professor and safety engineer in Agricultural Medicine, the Department of Hygiene & Preventive Medicine, within the College of Medicine. He was promoted to associate professor in 1965. In August 1966, he was additionally named director of the new Injury Prevention Laboratory (IPL). He was named full professor in 1972 -- the same year the department was renamed Agricultural Medicine and Safety Engineering. The department name changed again in 1974 to Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health.

In addition to serving as professor in PMEH, Knapp was named director of the UI Institute of Agricultural Medicine following the retirement of Franklin Top, Sr., on July 1, 1971. He served as principal investigator for the environmental health grant in 1962 and project director during years of safety research. Knapp also engineered modifications to tractors and designed safety standards for lawn mowers. The Accident Prevention Section released its first educational film in 1963, "A Mowing Lesson for Charlie," with the assistance of the UI Motion Picture Unit and the Public Health Service. Knapp appeared before the House of Representatives regarding "Accident Prevention Needs," on March 29, 1966. In 1976, Knapp worked with the International Labor Office in Geneva, Switzerland, as they compiled a guide on the safe use of pesticides.

Knapp retired from the University of Iowa in 1988. During his career, he was a member of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE), where he served as chair of the Tractor Committee. He was a member of the New York Academy of Science. He served on the board of directors of the National Safety Council. He served as national president of Acacia National Fraternity, and was moderator and deacon at the Congregational Church. He was a member of the Masons and Rotary International, as well as the Boy Scouts Hawkeye Area Council, amoung others.

Historical Note

According to the University of Iowa "Facts at a Glance" webpage, the University of Iowa established the western hemisphere's first institute of agricultural medicine and environmental health in 1955, within the College of Medicine.

Knapp explained in the correspondence of this collection that the Institute was founded at the University of Iowa College of Medicine through a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, in September 1955, which provided for two years of staff salaries, and was jointly funded during the third year by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation with matching state funds. During planning in 1954, it was decided that a collaboration would be established with the extension office of Iowa State University, located in Ames, Iowa. Knapp further explained that the staff and their activities were housed in various locations, including the Medical Laboratories, the Water Plant, the Engineering Building, and the Medical Research Laboratories. Therefore, plans were made to consolidate.

According to a pamphlet titled Institute of Agricultural Medicine, the W. K, Kellogg Foundation awarded $223,491 in 1965 for construction of a building on the Oakdale Campus for the Accident Prevention Section of the Institute of Agricultural Medicine Research Facility. Other support came from the state of Iowa and grants from the U. S. Public Health Service. The building was opened in October 1968, and included an Injury Prevention Laboratory.

Two years later, a grant of $890,000 from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation allowed for construction of an addition of the original research facility to bring the Institute together under one roof, completed in October 1972. At that time, the Institute was comprised of three units: the Accident Prevention Section (opened in 1959), the Comparative Medicine Section, and the Toxicology Section. Knapp was named director in 1971, when Franklin H. Top, Sr., became director emeritus. Staff at the Institute reported to E. Peter Isacson, head of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health, College of Medicine. The Institute received support from John Deere, as well as Outdoor Power Equipment Institute and other agricultural equipment manufacturers.


21 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Director of the UI Institute of Agricultural Medicine, 1971-1988. Joined the Accident Prevention Section as an agricultural engineer in 1959. Knapp investigated farm equipment injuries and presented educational seminars. Includes correspondence, photographs, 16 mm films, presentations at international conferences, grants, and research proposals.

Method of Acquisition

These papers were donated to Special Collections by Pete Knapp in July 2002.

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