Five years behind us …ready for ‘grand future’
It was five years ago this January that the very first issue of Iowa History Journal debuted. Nile Kinnick of Adel and Iowa City was featured on the cover, and the main stories were on Colonel Bud Day of Sioux City, Buffalo Bill Cody of LeClaire, the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, the Maytag Corporation of Newton, and Doreen Wilber, Iowa’s first female Olympic champion, of Jefferson.
That was the first of 30 straight issues of Iowa History Journal. During these five years, we have grown from about 500 readers to an estimated 24,000 readers every issue. The first few issues were not on newsstands, and now they are available on nearly 600 newsstands around the state – in every Casey’s General Store, every Hy-Vee and a few select private bookstores that have reached out to us and asked to carry IHJ.
We have been endorsed by a former governor and the current governor, and among our subscribers are CEOs of top businesses in the state, Olympic champions, a former Miss Universe – and thousands of readers just like you and me.
Gary Thompson, one of the greatest athletes in state history and a business leader of the same rank, was a subject of a book review in that first issue. He recently sent in a note saying he loves the magazine and reads every article. Paul “Skeeter” Wilber, the widower of Doreen Wilber, wrote that he really enjoys IHJ and added, “It’s a great gift, too!”
Those are comments that we hear over and over!
At our booth at the Iowa State Fair this year, we were approached by Ed Brown, CEO of The Iowa Clinic in Des Moines. He had subscribed to IHJ the year prior and liked it so much that he now wanted to purchase every single back issue – which he did!
“I’m not from Iowa, but I absolutely love this magazine,” said Ed. “It’s about the only magazine I find time to read with my schedule and I read it cover to cover. It has helped me appreciate the state all the more.”
Iowa’s first lady, Chris Branstad, also came to our booth at the fair, with her sister,and said, “Terry loves this magazine! He talks about it all the time.”
Recently, I received a call from Gary Steinke, president of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. He raved about the magazine and its potential as a teaching tool.
“Iowa History Journal is a ‘must read’ for Iowa citizens who love Iowa and who want to learn about the interesting history associated with their communities across the state,” Gary wrote to me later. “Articles about interesting buildings, structures and people come alive as the Journal tells their stories and how they shaped our towns and communities. As a native Iowan, I recommend every Iowa citizen subscribe to Iowa History Journal.”
Well, those are certainly the kind of comments we love to hear.
One of the questions we were constantly asked when my wife Bev and I started the magazine was “Do you really think there are enough Iowa stories to write about for 10, 20 years?” My answer was an unequivable “Yes, I sure do!” That statement has proven to be true many times over.
The fact is that we are overwhelmed with story ideas. They come in the mail, through email, over the phone and by personal contact. We have a list of nearly 40 article suggestions we are working on, and nearly every one of them would make a compelling story.
Each issue is loaded with stories on major historical figures and moments in politics, entertainment, business and sports. We emphasize to all writers that the stories must be both educational and exciting – and we feature some of the best writers in the state in our pages – award-winning newspaper writers like Buck Turnbull, Don Doxsie, Michael Swanger, John Skipper and Jessica Lowe; college professors like Jeff Stein and Robert Weist, and. authors like Bill Sherman, Arvid Huisman and John McNeer, as well as passionate historians like Al Nelson and Jerry Harrington, to name just a few of our regular contributors.
We are also proud that we have opened the door for aspiring writers who have never been published previously but have good stories to tell.
Mike Finn has done a superb job with the layout, ever since the beginning, and Mike Reese helps with the cover design. It is a real cooperative effort.
There are four major reasons for our current success. First and foremost is the support of Casey’s and Hy-Vee. Those two large corporations were asked for their help in both advertising and newsstand display, and that support over the past three years has been the key to our success.
Then there is the commitment Bev and I have made to meet the public and explain what Iowa History Journal is all about. We have made nearly 100 presentations during the past five years, all over the state, and we have had a booth at the Iowa State Fair the past four years, talking to thousands of Iowans.
Thirdly, we attend many of the shows put on by Tom Callahan, one of our top advertisers. His shows are packed all the time and are not only fun but a great way to meet more Iowans. Tom loves the magazine and has gone out of his way to help us grow.
And, fourth, we enjoy the support of some major radio stations on a regular basis – including WHO in Des Moines (Van and Bonnie, Jan Mickelson and the late Jim Zabel), KFJB in Marshalltown (Kyle Martin), KICD in Spencer (George Bower), KXEL in Waterloo (Gary Edwards and Gary Rima), KGRN in Grinnell (Chris Varney), Iowa Public Radio (Charity Nebbe and Dennis Reese) and the Culture Buzz in Des Moines (John Busbee).
However, it was the support of two dear friends – E.K. and Nancy Shaw of Newton – that enabled us to get the publication under way. They believed in our vision to preserve Iowa history in a new and exciting format, and stood firmly at our side as we launched the venture over five years ago.
Obviously, Bev and I and our writers love Iowa history and relish the opportunity to entertain readers with great stories and photos. Our motto from the outset has been: “Reliving our great past, investing in our grand future.” To our thousands of readers – thank you for inviting Iowa History Journal into your lives and for your own role in showing that history still matters to Iowans, not only those who live within our boundaries but those who have left the state for whatever reason but still regard Iowa as “home.”
(Mike Chapman is the publisher of Iowa History Journal and is the author of 26 books. He and his wife, Bev, live in Newton.)