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.
Dog owners love their dogs. This was as true one hundred years ago as it is today. Below are some portraits from the Joseph J. Pennell Collection that feature human subjects who have chosen to include their dog – or dogs – in their photo portrait. If you pay close attention to things like body positions and facial expressions, you will see how these human subjects feel about their pets.
From the 1890s to the 1920s, Joseph J. Pennell photographed life in Junction City, Kansas, and the nearby Army base, Fort Riley. The strength of the collection, in my opinion, is that Pennell wasn’t content to just stay in his studio, taking portrait photography. He went out into the community to photograph its people, businesses, activities, groups, and families. And Pennell was inclusive of community members from diverse groups, revealing a fuller and richer story of Junction City. Because of his work, we are provided with a comprehensive view of life in a moderately-sized Midwestern army-post town on the Great Plains from the 1890s to the early 1920s.
This week’s post features an 1866 newspaper advertisement that announced the opening of the University of Kansas and the very first day of classes. According to one online resource, the $30 annual tuition for college-level courses would cost about $490 in 2020.
When KU opened in 1866, it consisted of the following:
Zero on-campus housing options for students. According to the KU History website, “during KU’s early years, housing was catch-as-catch-can, with many of the students in attendance usually hailing from the surrounding area. As such, many lived at home, or with faculty, or in other private residences.”
One building: the newly-constructed North College. The structure was fifty feet square with ten rooms and no central heating. Located where Corbin Hall now stands, North College was demolished in 1919.
Fifty-five students: twenty-six women and twenty-nine men. KU was open to African Americans and women from the beginning. While co-education of women and men was becoming more common by the 1860s, it was still notable enough that a newspaper reporter traveling through the state in 1867 observed that “Kansas is sufficiently civilized to mingle the sexes in the higher schools without danger of folly or impropriety.”
Kansas did not yet have high schools in the 1860s, so the state’s handful of colleges provided that level of education. At KU, the Preparatory Department taught students who were not ready for college work.