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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.

That’s Distinctive!: Lawrence Business Cards

November 10th, 2023

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. 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. 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.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I’m sharing a small and simple collection of business cards from Lawrence. The Lawrence business card collection features business cards from mostly the 1880s. The two featured today are from the Lawrence Business College and J. House.

An online exhibit from the Lawrence Public Library notes that the Lawrence Business College was “established in 1869 by W.H. McCauley [and]…was the first business college in Kansas. The school was located in the Lawrence National Bank building on the third and fourth floors.” While the business college no longer exists, it is widely unknown when and why it shut its doors. Some personal accounts from attending the college can be found in the John L. Kilworth papers at the library.

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The front (top) and back (bottom) of a business card for the Lawrence Business College, 1883-1884. Business Cards, Lawrence, Kansas. Call Number: RH MS P479. Click images to enlarge.

J. House was a clothing business operated for several decades by Jacob House at 729 Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. The building is marked by a plaque as having survived Quantrill’s Raid in 1863. Jacob House, his wife Ricka, and their seven children resided at 805 Ohio Street for many years before relocating to 701 Tennessee in 1904. House’s 1913 obituary in the Lawrence Daily Journal-World declared that “no man in Lawrence stood higher in the esteem of the public” than him. The article noted that House was born in Austria in 1833. After emigrating to the United States in 1854 and living in a variety of places, he settled in Lawrence and opened his business in 1862. House was in his store at the time of Quantrill’s Raid; he was taken by a group of raiders and “kept as a prisoner and guide all day. He was forced to show them from place to place and everywhere he saw the dead bodies of his friends and acquaintances.”

This image has text against a color illustration of a manor house at the edge of a lake surrounded by mountains.
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The front (top) and back (bottom) of a business card for the J. House clothing business, undated. Business Cards, Lawrence, Kansas. Call Number: RH MS P479. Click images to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services