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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.

Holiday Hosting with “The ‘Home Queen’ Cook Book”

December 7th, 2018

December has arrived and with it the winter holiday season! Since the holiday season means holiday parties, I wanted to look into hosting an oft forgotten type of affair – a lovely, elegant dinner party!

Personally, I do not have much experience with dinner parties so I decided to go to the best source I could find: The “Home Queen” Cook Book. Compiled during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, The “Home Queen” Cook Book features recipes, etiquette, and entertaining suggestions from “over two hundred World’s Fair lady managers, wives of governors, and other ladies of position and influence.” Armed with the advice of these many esteemed ladies, I set out to see if I could recreate an elegant dinner party from generations past. What follows is a story of research, abandoned dreams, and a final feeble attempt to do anything I had originally hoped to accomplish.

Image of the cover of "The 'Home Queen' Cook Book," 1901

The cover of The “Home Queen” Cook Book, 1901.
Call Number: Galloway C35. Click image to enlarge.

Now, I do not know what everyone else pictures when they think of a dinner party, but I was envisioning an elegantly set table with beautiful linens and fine china to hold a magnificent multi-course meal. With that image in mind, I immediately began examining the section on “Party Suppers” in The “Home Queen” Cook Book. That sounds like the place to start, right? And what did I learn? First, a “party supper” and a dinner party are not synonymous. A party supper is much less formal than what I was expecting when I read the heading:

An evening party… would assemble quite early in the evening. This would give plenty of time for social intercourse, music and innocent amusements. Refreshments might be carried around on trays, and the guests served with cake, coffee or lemonade. Fine large napkins should first be handed around. These should be spread on the knees to receive the plates afterward furnished. Delicate sandwiches of chopped tongue, spread thinly on sandwich biscuits, or the white meat of turkey or check are very nice for such entertainments. Ice cream, confectionery, and ripe fruit of any kind may be served.

I liked the idea of this informal gathering, which was meant to “facilitate conversation, ease, and the choosing of congenial companions out of mixed gatherings at large parties.” What more could you want from a festive holiday party? However, I still had the aforementioned picture of a dinner party in my mind. This prompted me to look to the sections on “The Mid-Day Meal” and “The Evening Meal” in the book, hoping to find any information that might be of use. Lo and behold, I found exactly what I was picturing in “The Mid-Day Meal” section! In it was everything I could ever want to know about table settings, the most appropriate food choices, even how to properly invite your guests to the affair. Before spending a great deal of time on the overwhelming amount of food described, I decided to focus first on the most basic aspect of the evening: a proper table setting.

After reading the descriptions of the proper linens, plates, crystal, and silver, I realized that just setting the table would cost a small fortune. The proper “snow white” table linen made of the suggested “handsome Irish damask” would easily cost over $100 for a small tablecloth. Any attempt at recreating the quality of a proper dinner table setting was clearly out of reach.

“Ok,” I thought to myself, “If the expected quality is unmanageable, what can I do that would dress up a somewhat subpar table setting so that it at least looks elegant?” Returning to the book, I found the perfect remedy: an artfully folded napkin. Aided by the “Folding Table Napkins” section, I began my attempt to create anything that might give me the air of sophistication I had hoped to achieve when I originally formed this brilliant plan of mine.

Image of the instructions for the Escutcheon napkin fold in "The 'Home Queen' Cook Book," 1901

Escutcheon napkin fold diagram and instructions in
The “Home Queen” Cook Book, 1901.
Call Number: Galloway C35. Click image to enlarge.

The “Home Queen” Cook Book features no less than twenty-one different napkin-folding techniques to help ensure that “the dining room, the table and all that is placed upon it shall be made as attractive as possible.” With such a plethora of options – all with detailed instructions and pictures to guide me – I thought I had finally found the perfect starting point on my way to my dream dinner party. Unfortunately, my optimism and confidence were quickly destroyed after attempting only two of the possible folds: the Escutcheon (picture above) and the Chestnut Pocket (pictured below).

Image of the instructions for the Chestnut Pocket napkin fold in "The 'Home Queen' Cook Book," 1901

The Chestnut Pocket napkin fold diagram and instructions in
The “Home Queen” Cook Book, 1901.
Call Number: Galloway C35. Click image to enlarge.

The Escutcheon: Described as “the easiest of all the ornamental foldings,” the Escutcheon was the beginning of the end for me. It was here I learned that the instructions to starch and iron the napkins immediately before folding was not a suggestion but truly an absolute requirement. After close to a half an hour of intense labor and a great deal of swearing, I finally managed to produce… something.

Photograph of an Escutcheon napkin fold attempt

My attempt at the Escutcheon napkin fold. Click image to enlarge.

The Chestnut Pocket: My attempt to regaining any semblance of dignity after being so embarrassingly defeated by the Escutcheon finally yielded a positive result for me! I even took it a step beyond the Chestnut Pocket and created the Pocket Napkin. I found that the secret to success lay in finding a napkin-folding technique that did not need to stand up. With this revelation, I managed to produce the following creation:

Photograph of a Pocket napkin fold attempt

My successful attempt at the Pocket napkin fold
(a variation on the Chestnut Pocket napkin fold).
Click image to enlarge.

So after all of this – the research, the numerous disappointments, the defeat, and eventual triumph – I am sure you must be wondering: will I be hosting my envisioned elegant dinner party this holiday season? To put it succinctly, absolutely not. There is only so much embarrassment by fabric I am willing to put myself through in the name of holiday entertaining.

Emily Beran
Public Services

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Lewis Lindsay Dyche!

March 25th, 2016

Lewis Lindsay Dyche, noted naturalist, explorer, lecturer, professor and taxidermist, was born on March 20, 1857, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In the history of the University of Kansas there have been many faculty members who led interesting and adventurous lives and made valuable contributions both to academia as a whole and to the University in particular, but perhaps none more so than Dyche.

Photograph of Lewis Lindsay Dyche in hunting attire, 1894

Lewis Lindsay Dyche in hunting attire, shown in a lantern slide taken on his trip to
Alaska and Greenland, 1894. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/0:
Faculty and Staff: Dyche, Lewis Lindsay (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

While still just an infant, Dyche’s parents moved west and settled in Kansas. At that time, Kansas had just been opened for settlement. It is said that women from a Sac and Fox tribe cared for him while his mother recovered from an illness she acquired while on the journey west. Growing up on the prairie allowed Dyche the opportunity to explore and roam, fish, and hunt. He also began to collect specimens and developed a desire to learn about the creatures inhabiting the world around him. This lead to a love of nature and a thirst for knowledge about the animal kingdom that would stay with him throughout his life.

Dyche stopped attending formal school when he was just thirteen. He was able to earn money by selling game and furs and raising cattle. In 1874, at the age of 17, he decided to use the money he had saved to get a formal education and enrolled in the Kansas State Normal School in Emporia. During his time there, he met Francis Huntington Snow, a faculty member at the University of Kansas. Professor Snow impressed Dyche with his knowledge of and enthusiasm for natural history, and after graduation Dyche, then twenty, followed Snow to the University. Dyche would go on to graduate and acquire multiple degrees. In 1882 he joined the faculty, and during his tenure he taught courses in natural history, anatomy and physiology, taxidermy, and zoology.

Photograph of Francis Snow, undated

Francis Snow, undated. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 2/6 Undated Prints: Chancellors:
Francis Snow (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

The relationship between Dyche and Snow was one of mutual admiration. Snow realized that Dyche was extremely intelligent and that they had much in common. He saw great potential in Dyche and became a mentor to him. Together they went on several collecting trips, venturing out west to gather specimens of mammals, fish and birds for the University’s teaching collections.

Poster from Lewis Lindsay Dyche speaking tour, undated

Poster from Lewis Lindsay Dyche speaking tour, undated.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/0: Faculty and Staff:
Dyche, Lewis Lindsay (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Dyche would go on to arrange many such collecting trips, including treks to Alaska and Greenland. On each trip he carried a list of specimens he would look for, filling in the gaps in the University’s collection as he went. To become a better taxidermist, Dyche went to New York to be trained by William T. Hornaday, chief taxidermist for the National Museum at the Smithsonian Institution. In 1893, with Dyche leading the way, the specimen collection was arranged into a diorama and put on display at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition. The diorama would become the foundation of the Dyche Museum of Natural History, known today as the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, one of the most visited sites in the state to this day.

Photograph of the World's Fair diorama, 1893

Moose section of the diorama prepared by Lewis Lindsay Dyche,
World’s Fair Exhibit of North American Mammals,” 1893. KU was known as
Kansas State University early in its history. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 33/0: Museum of Natural History (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Lewis Lindsay Dyche and his crew working on Comanche, 1891

The horse Comanche survived the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.
After his death, Lewis Lindsay Dyche taxidermied the horse for the 7th Calvary,
but Comanche stayed with the museum’s collections. The photo here shows
Dyche and his crew working on Comanche in 1891. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 33/0: Museum of Natural History (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Dyche became the State Fish and Game Warden in 1910. As his career progressed, he had become more and more a proponent for the preservation of endangered species and spoke out for the need of soil and water conservation. He wrote the legislation for the creation of laws to protect species and set hunting and fishing limitations. Today the Dyche Museum of Natural History stands as a testament to his life’s work and his dedication to education and conservation.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Legacy of the White City: Revisiting the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893

May 16th, 2014

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, or the Columbian Exposition, served to showcase the transformation of America’s international presence from the wild frontier to a dominant world power. It also signaled Chicago’s rise to fame from the ashes of its Great Fire of 1871. Among the Fair’s major themes were architecture, women’s representation, diversity, and technology. From May 1 to October 31 of 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition attracted 27 million visitors—a quarter of America’s population at the time.

More than 120 years after the Columbian Exposition, the Fair’s American legacy can be seen in this exhibit. We invite you to explore this period of rapid change, innovation, culture, and ingenuity.

Image of museum studies graduate students installing the exhibition.  Image of installed case on architecture at the Fair

Image of people at the exhibition opening.

Top: Installing a case Bottom: Conversations at the exhibition opening

This exhibition, which opened on May 8th, 2014, features original literature from the Fair.  Most displayed objects originate from Spencer’s Thomas D. and Sharon Perry Galloway Collection. The exhibit was designed and executed by students Rachel Gibson, Alissa Meehan, Meg Schwend, and Sabrina Shafique as part of a an exhibition planning and design course (MUSE 703).

Image of the four exhibition curators in front of the exhibition sign

Exhibition curators (from left to right): Alissa Meehan, Sabrina Shafique, Rachel Gibson, Meg Schwend.

Meg Schwend
Museum Studies Graduate Student