Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

“We Will Be Ready for You Christmas Eve”: A Letter to Santa

December 18th, 2018

Spencer’s collections contain a wealth of books, documents, and photographs by, to, about, and for children. One of my favorite items is an adorable – and somewhat lengthy – letter to Santa written by a young girl named Berenice Boyd. Born in February 1903, Berenice lived most of her life in Paola, Kansas – located in the east-central part of the state.

The letter and other items from Berenice’s collection are currently on display as part of Spencer’s “50 for 50” exhibit, which will be installed in the Library’s Exhibit Space through early January.

Photograph of Berenice Boyd's letter to Santa Claus, undated

Photograph of Berenice Boyd's letter to Santa Claus, undated

Photograph of the envelope to Berenice Boyd's letter to Santa Claus, undated

Berenice Boyd’s letter to Santa Claus with its envelope, undated [circa 1910].
The letter is transcribed below. Call Number: RH MS 1366. Click images to enlarge.

Photograph of Berenice Boyd, undated

A studio photograph of Berenice Boyd, undated [circa 1910].
Call Number: RH MS 1366. Click image to enlarge.

Dear Santa Claus.

I have had a good time all summer, and wish to have a good time all winter. I have not wrote to you for a long time. That is all I have time for now.

I will begin.

Please bring me a high grade violin.
A doll as big as Edna Emery. (1)
And a large baby [bump?].
Please bring me a doll cradle.
I please want a kodak [possibly a Brownie camera].
I would like a Christmas tree If there is a enough –
I would like a white fur and muff For my doll.
And a muff and fur for my self.
And I will hang my stocking up.
I speck [expect] to see you to the church.
we will have a fine time on Christmas.
And will put my Christmas tree out for you.

I speck [expect] all your boys and girls Have all been good.
And get the presents to.

I saw in Kansas City two weeks ago that they had a Tea party and each little girl Must bring her doll.
We will be ready for you Christmas eve.

I want a postal card from you and as soon as I get Yours I will send one to you.

I will have to clouse [close] now.

Go by [good bye]. I wish you a merry Christmas.
Go night [good night].

I please want to kittys [two kitties].
And a dog.
I please want a pony.

Merry Christmas.
Berenice Boyd

(1) Preliminary research suggests that Edna Emery was a couple of years younger than Berenice and that the two girls were childhood friends.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Holiday Travel Edition

December 13th, 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!

If you’re traveling this holiday season, we hope your journey is much more pleasant than what’s depicted in this week’s image!

Image of the "Off for the Holly-Days" cartoon in the Sour Owl, December 1926

“Off for the Holly-Days” cartoon in The Sour Owl, December 1926.
The humorous periodical was written and published by KU students from 1914 through 1956.
University Archives. Call Number: UA Ser 71/0/58. Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Improving the Physical Environment in Spencer Library: The Third Visit from Image Permanence Institute

December 12th, 2018

KU Libraries recently hosted Christopher Cameron and Kelly Krish, consultants from Image Permanence Institute (IPI), for their third and final visit as part of the planning grant we were awarded from the National Endowment for the Humanities, under the Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections program. The purpose of the grant is to work with our environmental consultants to study the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in Spencer Research Library in order to more sustainably preserve our collections.

On December 4-5, 2018, Chris and Kelly met with members of the KU team representing Facilities Services, Campus Operations, KU Libraries, and Facilities Planning and Development. We first met to discuss building and mechanical system updates since their visit in April, such as the opening of a new conservation lab and work on windows in Spencer Library’s North Gallery. In addition, we talked about weather conditions in Lawrence, Kansas, during the spring, summer, and fall.

As in past visits, the consultants collected data from dataloggers placed in the mechanical system, vents in the collections stacks, and in open spaces in the stacks. They then spent time analyzing the data and searching for anomalies that should be addressed.

Consultants checking air flow in Spencer Research Library

Chris Cameron and Kelly Krish check for air flow from a vent in the new conservation lab.

On the second day, the consultants met with the KU grant team to discuss the conclusions that resulted from a year of studying Spencer Research Library. Chris and Kelly referred to climate data gathered over a year’s time in eClimate Notebook. We also discussed ways to improve the sustainability of our system, which currently consumes too much energy. The consultants showed us architectural drawings for the airflow throughout the building in order to ponder how our HVAC system might be updated to provide separate zones for collections and people.

Consultant discussing architectural drawings of Spencer Library's ductwork

Chris Cameron shows us how air travels from the air handling unit through two underground channels, which provide air to the east and west sides of the buildings.

It has been a pleasure to work with Chris and Kelly from the Image Permanence Institute. We have learned so much about the idiosyncrasies of our building and have some short-term action items to help its systems operate more efficiently. We will receive a final report from the consultants early next year and will then make plans for next steps.

Consultants discussing temperature and relative humidity graphs from Spencer Research Library

Chris Cameron and Kelly Krish discuss temperature and relative humidity data for a space in Spencer Library.

Many thanks also to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the grant reviewers who deemed our project worthy of funding. We are most appreciative.

Whitney Baker, Head
Conservation Services

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Improving the Physical Environment in Spencer Research Library” has been made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections.

December-January Exhibit: Women Students’ Writings in KU’s Department of English, 1899-1900

December 11th, 2018

A new temporary exhibit is currently on display at the entrances to the North Gallery at Kenneth Spencer Research Library. This exhibit is titled “Writing within Required Genres: Women Students’ Writings in KU’s Department of English, 1899-1900” and showcases many of the materials that serve as the basis of my dissertation work in the Department of English’s Rhetoric and Composition Ph.D. program.

Photograph of the east side of Spencer Research Library's North Gallery

Photograph of the temporary exhibit case on the east side of Spencer Research Library's North Gallery

The temporary exhibit case on the east side of Spencer’s North Gallery.
Click images to enlarge.

Throughout its history, the Department of English at the University of Kansas has experienced many changes in its structure, policies, and approaches to the teaching of writing. In this exhibit, materials from KU’s University Archives at Kenneth Spencer Research Library help narrate a snapshot of time in that history—the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, and a course titled “Advanced English Composition.”

This exhibit provides information about the Department of English, its teachers, and this particular course. Moreover, it showcases the importance of examining the writings of individual students and their unique responses to the writing instruction they received.

Exhibit Case 1 is located at the west entrance to the North Gallery. It contains materials that help contextualize “Advanced English Composition” and the student writings produced for it. Included are course catalogues, photographs, English Department publications, and more.

Photograph of the temporary exhibit case on the west side of Spencer Research Library's North Gallery

Exhibit Case 1 seeks to contextualize the writings of students
Margaret Kane and Kate Hansen. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of pages in a diary kept by KU English Professor Edwin M. Hopkins

A sample item on display in Exhibit Case 1: a diary of KU English Professor
Edwin M. Hopkins. Call Number: PP 73. Click image to enlarge.

Exhibit Case 2 is located at the east entrance to the North Gallery. It contains the actual writings produced by two women students for “Advanced English Composition”: the 1899 course notes of Margaret Kane (PP 23) and the 1900 course papers of Kate Hansen (PP 19). These texts were required for the successful completion of their courses. They show instances of Margaret and Kate writing within, pushing against, and even occasionally even moving beyond the expectations of these genres. These writings stress the importance of viewing students—those in the past and in the present—as unique individuals, not a homogeneous group.

Phtoograph of selected writings of Margaret Kane

Exhibit Case 2 highlights information from life of student
Margaret Kane and features her notebook and course notes.
Call Number: PP 23. Click image to enlarge.

Photographs of Kate Hansen

Exhibit Case 2 likewise highlights information about the life of student
Kate Hansen, including these two photographs taken during and
shortly after her time at KU. Call Number: PP 19. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of "Description of a Library Chair" by Kate Hansen

Among Kate Hansen’s featured papers is her essay providing a
“Description of a Library Chair.” Call Number: PP 19. Click image to enlarge.

Curating this exhibit has been a joy. It has provided an opportunity to share my research with a more public audience, a feature that dissertations and the academic publications that stem from them too often lack. I’m extremely grateful to the staff at Kenneth Spencer Research Library—particularly those in public services, conservation, and University Archives—for assisting me with this process.

Sarah E. Polo
KU Doctoral Candidate in Rhetoric and Composition
Public Services Student Assistant

Holiday Hosting with “The ‘Home Queen’ Cook Book”

December 7th, 2018

December has arrived and with it the winter holiday season! Since the holiday season means holiday parties, I wanted to look into hosting an oft forgotten type of affair – a lovely, elegant dinner party!

Personally, I do not have much experience with dinner parties so I decided to go to the best source I could find: The “Home Queen” Cook Book. Compiled during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, The “Home Queen” Cook Book features recipes, etiquette, and entertaining suggestions from “over two hundred World’s Fair lady managers, wives of governors, and other ladies of position and influence.” Armed with the advice of these many esteemed ladies, I set out to see if I could recreate an elegant dinner party from generations past. What follows is a story of research, abandoned dreams, and a final feeble attempt to do anything I had originally hoped to accomplish.

Image of the cover of "The 'Home Queen' Cook Book," 1901

The cover of The “Home Queen” Cook Book, 1901.
Call Number: Galloway C35. Click image to enlarge.

Now, I do not know what everyone else pictures when they think of a dinner party, but I was envisioning an elegantly set table with beautiful linens and fine china to hold a magnificent multi-course meal. With that image in mind, I immediately began examining the section on “Party Suppers” in The “Home Queen” Cook Book. That sounds like the place to start, right? And what did I learn? First, a “party supper” and a dinner party are not synonymous. A party supper is much less formal than what I was expecting when I read the heading:

An evening party… would assemble quite early in the evening. This would give plenty of time for social intercourse, music and innocent amusements. Refreshments might be carried around on trays, and the guests served with cake, coffee or lemonade. Fine large napkins should first be handed around. These should be spread on the knees to receive the plates afterward furnished. Delicate sandwiches of chopped tongue, spread thinly on sandwich biscuits, or the white meat of turkey or check are very nice for such entertainments. Ice cream, confectionery, and ripe fruit of any kind may be served.

I liked the idea of this informal gathering, which was meant to “facilitate conversation, ease, and the choosing of congenial companions out of mixed gatherings at large parties.” What more could you want from a festive holiday party? However, I still had the aforementioned picture of a dinner party in my mind. This prompted me to look to the sections on “The Mid-Day Meal” and “The Evening Meal” in the book, hoping to find any information that might be of use. Lo and behold, I found exactly what I was picturing in “The Mid-Day Meal” section! In it was everything I could ever want to know about table settings, the most appropriate food choices, even how to properly invite your guests to the affair. Before spending a great deal of time on the overwhelming amount of food described, I decided to focus first on the most basic aspect of the evening: a proper table setting.

After reading the descriptions of the proper linens, plates, crystal, and silver, I realized that just setting the table would cost a small fortune. The proper “snow white” table linen made of the suggested “handsome Irish damask” would easily cost over $100 for a small tablecloth. Any attempt at recreating the quality of a proper dinner table setting was clearly out of reach.

“Ok,” I thought to myself, “If the expected quality is unmanageable, what can I do that would dress up a somewhat subpar table setting so that it at least looks elegant?” Returning to the book, I found the perfect remedy: an artfully folded napkin. Aided by the “Folding Table Napkins” section, I began my attempt to create anything that might give me the air of sophistication I had hoped to achieve when I originally formed this brilliant plan of mine.

Image of the instructions for the Escutcheon napkin fold in "The 'Home Queen' Cook Book," 1901

Escutcheon napkin fold diagram and instructions in
The “Home Queen” Cook Book, 1901.
Call Number: Galloway C35. Click image to enlarge.

The “Home Queen” Cook Book features no less than twenty-one different napkin-folding techniques to help ensure that “the dining room, the table and all that is placed upon it shall be made as attractive as possible.” With such a plethora of options – all with detailed instructions and pictures to guide me – I thought I had finally found the perfect starting point on my way to my dream dinner party. Unfortunately, my optimism and confidence were quickly destroyed after attempting only two of the possible folds: the Escutcheon (picture above) and the Chestnut Pocket (pictured below).

Image of the instructions for the Chestnut Pocket napkin fold in "The 'Home Queen' Cook Book," 1901

The Chestnut Pocket napkin fold diagram and instructions in
The “Home Queen” Cook Book, 1901.
Call Number: Galloway C35. Click image to enlarge.

The Escutcheon: Described as “the easiest of all the ornamental foldings,” the Escutcheon was the beginning of the end for me. It was here I learned that the instructions to starch and iron the napkins immediately before folding was not a suggestion but truly an absolute requirement. After close to a half an hour of intense labor and a great deal of swearing, I finally managed to produce… something.

Photograph of an Escutcheon napkin fold attempt

My attempt at the Escutcheon napkin fold. Click image to enlarge.

The Chestnut Pocket: My attempt to regaining any semblance of dignity after being so embarrassingly defeated by the Escutcheon finally yielded a positive result for me! I even took it a step beyond the Chestnut Pocket and created the Pocket Napkin. I found that the secret to success lay in finding a napkin-folding technique that did not need to stand up. With this revelation, I managed to produce the following creation:

Photograph of a Pocket napkin fold attempt

My successful attempt at the Pocket napkin fold
(a variation on the Chestnut Pocket napkin fold).
Click image to enlarge.

So after all of this – the research, the numerous disappointments, the defeat, and eventual triumph – I am sure you must be wondering: will I be hosting my envisioned elegant dinner party this holiday season? To put it succinctly, absolutely not. There is only so much embarrassment by fabric I am willing to put myself through in the name of holiday entertaining.

Emily Beran
Public Services