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Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

Collection Campaign Highlights 2022

November 8th, 2022

Another election day is here! This Tuesday, November 8th, 2022, we’ll be voting in a midterm election for all sorts of positions in local and state service with a national potential impact. So, with all of us in a somewhat political frame of mind, we wanted to share a few collection highlights related to campaigns and elections of the past.

Election ticket for Union Party listing Lincoln, Johnson, and slate of electors as well as candidate for First District of San Francisco congressional seat.
Union ticket for President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and Vice-President Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, 1864. Call Number: RH VLT Misc. 2. Click image to enlarge.

Election ticket for the slate of candidates representing the National Union Party (as a temporary name used for a conglomeration of the Republican Party and some smaller factions of other parties) in the 1864 election.

Button with drawing of a frog wearing a "No Bypass" shirt and holding sign saying "Write in Agnes T. Frog".
Agnes T. Frog, campaign button, 1986. Agnes T. Frog political campaign materials. Call Number: RH MS 472. Click image to enlarge.

An artifact of a very local campaign, this button was part of a write-in campaign in 1986 for Agnes T. Frog for Douglas County Commissioner to protest the environmental impacts of the southern Lawrence bypass.

Blue text on white paper. "Elect D. Jenilee Miller" with small photo and pledge/issue information.
Flyer for D. Jenilee Miller campaign, 1970. 1970 political campaigns collection. Call Number: RH MS 1453. Click image to enlarge.

And something in between. In 1970 D. Jenilee Miller lost her campaign for Secretary of State for Kansas with 41.13% of the popular vote, campaigning on modernizing Kansas Government and election issues which still hold public interest today.

Rear of Union ticket depicting sinking of C.S.S. Alabama.
Union ticket for President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and Vice-President Andrew Johnson of Tennessee (rear), 1864. Call Number: RH VLT Misc. 2. Click image to enlarge.

Shelby Schellenger

Reference Coordinator

Pride Month, 2022: Highlights from the Bruce McKinney Papers

June 27th, 2022

Hello and happy Pride Month!

The Bruce McKinney collection at Kenneth Spencer Research Library holds many pieces of LGBTQIA+ materials and memorabilia. McKinney was a Kansas activist for gender and gay rights. His collection of papers ranges from pamphlets for rallies and centers for queer individuals all over the country to stickers and pins.

For example, McKinney’s papers document the work of the Wichita, Kansas, LesBiGayTrans Center, an organization with which he worked closely.

Text that reads "Welcome to The Center, Wichita's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and HIV/AIDS Affected People's Community Center, Operated by Kansans for Human Dignity. Look for a Volunteer wearing a KFHD volunteer staff badge."
A flier for The LesBiGayTrans Community Center of Wichita, Kansas, undated. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 15, Folder 29. Click image to enlarge.
Black text on a white background describing the event.
Flier for Lesbian/Gay History Month at The LesBiGayTrans Community Center of Wichita, Kansas, October 1994. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 15, Folder 29. Click image to enlarge.
Black text on white and pink backgrounds. The main text reads "Your Next Step" and "This is Who I Am."
An undated National Coming Out Day pamphlet in Bruce McKinney’s files of The LesBiGayTrans Community Center. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 15, Folder 29. Click image to enlarge.
Blue text that says "Safe Zone" on white paper. There is also a pink triangle centered in a blue circle.
An undated Safe Zone flier in Bruce McKinney’s files of The LesBiGayTrans Community Center. This jumped out to me because I recently learned that Nazis used pink triangle badges to distinguish gay men in concentration camps. The triangle was later reclaimed as a protest symbol against homophobia. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 15, Folder 29. Click image to enlarge.

Some items in the McKinney collection highlight the history of the LGBTQIA+ community at the University of Kansas. The documents below focus on LesBiGay Awareness Week events held in 1995.

Black text on white paper. There is a black-and-white American flag in the background.
Flier for the “Pride March on Lawrence,” April 1995. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 31, Folder 39. Click image to enlarge.
Black text on white paper.
KU Queer Prom flier, April 1995. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 31, Folder 39. Click image to enlarge.

Additionally, McKinney’s papers includes information to help learn more about the queer community. I was particularly interested in the information written on bisexuality and even a paper about how to defend homosexuality in instances where individuals use the Bible against them.

Black text on yellowish/orange paper. The document lists four biphobic (negative) attitude levels and four bifriendly (positive) attitude levels.
“The Biphobia Scale,” undated. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 14, Folder 49. Click image to enlarge.
Black text on white paper. The document is a resource order form for workshop and teaching materials.
“Campaign to End Homophobia” flier, undated. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 14, Folder 48. Click image to enlarge.
Black text on white paper. The document examines Bible verses Genesis 18-19 and Judges 19, arguing that they "were not written as tools for condemnation toward homosexuals."
“Homosexuality and the Scriptures” document, undated. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 14, Folder 49. Click image to enlarge.

Some of the more fun things to look at were the many different bumper stickers that McKinney saved!

Two circular stickers with primarily white text against a red background.
Hot pink text against a black background.
Pink text with a row of people in black silhouette against a white background.
Blue text with a globe, a compass, and a pink triangle on a white background.
A selection of bumper stickers from Bruce McKinney’s collection. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 15, Folder 5. Click images to enlarge.

Have a happy and safe Pride!

Black-and-white newspaper clipping of a man leaning up against a wall. He is wearing a black cowboy hat and a white t-shirt that says "Queer Cowboy."
Advertisement for a “Queer Cowboy” t-shirt in the Over the Rainbow catalogue, undated. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS Q306, Box 124, Folder 10. Click image to enlarge.

Alex Williams
Public Services Student Assistant

Flag Day, 2022

June 14th, 2022
Bandstand decorated by the Eagle Flag Co. in Sedan, Kansas, 1913. Kansas Collection Photos. Call Number: RH MS P2178. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Not a federal holiday, but a celebration and a remembrance. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14th as Flag Day, celebrating the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. Flags are a particular manifestation of symbols. A flag can indicate an idea, a group, a place, or an area. With the adoption of an official flag for the United States of America, there was a unified way to signal the influence of the USA. With that noted, maybe we can look at how it and a few other flags have been used through the years!

Here we have one of several KU flags, this one a 1928 design. Used in this manner, it is very similar to a national flag, showing identification and support for the University of Kansas.

University of Kansas flag designed in 1928; photo taken in 1933. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/49: General Records: Flags and Banners (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Flags sometimes come with the hint of violence. Here we have a photo of students around their flag to fight for on May Day in 1895. Having your flag captured was quite the sign of disgrace!

May Day Scrap, 1895. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/10: Student Activities: May Day (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

While flags can be used as positive symbols – representing enthusiasm, identification, etc. – flags can also be used as negative symbols. Here at a KU an anti-Vietnam war Student protest in May 1970, black flags are displayed along with a U.S. flag on a coffin near a U.S. flag at half-mast. The same flags used for celebration here demonstrate shame and loss.

KU anti-Vietnam student protests on May 3-9, 1970. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18: Student Protests (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

And while a flag can be used to isolate and claim dominion, flags can be used to show hope, alliance, and gathering together as in the dedication ceremony for Allen Fieldhouse in 1955.

The Allen Fieldhouse dedication ceremony, 1955. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/1: Campus: Buildings: Allen Fieldhouse (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Flags have been and are used in many different ways in many different circumstances: in humor, in celebration, in victory, in defeat, in shame, and in pride. Flag Day may specifically celebrate the adoption of a United States flag, but isn’t a bad day to think of all the flags we fly!

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

Yellowstone: The Sesquicentennial of the National Parks

March 10th, 2022
Yellowstone Park booklet, undated. Cooper-Sheppard-Cox Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS 576. Click image to enlarge.

On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill that established Yellowstone. So… Happy Birthday! And 150 is kind of a big one. Yellowstone has very little to do directly with Kansas, but that doesn’t mean there are no connections as our collections here at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library contain maps, photos, postcards, diaries, and even a symphony inspired by the national park. 

Black-and-white photograph of a crowded bridge. A man standing to the side appears to have a megaphone.
All right, on three, everybody sing! But actuall,y “Crowd on Bridge over Firehole River,” 1931. Personal Papers of Raymond Beamer, Photo Envelope 6, Field Expedition Photos. Call Number: PP 392. Click image to enlarge.

People liked seeing the amazing natural scenery of the park; there were quickly hotels, support buildings, postcards, trails, and many named natural attractions. 

Color illustration of a long multistory brown building on top of a small hill.
“Grand Canyon Hotel, Yellowstone Park,” undated. Yellowstone National Park Postcards, Ruth Adair Dyer Papers. Call Number: RH MS 745. Click image to enlarge.
Black-and-white photograph of a rock formation.
Jupiter Terrace, Yellowstone National Park, 1931. Personal Papers of Raymond Beamer, Photo Envelope 5, Field Expedition Photos. Call Number: PP 392. Click image to enlarge.

I haven’t gotten the chance to visit Yellowstone yet, but when I do get to go on vacation, the National Parks are definitely a consideration when picking a destination. The variety of the natural scenery, the ideals of conservation, the privilege of getting to visit these places, shared with so many other people. It is sort of a peaceful and exciting feeling all at once! 

Color illustration of visitors in four yellow open-air cars, driving along a lake framed by tall conifer trees.
“Auto Stages at Sylvan Lake, Yellowstone National Park,” undated. Yellowstone National Park Postcards, Ruth Adair Dyer Papers. Call Number: RH MS 745. Click image to enlarge.

I also mentioned maps, diaries, and even a symphony. There is a map of the tour route in the back of that booklet whose cover starts this post. Evangeline Lathrop Phillips kept a diary of her trip in 1922. And finally, composer and former KU professor James Barnes composed his Fourth Symphony, The Yellowstone Suite, here performed by The Symphonisches Blasorchester Norderstedt.

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

Kansas City’s Douglass Hospital: The First Black Hospital West of the Mississippi River

February 23rd, 2022

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) founded the annual February celebration of Black History in 1926 and has identified “Black Health and Wellness” as the theme for 2022.

Until the 1960s, Black physicians and nurses in the United States were denied access to most hospitals, while Black patients were either not accepted or relegated to inferior, segregated areas in hospitals. From Spencer’s African American Experience Collections, I selected images and a few printed items to highlight the Greater Kansas City Black Community’s pioneering effort to defy “Jim Crow” practices by establishing the nation’s first Black community owned and operated hospital west of the Mississippi. It was also the region’s first modern hospital to welcome all patients equally regardless of their “race.”  

Black-and-white photograph of a two-story brick building with a front porch and a "Douglass Hospital" sign. Five women, four dressed as nurses, stand outside.
Douglass Hospital, circa 1900. It was located at 312 Washington Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas, from 1898 to 1924. S.H. Thompson Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 510. Click image to enlarge.

Organized by Black physicians and community leaders from Kansas City, Kansas (KCK), and Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO), Douglass Hospital opened its doors in December 1898 under the temporary supervision of Nurse Miss A.D. Richardson from Provident Hospital in Chicago. The building previously housed a white Protestant hospital. Fully equipped, it provided ten beds for patients on the first floor and a nurse’s quarters on the second floor. In 1901, the hospital’s first Nursing School exercise convened at First AME Church in KCK and its Nurse Commencement at the Second Baptist Church in KCMO.             

Black-and-white photograph of Dr. Thompson standing. He is wearing a dark overcoat.
Dr. Solomon H. Thompson (1870-1950). From The Afro-American Community in Kansas City, Kansas: A History (1982). Call Number: RH D8708. Click image to enlarge.

Dr. Thompson, the leading founder of Douglass Hospital, was the eldest of thirteen children born to Mr. Jasper and Mrs. Dolly Thompson in West Virginia. He earned his undergraduate degree from Storer College in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and a medical degree from Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C.  After an internship in surgery at Freedmen’s Hospital in D.C., he moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where he developed a thriving private practice. He also served as the head of Douglass until he retired from practicing medicine in 1946.  

Sepia-toned photograph of men standing around a table. They are using medical implements to examine a human cadaver.
Dr. Thompson’s student years at Howard University Medical School, 1880s. S.H. Thompson Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 510. Click image to enlarge.
Sepia-toned headshot photograph of an older man in a suit.
Isaac Franklin Bradley (1862-1938). S.H. Thompson Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 510. Click image to enlarge.

A native of Saline County in Missouri, Mr. Isaac Franklin Bradley was a co-founder and devoted community advocate for Douglass Hospital. After earning a bachelor of law degree from the University of Kansas in 1877, he moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where he established an active private law practice and served as the City’s Justice of the Peace (1889-1891) and the First Assistant County Attorney (1894-1898). Dedicated to Black collective advancement, Mr. Bradley engaged in a variety of community business enterprises, served as a charter member of the 1905 Niagara Movement (the predecessor of the NAACP), co-founded KCK’s Negro Civic League, and owned/edited the Wyandotte Echo newspaper.

(Douglass Hospital co-founder Dr. Thomas C. Unthank (1866-1932) in Kansas City, Missouri, also pioneered the development of General Hospital #2 in Kansas City, Missouri, the first Black Municipal Hospital in the United States in 1911.)   

Once up and running, Douglass Hospital sparked the development of a nearby Black community owned and operated “medical” building.

Black-and-white photograph of a two-story brick building with two second-floor bay windows. A man stands with a horse and buggy in front.
Sepia-toned photograph of two men, an employee and a customer, standing at glass display cases items. Full bookcases line the walls. On the left is a long counter with stools.
The exterior (top) and interior (bottom) of the Wyandotte Drug Store, located at 1512 North 5th Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas, around 1900. It was the city’s first Black owned drug store, and it was also operated by a Black pharmacist. S.H. Thompson Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 510. Click images to enlarge.
Sepia-toned photograph of a wooden desk and office chair. There are miscellaneous papers and stacks of books.
Dr. Thompson’s study in his private practice office, undated. S.H. Thompson Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 510. Click image to enlarge.
Black-and-white pamphlet cover with a sketch of Booker T. Washington, a decorative border, and details (where, when, etc.) about the event.
Douglass Hospital’s Booker T. Washington lecture in Kansas City, Missouri, May 4, 1906. A copy of this booklet was donated by Mr. Chester Owens, historian and collector. Chester Owens Collection. Call Number: RH MS 1549 (item not yet cataloged). Click image to enlarge.

More than 6,000 people, Black and white, attended this Douglass Hospital fundraising event in Kansas City, Missouri’s Convention Hall to hear Booker T. Washington’s lecture. A year earlier, the hospital’s volunteer governing board and medical staff decided to move under the administration of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Fifth District led by Bishop Abraham Grant in response to the increasing costs and administrative needs required to maintain a modern hospital.  After this event, Douglass paid its debts and enlarged its facility, as seen in this photo:

Black-and-white photograph of an enlarged two-story brick building with a front porch and a "Douglass Hospital" sign. A group of nurses stands in front.
Douglass Hospital renovated, 1911. Josephine M. White Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 1099. Click image to enlarge.

By 1915, the Douglass Hospital Nurse Training School was incorporated into the curriculum at Western University in Kansas City, Kansas.

A page cut from a book with a decorative blue border, two black-and-white headshot photographs at the top, and information about the training school.
A page in the 1927 Westernite yearbook showing Mildred E. Brown and Rose Alexander, Douglass Hospital Training School graduates, Western University, Kansas City, Kansas. Douglass Hospital Training School Records. Call Number: RH MS P681.
Black-and-white photograph of a substantial house with wood siding and an expansive wrap-around porch.
The second Douglass Hospital (1924-1945), located at 336 Quindaro Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas. S.H. Thompson Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 510. Click image to enlarge.

To meet the hospital’s increasing number of patients, the Greater Kansas Black community organized a fundraising drive that led to the purchase of the former Edgerton Estate. The two-story, fifteen-room residence enabled the hospital to increase its capacity to twenty-five patients with two more small buildings for meetings and events. Douglass Hospital convened public programs during annual Negro Health Week in April and sponsored free clinics for ear, nose, and throat exams and sessions on medical care for babies. 

Douglass Hospital nurses delivered the ongoing care for patients, organized outreach activities, and managed the hospital’s ongoing need for more medical supplies.

Black-and-white photograph of two students in nursing uniforms next to a sign that reads "Douglass Hospital and Nurses Training Program."
Student Nurses Ethel Edmond and Katherine Hicks, 1930s. Papers of Viola L. (Tyree) Lisben. Call Number: RH MS-P P567. Click image to enlarge.
Black-and-white photograph of a smiling woman in a nurses uniform. She is holding a baby and a stuffed animal.
Nurse Helen Mecklin (Thomas) with a young patient, undated. Papers of Viola L. (Tyree) Lisben. Call Number: RH MS-P P567. Click image to enlarge.
Black-and-white photograph of a large, three-story brick building.
The third Douglass Hospital (1946-1964), located at 3700 N. 27th Street. S.H. Thompson Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 510. Click image to enlarge.

During the 1930s the hospital experienced a steep decline in patients, staff, and funding. After graduating forty-three nurses during the last three decades, the Douglass Hospital Training School closed in 1937. However, with support from the Black and white Greater Kansas City communities and funding from the Federal government’s Hill-Burton Act for hospitals in 1945, Douglass renovated a three-story building on the former Western University campus to accommodate a fifty-bed hospital that included a bloodbank, lab, and obstetrics unit. On the building’s ground floor, visitors were welcomed in a spacious reception area.    

By 1954, desegregation practices in Greater Kansas City’s white hospitals eventually forced Douglass to close its doors in 1977. Afterwards, the hospital’s last building was torn down and its records lost.

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist/Curator, African American Experience Collections
Kansas Collection