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.
New to the blog this week is the first of many posts in a series called That’s Distinctive! I created the series because I genuinely believe there is something in our collections for everyone, whether you’re writing a paper or just want to have a look. That’s Distinctive! will provide a more lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique materials at Spencer – including items that many people may not realize the library holds. The series will be posted weekly on Friday with occasional breaks. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.
In honor of the return of students to campus, this week’s post highlights KU Jayhawker yearbooks. Here at the library, we have yearbooks ranging from 1874 to 2011, the last year it was a print publication (with a few missing here and there). While I am only highlighting a few this week, all of the yearbooks in Spencer’s holding are available for viewing in the Reading Room.
These images show select pages from four yearbooks displaying the variety of advertisements located in/near the index of each book. As the years go on, each yearbook seems to feature fewer ads. It can be interesting to browse the various sections of the yearbooks, which can include clubs, headshots, ads, building photos, memories of the past year, and much more.
This week’s post features an 1866 newspaper advertisement that announced the opening of the University of Kansas and the very first day of classes. According to one online resource, the $30 annual tuition for college-level courses would cost about $490 in 2020.
When KU opened in 1866, it consisted of the following:
Zero on-campus housing options for students. According to the KU History website, “during KU’s early years, housing was catch-as-catch-can, with many of the students in attendance usually hailing from the surrounding area. As such, many lived at home, or with faculty, or in other private residences.”
One building: the newly-constructed North College. The structure was fifty feet square with ten rooms and no central heating. Located where Corbin Hall now stands, North College was demolished in 1919.
Fifty-five students: twenty-six women and twenty-nine men. KU was open to African Americans and women from the beginning. While co-education of women and men was becoming more common by the 1860s, it was still notable enough that a newspaper reporter traveling through the state in 1867 observed that “Kansas is sufficiently civilized to mingle the sexes in the higher schools without danger of folly or impropriety.”
Kansas did not yet have high schools in the 1860s, so the state’s handful of colleges provided that level of education. At KU, the Preparatory Department taught students who were not ready for college work.