Charles F. Curtiss was the first Dean of Agriculture at Iowa State College. It would be easy to believe his first name was "Dean" because, for a large portion of his life, and much of the time since his death, the two names were simply used almost as one- Dean Curtiss. His name was often mentioned as the man to be President of the College, but in a sequence of actions, that would have to be seen as simply political, he was bypassed.
Charles F. Curtiss grew up on the southeast quarter of Sec 16 (One source says SE Sec 19) of Milford Twp and his parents owned the quarter section just to the west of the Center School which later, 1920, became the chosen site of the Milford Twp Consolidated Schools. At one time the Center School was called Curtiss School although the Curtiss family never owned the southwest corner of Sec 15. See page 7. This would imply that Frank Curtiss, Charles' Dad, was the director of that institution. In the 1880's they owned the quarter west of the school, the quarter southwest of the school and the "80" south of the school. In the 1880's, besides the building site on the north side of the road, there was a set of buildings on the south side of the road a half mile to the west of the Center School.
Charles, upon finishing his schooling in Milford Twp's Center School, graduated from Nevada High School with the class of 1882. He then taught school at School Number 4 in Milford Twp for four years. He earned a B.S. degree in 1887 from ISC and was on the faculty by 1891 and received a M.S. from ISC in 1892, one of three granted before 1900. He received a D.S. in Agriculture from Michigan Ag College in 1907. By 1916, Professor Curtiss was a renown livestock judge and was invited to, and went to, Argentina to judge the National Livestock Show feeder cattle competition.
Right: Dean Curtiss, far left, with a team of Judges and the ISC herdsman. Dean Curtiss was always a dapper dresser; witness the spats worn by him and the stylish bowler hat. Pictures from ISU Library.
Charles Curtiss' father, Frank, was a state representative from our district in the late 1870's. Frank Curtiss had moved his family to Milford Twp in 1865 from Galena, Illinois.
Curtiss Street in Ames is named after Charles Curtiss as was the large agriculture building on the campus at Iowa State. See left. This was done either in 1944 (one source) or in 1947. Also, Curtiss Farm, a 141 acre farm used for research south of Ames, was named in his honor.
In the summer of 1934, in the Memorial Union at the College, there was a huge "compliment dinner" in honor of Dean Curtiss. Deans and Presidents of Universities from around the upper Midwest, President the Federal Land Bank, President of Armour and Company and a host of others were on hand. In addition hundreds of agricultural leaders from around the world contributed letters to a huge testimonial book which will be presented to Dean Curtiss. Curtiss played key roles in the development of the Land Grant system, the 4-H program, and the Extension Service.
The newspaper almost made it sound like a "tongue in cheek" effort but apparently in 1920 the famous evangelist from Story County, Billy Sunday, was running as the "Dry" ticket candidate for President of the US of A. He was announcing his cabinet selections before the election and Charles Curtiss would have been the man for the Sec of Agriculture position. "I used to go to school to him. He was Dean of Agriculture at Ames, Iowa." Sunday wasn't elected.
A Milford graduate from before the War relates;
A Milford farmer and his wife were headed for Des Moines one day in their open sedan automobile when a highway patrolman pulled him over and said, "Sir, do you realize your wife fell out of the car several miles back?"
To which the Milford Farmer replied, "Thank God, I thought I had gone deaf!"