Photographs of the Iowa cornfield where “Field of Dreams” was filmed and of the world’s largest ball of twine in Wisconsin will soon be featured in the University’s Special Collections Library. These photographs are part of a collection compiled by the late Douglas Pappas, a Law School alum, who traveled the country’s back roads and small highways, documenting roadside attractions. The collection was donated to the University by his mother, Carolyn Reed Pappas.
Pappas was an attorney in New York, specializing in civil and commercial law. When he was not working at the law firm, Pappas was chairman of the New York chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association, a group organized to preserve the history of the famous U.S. highway that begins in Times Square and ends in San Francisco.
He spent his vacation time on the road, traveling predominately along the Lincoln Highway, and after two decades of driving around the country, had a vast collection of photos and postcards to show for it.
“The books, photographs, postcards and small archive of papers will complement the holdings of the Special Collections Library’s Transportation History Collection, especially the Lincoln Highway Collection,” said Kathleen Dow, curator of the Transportation Collection.
The donation includes over 500 books, 34 photo albums and over 3700 postcards. Many of the books are rare and date back to the first few decades of the 20th century, Dow said.
Pappas’s collection will also be the first gift connected to the library’s agreement made a year ago with the Lincoln Highway Association to act as a repository of the association and its members, Dow added.
The Lincoln Highway Association is designed to promote education about the highway and its historic sites while ensuring that these pieces of American history are not lost forever, Dow said.
Lynn Asp, office director of the Lincoln Highway Association, said the Pappas collection will add to the already large archives of the Lincoln Highway at the University and contribute to the goals of the association and of Pappas.
“It’s not just the roads themselves, but the world that sprang up alongside the roads that people like Pappas are trying to preserve,” Dow said. “Roadside attractions, the small cafes and restaurants, gas stations and lodging houses and later the first roadside motels have become dilapidated or have been destroyed, and along with them a part of American life has disappeared.”
Mitch Dakelman, head of the New Jersey chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association and a colleague of Pappas, said Pappas was an avid supporter of historical preservation and public awareness of highways. Along with Pappas, Dakelman helped found the Northeast Chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association in 1998.
“Pappas was a highway enthusiast and extremely active in our organization,” Dakelman said.
Asp said the Pappas collection will attract various researchers and others, including documentary filmmakers, writers, car enthusiasts, historians and military buffs. “People from all walks of life are interested in these archives,” Asp said.
“I anticipate that history and sociology majors and researchers in the history of transportation will find this collection a rich resource,” Dow said.