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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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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.

Happy Birthday!

January 2nd, 2024

I’ve recently hit 40 and so birthdays have been on my mind, and what is New Year’s other than another sort of birthday celebration? Birthdays have been a cause for partying and remembrance for a long, long time. They’ve been a way families can reinforce bonds, a way to celebrate public figures, and certainly a way to mark the time. As such, we’ve gathered a number of birthday related materials in our collections and in celebrating my own birthday, I’ll share a few with all of you! 

Black and white photograph of people in "hillbilly" costumes holding animals. Captioned "Birthday party for "Mr Jack" March 1931  Wolfe".
Birthday Party for “Mr Jack”, photograph by Topeka Photographer Wolfe, in the Leonard Hollman Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH 536(f). Click images to enlarge.

I can’t help but hope that the “Mr Jack” in question is the chicken in the center of the photo, but I suppose we’ll never know.

We also have some heavy hitters, literarily speaking: An invitation sent to William Allen White, at the behest of George Harvey, to attend the 70th birthday celebration of Mark Twain!

Black and white printed script invitation to the 70th birthday of Mark Twain to a written in William Allen White.
George Harvey to WAW, Correspondence in our William Lindsay White collection. Call Number: RH MS 608. Click images to enlarge.

Continuing a trend of journalistic birthday items, we have a lovely collection of letters from Albert T. Reid, known for political cartoons among other things, to his grandson Leonard. This letter shows the sharing of gifts and building of birthday memories, even with those not able to be present. 

Handwritten letter on Albert T. Reid stationary including a sketch of a toy tank pulling a toy dachshund by a leash.
Letter to Lenno from G.R. in New York, August 13, 1931. Illustrated Letters to Grandgoy Leonard. Call Number: RH MS 1358. Click images to enlarge.

Strengthening the family aspect, we have a poem from the poet William Sotheby (1757-1833) on how gifts (flowers) are lovely, but that “Duty, Gratitude, and Love” are even more precious offerings for a parent’s birthday given that they grew from the parent’s own influence.

Handwritten poem on elaborately decorated paper with embossed scrollwork edges and image of angels and flowers at the top.
The Birthday Offering, from the Personal Papers of William the Poet Sotheby in the Sotheby Family Papers. Call Number: MS 4. Click images to enlarge.

I love the physical detail of the document as well as the reflection present in the poem itself. Here’s a transcript I put together as I know the script is none too clear.

The Birthday Offering

Lov’d Parent! While these flowr’s we wreathe
To grace thy natal day,
And oer their transient blossoms breathe
Pure nature’s simple lay;
Oh view, unlike frail bloom of flow’r
The heart that greets this blissful hour!

The blossom fades, the flowret falls.
There cherished duties grow,
Fond memore there the past recalls,
And thoughts that grateful glow:
And kind affections planted there
Spring up beneath a mother’s care.

These purer offerings deign approve
Lo! Duty, Gratitude, and Love.

– W.L. Sotheby

We have many more things as well: cake photos, party programs, letters, and more. We would absolutely love to be the inspiration for your next celebration! And Happy Birthday to me. 🎉

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

Collection feature: Veterans Day

November 11th, 2021

In honor of Veterans Day, we share this cartoon drawn by Kansas artist Albert T. Reid.

Image of woman holding flowers at statue of soldier
She Will Never Forget by Albert T. Reid, no date. Call number RH MS 1162, Box 4, Folder 61, Albert T. Reid Personal Papers. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Cartoonist and artist Albert T. Reid was born in Concordia, Kansas, in 1873. Best known for his political and editorial cartoons, Reid published regularly in newspapers in Kansas City, Chicago, and New York, and eventually created his own syndicated newspaper.

Albert T. Reid: Conservation Internship

December 5th, 2017

During the 2017 fall semester I had the opportunity to work as the Ringle Conservation Intern at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. My time here has focused on treating and housing the Albert T. Reid Cartoon Collection, which includes 1899 original cartoons from various artists. This collection started as a generous donation of works from Reid in the 1930s, and between 1954 and 1956 the William Allen White Foundation and the School of Journalism at the University collected around 1750 items from around 600 different cartoonists.

The process of treating this collection required me to spend time dry-cleaning and housing every cartoon; this gave me the ability to read a majority of the cartoons, which gave me insight to the nature of the world in which these artists resided. Cartoonists, especially those who were creating political or editorial cartoons, were critiquing the world they inhabited. It was often hard not to draw parallels from our current political state while viewing cartoons of Russia’s influence on the world or a dawning of nuclear war. It was also particularly interesting that at the same time as these political cartoons were being created, so were early incarnations of some of our favorite pop-culture icons.

Collection, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

Bugs Bunny, Warner Bros., 01/13/1954 (CS 326)
Click image to enlarge.

When working with this collection I was particularly drawn to the comic strips, especially the strips that were science fiction oriented, i.e. Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Brick Bradford. There’s something wonderful about the worlds these artists developed with little knowledge of where we would find ourselves. Looking at these today is like looking at a nostalgic future. I also found it fascinating that many of these same tropes and design ascetics are used by contemporary science fiction creators. I wonder if contemporary creators were influenced by these characters and cartoonists as I was.

Collection, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

Flash Gordon, by Dan Berry, 09/01/1954 (CS-312)
Click image to enlarge.

Collection, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

Buck Rogers, by Rick Yager, 02/27/1956 (CS-308)
Click image to enlarge.

The Reid Cartoon Collection is a fantastic resource. It brings me great satisfaction that this collection will soon be accessible.

Matthew Willie Garcia
2017 Ringle Conservation Intern
Conservation Services