Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

On the Research Trail: Blue Books

March 30th, 2018

The diversity of the Spencer Research Library collections is explored through the description of a search process related to a research question or theme.

After having two encounters with items called “blue books” in as many days, I wondered what the origin of the term blue book is. I turned to a resource found in the Reference section of the Spencer Reading Room, i.e., the Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language. According to this edition published in 1959, a blue book is defined as follows:

  1. In England, a parliamentary publication, so called from its blue paper covers; in some other countries, any similar official publication. Hence, also, an authoritative report or manual issued by a department, organization, or party.
  2. Colloq., U.S. a A register or directory of persons of social prominence. b In certain colleges, a blue-covered booklet used for writing examinations.
  3. [caps.] Trade-mark for a guidebook entitled Official Automobile Blue Book, showing roads, routes, etc., esp. for automobile tourists; also [sometimes not caps.], the guidebook itself. U.S.

Would it be possible to find an example of each type of blue book described in the dictionary definition by looking solely in the collections available at the Spencer Library? I wanted to find out.

I started with a search online at the KU Libraries website. First, I clicked on the Advanced Search button below the Quick Search box because I wanted to limit my search to the Spencer Research Library.

Screenshot of the Primo search box on the KU Libraries homepage

Click image to enlarge.

I typed in “blue book” (without quotation marks) in the first box to find items that contain those keywords. Next, I selected Library from the dropdown menu and typed in “Spencer” (without quotation marks) in the next box to limit the search to items showing Spencer Research Library as the location.

Screenshot of Primo advanced search page

Click image to enlarge.

This led to 2,476 results. In a quick scan of my first few pages of search results, I did not immediately find irrelevant items, i.e., those that might contain the word blue and the word book somewhere in the catalog record but not together. (Note: selecting is exact from the dropdown menu instead of contains has the same effect as using quotation marks around the words blue book. The system searches for both words together as a phrase, bringing the search results down to 2,370 results.)

Definition 1: Official Publications and Authoritative Reports

As I scanned through my search results, I looked for items that might be examples of official or authoritative publications. Several of the items in the list were from the Little Blue Book series published by the Haldeman-Julius Press from 1919 to 1951.

Image of the cover of a Little Blue Book, "How to Find What You Want in a Library," 1929

Cover of How to Find What You Want in a Library
by Lloyd E. Smith, 1929. Call Number: RH H-J 1473 Little.
You can learn more about Little Blue Books in
Spencer’s North Gallery exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

I decided to filter my search results to remove all or most of the Little Blue Books in order to identify more easily other types of blue books in the list. On the left side of KU Libraries’ page, next to the search results, I found the Narrow My Results heading. As shown in the screenshots below, I clicked on More options under Author/Creator. Then, I selected to “Exclude” the Haldeman-Julius Company and some of the authors who contributed to the Little Blue Book series. After I clicked on Continue, my search results were reduced to 159 items.

Screenshot of the "Author/Creator" option on the KU Libraries advanced search page Screenshot of the "Exclude" function on the KU Libraries advanced search page

Click images to enlarge.

The example shown below is an additional authoritative or official blue book selected from my search results.

Image of the cover of Woman Suffrage: History, Arguments, and Results, 1917 Image of the title page of Woman Suffrage: History, Arguments, and Results, 1917

Cover (left) and title page (right) of “The Blue Book”; Woman Suffrage, History,
Arguments and Results
, 1917. Call Number: Howey B2835. Click images to enlarge.

In an attempt to find a British parliamentary blue book, I went back to the top of the search results page and added the word parliament to my search terms.

Screenshot of Primo advanced search page

Click image to enlarge.

This resulted in four search results including The Parliamentary Register, an eighteenth-century history of the proceedings and debates of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, shown below.

Image of the cover of the Parliamentary Register, 1779 Image of pages of the Parliamentary Register, 1779

Although it has faded, the cover of The Parliamentary Register (1779) is blue.
The KU Libraries catalog record explains that the volumes are “as issued,” i.e., “unopened,
in printed blue paper wrappers.” See in the image above how the pages
have not been cut open at the top. Call Number: Bond C291.

Definition 2a: Directory of Persons of Social Prominence

Having found examples of blue books from the 18th and 20th centuries, I hoped to find a social register from the 19th century. I went back to my list of 159 search results and narrowed my results again, this time by date. I typed in a date range of 1800 to 1899.

Screenshot of the date filter option on the KU Libraries advanced search page

Click image to enlarge.

I found the blue book shown below which was published in 1898.

Image of the cover of The Society Blue Book of Kansas City, Mo., 1898Image of the title page of The Society Blue Book of Kansas City, Mo., 1898

The Society Blue Book of Kansas City, Mo., 1898. Call Number: RH B30. Click image to enlarge.

Definition 2b: Booklet for Exams

I determined that a good place to look for an example of a blue book used for a college exam would be in a collection of unpublished, personal papers. I started my search online using the search interface for finding aids on the Spencer website. I typed “blue book” (with quotation marks to search for both words together as a phrase) into the Search for field. I retrieved nineteen results.

Screenshot of the Spencer Research Library finding aid search page

Click image to enlarge.

The third item in the results list seemed to be the type of blue book I was hoping to find.

Screenshot of a result on the Spencer Research Library finding aid search page

Click image to enlarge.

I clicked on this item and viewed the finding aid which further confirmed that the blue book was from course work in 1937 and identified in which box and folder I would find it.

Screenshot of a portion of the finding aid for the Cowell family papers

Click image to enlarge.

The exam blue book is shown below.

Image of the cover of a blue book from the Ellen Cowell School Papers, 1937

Cover of Pauline Rawlings’s blue examination book, 1937.
Ellen Cowell School Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1337.
Click image to enlarge.

Definition 3: Automobile Guide

Going back to the KU Libraries’ search results list of 159 items, I was able to locate a fascinating example of an automobile blue book, The Official Automobile Blue Book 1923, shown below.

Image of the title page of the Official Automobile Blue Book, Volume 4, 1923

Title page of the Official Automobile Blue Book, Volume 4, 1923.
At the time, not all roads were paved or marked.
Getting from one city to another sometimes meant paying close attention
to the mileage from one turn or fork in the road to the next.
Call Number: C11263. Click image to enlarge.

My search process was a success! In the Spencer Research Library collections, I was able to locate examples of each type of blue book that is described in the dictionary definition. Often, research leads to more questions. I found myself wondering about the choice of blue paper for the covers of the British parliamentary publications. Why blue? Sounds like a great topic for a new search and another blog post!

Stacey Wiens
Reference Specialist
Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Final Four Edition

March 29th, 2018

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 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

We’re super excited about Saturday’s game against Villanova. Rock Chalk!

Photograph of KU basketball fans holding a sign, 1988

KU basketball fans during the NCAA tournament, 1988.
The sign reads “Hawks soar cats hit the floor KU is in the final four.”
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/66/13 1988-04 Negatives:
Student Activities: Sports: Basketball (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

As many fans likely remember, KU defeated Kansas State in the Midwest regional final of the 1988 NCAA tournament. The Jayhawks then beat Duke in the Final Four and won the championship with a win over Oklahoma.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Hooray for Spring Edition

March 22nd, 2018

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 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of the May Day Fete, 1921

A participant in the May Day Fete, 1921.
Photo by the KU News Bureau. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/10 1921 Prints: Student Activities: May Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

First held in 1908, the KU May (or May Day) Fête was a spring festival that included maypoles, music, dances, and games. It replaced the more violent KU tradition of the May Day Scrap. The last mention of the May Fête occurred in the Kansan student newspaper on May 23, 1923.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Community Outreach: Preschool Bookbinding Activity

March 20th, 2018

I recently had the opportunity to combine business and pleasure when my son’s preschool teachers put a call out to parents interested in being “Mystery Visitors” to the classroom. Parents were invited to join the class at group time to read a story, lead an activity, or share a hobby or interest. I knew that my colleagues in Conservation Services had taught workshops in the past for school-age and preschool children, which sounded like fun to me. I was excited for the chance to test my skills at communicating some basic concepts of my job to a young audience, and of course to see the (hopefully pleasantly) surprised look on my son’s face!

After talking a bit with the teachers to get a sense of the kids’ skill levels, I planned to try sewing a three-hole pamphlet with the class. The teachers felt that the kids would be able to handle the simple folding and sewing, with the three of us and an aide on hand to guide them. The class supply closet had plenty of paper for text blocks and covers, and I provided colorful plastic needles and lengths of yarn from my stash at home. From the lab, I assembled some other tools and supplies: a piercing jig made of scrap binder’s board, a few bone folders, and a chunky, blunt awl that punched the perfect, extra-large holes for small hands wielding big needles. I also made a sample book to show the class.

Pamphlet making supplies

Ready, set, sew!: pamphlet-making supplies. Click image to enlarge.

On the day of my visit, I arrived at the time of the afternoon when the class normally has “large group” time. My son’s initial bewilderment gave way to excitement when the teachers announced me as the Mystery Visitor, and I was soon swarmed with kids wanting to know what I had brought to share. The teachers and I decided to do the activity in small groups by turns, while the rest of the children played at other activities around the room. I set up at a small table and, assisted by one of the teachers, helped groups of 3 to 5 kids at a time make their own pamphlet-sewn book. I was really impressed by their folding, sewing, and especially listening skills! They were a very eager and engaged group, and it was sweet to see how proudly they displayed their finished books to their parents as they arrived for pick-up time.

The school’s privacy policy prevents me from sharing photos of children other than my own, and in any case the afternoon was a bit too energetic and fast-paced for me to take any good pictures. However, I did manage to snap a quick shot of my boy with his book as we were loading up to head home. He was quite pleased with his creation, which he began filling up with a story as soon as we got home!

Child holding finished pamphlet

Pamphlet completed and ready for stories! Click image to enlarge.

 

Angela Andres
Special Collections Conservator
Conservation Services

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: March 19-25, 1918

March 19th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature selected letters from Forrest to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

In this week’s letter, Forrest gives Ava advice for dealing with boys: “Please believe me there, little sweetheart – be the goodpal sort of girl, a “tomboy” if you like, for all boys love that type, but let them see ‘Hand off,’ and that you mean it. You may think you will have fewer friends, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, March 21, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

Thursday March 21, 1918.

Dear Marie,

Well what do you think of the hair? I let it grow about as long as the law will allow, and now nearly all of it will come off or the “cooties” will get me if I don’t watch out.

Now Marie don’t judge boys too harshly. You will find that your boy friends will be just what you make them. No matter what a boy may apparently think of you, he will, way down in his heart, respect you all the more for being a sweet, clean-hearted girl. Please believe me there, little sweetheart – be the goodpal sort of girl, a “tomboy” if you like, for all boys love that type, but let them see “Hand off,” and that you mean it. You may think you will have fewer friends, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I am not giving you any purely personal opinion of my own.

For the last eight months I have heard men of different types and character discuss “Girls.” (Lots of times it’s the only thing they talk about). So I believe I know something of what others think, – as well as myself.

The Good Girl is the only kind that any self respecting man loves. She is the kind of Girl that makes the world move.

And take my word for it these are no personal views of mine.

Please dont think that what I’ve said is altogether uncalled for – I just want you to know that allowing too much freedom on the part of the boys you meet, will never win you more real friends. And don’t be too quick to condemn a boy because he seems to expect the things you know are not quite right. Other girls – that didn’t care – let him go just a hair too far, – and he doesn’t know you real good – yet.

So forget it if you think the clean, decent fellows are few and far between. I don’t know what you think of my telling you all this; – most boys don’t write to little girls in this way do they?

But, Girlie, you are my Little Sweetheart and little sister, all in one, and I love and worship you as I never have anyone else. So please believe I am just trying to help you to be the kind of a girl that “makes things move.”

The Y.M.C.A. is about to close so I will have to finish this.

Sincerely,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant