The University of Kansas

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.

It’s an Ill Wind That Blows No One Any Good

April 27th, 2015

We are moving into high tornado season here in the Great Plains (typically April through June). In the spirit of the season, today we feature images from the Kansas Collection of tornado damage to unlucky Kansas towns.

On April 21, 1887, the town of Prescott, Kansas (Linn County) suffered complete destruction. According a newspaper report from the time, “every house was either carried away or ruined” in this settlement of one-thousand residents. Hailstones “as large as hen’s eggs” preceded the tornado. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper featured front-page illustrations of the damage caused to an underground dugout.

Interior of cellar during tornado

Image from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper of May 7, 1887, depicting a spike entering through the roof of a dugout during a tornado on April 21, 1887. Kansas Collection, call number RH H102. Click image to enlarge.


On May 2, 1898, a cyclone hit Wellington, Kansas (Sumner County) and caused widespread damage. Here is a view of the toppled Lutheran Church, taken the day after the tornado struck.

RH PH P2356.3. Lutheran Church at Wellington, Kansas on May 28, 1898 after tornado hit

Photograph of the Lutheran Church, Wellington, KS, in 1898. Kansas Collection, call number RH PH P2356.3.
Image from Kansas Collection Photographs LUNA site. Click image to enlarge.


A tornado hit the W.O. Tanner home in Mullinville, Kansas (Kiowa County) on June 11, 1915, leaving it damaged but standing. The A.W. Kline family was not as fortunate, suffering complete destruction of their home. Writing on the back of the photo below, representing these two family homes, indicates that “mules and cattle [were] carried two miles” in this storm.

Mullinvile [sic] Kansas (Kiowa County) on June 11, 1915 after tornado hit

Two images from Mullinville, Kansas showing tornado damage in 1915. Above: W. O Tanner home. Below: A. W. Kline home. Kansas Collection, call number RH PH P1625.1. Image from Kansas Collection Photographs LUNA site. Click image to enlarge.


If you live in tornado country you will have heard many tales of selective and odd damage left by a tornado, with complete destruction next to a perfect area of order. A tornado that hit Andale, Kansas (Sedgwick County) in 1918 provided such an example of unusual cyclone damage: the wind ran spikes of wood through tree trunks as seen in the image below.

RH PH P2767. Andale, KS tornado damage, 1918

Spikes through tree trunks, 1918. Kansas Collection, call number RH PH P2767.
Image from Kansas Collection Photographs LUNA site. Click image to enlarge.


Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Attention all Polish students: take advantage of special discounts and coupon codes from Dziennik website and make the most of your The University of Kansas experience! Unlock great savings and discover the opportunity to save with discount codes.