Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

North Gallery Highlight: Sumner High School

August 26th, 2020

We are periodically sharing some of the materials that are featured in Spencer Research Library’s North Gallery permanent exhibit. We hope you’ll be able to visit the library and explore the full exhibit in person! This week’s post highlights materials documenting the history of Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas. The Sumner collection is part of the African American Experience Collections within the Kansas Collection.

Photograph of the exterior of the Sumner High School building, 1905–1940
The “old” Sumner High School building at 9th and Washington Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas, 1905-1940. This image appeared in the 1922 Sumnerian yearbook. Call Number: RH Ser D1286 1922. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of the exterior of the Sumner High School building, 1940-1978
The “new” Sumner High School building at 8th and Oakland Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas, 1940-1978. Sumner High School Records. Call Number: RH MS-P 1137, Box 1. Click image to enlarge.

Established in 1905 in response to the threat of racial violence and a decades long effort to exclude African Americans from the city’s high school, Sumner High School was created by exempting Kansas City, Kansas, from the state law prohibiting racially segregated high schools. However, the local African American community resisted further efforts to further diminish their children’s opportunities to achieve academic excellence. Their relentless push for the school’s curriculum to emphasize college preparation earned Sumner High School’s membership in the prestigious North Central Association of Secondary Schools by 1914. Under a federally mandated plan for racial integration, Sumner closed in 1978.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 national convention of the Sumner High School Alumni Association of Kansas City, Kansas, has been postponed until next year. In anticipation of the convention – and in honor of the new school year – here are a few highlights from the Sumner High School Alumni Association of Kansas City, Kansas, Collection, established in 1986. Additional donations of materials are welcomed.

Photograph of Sumner High School faculty, 1919
Sumner High School faculty, 1919. Before the late 1950s, Sumner was the only high school in Kansas comprised of an African American faculty and the only high school in Kansas that permitted African Americans to serve as teachers. Sumner High School Records. Call Number: RH MS-P 1137, Box 2. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of the Sumner High School orchestra, 1918
The Sumner High School orchestra, 1918. Sumner High School Records. Call Number: RH MS-P 1137, Box 1. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of a Sumner High School chemistry class, 1930s
A chemistry class at Sumner High School, 1930s. Sumner High School Records. Call Number: RH MS-P 1137, Box 2. Click image to enlarge.

The film clips below show various aspects of Sumner High School. The first features scenes from a football game in 1931. The second clip, from the 1940s, introduces viewers to the new building, the principal, and staff members; it also shows students arriving for school. There’s no need to turn up the volume on your computer or phone; neither clip has any sound.


See Spencer’s online exhibit “Education: The Mightiest Weapon” to learn more about the active role African Americans in Kansas played in our nation’s past struggle with laws and practices of racial segregation in public schools.

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist/Curator, African American Experience Collections
Kansas Collection

Quantrill’s Raid and Its Aftermath: Anna Soule Prentiss

August 14th, 2020

One hundred and fifty-seven years ago, on August 21, 1863, William Clarke Quantrill and his men rode into Lawrence bent on destroying the town. The results of the dawn raid were the destruction of numerous businesses and homes and 143 deaths. State officials and people from surrounding towns provided aid to Lawrence to help meet the basic needs of the residents and to rebuild the town. 

"The Destruction of Lawrence," an artist's sketch from Harper's Weekly, September 5, 1863
“The Destruction of Lawrence,” an artist’s sketch from Harper’s Weekly, September 5, 1863. Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18:L:8.5. Click image to enlarge.

Although her family lived in Lawrence, Anna Julia Soule was a school teacher in Kanawaka, six miles to the west, at the time of the raid. That morning, she saw the smoke coming from Lawrence, and would later recall that “we (the citizens) knew that a raid had been feared but vigilance had been relaxed and, concluding that there was not much danger, the town had stopped keeping guard at night” [1].

When Anna reached Lawrence after the raid, she found her high school teacher among the dead at the first house she stopped at. Upon locating her brother William Soule, Anna learned that her the rest of the family were safe, but that the family’s house had been destroyed. They had nothing except for the clothes they were wearing. The family stayed at the home of prominent Lawrence physician Sylvester B. Prentiss in the days following the raid. 

Anna briefly return to Kanawaka to teach after the raid, but not for long. As she would later write, “the term was nearly out and the excitement made teaching difficult, as even in the country the raid was the only thing in all our minds” [2].  

Instead of completing the term, Anna decided to go to Maine with her mother and sister to live with family and friends for a time. Of the first leg of the journey back east, she wrote,

“We went on the stage to Leavenworth, borrowing bonnets for the trip so far and sending them back on the stage. The people of Leavenworth were very kind, the women meeting daily to sew for the Lawrence sufferers and offering us help, but we only accepted such things as seemed necessary for our journey, as the people in Lawrence were in greater need than we were, for we were going to our friends who gladly helped us” [3].

The ladies returned to Lawrence in 1865 to find the town rebuilt. On June 21, 1866, Anna married Dr. Prentiss. Over the years, she was an active participant in the Lawrence community. She was involved in Lawrence’s temperance organization, was a founding member of the Lawrence No Name Club, active in her church, and took part in the reunions held by raid survivors. Anna was also the proprietor of a home goods store for several years.

Photograph of Annie Soule Prentiss standing outside of her residence and home goods store with son Frank, circa 1900
Annie Soule Prentiss standing outside of her residence and home goods store with son Frank, circa 1900. The structure was located at 1105 Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, Kansas; Brothers is located there now. Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18:C15. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Anna wrote about her experiences during Kansas’s territorial period for publications and the various clubs, organizations, and activities in which she was involved. 

[1] Clevenger, Maurine. “Memories of Early Lawrence.” Jayhawk: The Magazine of Kansas, volume 2, number 8, August 1929.

[2] Prentiss, Ann Julia Soule. “From Boston to Kansas in 1855.” Kansas Woman’s Journal, June 1926.

[3] Ibid.

Letha Johnson
Kansas Collection Curator

Celebrate National Ice Cream Month!

July 23rd, 2020

I love ice cream. I’ve very rarely screamed for it, but I may occasionally feel the urge! There are many flavors I like, including matcha and mint chocolate chip, though I feel there is something special about a good vanilla or my absolute favorite…homemade peach ice cream. Ice cream flavors are also a great thing to disagree about. You can have a very satisfying argument about which flavor is best (or at least rank them) knowing that it doesn’t really matter. It is a treat, it is satisfying, it is not particularly healthy, and it has a special quality of nostalgia for me.

Photograph of Snyder’s Ice Cream Co. (Wichita, Kansas) building exterior with ice cream trucks, circa 1920
Snyder’s Ice Cream Co. in Wichita, Kansas, circa 1920. Artificial Kansas-Based Photographs Collection. Call Number: RH PH 535, Box 11, Folder 19. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of Brown's Taylor Maid Ice Cream Shop, circa 1950-1970
Brown’s Taylor Maid Ice Cream Shop in Coffeyville, Kansas, circa 1950-1970. Patterson Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 476, Box 1, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

I remember getting together with family on the Fourth of July, playing all day, eating too many hot dogs/burgers/potluck/picnic food of all sorts, then finding the room to try three or four different flavors of homemade ice cream while sitting back and watching the fireworks. The sound of the churns were a persistent whine accompanying the conversation and bangs going on through the day.

No doubt such shared smiles and remembrances led to the naming of July as National Ice Cream Month.

Photograph of William Joe Woods at Franklin Ice Cream Co. in Tonganoxie, Kansas, circa 1940
William Joe Woods at Franklin Ice Cream Co. in Tonganoxie, Kansas, circa 1940. Woods Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P P660, Box 1, Folder 6. Click image to enlarge.

Ice cream can be found in our collections as well. I mean…not literally. That would be a nightmare for archival control. Instead there are pictures of people working on the apparatus of ice cream making, gathering socially around ice cream, or even making a buck going back quite a while!

Photograph of a man with a violin and ice cream sign in Anthony, Kansas, circa 1880-1900
Man with a violin and ice cream sign in Anthony, Kansas, circa 1880-1900. Leonard Hollmann Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH 536, Box 54, Folder 3. Click image to enlarge.

So when the urge for ice cream strikes, indulge, at least a little.

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

Joseph Pennell Collection: Fathers with Their Children

June 18th, 2020

In honor of Father’s Day, please enjoy this selection of photographs of fathers with their children, taken from the Joseph Pennell photograph collection of Fort Riley and Junction City, Kansas.

Photograph of Sgt. Lynch with his baby, 1898
Sgt. Lynch with his baby, 1898. Just a year later, on October 6, 1899, the Junction City Union reported the death of Sgt. Lynch. He was killed in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 315, Box 10. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of D.N. Hicks with his son, Lieutenant Harold Hicks, 1914
D.N. Hicks with his son, Lieutenant Harold Hicks, 1914. Just a year before this photograph was taken, the Junction City Sentinel carried the obituary of Mrs. Hicks, wife and mother. Lieutenant Hicks went on to be promoted to Colonel. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 2748, Box 59. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of John Orr with two of his sons, 1919
John Orr with two of his sons, 1919. The Orrs had three sons: John E. Orr, Jr., Wilbur and Roy. All three enlisted during World War I, and all three were wounded and gassed on the front in France, but survived the war. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 3074, Box 69. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Lieutenant George Patton with his daughter, Beatrice, 1914
Lieutenant George S. Patton with his daughter, Beatrice, 1914. Patton was stationed at Fort Riley from 1913 to 1915. He was assigned to the Mounted Service School, and became the school’s first Master of the Sword, teaching a course in swordsmanship while a student. Patton would go on to become a general in command of the U.S. Seventh Army in the Mediterranean theater of World War II and the U.S. Third Army in France and Germany after D-Day. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 2759, Box 59. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

More photographs from the Pennell Collection follow, but unfortunately no other information could be found about the people in them.

Photographh of the Lopez family, 1920-1921
The Lopez family, 1920-1921. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 3177.14, Box 72. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Lieutenant Dorsey with his baby, 1902
Lieutenant Dorsey with his baby, 1902. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 918.1, Box 24. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Lieutenant R.L. Cox with his baby, 1920-1921
Lieutenant R.L. Cox with his baby, 1920-1921. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 3257.6, Box 74. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Alex Johnson with members of his family, 1913
Alex Johnson with members of his family, 1913. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 2645, Box 56. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Captain Kinnington with his daughters, 1909
Captain Kinnington with his daughters, 1909. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 2180, Box 47. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Photograph of Major Baird with his children, 1920-1921
Major Baird with his children, 1920-1921. Joseph Judd Pennell Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH Pennell, Print 3257.2, Box 74. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Treatment of Mary Huntoon’s Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators, an Etching: Part 2

May 19th, 2020

In the first installment of this two part blog series, the Kansas artist, Mary Huntoon, was introduced. We shared how her print, Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators, was prepared for an overall washing treatment in order to reduce several dark brown stains along the top edge that interrupted the image area and created bulging in the surface.

Before any washing treatments are performed on works on paper, all media are tested with the proposed washing solutions to ensure their stability. The surface is also checked for any areas where the print may have been previously restored, or even re-touched by the artist with another material that might be water-soluble. I carefully examined the print under magnification during testing in order to make sure the ink and paper were safe for washing. Everything checked out, so I was ready to start the washing step.

Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators, prior to treatment. Call Number: RH MS 209. Click image to enlarge.

Prior to washing, the print was gently surface-cleaned and the brown paper attachments were removed. You can read more about these steps in the first blog post about this treatment.

Before a work on paper is placed into a bath, the entire object must slowly undergo a humidification step. This helps to relax the paper and the media and prevents aggressive swelling. Then the object is gently sprayed with deionized water using a fine mist attachment in order to fully saturate it. This step-wise procedure ensures a gentle transition for the object into the bath.    

The print was washed in successive baths of pH-adjusted deionized water and air-dried. I examined the print once again to assess the progress of the washing step. The stains had noticeably lessened, but they were still quite visible, and I decided to test another stain reduction technique.

Using a small brush, I gently introduced very small applications of a dilute reducing bleach to the stained areas. This reduced the stain to an almost undetectable level. Then the bleach was fully rinsed with additional baths of pH-adjusted deionized water. I used an ultraviolet lamp to check to see that all the bleach, which fluoresces under ultraviolet radiation, was rinsed away.

The etching Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators, by Mary Huntoon, in normal light, after treatment.
Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators, in normal light, after treatment. Call Number: RH MS 209. Click image to enlarge.

After the stain reduction and overall washing was complete, it was time to address a few structural concerns. Weak creases in the upper corners made the print vulnerable to breakage and tearing, so I reinforced them using Japanese paper applied with wheat starch paste we make in our conservation lab. Instead of cutting the Japanese paper, it is wetted and torn. This torn edge makes use of the long kozo fibers in the paper and creates a strong mend that integrates well into the paper. After all the mends and reinforcements were complete, the print was humidified a second time and flattened between thick felts. Pressing between felts helped to remove planar distortions along the edges, while also maintaining the plate mark of the etching.

Now that the treatment is complete, the print is ready to be returned to the collection where it can be safely examined by visitors to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.  

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library is home to the collection of papers and original artwork by Kansas artist and art therapist, Mary Huntoon (1896 – 1970). As part of a collaborative initiative between KU Libraries and the Spencer Museum of Art, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, many of the prints, drawings, and watercolors by Huntoon will be treated.

Creases in the upper corners of the etching Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators, by Mary Huntoon, being reinforced with Japanese paper attached with wheat starch paste.
Creases in the upper corners were reinforced with Japanese paper attached with wheat starch paste. Call Number: RH MS 209. Click image to enlarge.
The etching Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators, by Mary Huntoon, in raking light, prior to treatment (at left), and after treatment (at right).
Kansas City, Kansas Grain Elevators, in raking light, prior to treatment (at left), and after treatment (at right). Call number: RH MS 209. Click image to enlarge.

Jacinta Johnson, Associate Conservator, Mellon Initiative