Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

November Scene, Circa 1520

November 30th, 2012

How better to end November than with a manuscript leaf depicting swineherds knocking acorns off trees for pigs to eat, a typical November activity in late medieval France? The leaf is from a calendar of feast days that was formerly part of a book of hours (a volume of devotional readings). The Latin text was copied onto vellum (treated calfskin) by a scribe and then richly decorated with colored and gold pigments. This particular leaf dates from approximately 1520. It demonstrates the persistence of manuscript book production more than half a century after the Gutenberg Bible was printed using moveable type (circa 1455) in neighboring Germany. 

Image of Leaf from Calendar for November. France, vellum, ca. 1520?
Leaf from Calendar for November (likely from a Book of Hours). France, vellum, ca. 1520?
Call number: MS A28. Click image to enlarge!

Karen S. Cook
Special Collections Librarian

Thanksgiving in Kansas (1889, 1896, 1904, and 1953)

November 21st, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library! As you eat your turkey (or tofurky) and pumpkin pie this holiday, enjoy a taste of Thanksgivings past from the Kansas Collection.

Image of Thanksgiving Proclamation, Kansas 1889
Above: Humphrey, Lyman Underwood (Kansas Governor 1889-1893). Thanksgiving Proclamation.
Topeka, KS: [State Printer?], 1889. Call Number: RH P872. Click image to enlarge.

Image of Football Team Thanksgiving Day, Fort Riley.  1896.
Above: Pennell, Joseph Judd (photographer). Football Team Thanksgiving Day, Fort Riley.  1896.
Pennell Photography Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell: print 64.2: box 3: Pennell number 9401.
Click image to enlarge.

Image: Men Gathered in 20th Battery Dining Hall, Fort Riley, for Thanksgiving Dinner.  1904.
Above:  Pennell, Joseph Judd (photographer). Men Gathered in 20th Battery Dining Hall, Fort Riley, for Thanksgiving
Dinner.  1904. Pennell Photography Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell: print 64.2: box 3: Pennell number 9401.
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Graves-Williams-Dandridge family at Thanksgiving.  Wichita, Kansas. 1953.
Above:  Hughes, Leon K. (photographer). Graves-Williams-Dandridge Family at Thanksgiving.  Wichita, Kansas. 1953.
L. K. Hughes Photography Collection.  Call Number: RH PH506, box 12, folder 8. Click image to enlarge.

Want to see more?  Visit the newly launched Leon K. Hughes: African American Life in Wichita Kansas online exhibition (and contribute identifications and additional information through its interactive comment feature).  Browse photographs from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library in the University of Kansas Luna Insight Image Collections.

No Taste for Innocent Pleasures: L. E. L. and the Nineteenth Century

November 15th, 2012

Student Manuscripts Processor and Museum Studies Graduate Student Sarah Adams revises her ideas about the nineteenth century after working on the collection of British poet L. E. L.

When we think of English society in the nineteenth century, we often associate it with what we’ve read in classic novels. British literature and culture of that era seemed to me to lean heavily on polite social decorum and chaste modesty. With such stringent moral codes, people from these periods can at times appear dull compared to modern society. However, after working on a certain nineteenth-century collection in the processing department, I have a hard time believing this to be the case.

Image of Portrait of L. E. L. (1)  Image of portrait of L. E. L. with text

Two portraits of Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.). Left: by S. Wright del; S. Freeman sc.; Right: by D. Maclise ; J. Thomson. Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) Collection. Call Numbers: MS 223 E1 (left) and MS 223 E2 (right). Click images to enlarge.

Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838), or L.E.L., was an English poet and novelist in the early nineteenth century.  She was controversial in her time due to rumored inappropriate relations with a man, a broken engagement, and her suspicious death (perhaps by suicide). Her small collection at the Spencer Research Library (MS 223) includes some of her poetry as well as personal correspondence. In her letters, L.E.L. displays a certain frankness that I was surprised to see in that time period. She could be quite harsh on those she felt were unexciting or uninspired.

In one passage from a letter to Mrs. E. Lytton Bulwer [1834?], she said this of her cousin Caroline:
“My cousins have all good constitutions, complexions, and tempers. They have always lived surrounded with every comfort and have ideas as regular as the lines in a copy book. They hold rouge to be endangering your immortal soul, the opera as sinful, and theaters the downright profession of the devil. In short, Caroline’s idea of London, where she spent a few weeks after their bridal excursion, is that of the whole set, my that ‘it is a great, wicked, expensive place.’”

In another passage, she writes regarding her cousins’ ideas of recreation:
“I have no taste for innocent pleasures.”

Image of a detail from the first page a letter from L. E. L. to Mrs. Bulwer.

 Detail from the first page a letter from L. E. L. to Mrs. Bulwer.  Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) Collection.
Call Number: MS 223 Bc2.  Click image to enlarge

And further:
“One of my little cousins has a gold chain to which she attached at least as much the idea of dignity as of vanity. Her younger sister first implored her to give it – no – then to lend it. The negative nod even more decided. At last the petition became a ‘farther looking hope’ and she exclaimed, ‘Will you Annie leave it me in your will?’ ‘No,’ replied the cautious Miss Annie, ‘I shall want it to wear in Heaven.’”

This attitude toward her cousins likens L.E.L. to one of the many “villains” of Victorian literature. Perhaps, though, there was another side to nineteenth-century English society that some modern readers choose to ignore in the interest of romantic ideals we’ve grown to love in our favorite classics.  I, for one, find it much more exciting to imagine this slightly wicked side in our beloved heroes and heroines.

Curious about L.E.L.’s work? Click here for a link to one of her poems, “Revenge.”

To read the entirety of the letter from  L. E. L. to Mrs. E. Lytton Bulwer discussed in this post (MS 223: Bc.2), please click on the thumbnails below.

Image of Letter from L. E. L. to Mrs. Bulwer, page 1  Image of Letter from L. E. L. to Mrs. Bulwer, pages 2-3.  Image of Letter from L. E. L.  to Mrs. Bulwer, page 4

Sarah Adams
Student Manuscripts Processor and Museum Studies Graduate Student

Editor’s Note: An online finding aid for the Spencer Library’s Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) Collection will be available through our finding aids search portal in the coming weeks.

World War I Pen Pals

November 9th, 2012

This Sunday, November 11, is Veterans Day, and in honor of this we thought we would highlight a recent acquisition:  a group of letters that record one soldier’s World War I experiences in Europe.  The letters were written during 1915-1919  by Hector C. Henderson, who served as a private (later promoted to corporal) in the 1st Wellington Company, New Zealand Expeditionary Force.  Henderson, who was then in his early 30s, was writing to an American pen pal, Mae Josephine Gillette (born in about 1890),  who lived in Winsted, Connecticut. Henderson, who may have come from Australia (in June 1889 The Traralgon Record, Victoria, mentions a Hector C. Henderson, jun.), had worked as a railroad telegraph operator and clerk in New Zealand before the war. Writing first from New Zealand and later from England, France and Germany, Henderson filled 41 letters (237 pages) and 2 postcards with his observations about the horrors of  World War I.

Photograph of Hector C. Henderson (right) and unidentified man.

Photograph of Mae Josephine Gillette of Winsted, CT

Pen pals during World War I:  (top) Hector C. Henderson of New Zealand (figure on right by “x”) and
(bottom) Mae Josephine Gillette of Winsted, CT.  Henderson-Gillette World War I Collection.
(Recent Acquisition–call number to be assigned). Click to enlarge.

The first letter, sent from New Zealand in 1915, is written in shorthand (Gregg method). Henderson and Gillette had probably become acquainted through the Gregg shorthand pen-pal club that Henderson had joined in 1913 (The Gregg Writer, vol. 15:1912-1913). A 1916 letter cautions that shorthand letters won’t pass military censorship. The rest of the correspondence, written in pen or pencil on a variety of papers, is in ordinary cursive script. By 1918 Henderson reported that he was sick of war: “Saw a couple of Hun planes brought down…One of them was in flames when falling…this continual bombardment gets on my nerves…I’m writing this in my dug out & shells are screeching overhead. God how I wish it were all over.” In November 1918, the month when the war ended, he mentions his engagement to an English girl, and the correspondence ends in 1919. Hector’s letters must have been kept by Mae. A group of family photographs show Mae as an infant (1891), girl (age 12), and young woman (once with her parents and once alone). She may later have married Benjamin J. Wood of Millinocket, Maine, whose photograph is in the collection, along with a photograph of 2-year-old Mae Gillette Wood (their daughter?) holding a teddy bear.

Image of the first page of a letter from Henderson to Gillette in shorthand   Image of first page of letter from Henderson to Gillette, May 16, 1915

Left:  The first letter in the collection, a letter from Hector Henderson to Mae Gillette in shorthand (Gregg Method).
Right: A letter from Henderson to Gillette explaining that he can no longer write in shorthand since it won’t pass the
military censor.  Henderson-Gillette World War I Collection.(Recent Acquisition–call number to be assigned).
Click images to enlarge to legible size.


Karen S. Cook
Special Collections Librarian

Stuck on Stickers

November 2nd, 2012

Bumper Sticker: Clinton /Gore

Bumper Sticker: Reagan for Governor

In honor of the upcoming presidential election, we focus today on one form of political advertisement: the bumper sticker. First produced in the 1940s, mostly likely by Kansas City, Kansas screenprinter Forest P. Gill, bumper stickers gained prominence in the early 1950s to advertise tourist attractions, public safety initiatives, political campaigns, radio and television stations, and political and personal viewpoints. As ephemeral artifacts broadcasting historical and social events and trends, bumper stickers are widely collected by museums, archives, and libraries.

Spencer Research Library is fortunate to have a substantive collection of bumper stickers in the Kansas Collection, as part of the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements. This world-class collection was (and continues to be) shaped by Laird Wilcox, a former KU student and expert on right- and left-wing political groups from the early 1960s to the present.

For more information about the history of bumper stickers, see “Soapbox for the Automobile: Bumper sticker history, identification, and preservation

Bumper Sticker: Invest in America; Buy a Congressman

Bumper Sticker: Believe in Peace

Bumper Sticker: The only "ism" for me is Americanism

Bumper Sticker: Tired of Career Politicians?

Bumper Sticker: Don’t Do it in the Voting Booth

Bumper Sticker: Proud to Be Union

Bumper sticker: Goldwater '68

Bumper Sticker: Nader/LaDuke

Bumper Sticker: Join the National Guard

Bumper Sticker: Planetary Citizens.

Bumper Sticker: Think for yourself / Vote Republican

Bumper Sticker: We Support Agricultural Strike.

Bumper Sticker: Hollis/Chester; Vote Socialist in '96.

Bumper STicker: Young Americans for Freedom.

Bumper Sticker: Mibeck City Commission.

Bumper Sticker: No Matter How You Slice It

Bumper Sticker: Stop Over-governing!

Bumper Sticker: Practice Organized Resistance and Conscious Acts of Solidarity

Bumper stickers spanning the political spectrum from the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements.
Above the post text: Wilcox Sticker # 46, 17; below the post text: Wilcox Sticker # 165, 28,
39, 50, 81, 22, 71, 174,  42, 33, 64, 1, 180, 43, 27, 10, 83, 164. Click images to enlarge.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services