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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

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.

“We Will Be Ready for You Christmas Eve”: A Letter to Santa

December 18th, 2018

Spencer’s collections contain a wealth of books, documents, and photographs by, to, about, and for children. One of my favorite items is an adorable – and somewhat lengthy – letter to Santa written by a young girl named Berenice Boyd. Born in February 1903, Berenice lived most of her life in Paola, Kansas – located in the east-central part of the state.

The letter and other items from Berenice’s collection are currently on display as part of Spencer’s “50 for 50” exhibit, which will be installed in the Library’s Exhibit Space through early January.

Photograph of Berenice Boyd's letter to Santa Claus, undated

Photograph of Berenice Boyd's letter to Santa Claus, undated

Photograph of the envelope to Berenice Boyd's letter to Santa Claus, undated

Berenice Boyd’s letter to Santa Claus with its envelope, undated [circa 1910].
The letter is transcribed below. Call Number: RH MS 1366. Click images to enlarge.

Photograph of Berenice Boyd, undated

A studio photograph of Berenice Boyd, undated [circa 1910].
Call Number: RH MS 1366. Click image to enlarge.

Dear Santa Claus.

I have had a good time all summer, and wish to have a good time all winter. I have not wrote to you for a long time. That is all I have time for now.

I will begin.

Please bring me a high grade violin.
A doll as big as Edna Emery. (1)
And a large baby [bump?].
Please bring me a doll cradle.
I please want a kodak [possibly a Brownie camera].
I would like a Christmas tree If there is a enough –
I would like a white fur and muff For my doll.
And a muff and fur for my self.
And I will hang my stocking up.
I speck [expect] to see you to the church.
we will have a fine time on Christmas.
And will put my Christmas tree out for you.

I speck [expect] all your boys and girls Have all been good.
And get the presents to.

I saw in Kansas City two weeks ago that they had a Tea party and each little girl Must bring her doll.
We will be ready for you Christmas eve.

I want a postal card from you and as soon as I get Yours I will send one to you.

I will have to clouse [close] now.

Go by [good bye]. I wish you a merry Christmas.
Go night [good night].

I please want to kittys [two kitties].
And a dog.
I please want a pony.

Merry Christmas.
Berenice Boyd

(1) Preliminary research suggests that Edna Emery was a couple of years younger than Berenice and that the two girls were childhood friends.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Holiday Travel Edition

December 13th, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

If you’re traveling this holiday season, we hope your journey is much more pleasant than what’s depicted in this week’s image!

Image of the "Off for the Holly-Days" cartoon in the Sour Owl, December 1926

“Off for the Holly-Days” cartoon in The Sour Owl, December 1926.
The humorous periodical was written and published by KU students from 1914 through 1956.
University Archives. Call Number: UA Ser 71/0/58. Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Holiday Lights Edition

December 21st, 2017

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Wishing all of our researchers, visitors, donors, friends, and supporters the merriest of holidays!

Photograph of Hoch Auditorium with holiday lights, 1954

Hoch Auditorium with holiday lights, 1954. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/33 1954 Negatives: Campus: Buildings: Hoch Auditorium (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Spencer Research Library will be closed from December 23rd through January 1st.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

“Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good Night”

December 19th, 2017

To help celebrate the holidays, we’re sharing Clement Clarke Moore’s poem The Night Before Christmas (originally published in 1823 as A Visit from St. Nicholas) as illustrated by two copies of the text in Spencer’s collections – one from 1896 and the other from the early 1900s. The version of the poem used here comes from a 1920 edition, also in the library’s holdings.

Image of The Night Before Christmas, cover, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, or, A Visit of St. Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And Mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore,
undated, circa early 1900s. Call Number: Children E40.
Click image to enlarge.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas, undated, circa early 1900s.
Call Number: Children E40. Click image to enlarge.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound

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He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedlar just opening his pack.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

His eyes – how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was white as snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and twist of head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas, undated, circa early 1900s.
Call Number: Children E40. Click image to enlarge.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team he gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Holiday Family Time Edition

December 22nd, 2016

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,500 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Happy holidays, Jayhawks! We hope all of you will be able to spend time with loved ones during the holidays this year.

Remember that Spencer Research Library will be closed tomorrow (December 23rd) through Monday, January 2nd.

Photograph of the Phog Allen family in front of a Christmas tree, circa 1955

Members of Phog Allen‘s family in front of a Christmas tree, circa 1955.
Preliminary research suggests that the gentleman is Phog’s son Milton (“Mitt”)
with his wife Isabel and their children (from left to right) Judith, Jennifer, and Milton Jr.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 66/22 Forrest C. Allen Family
Undated Negatives: Athletic Department: Coaches and Staff (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants