Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Throwback Thursday: Homecoming History Edition

September 20th, 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 an early KU Homecoming football game, 1910s

An early KU homecoming football game at McCook Field, 1910s. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

For over a century, the tradition of homecoming has been observed across KU and the city of Lawrence. Originating as an opportunity for alumni to revisit campus, the first homecoming game was played against the University of Missouri in November 1912, with KU winning 12-3. Over the next decade, the popular event spun off into many traditions. Some – like homecoming parades – have endured to this day, while others – like the annual tiger bonfire and a day dedicated to dressing like hobos – have disappeared.

Photograph of KU students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931

Students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931. The raucous event became an
integral part of homecoming festivities at KU. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/9 1931 Prints: Student Activities: Hobo Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Homecoming mostly continued on in this fashion for nearly six decades – a week of parties, rallies, and promotional activities leading up to the big football game. It wasn’t until 1970 that the next major development in the history of KU homecoming took place. In 1969, senior student Janet Merrick was crowned KU’s final homecoming queen. The selection of the homecoming queen had been part of the celebration since 1925. Protests surrounding the war in Vietnam and a growing sense of student-establishment tension deemed the tradition to be clashing with modern sensibilities. Additionally, frustrated with a process that had never resulted in a black homecoming queen, KU’s Black Student Union first chose its own queen in 1969. The following year was the first homecoming celebration without a queen, and the tradition remains shelved. The Black Student Union continues to crown a homecoming queen each year.

Photograph of KU Homecoming Queen Jan Merrick, 1969

Homecoming Queen Janet Merrick, 1969. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 1969 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The following year, KU introduced a second Jayhawk mascot. During halftime of the 1971 homecoming game against Kansas State University, Baby Jay was unveiled to the student body after hatching from a giant blue egg. Big Jay and Baby Jay have been staples of the university spirit team ever since.

Photograph of the Baby Jay egg, 1971

Baby Jay egg, 1971. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/25 1971
Negatives: University General: Jayhawk mascot, dolls, etc (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of KU Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971

Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 2/13 1971 Prints:
Chancellors: E. Laurence Chalmers (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

In 1993 there may have been some consideration in reviving the homecoming court; however, a new tradition began instead. An award was given to students that exhibited academic excellence, leadership, and a strong sense of service to the Lawrence community. This became the KU Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Awards, or the KU Ex.C.E.L. Awards. This honor has been given to two students, every homecoming, for the past twenty-eight years.

Homecoming in more recent years has seen the emergence of new traditions. For example, at Chalk ‘n’ Rock, student groups and organizations create elaborate chalk murals along Wescoe Beach. The Jayhawk Jingles continue as a new version of the Jayhawk Follies; students compete in a contest of musical performances.

Photograph of the Jayhawk Follies, 1954

Four women dancing on stage dressed as dolls in the Jayhawk Follies, 1954.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/1 1954 Prints: Student Activities:
Homecoming (Photos). Click on image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

This year, KU faces off against Oklahoma State in the 106th homecoming football game. The theme this year is “Home on the Hill,” a call for alumni to return home to their University as they always have and for current students to further solidify their own homes on the hill.

Mallory Harrell
KU Museum Studies graduate student and University Archives intern

Throwback Thursday: Tailgate Edition, Part II

September 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!

Photograph of football fans tailgating outside Memorial Stadium, 1975-1976

Football fans tailgating outside Memorial Stadium, 1975-1976.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/66/14 1975/1976 Prints:
Student Activities: Sports: Football (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Reading Edition

September 6th, 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!

It’s National Read a Book Day, and a visit to Spencer Research Library is a great way to celebrate! Our collections have something for everyone: books in various genres covering a wide range of topics, places, and time periods. Or, bring your own book to the library and find a quiet spot to read. You might enjoy the coziness of the antique furnishings in the Spencer lounge or, like the student in this week’s photo, you might prefer the grandeur of the North Gallery, with its glass-enclosed book stacks and spectacular campus views.

Photograph of a library student assistant reading a book in the North Gallery at Spencer Research Library, 1970s

A library student assistant reading a book in Spencer’s North Gallery, 1970s.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 32/37 1970s Slides: University of Kansas Libraries:
Special Collections (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital Collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Waving the Wheat Edition

August 30th, 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!

Just like the fans in this week’s photograph, we’re pumped for KU football! The 2018 season begins on Saturday with a home game against Nicholls State University.

Photograph of football fans at a pep rally, 1936-1937

KU football fans waving the wheat at a pep rally, 1936-1937.
Note the yell leaders in the background, wearing Jayhawk sweaters.
Call Number: RG 71/66/14 1936/1937 Prints: Student Activities: Sports: Football (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Freshman Toss Edition

August 23rd, 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!

One of the fun topics you can learn about in University Archives is the history of traditions at KU, especially those observed during the university’s early decades but no longer practiced today.

One contentious custom required all freshmen to wear tiny caps (beanies) and to tip it before the school flag, faculty members, and seniors. According to an article on the KU History website, the punishments for not doing so included “a severe paddling, an involuntary dip in Potter Lake, or having oneself tossed repeatedly into the air from huge canvas blankets, held by members of the Men’s Student Council and the K-Club, which was composed of lettermen from all University sports.”

Photograph of a group of men tossing a freshman caught without his cap, 1914

Photograph of a group of men tossing a freshman caught without his cap, 1914

Freshmen being tossed in the air after being caught without a cap, 1914.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/66/14 1914 Prints:
Student Activities: Sports: Football (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Both of the above photos were taken in 1914 during KU football games at McCook Field, located roughly where Memorial Stadium now stands. The opponents were the College of Emporia (October 10, top) and the University of Missouri (November 21, bottom).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services