The University of Kansas

Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

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.

That’s Distinctive: Tales of the Fairies

May 24th, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing a book from our children’s book collection. The children’s book collection was founded in 1953 and has been built largely through gifts to the library. The collection consists of over seven thousand children’s books from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries.

The book shared today, titled Tales of the Fairies, was written by Lewis Marsh and illustrated by Lilian A. Govey. Probably published in 1912, the book highlights fairy tales from various countries. Little can be found about the book online, but I stumbled upon it by searching terms for mythical creatures in the KU Libraries catalog. I chose to highlight this book over others for a couple of reasons. First, given the book’s condition, it is clear that it is quite old. Older books tend to grab my attention more because of the histories and stories they hold, both physically and metaphorically. My second reason was that the illustrations in the book are quite intriguing. The artistic style shifts from illustration to illustration, which adds variety to the book. Additionally, some illustrations are in color while others are grey and white.

Illustration of a red-haired fairy in a red dress sitting on a rock surrounded by flowers.
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This image has text. Facing the title page is a color illustration of a red-haired fairy in a long white dress, calling to her three maids.
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This image has the text of the table of contents.
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This image has the text of the poem "Queen Mab's Song." The text is surrounded by a black-and-white sketch of small fairies dancing in groups.
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This image has the text of the first page of the story "The Fairy Palace." The facing page is a color illustration of two children watching small green "fairy huntsmen" riding white horses.
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Black-and-white sketch of a child opening a door to Jack Frost, a man covered in icicles.
The front cover of – and selected pages from – Tales of the Fairies, circa 1912. Call Number: Children B2740. Click image to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

That’s Distinctive!: Recipes from Lawrence Public Schools

May 17th, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing an item from our collection of Lawrence Public Schools (USD 497) records. The collection spans 1858 to 2022 and contains a myriad of items including records, reports, newsletters, yearbooks, and photographs. The collection consists of 144 boxes, 33 oversize boxes, 24 oversize folders, 143 video tapes, 18 audio tapes, and seven CDs. According to the collection’s finding aid, “the State of Kansas unified Lawrence schools in 1965, creating Lawrence Unified School District #497, or the Lawrence Public Schools. This was during an era when schools were consolidating across the state in part due to better transportation options.”  

The pages shared below are from “Charlsia’s Cordley [Elementary School] Recipe Book.” The document is undated, although other items in the box range from 1962 to 2012. The recipe book contains various recipe entries for date cake, applesauce salad, refrigerator rolls, and more. I assume the recipes were submitted by students.

Before finding this item, I did not know that the USD 497 collection existed. I was digging through the finding aids looking for old recipes when I found this folder. I thought it would be fun to share given the school district is here in Lawrence.

This image has the text of recipes for apple sauce salad, burnt sugar cake, date cake, and "my favorite recipe."
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This image has the text of recipes for ice cream pie, yellow angel food cake, cheese cake, and refrigerator rolls.
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This image has the text of recipes for Russian tea loaf dressing, ginger ale salad, savory meat balls, "Eri's favorite barbecued spareribs," and uncooked cookies.
Selected pages from “Charlsia’s Cordley Recipe Book,” undated. Unified School District 497 Records. Call Number: RH MS 1255. Click images to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

That’s Distinctive!: John Brown Portrait

May 10th, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing an item from our artificial portraits collection. Artificial collections contain smaller collections that have been grouped and stored together based on some similarity. Oftentimes, items in artificial collections do not come to the library together. Per the finding aid for the portraits collection, “many of the purchases were selected by Spencer Research Library’s Kansas Collection photo archivist during the 1980s and 1990s. The collection consists of real photographic postcards, lithographic print postcards, cabinet cards, cartes de visite, mounted and unmounted prints, glass plate negatives, and other visually-based formats of individuals, couples, and groups posed formally, often in photographic studios.” The items date from approximately 1868 to 1986.

The portrait shared today is of John Brown (May 9, 1800-December 2, 1859). Brown was an American abolitionist who, according to PBS, “could not be deterred from his mission of abolishing slavery.” Throughout his life, Brown settled in many various states, held numerous jobs, and fathered twenty children. He “first reach[ed] national prominence in the 1850s for his radical abolitionism and fighting in Bleeding Kansas,” notes Wikipedia. For example, “in May 1856, Brown and his sons killed five supporters of slavery in the Pottawatomie massacre, a response to the sacking of Lawrence by pro-slavery forces.” In 1859, Brown was “captured, tried, and executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia for a raid and incitement of a slave rebellion at Harpers Ferry.”

Black-and-white portrait of a white man. There is text at the bottom.
Portrait of John Brown, 1884. This is an artist’s proof of a copperplate gravure of a painting by Selden J. Woodman of John Brown, signed by Woodman. Artificial Portraits Collection. Call Number: RH PH-540(f). Click image to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

That’s Distinctive!: Random Rhymes

May 3rd, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing a book titled Random Rhymes by Ed Blair. The book was published in Spring Hill, Kansas, in 1939. It contains 213 pages of poems.

Not much about Random Rhymes can be found on the internet. It is another item that I stumbled upon while walking through the stacks. Sometimes I go wander around to see what titles pop out at me. I had no background knowledge on what the book held until I had it paged to the Reading Room. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was delighted to find the poems. A couple of poems from the book are included below.

This image has text: the title and author's name in black lettering against a blue background.
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This image has text: the first part of the table of contents.
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This image has the text of the poem "Dreaming of My Kansas Home."
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This image has the text of the poems "The Little Old Town Where I Live" and "What Makes June."
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This image has the text of the poem "Kansas Invites You."
The front cover, the first page of the table of contents, and selected poems from Random Rhymes by Ed Blair, 1939. Call Number: RH C6635. Click image to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

That’s Distinctive!: Lawrence Historical Museum Scrapbook

April 26th, 2024

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created this series to provide a lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique items at Spencer. “That’s Distinctive!” is meant to show that the library has something for everyone regardless of interest. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, you can leave a comment at the bottom of this page. All collections, including those highlighted on the blog, are available for members of the public to explore in the Reading Room during regular hours.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing some news clippings (circa 1951-1952) about the Lawrence Historical Museum, now known as the Watkins Museum of History. The Lawrence Historical Museum, which was overseen by the Douglas County Historical Society, was located in a city building at 8th and Vermont streets. The Watkins Museum of History, which is also run by the historical society, opened in 1975 at the corner of 11th and Massachusetts streets. The building housed the Watkins National Bank before being refurbished for the museum.

The Douglas County Historical Society was started in 1933 “when a group of concerned citizens were motivated to preserve the community’s early history.” Today, the society’s main activity is maintaining the museum.

The news clippings are part of an artificial collection, meaning it was put together by library staff (not assembled by an individual or organization and then donated to the library). The clippings discuss plans for the Lawrence Historical Museum and highlight when the museum opened for visitors in the basement of the new city building – a span of about six months. The articles also share information about new additions to the museum.

The Watkins Museum of History is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm. Admission is free to the public. The museum “showcases unique and fascinating stories from Douglas County’s past.” Exhibit topics include Territorial Kansas, Civil War era artifacts, Quantrill’s Raid, and more. The museum also hosts many public programs and school groups, and it’s open for community research.

This image has text.
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This image has text.
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This image has text.
The title page of – and selected pages page from – a scrapbook of Lawrence Historical Museum clippings, 1951-1952. Call Number: RH MS B64. Click images to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services