Family Papers of Henry Montgomery Black Available in Special Collections Department

This article expired 14-Nov-2012 -- it may contain outdated or superceded information
14-Nov-2012 Newsletter article

November 11 marked Veterans Day, a holiday when the United States honors its veterans. The Special Collections Department and University Archives is home to the collections of a number of veterans, including Henry M. Black. The family papers of Henry Montgomery Black, an Iowa State graduate and engineering professor, were processed and made available earlier this year. In addition to Henry Black, other members of the Black family also served in the armed forces.

Henry Montgomery Black was an Iowa native, born in Reinbeck, Iowa in 1907. He attended Iowa State University (then Iowa State College) from 1925-1929, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He then furthered his education with a Master's degree from Harvard University in 1934. Following his time in college, Black served in the United States Army. His experience as an engineer was put to use by the Army Corps of Engineers, and Henry served as the chief engineer of the Utah Beach landing during the Normandy invasion in 1944. His service was rewarded with a Bronze Star, a Legion of Merit, and a Croix de Guerre.

Black would eventually retire from the army at the rank of Colonel. In the meantime, he returned to Iowa State to serve as the Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department (1946-1972). In honor of his impact on the Iowa State Engineering Department and campus (he was instrumental in helping build the university's mechanical engineering program into one of national prominence); a building was named in his honor. Black Engineering Building was named in 1987.

Black was not the only member of his extended family to have a distinguished military career. His father-in-law, Ransom Drips Bernard, served in World War I in the Army medical corps, eventually attaining the rank of Captain.

Both Black and Bernard documented their service through letters to family back home. These letters, along with many photographs and artifacts, can be found in the Henry Montgomery Black and Bernice Bernard Black Family Papers, RS 21/8/12, in the Special Collections Department. The collection documents several generations of the Black and Bernard families through artifacts, photographs, scrapbooks, and correspondence. A description of the collection can be found online:

Collections of other veterans can also be found in the Special Collections Department, including Civil War veterans. A subject guide for collections related to the Civil War can also be found online:

More on the collection, including additional photographs, can also be found on the Special Collections Department blog:

If you have questions regarding the collection, please contact the Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library at 515-294-4216, or visit our website at

Henry M. Black receives oak leaf cluster to his bronze star medal
Henry M. Black receives oak leaf cluster to his bronze star medal
from Lt. Gen. J. Lawton Collins at a ceremony in Leipzig, Germany
(photograph from Box 16, Folder 4).

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