Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Lawrence Gay Liberation Front: Road to Recognition

October 31st, 2018

In honor of LGBT History Month, we are looking back at some of KU’s LGBT history.

In the late 1960s, gay and lesbian organizations were being created all over college campuses in the United States as a response to the Stonewall Riot in New York City. In 1969, students from the University of Kansas decided to form their own LGBT organization, titled the “Lawrence Gay Liberation Front.”

The Lawrence Gay Liberation Front had a few trials at the beginning of their formation. One of their main goals after establishing themselves was to secure funding through Student Senate. This required being formally recognized as a student organization at the University of Kansas. The group tried on multiple occasions to appeal to Chancellor Laurence Chalmers to be recognized as a student organization at KU. Here is what the Chancellor responded to them after their second attempt for recognition:

Image of a KU news release about the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front student organization, 1970

KU news release about the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front,
September 5, 1970. Call Number: RG 67/66. Click image to enlarge.

After being denied formal recognition from Chancellor Chalmers, the students of the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front decided that they had no other choice but to sue the University of Kansas for infringing on their first and fourteenth amendment rights. The suit was filed in late 1971, two years after the group had formed. Below is a newspaper clipping explaining the federal suit:

Image of a Topeka Capital Journal article about the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front student organization, 1971

A Topeka Capital Journal article about the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front,
December 14, 1971. Call Number: RG 67/66. Click image to enlarge.

Unfortunately, the lawsuit was met with a denial of the organization’s request from U.S. District Court Judge George Templar. The group appealed the ruling multiple times, but in 1973 their fight for recognition was halted by the Supreme Court refusing to hear their case. This frustrated the students of the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front, but they did not disband. Instead, the organization continued to grow and gain support throughout the decade of the 1970s. It was not until a decade after the Lawrence Gay Liberation Front was formed that they received formal recognition as a legitimate student organization at the University of Kansas.

While the road to recognition was difficult for the Gay Liberation Front (renamed Lawrence Gay Liberation Incorporated by the time they were formally recognized), perseverance by a decade of students allowed the group to flourish. Without the dedication of these students, KU would not have the reputation of being a safe haven for LGBTQ+ students in Kansas that is has today. This group is still present on campus today, now titled Spectrum KU.

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

The Influenza Epidemic at KU, 100 Years Ago: October 1918

October 16th, 2018

In the fall of 1918, at the height of American involvement in World War I, the United States War Department established the Students’ Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.). The University of Kansas, along with colleges and universities across the country, contracted with the government to make its facilities available for officer training. KU agreed to provide education, food and housing for up to 2,500 men.

Photograph of members of KU's S.A.T.C. in front of Strong Hall, 1918

Members of KU’s S.A.T.C. in front of the Administration Building (Strong Hall), 1918.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 29/0/G 1918 Prints:
Military Service and ROTC (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Shortly after the first group of S.A.T.C. servicemen were sworn in on October 1st, the influenza epidemic that had been sweeping across the country and world arrived in Lawrence. In the S.A.T.C. barracks, where servicemen were living in very close quarters, the disease spread rapidly.

Photograph of KU S.A.T.C. barracks on Mississippi Street, 1918

KU S.A.T.C. barracks on Mississippi Street, 1918. Additional barracks were built between the
engineering buildings on the hill. Several of these temporary buildings were used as infirmaries
during the worst of the flu outbreak. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/89 1918 Prints:
Campus: Buildings: S.A.T.C. Barracks (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

The severity of the outbreak on campus, both in the S.A.T.C. barracks and throughout the university community, lead to the October 8th cancellation of all University activities and the quarantine of all students. By the time the epidemic subsided and the university re-opened five weeks later, on November 11th, it was estimated that there had been as many as 1,000 cases of flu on campus. As many as 750 had been ill all at once. Twenty-two students and ten members of the S.A.T.C. had died. Student enrollment was approximately 4,000 at the time.

Image of the front page of the University Daily Kansan, October 8, 1918

Front page of the University Daily Kansan, October 8, 1918. The student newspaper
announced the first closure of the university due to influenza. In an attempt to contain
the virus, a quarantine forbidding students from leaving campus was also imposed.
KU extended the closure and remained under quarantine for five weeks, finally reopening on
November 11th. University Archives. Call Number: UA Ser 9/2/1. Click image to enlarge.

In an October 18th letter to his son Herbert, E.H.S. Bailey (KU Professor of Chemistry, Mineralogy and Metallurgy, 1883-1933) describes efforts to treat influenza patients at the university.

Image of E.H.S. Bailey's letter to his son Herbert, October 18, 1918 Image of E.H.S. Bailey's letter to his son Herbert, October 18, 1918

E.H.S. Bailey’s letter to his son Herbert, October 18, 1918.
Call Number: PP 158. Click images to enlarge.

The letter reads in part:

We are certainly “in it” here now. The city is fairly free from Flu but there are occasional fatal cases. Dr. Jones has been quite sick for a week, but is resting a little better today, and taking a little food. He was worn out with too much medical work. At the Barracks Hospital, there have been 5 deaths, and everybody is as busy as he can be. Two of the women in my dept. are conducting the Dietary for 270 men in the hospital. New ones are constantly coming in and old patients are discharged. It is fine, the way in which everybody takes hold. We all send all the sheets, and pillows and pajamas that we can spare, and a lot of the college women are acting as red cross nurses.

The University did not start until Oct. 2, and then after 4 days a quarantine was declared, and now it has been extended until Oct. 28, so no Univ. classes until that time. The prompt action of all the state and Univ. authorities, has saved us a lot of danger, and many deaths, I feel sure.

These and other documents and photographs about the influenza epidemic at KU are currently on display in Spencer’s North Gallery. Be sure to stop by and explore them between now and the end of October!

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Happy Birthday, Wilt Chamberlain!

August 21st, 2018

Welcome back, Jayhawks! August 21 not only marks the beginnings of the new school year; today it’s also Wilt Chamberlain’s 82nd birthday. Did you know that, in addition to playing basketball, he was also on the Track & Field team while at KU? It’s true! He was and we’ve got the footage to prove it.

While inspecting some reels of film from the 1957 Kansas Relays, we happened upon some footage of a man with a dapper-looking red and black plaid hat. It was none other than Wilt Chamberlain.

Film still of Wilt Chamberlain in the triple jump event at the Kansas Relays, 1957

Wilt Chamberlain in the triple jump event at the Kansas Relays, 1957.
University Archives. Call Number: UA 12994. Click film still to enlarge.

Film still showing the triple jump standings at the Kansas Relays, 1957

Triple jump (then called the hop, step, and jump) standings at the Kansas Relays, 1957.
University Archives. Call Number: UA 12994. Click film still to enlarge.

Film still of Wilt Chamberlain in the high jump event at the Kansas Relays, 1957

Wilt Chamberlain in the high jump event at the Kansas Relays, 1957.
I don’t know how he did it, but his hat stayed on during the jump.
University Archives. Call Number: UA 12994. Click film still to enlarge.

Film still of the high jump standings at the Kansas Relays, 1957

High jump standings at the Kansas Relays, 1957.
University Archives. Call Number: UA 12994. Click film still to enlarge.

Although Wilt didn’t win these events, his athleticism is undeniable.

Happy birthday, Wilt!

Chris Banuelos
Audiovisual Preservation Specialist
Conservation Services

August-September Exhibit: KU Student Enrollment

August 17th, 2018

As part of my Museum Studies student internship this summer, one of my assignments was to create and design an exhibit to be displayed in the North Gallery at Spencer Research Library from the beginning of August through mid-September. I had to choose a topic concerning KU history, one that I could easily pull materials from the archive to support as a concept. I thought back to the time I spent perusing the yearbooks while working on another research project. One topic that intrigued me, and remained in the back of my head for some time, was that of enrollment. It had never occurred to me to even consider the fact that enrollment had not always been digital and computerized. The process, procedure, the manual entry of data – it was all foreign to me. The immediate question became “how did the university handle the process of enrollment?”

Photograph of the enrollment exhibit being installed

In-progress installation of the exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

I began my research by investigating the enrollment process from as far back as the university records could reach. In order to fully understand the concept I took notes on each version of the enrollment procedure I could find in the primary sources. I created a step-by-step bullet point list for each major era (every ten to twenty years or so). Doing this helped me narrow the focus of the exhibit, focusing mostly on enrollment between the 1950s through the 1980s, with a brief section on the early history of the process.

Searching the archive for images and artifacts was the exciting part for me. I’ve selected some photographs taken by the Lawrence Journal-World, multiple pamphlets distributed to students during orientation, some class guides, and registration instructions, and I will include one of the card boxes from the era of IBM punch cards. Since I had limited space, my labels consist of basic descriptors of each artifact and a few expository labels that explain the enrollment process across the history of the university.

Photograph of the enrollment exhibit

One of the two finished exhibit cases. Click image to enlarge.

My hope and intent for this exhibit is to instill the same fascination for a bygone method that I originally had when I began my research. I want to illustrate the complexities of this older version of a process that all students partake in – while hopefully remaining accurate to the memories of those who did participate in these older systems of enrollment. It’s an important aspect of KU history that I feel deserves its own exhibition.

Mallory Harrell
KU Museum Studies graduate student and University Archives intern

University Archives Internship

August 7th, 2018

During the summer of 2018 I’ve had the opportunity to work in the University Archives at Spencer Research Library as part of a Museum Studies student internship. Since my emphasis is in archival work, my projects throughout the summer covered a variety of related archives topics. Since I was initially hired on as a research assistant for a special project on the Jayhawk, I’ve mostly been working with primary source documents concerning the history of the school and the mascot.

Photograph of a Jayhawk artifact in University Archives

A Jayhawk artifact in University Archives. Click image to enlarge.

While that project is ongoing, with still many image files to be organized, my internship projects have acted as a general introduction to the functions of the University Archives. I had the opportunity to learn about processing of new materials by working with some new arrivals from the Pi Beta Phi sorority. These materials ranged in date from the formation of the chapter in 1873 to the mid-1970s — over a century of history. Processing involved creating new file boxes to hold scrapbooks, club minutes, chapter histories, signature books, and expenditure records. Other unique documents included calendars, songbooks, programs, membership cards, letters, pledge books, sorority newsletters, and photographs. The much-anticipated opportunity to handle the photographs also introduced me to the process of inter-filing.

Photograph of Pi Beta Phi records in University Archives

Pi Beta Phi records in University Archives. Click image to enlarge.

Photographs of labels for Pi Beta Phi records in University Archives

Labels for Pi Beta Phi records in University Archives.
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Pi Beta Phi photographs being processed in University Archives

Processing Pi Beta Phi photographs in University Archives.
Click image to enlarge.

The other major project that I was assigned this summer was to create an exhibit to be displayed at Spencer during the month of August. The exhibit would incorporate materials from the Archives and would discuss an aspect of KU history. The topic that I finally decided to use was enrollment — specifically, enrollment before the time of computers. It was a fascinating subject to research, personally having only known a time of computerized college enrollment. It’s easy to forget that the process once had to be done in person, utilizing multiple buildings and a complicated system of codes, cards, and queues. The exhibit will feature various documents related to the enrollment process, covering five decades. My intention is to inform visitors on the evolution of enrollment and registration up to the obsolescence of the punch-card method. I think most of the intrigue will come from that element of obsolescence and the campus-wide chaos that would often ensue every semester.

Photograph of a temporary exhibit being developed for University Archives

Developing a temporary exhibit for University Archives.
Click images to enlarge.

Additionally, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to interview and work alongside many wonderful staff members at Spencer Research Library. I want to thank Becky Schulte, Letha Johnson, Whitney Baker, Caitlin Klepper, Meredith Huff, and Marcella Huggard for allowing me speak to them about their positions, responsibilities, and functions within the library.

Mallory Harrell
KU Museum Studies graduate student and University Archives intern