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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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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.

That’s Distinctive!: Kansas Day

January 27th, 2023

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created the series because I genuinely believe there is something in our collections for everyone, whether you’re writing a paper or just want to have a look. “That’s Distinctive!” will provide a more lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique materials at Spencer – including items that many people may not realize the library holds. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

This week “That’s Distinctive!” celebrates Kansas Day! This year Kansas Day, which is January 29th, marks Kansas’s 162nd year of statehood. Kansas became the 34th state in 1861. You can find some fun facts about Kansas day via the National Today website and the Kansas State Historical Society’s Kansapedia.

In honor of Kansas Day, I have chosen to exhibit The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers by Marci Penner. The inside cover boasts that “this is the most comprehensive guidebook to exploring Kansas.” The book is split into sections by different areas of the state and then breaks down further into counties and cities/towns. The book boasts over 400 pages of places to visit throughout Kansas. Written in 2005, you may find that some (or many) of the businesses have closed but the most loved are still in existence today. In 2012, Marci Penner and WenDee Rowe set out to release The Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers. Below are a few pages from the 2005 edition (including Lawrence, of course).

Book title in white text against a colored background, with photos of Kansas places above and below.
The cover of The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, 2005. Call Number: RH C10896. Click image to enlarge.
The inside cover and title page of The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, 2005. As you can see, the library’s copy is signed by author Marci Penner. Call Number: RH C10896. Click image to enlarge.
Selected pages featuring places to visit in Lawrence, from The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, 2005. The book offers 3 ½ more pages of Lawrence content, beyond what is shown above. Call Number: RH C10896. Click image to enlarge.

The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers is part of the Kansas Collection at Spencer Research Library. One of the main collecting areas at the library, the Kansas Collection covers regional history in the state and its neighbors from the territorial period up through the present.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

Fields of Gold

June 15th, 2021

Summer has arrived and with it one of the busiest times of the year for Kansas farmers: wheat harvest!

Kansas is the leading state in the nation for winter wheat – wheat planted in the fall and harvested in the summer – with seven to eight million acres planted and hundreds of millions of bushels produced each year.

With the start of harvest fast approaching, please enjoy these photos of the wheat harvests of the past!

Black-and-white photograph of Men and horse-drawn harvesting machinery in a wheat field.
Harvesting wheat in Kansas, 1913. Photograph by L. M. Ulmer, Abbyville, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH P2603. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Black-and-white photograph of Men and horse-drawn harvesting machinery in a wheat field.
Harvesting wheat in Kansas, 1914. Photograph by L. M. Ulmer, Abbyville, Kansas. The back of the postcard says this: “Much wheat is harvested in Kansas, with a header cutting 10 or 12 feet. The header is pushed into the grain by six or eight horses, a sickle clipping the heads and a rolling canvas elevating them into a headerbarge drawn alongside, and in it conveyed to stacks in convenient places, to be threshed later.” Call Number: RH PH P2606. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).
Black-and-white photograph of Men and horse-drawn harvesting machinery in a wheat field.
Harvesting wheat in Thomas County, Kansas, 1907-1910. Call Number: RH PH P1130.2. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Emily Beran
Public Services

Waving Wheat Watch

June 6th, 2018

“In wheat Kansas can beat the world” – Topeka Daily Capital, October 12, 1888.

Venture outside the Kansas cities and you will find one of the state’s greatest assets: its farmland. During this time of year, many of the rolling fields are starting to turn gold as farmers prepare for Kansas’ upcoming wheat harvest. Kansas is the nation’s leader in the production of winter wheat – wheat planted in the fall and harvested during the late spring and summer – with eight to twelve million acres of winter wheat planted in the state every year.

As we look forward to the upcoming harvest season, let’s take a look at some photos of wheat harvest in Kansas from the early to mid twentieth century.

Photograph of a wheat harvest in Kansas, 1910s

Harvesting wheat in Kansas, 1910s.
Photograph by L. M. Ulmer, Abbyville, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH P2605.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

 

Photograph of a wheat harvest wheat near Jetmore, Kansas, 1919

Harvesting wheat near Jetmore, Kansas, 1919.
Call Number: RH PH P1488.2. Click image to enlarge.

 

Photograph of a wheat harvest in Thomas County, Kansas, circa 1922

Harvesting wheat in Thomas County, Kansas, circa 1922.
Photograph by George Gould, Colby, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH P1130.1.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

 

Photograph of two combines in a wheat field, St. John, Kansas, 1945-1949

Two combines in a wheat field, St. John, Kansas, between 1945 and 1949.
Photograph by William Gray. Call Number: RH PH P1101.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Even as the times and technology change, one thing remains constant: Kansas continues to lead the way when it comes to wheat production!

Emily Beran
Public Services

Perfect Stranger

August 22nd, 2016

Recently, I have been working with Sherry Williams, Curator of Collections and Curator of the Kansas Collection, to survey and treat priority materials from the Kansas Collection. Many of these items had notes in the finding aids about conservation treatment needs.

One particular item was accompanied by a note—dated 1968, the year Spencer Library opened—indicating that the item should not be used until treatment could be secured. The item, which was received in a mailing tube, had been dutifully filed away. We were happy to find it and finally be able to address its needs. Inside was a rolled paper item with a linen backing. It was a plat map of the town of Stranger, KS, surveyed by A.D. Searl and dated June 11, 1867. The item was caked in mud, extremely stained, and very fragile.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Rolled item as it appeared when removed from the tube. Call number RH Map R560. Click image to enlarge.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Detail of the mud along top edge, also showing linen backing below. Call number RH Map R560. Click image to enlarge.

I removed as much dirt and mud as possible with a tool called a microspatula (shown in the above image), lightly dry-cleaned the item with vinyl eraser crumbs to remove additional surface dirt, and removed the linen backing, which peeled right off. The map was placed in a bath to wash away as much of the water-soluble degradation products as possible, then placed in an alkaline bath to add a buffer as the paper ages. Next, it was lined on the back with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste to provide more support to the fragile item. Areas of loss were filled in with toned Japanese paper.

Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library     Map of Stranger, KS. Call number RH VLT MS Misc 5, Spencer Research Library

Map of Stranger, KS, before and after treatment. Call number RH Map R560. Click images to enlarge.

Once the treatment was completed and I could safely view the map, I had to learn more about this town with the “strange” name. From the History of Leavenworth County Kansas by Jesse A. Hall and Leroy T. Hand (Topeka: 1921), I discovered that the town was originally named “Journey-Cake” after a nickname given to a Delaware chief who lived nearby. When the town was platted in 1867 (the date of the map), the name was changed to Stranger after the Big Stranger Creek that flowed through the town. However, another nearby town had the same name, so in 1877 the name was again changed to Linwood, in honor of the linden trees in the area.

As you can see from the map, Stranger was situated along both the Big Stranger Creek and the Kansas River. In May and June of 1903, excessive flooding wreaked havoc in the town. On the evening of May 29, 1903, Hall and Hand note, “Many frame houses were swept away in the newly made channel of the Kaw. Some were upturned and were not swept away. Water in places was 20 feet deep over what had been Linwood. The postoffice was completely submerged” (324). The townspeople eventually decided to move their town of Linwood a mile north, where it remains today.

Kaw River flood, 1903? Call number RH Ph P 1055_2, Spencer Research Library

Photo print of flood, possibly 1903. Call number RH PH 1055.2.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

Native American Heritage Month: Haskell Indian Nations University

November 23rd, 2015

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, I’m highlighting items from our Kansas Collection that feature events and people from Haskell Indian Nations University, which has been educating First Nations students since 1884 in Lawrence, KS.

Did you know that Haskell offered the first touch-typing class in Kansas? The commercial department, now known as the business department, opened in 1895 with five typewriters. To find this information and other interesting facts about Haskell, check out their school history webpage.

Vivian McAllister and students typing in class.

Vivian McAllister with students typing in class at Haskell.
Miscellaneous photographs and negatives, ca. 1970.
Wallace Galluzzi Papers. Call Number: RH MS 807. Click Image to Enlarge.

This picture was taken in the 1930s by the well-known local photographer, Duke D’ambra. It illustrates Haskell’s long history as a diverse intertribal educational institution. Haskell continues to celebrate its cultural diversity with the annual Haskell Indian Art Market.

Unknown Haskell students. Photograph of Haskell Activities, 1930s.

Unknown Haskell students. Photograph of Haskell Activities, 1930s.
Duke D’ambra photograph collection. Call Number: RH PH 69.542.6. Click Image to Enlarge.

Haskell has a long tradition of producing exceptional athletes. Below are a couple of examples from Haskell’s rich athletic history.

John Levi played football at Haskell from 1921-1924 and then came back to coach the team from 1926-1936. He has been inducted into 3 sports hall of fames, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Athletic Hall of Fame, and the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame. Check out Haskell Athletics’ Flashback Friday post on John Levi to learn more.

Photograph of Haskell football player John Levi and accompanying document describing his actions in a game against the Quantico Marines.Photograph of Haskell football player John Levi and accompanying document describing his actions in a game against the Quantico Marines.

Photograph of Haskell football player John Levi and accompanying document chronicling
his actions in a game against the Quantico Marines. Duke D’ambra photograph collection.
Call Number: RH PH 69.583.3. Click Image to Enlarge.

Billy Mills was a graduate of both Haskell and KU. He is most remembered for his surprise win of the 10,000-meter race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. To learn more about Billy Mills and his incredible life story check out this interview with Mills from Haskell Athletics’ Flashback Friday post and “Mill’s Moment” on KUHistory.com written by Mark D. Hersey.

“Billy Mills is inducted in Sports Hall of Fame.” The Indian Leader, November 27, 1964.

“Billy Mills is inducted in Sports Hall of Fame.” The Indian Leader,
November 27, 1964.William Galluzzi Papers. Call Number: RH MS 807.
Click Image to Enlarge.

Mindy Babarskis
Library Assistant and Supply Coordinator