Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Exhibiting Free Speech: The Wilcox Collection at 50

March 16th, 2015

This post is written to highlight the current exhibit at Spencer Library: Free Speech in America: The Wilcox Collection at 50. A reception will be held on March 25 at Spencer Library to celebrate the Wilcox Collection.

Fifty years ago Laird Wilcox was a student at the University of Kansas. He had started collecting political literature in his teen years, fueled in this interest by his diverse family leanings and volatile discussions over family meals. He wanted to understand what motivated people to believe the things they did and act on those beliefs.

In 1964 Laird entered and won the Elizabeth Taylor Book Collecting Contest sponsored by the KU Libraries. The Libraries purchased his collection in 1965 (then four filing cabinets of materials). Today the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements is one of the largest assemblages of left and right wing U.S. political materials anywhere. There are thousands and thousands of pamphlets, books, newsletters, audio recordings, and political ephemera such as bumper stickers, posters, flyers, organizational membership mailings, and book catalogs, relating to some 10,000 organizations at the fringes of the political spectrum. There is also a growing component of manuscript collections as well, including Laird Wilcox’s personal papers.

1964 Contest Winners Laird Wilcox, Lawrence Morgan, and Jerry L. Ulrich, with Elizabeth M. Taylor.

The winners of the Taylor Book Collecting Contest, KU Libraries, 1964. Laird Wilcox, far left, and Elizabeth M. Taylor (sponsor of the contest), second from left. University Archives. Call Number: RG 32/40. Click image to enlarge.

Laird Wilcox in Wilcox Collection stacks, University of Kansas Libraries

Laird Wilcox standing in the Wilcox Collection stacks, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, KU, 1996. University Archives. Call number: RG P/LW. Click image to enlarge.

In 2015 an exhibit was mounted in Spencer Research Library to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Wilcox Collection. The exhibit includes examples of books, newsletters, and ephemera, and highlights some of the many books that have resulted from research in the collection. Materials from the collection include items from a scrapbook that Laird kept as chair of the Student Union Association Minority Opinions Forum, a FBI wanted poster with photos of Bernadine Dohrn and William Ayers from the ephemera file of the Weather Underground, and examples of Laird’s many publications.

Flyer from Wilcox Collection depicting American flag

Poster for a documentary film shown at KU in 1964 focusing on the Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). From the Laird Wilcox scrapbook. Kansas Collection. Call number: RH WL MS Q5. Click image to enlarge.

Wanted poster from Wilcox Collection, University of Kansas Libraries

FBI wanted poster from the ephemera file of the Weather Underground which operated as an underground urban guerilla force. Kansas Collection. Call number: RH WL EPH 2094. Click image to enlarge.

One of the strongest features of the Wilcox Collection is ephemeral materials, including bumper stickers, buttons, and flyers. Because of their “throw-away” nature ephemera are often overlooked as an information source, but can provide the original message of the creator in a way that is often concise and colorful.  On display are materials from the National Youth Alliance, Community Churches of America, the American Education Lobby, the Lesbian/Gay Labor Alliance, the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, T.R.A.I.N. (To Restore American Independence Now), Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, Phoebe Courtney’s Tax Fax, and The Fact Finder published by Harry Everington. There are more than 200,000 pieces of ephemera in the Wilcox Collection.

Ephemeral materials from Wilcox Collection, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Representative ephemera from the Wilcox Collection. Kansas Collection. Call number: RH WL EPH. Click image to enlarge.

The Wilcox Collection is a prime example of one of the world-class collections that reside within the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Researchers from many parts of the globe have traveled to the KU campus to view this collection, an opportunity that is easily available to KU’s students and faculty.

Rebecca Schulte
University Archivist and Curator, Wilcox Collection

Sherry Williams
Curator of Collections and Curator, Kansas Collection

 

 

Call for Entries: 59th Annual Snyder Book Collecting Contest

February 16th, 2015

Calling all KU student book collectors:  it’s that magical season when your love of books can actually replenish your coffers rather than empty your pockets.  The competition for the 59th Annual Snyder Book Collecting Contest is now open, and entries are due by 5 p.m. Friday, March 27, 2015.  Collections need not be rare or expensive to win; rather you should be able to write thoughtfully about the scope and coherence of your collection, your purpose and method in building it, and how individual items fit within the larger whole.

59th Annual Snyder Book Collecting Contest

Winners are selected in both graduate and undergraduate divisions, with the following cash awards:

  • First Prize: $600
  • Second Prize: $400
  • Honorable Mention: $100

Each winner will also receive a gift card in the following amounts from contest co-sponsor Jayhawk Ink, a division of KU Bookstore:

  • First Prize: $100
  • Second Prize: $50
  • Honorable Mention: $25

Need further incentive to enter?  Did you know that last year’s graduate division winner, Katya Soll, also won the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest with her collection “Dictatorship, Recovery, and Innovation: Contemporary Theatre of the Southern Cone?”  The national prize earned her an additional $2,500, which was awarded at a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

1st place 2014 Graduate Division winner Katya Soll with her collection "Dictatorship, Recovery, and Innovation: Contemporary Theatre of the Southern Cone" 1st place 2014 Graduate Division winning collection "Dictatorship, Recovery, and Innovation: Contemporary Theatre of the Southern Cone" by Katya Soll

National Champion: Katya Soll at the 2014 Snyder Book Collecting Contest with her 1st place Graduate Division collection, “Dictatorship, Recovery, and Innovation: Contemporary Theatre of the Southern Cone.” Images courtesy of KU Libraries; click images to enlarge.

KU’s contest is one of the longest-running collegiate book-collecting contests in the United States.  It was established by Elizabeth M. Snyder (then Elizabeth Taylor) in 1957 to cultivate and recognize undergraduate and graduate students’ interest in collecting books.  In its inaugural year, the “Taylor Student Book Collecting Contest, ” as it was then known,  bore a $75 first prize and a $25 second prize (see the 1957 contest poster below).  Over the years, the prize amounts have grown and the contest rules have expanded to reflect changes to the world of books.  The contest now permits digital and non-print materials to supplement the books and print materials that form the core of the collections.

1957 Taylor Student Book Collecting Contest Poster

Early Days: The poster for the first year of KU’s student book collecting contest, then known as the
Taylor Student Book Collecting Contest. Image courtesy of KU Libraries

Several former Snyder Book Collecting Contest winners have gone on to make collecting a lifelong pursuit.  Laird Wilcox won the contest in 1964 while an undergraduate with his collection “Ephemeral Political Movements in the United States.” Over the decades he continued to build his collection of left- and right-wing political materials and has since donated it to KU Libraries.  The Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements now stands as one of Spencer Research Library’s most-consulted collections, drawing researchers from across the country and around the world.  As we will highlight in a future post, it is the subject of Spencer’s current exhibition–“Free Speech in America: The Wilcox Collection at 50”–on display in Spencer’s gallery through April 18, 2015.

1964 Contest Winners Laird Wilcox,  Lawrence Morgan, and Jerry L. Ulrich, with Elizabeth M. Taylor.

1964 Contest Winners: Laird Wilcox (left), Lawrence Morgan (second from right), and Jerry L. Ulrich (right),
with contest sponsor, Elizabeth M. Taylor, 1964. University Archives. Call Number: RG 32/40. Click image to enlarge.

Jane Albright won the Snyder Book Collecting Contest in 1977 with her Wizard of Oz collection.  She has since gone on to become one of the premier collectors of Oz and L. Frank Baum, and her collection occupies a floor of her home near of Kansas City.   Last spring, she returned to KU to share her passion with others through the exhibition, The Magic of Oz: A Collection Celebrating a Classic, which focused on some of the printed Oz, Baum, and Denslow materials in her collection.

Image of Jane Albright in front of Oz exhibit at KSRL, 1977

Jane Albright with her Oz collection in 1977, the year she won the Snyder Book Collecting Contest. Image courtesy of Jane Albright.

Join in the contest’s long and illustrious history and enter your collection by the submission deadline of  Friday, March 27, 2015.  Full contest details are available on the Snyder Book Collecting Contest website.