Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

“This is a Fun Locality for Botanizing”: Francis H. Snow and KU Students in Colorado

August 30th, 2013

Soon after my arrival at Spencer Research Library, a patron request provided me the opportunity to poke around some of the photographs contained within KU’s University Archives. I was especially excited by a collection of approximately forty-five photographs showing Professor Francis H. Snow with a group of students on a summer collecting expedition to Colorado in the late 1800s.

Photograph of Specimen Mountain Party, No. 3, August 19, 1889 [1891?].
Specimen Mountain Party, No. 3, August 19, 1889 [1891?]. Call Number: RG 17/40/1889
Prints: Biological Sciences (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Long a prominent fixture on campus during KU’s early years, Snow (1840-1908) was a professor of mathematics and sciences, 1866-1890; the university’s fifth chancellor, 1890-1901; and a professor of natural history/director of the natural history museum, 1901-1908. His reports to the regents “furnish ample evidence that the direct study of nature was a vital part of his instruction,” wrote Clyde Kenneth Hyder in his biography, Snow of Kansas. His classes “appealed to the impulse to collect, often compelling, whether the objects collected be patchboxes, African violets, or insects” (142-143). Moreover, between 1876 and 1907, Snow – frequently accompanied by his students and sometimes even his family – led twenty-six summer collecting expeditions: eight in Colorado, six in New Mexico, six in Arizona, four in Kansas, and two in Texas. As Hyder noted, “those who accompanied Snow on these expeditions included some who afterwards became distinguished scientists” (153). Future journalist and author William Allen White participated in one of the expeditions during his time as a KU student. The thousands of specimens Snow and his students collected and classified during these trips – including insects, birds, reptiles, and plants – were brought back to Lawrence and preserved as part of the university’s “cabinet of natural history,” now the Natural History Museum.

Photograph of Lily Mountain and Park from Eagle Cliff, June 26, 1889 [1891?].
Lily Mountain and Park from Eagle Cliff, June 26, 1889 [1891?]. Will Franklin,
[James Frank?] Craig, Harry Riggs (standing). Call Number: RG 17/40/1889
Prints: Biological Sciences (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the Big Thomson and Terminal Moraine, July 2, 1889 [1891?].
The Big Thomson and Terminal Moraine, July 2, 1889 [1891?].
Call Number: RG 17/40/1889 Prints: Biological Sciences (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Snow’s expeditions are well-documented in various primary and secondary sources at Spencer, but only one or two were photographed. Notes on the back of the images I examined indicate that they were taken in Estes Park, Colorado, but there is some confusion as to whether they were taken during the expedition there in 1889 and/or during the collecting trip to Manitou Park, Colorado, two years later. Either way, the photographs provide a glimpse into camp life and the collectors’ activities against the backdrop of dramatic and beautiful mountain landscapes. (I’m also left wondering how the female students managed to trek around – collecting samples, hunting, and fishing – in those long, voluminous skirts!)

Photograph of E. C. Franklin. Top of Windy Gulch, 1889 [1891?].
E. C. Franklin. Top of Windy Gulch, 1889 [1891?].
Call Number: RG 17/40/1889 Prints: Biological Sciences (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of "The Girls Bridge," August 19, 1889 [1891?].
“The Girls Bridge,” August 19, 1889 [1891?]. Helen Sutliff, [James Frank?] Craig, J. S. Sutliff,
Will [William Suddards] Franklin, Eva Fleming, Harry Riggs, woman “not of our party but a K.U. girl I think.”
Call Number: RG 17/40/1889 Prints: Biological Sciences (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of group off for Specimen Mountain, July 22, 1889 [1891?].
Off for Specimen Mountain, July 22, 1889 [1891?]. In front, S. C. [Schuyler Colfax?] Brewster,
Fred Funston, Will Brewster, Herb Hadley, Ed Franklin, Harry Riggs, Billy the Burro,
Will [William Suddards] Franklin, [James Frank?] Craig.
Call Number: RG 17/40/1889 Prints: Biological Sciences (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of group on Long's Peak Trail, August 6, 1889 [1891?].
On Long’s Peak Trail, just beyond Keyhole looking towards the Trough, August 6, 1889 [1891?].
V. L. Kellogg, Ed Franklin, Will [William Suddards] Franklin, [Alvin Lee] Wilmouth?, Eva Fleming,
[James Frank?] Craig, S. C. [Schuyler Colfax?] Brewster, ?Will Brewster, Hadley, Dr. Snow.
Call Number: RG 17/40/1889 Prints: Biological Sciences (Photos). Click on image to enlarge.

For additional information about the 1889 collecting expedition, see Professor Snow’s wonderful letter to his wife and family, dated August 2nd. The original document, from which the title of this blog post was drawn, is held within KU’s University Archives (RG 2/6/6, Chancellor’s Office. Francis H. Snow. Correspondence, 1883-1885. Letters, 1862-1903.); Hyder included almost all of the letter in his Snow of Kansas.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services