Thursday, February 7, 2013

It’s birthday party time at the American Gothic House

In case anyone missed the numerous blog notes, Facebook posts or, for those who live close to Eldon, the posters, this Saturday, Feb. 9, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the American Gothic House Center is hosting a birthday party for Grant Wood—what would have been his 122nd—perhaps the only one of its kind anywhere. It will be held at the KD Center in Eldon.

Grant DeVolson Wood was born on a farm four miles east of Anamosa, Iowa on Feb. 13, 1891. It was a Friday. He was the second child of four of Francis Maryville and Hattie DeEtte Weaver Wood and joined his brother Fran
k who was born in 1887. Another brother, John, was born in 1893 and then a sister, Nan, (short for Nancy) came along in 1899. Given the time and place—an Iowa farmstead in the late 19th century—it was a tight fit for the six of them but as most did in rural Iowa the family made do.

As with any month in any given year there are notable dates—many involving a "first" of some sort—and February of 1891 is no different. Besides Wood's birth (a first, especially for Grant Wood), there were others, some noteworthy, others not so much, unless you are partial to vegetables and buffalo.

Earlier that month and a half of continent away, on Feb. 6, the now-famous Dalton Gang perhaps should have taken a hint when their first train robbery, near Alila, Calif., went awry and three of the brothers, Bob, Grat, and Bill rode off empty handed. Evidently their luck picked up later—at least for a while.

A couple days after Wood was born, on Feb. 15, was another notable, to some anyway, occasion as the first shipment of asparagus arrived in San Francisco (I have no idea from where). Young children have been ecstatic ever since.

Later in the month and also in San Francisco, on Feb. 26, the first buffalo was purchased for the Golden Gate Park. And for those who follow such things on the 28th Oscar Grunden set the world ice skating record in the 500m (50.8 seconds).
In a nod to custom, for those who were at least one-year-old on that day, or any day in 1891, “Happy Birthday” wasn't sung around the table, as the now-traditional song was written in 1893. The melody and lyrics were written by two sisters - Mildred J. Hill (born 1859) and Patty Smith Hill (born 1868). The melody was composed by Mildred and the lyrics were written by Patty, but it was originally for a classroom greeting song titled "Good Morning to All." It wasn’t until the 1920s the lyrics were changed to what we know today. Given that, Wood could have been in his mid-30s before anyone sang it in his honor.
There is no guarantee it will be sung this Saturday but Wood would overlook it given the soups (after all it isn't called the Grant Wood Birthday Soup Smorgasbord for nothing) that will be served up. Minestrone, chicken and wild rice, cheddar potato, seafood gumbo, bean soup, chili, vegetable beef, taco and beef tortellini, all prepared by volunteers, will grace the table. Alongside the soups will be fresh bread and numerous cakes with plenty of coffee, iced tea, lemonade and water to wash it all down with. All this for only a donation. What a deal.

“Happy Birthday” might not be heard but there will no shortage of music as the Indian Hills Community College Chamber Singers will perform in concert at noon. As with any performance by the superb vocalists from IHCC, it will be one not to miss.

To wind up the party, at 1 p.m., there will be a drawing for the American Gothic House Print by local photographer Chris Abigt. This unique print of the American Gothic House is framed by M&J Art and Frame Gallery in Ottumwa with reclaimed wood and glass from the porch. Ticket prices for the print are $1 or six for $5 and can be purchased at the center, online until 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8 at or in person at the birthday party on Saturday.

So if you have some free time on Saturday swing by the KD Center—located just east of the railroad depot—for some good food, music and a chance to win a one of a kind framed print. Hope to see you there.

Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic


  1. Where's the pie? There should be pie for dessert.

  2. Sorry Margie, but we did not have any pie donations. However, our wonderful volunteers went to great lengths to put out a delicious spread of soups and desserts!