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Knapp, Herman

Published onJul 30, 2021
Knapp, Herman

(December 28, 1863 - March 22, 1935)

Quick Facts

Herman Knapp dedicated fifty years of his life to Iowa State. He served as Treasurer under seven Iowa State presidents and two acting presidents, along with various other roles for the college.

Herman Knapp, B.S. in Scientific Agriculture, 1883; deputy treasurer, 1883; secretary to the president of Agriculture, 1886; college farm superintendent, 1890-91; purchasing agent and business manager, 1903-1933; Acting President, Iowa State College, 1926-1927”, 1935 by Robert Wadsworth Grafton (American, 1876 - 1936). Oil on canvas. Commissioned by the Alumni Association for Iowa State College. In the Presidential Portrait Collection, Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U88.13

Location: Iowa State University, Parks Library

Herman Knapp was born in Poultney, Vermont, to parents Seaman A. and Maria Elizabeth Hotchkiss Knapp. Seaman A. Knapp was president of the Ripley Female College and in 1867, the family moved to Iowa when Herman’s father was named President of the Iowa College of the Blind. After graduating from Vinton, he and his family moved to Ames where Herman enrolled in the Iowa Agricultural College when Seaman A. Knapp was named a Professor of Agriculture. Seaman Knapp was appointed to head the agriculture program at Iowa Agricultural College (I.A.C., later Iowa State University) in 1879 and later became the second President of the College (1883-1884). During this time, the family resided in the Farm House (now the Farm House Museum) on campus.

Herman received his BS (1883) in Agriculture, and that same year, he began his incredible 50-year career at Iowa State by being appointed Deputy Treasurer. The next year he was named Secretary to the President (1884), as well as an assistant in agriculture. In 1885, he was appointed assistant professor (1885-1887) in agriculture and after the departure of his father for Texas in 1886; Herman was placed in charge of the department of agriculture. He held direct responsibility for the College Farm during the winter of 1890-1891. Through his career, he held a variety of positions at Iowa State, including Treasurer (1887-1935); Recorder (1887-1908) and Registrar (1908-1920); Superintendent of the College Bookstore (1887-1920); Purchasing Agent (1911-1920) and Business Manager (1920-1933); Acting President of Iowa State College three times (1926-1927) and Vice President for Business and Finance (1933-1935). He served as Treasurer under seven Iowa State presidents and two acting presidents. His career was closely intertwined with that of Edgar W. Stanton (1850-1920), known as “Stantie,” who also served Iowa State from graduation until his death (1920). Knapp and Stanton married the McDonald sisters (Mary and Margaret), and Herman was involved with the 1929 expansion of the bells for the Edgar W. and Margaret MacDonald Stanton Memorial Carillon in the Iowa State Campanile.

Knapp with largest of the Campanile’s bells. University Archives, ISU Library

Herman Knapp also had a long record of military service. During his college years, he served as a Private (1880), Sergeant (1881), Lieutenant (1882), and Captain (1883) for I.A.C.’s Company B. After graduation, Herman served as 1st Lieutenant and Adjutant for General James Rush Lincoln. During General Lincoln's absence in 1898, Herman Knapp was commandant for the Cadets. He was commissioned as Captain, C Company of the 55th National Iowa Guard and was later commissioned Major and Adjutant General (1904-1908), again under General Lincoln.

400 people attended a dinner celebrating his 50 years of service in 1933 where his portrait (see above) was unveiled. When considering Knapp’s strengths, Iowa State President Raymond M. Hughes said, “His great wisdom in dealing with all human problems, his unvarying kindliness and courtesy, his unfailing cheerfulness at all times regardless of his own health and strength…”. Knapp was also awarded the 1933 Merit Award for Distinguished Service presented by the Iowa State Alumni of Chicago.

Knapp married his Class of 1883 classmate Mary Woodruff McDonald (sister of Edgar Stanton’s first wife, Margaret McDonald Stanton) in 1885 and they had four children: Byron McDonald Knapp, Hermine Knapp Pickford, Jeannette Knapp Stoddard and Seaman Arthur Knapp. All four graduated from Iowa State.

He received an honorary L.L.D. degree (1928) from the University of Iowa.

Herman Knapp died on March 22, 1935, and is buried in the Iowa State University Cemetery.

Selected Sources

The Herman Knapp Papers are held in Special Collections and University Archives, Iowa State University Library, Ames.

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