Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Throwback Thursday: May Day Scrap Edition

April 30th, 2015

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 5,000 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Since ancient times, the first day of May (May Day) has been marked in the northern hemisphere with spring festivals and celebrations. However, if you were a male underclassman at KU between 1891 and 1904, chances are you would have marked the day by participating in a large public brawl – the May Day or Maypole Scrap – with your fellow classmates.

Photograph of group gathered for May Day Scrap, 1903

Group gathered for the May Day Scrap, 1903.
Old Fraser Hall is seen on the right, with Old Blake in the background on the left.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/10 1903: Student Activities: May Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of May Day Scrap fighting, 1904

The last May Day Scrap, 1904. Note the maypole in the background.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/10 1904: Student Activities: May Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of students at the May Day Scrap, 1904

Students – some seated and bound – at the May Day Scrap, 1904. Taking prisoners was a
feature of the event: “captives were tied and bound with whatever materials happened to be at hand:
rope, wire, even chains. Sometimes the prisoners were thrown into a hedge or rolled down a hill;
once they were even padlocked in a room in a Lawrence house.”
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/10 1904: Student Activities: May Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of spectators at the May Day Scrap, 1904

Spectators at the May Day Scrap, 1904. Although female students generally
kept to the sidelines during the skirmish, they also sometimes
aided their classmates. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/10 1904: Student Activities: May Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Scholar Henry J. Fortunato from KU’s Department of History describes the event this way in his article “Mayday Mayhem”:

In its early days, the Maypole Scrap regularly pitted alliances of sophomores and seniors or law students against a force of juniors and freshmen. Over time as it evolved into a KU tradition, the fighting was usually limited to freshmen and sophomores.

Typically, preparations for a confrontation began shortly after midnight on May 1 when a group of freshmen would assemble in the vicinity of present-day Fraser Hall and erect a tall maypole flying their class flag. They anchored the pole securely and often coated it with concoctions that might include such ingredients as tar, turpentine, lamp black, molasses, axle grease and barbed wire.

By morning, a mob of freshmen milling around the pole would taunt all passersby – students as well as professors – into tipping their hats as a sign of respect. Those who refused had to outrun their tormentors. If captured, these recalcitrant individuals were threatened with having their faces pressed into the grimy mixture on the maypole unless they made the appropriate obeisance. It was an offer that most chose not to refuse.

The real action began when the sophomores launched their attack. Their goal was to scatter the defending freshmen and pull down the maypole, generally within a set period of time. The resulting fray was usually a matter of pushing, shoving, tackling, and charging, but over the years, sophomore classes experimented with other more novel tactics.

More pictures of the May Day Scrap are available via Spencer’s digital collections.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good

April 27th, 2015

We are moving into high tornado season here in the Great Plains (typically April through June). In the spirit of the season, today we feature images from the Kansas Collection of tornado damage to unlucky Kansas towns.

On April 21, 1887, the town of Prescott, Kansas (Linn County) suffered complete destruction. According a newspaper report from the time, “every house was either carried away or ruined” in this settlement of one-thousand residents. Hailstones “as large as hen’s eggs” preceded the tornado. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper featured front-page illustrations of the damage caused to an underground dugout.

Interior of cellar during tornado

Image from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper of May 7, 1887, depicting a spike entering through the roof of a dugout during a tornado on April 21, 1887. Kansas Collection, call number RH H102. Click image to enlarge.

 

On May 2, 1898, a cyclone hit Wellington, Kansas (Sumner County) and caused widespread damage. Here is a view of the toppled Lutheran Church, taken the day after the tornado struck.

RH PH P2356.3. Lutheran Church at Wellington, Kansas on May 28, 1898 after tornado hit

Photograph of the Lutheran Church, Wellington, KS, in 1898. Kansas Collection, call number RH PH P2356.3.
Image from Kansas Collection Photographs LUNA site. Click image to enlarge.

 

A tornado hit the W.O. Tanner home in Mullinville, Kansas (Kiowa County) on June 11, 1915, leaving it damaged but standing. The A.W. Kline family was not as fortunate, suffering complete destruction of their home. Writing on the back of the photo below, representing these two family homes, indicates that “mules and cattle [were] carried two miles” in this storm.

Mullinvile [sic] Kansas (Kiowa County) on June 11, 1915 after tornado hit

Two images from Mullinville, Kansas showing tornado damage in 1915. Above: W. O Tanner home. Below: A. W. Kline home. Kansas Collection, call number RH PH P1625.1. Image from Kansas Collection Photographs LUNA site. Click image to enlarge.

 

If you live in tornado country you will have heard many tales of selective and odd damage left by a tornado, with complete destruction next to a perfect area of order. A tornado that hit Andale, Kansas (Sedgwick County) in 1918 provided such an example of unusual cyclone damage: the wind ran spikes of wood through tree trunks as seen in the image below.

RH PH P2767. Andale, KS tornado damage, 1918

Spikes through tree trunks, 1918. Kansas Collection, call number RH PH P2767.
Image from Kansas Collection Photographs LUNA site. Click image to enlarge.

 

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Throwback Thursday: Arbor Day Edition

April 23rd, 2015

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 5,000 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Celebrate Arbor Day tomorrow by enjoying this week’s images of some lovely trees in Marvin Grove.

Photograph of Marvin Grove, 1920s

Marvin Grove (Lovers Lane), 1920s. Note the corner of the football stadium in the background.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Marvin Grove 1920s Prints: Campus:
Areas and Objects (Photos). Click on image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of Marvin Grove, 1940s

Marvin Grove, 1940s. KU News Bureau. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Marvin Grove 1940s Prints: Campus: Areas and Objects (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of Marvin Grove, 1977

Marvin Grove, 1977. Photo by Rob Johnson. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/24/1 Marvin Grove 1977 Prints: Campus: Areas and Objects (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Tramping on Mount Oread: Poet Harry Kemp

April 21st, 2015

How many freshmen can boast that their arrival on campus was covered by the national press? Though neither a star athlete nor the child of a public figure, poet Harry Kemp (1883-1960) won this distinction through his knack for self-promotion. Kemp’s unconventional arrival at KU by boxcar in January of 1906 launched him from anonymity to the front page of the New York Tribune —  “TO COLLEGE UNDER FREIGHT CAR / Student Leaves New-York with 3 cents–Working Way at University of Kansas. Another headline in the Kansas City Star proclaimed Kemp a “Tramp Poet,” and the moniker stuck (though he was known as the vagabond poet and hobo poet as well). During his six years of studies at KU, Kemp immersed himself in books, built a reputation as a poet and writer, and befriended nearby William Allen White, the newsman and “Sage of Emporia.”

And as the years passed, Kemp continued to make headlines, including as the “other man” in Upton Sinclair’s divorce and for attempting  in 1913 to “tramp” to England as a stowaway aboard a steamer, something that earned him a brief stay in a British jail and further celebrity on both sides of the pond. Of course, Kemp garnered attention for his literary output as well. He published books of verse–including The Cry of Youth (1914), Chanteys and Ballads (1920), and Don Juan’s Note-book (1929)–and a bestselling semi-fictionalized memoir, Tramping on Life: An Autobiographical Narrative (1922), in which KU appears as “Laurel University” in “Laurel, Kansas.” Kemp livened up already the already lively literary circles of Greenwich Village and was associated with the Provincetown Players, electing ultimately to settle in Cape Cod.

Potrait of the KU Scoop Club, 1909, featuring Harry Kemp. Photograph of Harry Kemp circa the 1950s

Youth and Old Age: Harry Kemp (middle row, second from left) with fellow members of the Scoop Club
(for news reporters) in the 1909 Jayhawker yearbook, Call #: LD 2697.J3 1909,
and in a photograph from the the 1950s, Personal Papers of Harry Kemp. Call #: PP 75, Box 3.
Click images to enlarge.

Though Louis Untermeyer had once spoken of Kemp alongside Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, and Edgar Lee Masters, by the end of his life, the Tramp Poet’s reputation had already begun to fade. Nevertheless, Kemp continued to write and elevate his eccentricities to an art.  From his shack in Provincetown, Massachusetts, he would sign his poems (and sometimes even compose them) with a seagull feather.  In honor National Poetry Month, we remember today one of the most eccentric and free-spirited poets to emerge from KU, Harry Kemp, and share three of his poems below.

Harry Kemp's "Kansas" from Sunflowers: A Book of Kansas Poems (1914)

Kemp, Harry. “Kansas” in Sunflowers: A Book of Kansas Poems. Willard Wattles, Editor.
Lawrence, KS:  World Company, 1914. Call #: KAC C71. Click image to enlarge.

Cover of Kemp's Chantey's and Ballads (1920) "The Humming Bird" by Harry Kemp from Chanteys and Ballads (1920)

Kemp, Harry. “The Humming Bird,” from Chanteys and Ballads, Sea-chanteys, Tramp-ballads and Other
Ballads and Poems
. New York, Brentano’s [c1920]. Call #: PP 75, Box 1. Click images to enlarge.

Typescript poem ("Eight Lines, for the New Year") by Harry Kemp, with manuscript inscription.

Kemp, Harry.  “Eight Lines, For the New Year (Human Trust),” undated.
Personal Papers of Harry Kemp. Call # PP 75, Box 3. Click Image to enlarge.

For more on Harry Kemp, his poetry, and his wild life, see William Brevda’s Harry Kemp, the Last Bohemian or drop by Spencer and begin exploring his personal papers.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

 

Throwback Thursday: Student Election Edition

April 16th, 2015

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 5,000 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Spring General Elections for KU’s Student Senate are currently under way, characterized by computers and electronic ballots instead of paper forms and ballot boxes.

Photograph of a KU student election, early 1950s

KU student election in Strong Hall, early 1950s.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 3/11 1950s Prints:
Student Government (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Student Senate voting in Strong Hall, 1986-1987

Student Senate voting in Strong Hall, 1986-1987.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 3/11 1986/1987:
Student Government (Photos). Click image to enlarge
(redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

 

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants