Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

The Lawrence Ice Jam of 1910

January 30th, 2018

Postcard images in Spencer’s Lawrence Photo Collection document the destruction and disruption caused by large ice jams (or ice gorges) along the Kansas (Kaw) River near Lawrence in January 1910. Articles from area newspapers provide additional details about the situation. For example, the Topeka Daily Capital reported on January 15th that “travel on the Santa Fe [railroad] tracks between Lecompton and Lawrence is practically blocked and all westbound Santa Fe trains are coming into Topeka over the Union Pacific tracks.”

Between Lecompton and Lawrence the tracks are partially submerged with water and ice and from the bridge across the Kaw river at Lawrence three miles this way the Santa Fe tracks are covered with from one to three feet of water and ice. An immense ice jam has formed at the bridge at Lawrence and the checking of the river’s flow has forced the water over the tracks. The jam is about six miles long.

Postcard showing an ice gorge at Lawrence, Kansas, 1910

The ice gorge at Lawrence, 1910. Lawrence Photo Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 18. Click image to enlarge.

Newspapers also described how widespread the problem was elsewhere along the Kaw and other rivers, in Kansas and beyond. A headline on the front page of the Topeka Daily Capital on January 15th stated that an “ice gorge in [the] Mississippi [River] in St. Louis goes out causing damage estimated at $200,000.”

Postcard showing high water caused by an ice jam, Lawrence, Kansas, 1910

High water caused by an ice jam, Lawrence, 1910.
Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18. Click image to enlarge.

Postcard showing an ice gorge at Lawrence, Kansas, 1910 Postcard showing an ice gorge at Lawrence, Kansas, 1910

The ice gorge at Lawrence, 1910. Lawrence Photo Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 18. Click images to enlarge.

A letter to the World from Burt Brown, who is at Junction City, says: “The ice has broken in the Republican river today, and at Ft. Riley the Kaw river is full of floating ice. The water is considerable above the normal stage. If all the floating ice I saw in the Kaw east of Ft. Riley reaches the ice jam at Lawrence it will surely do some damage there.”

Lawrence Daily World, January 27, 1910

Lawrence, Kan., Jan 28. — Even being a fish has had its handicaps lately, and the dwellers in the Kaw thought that the world had come to end when the ice began moving. Lou McCann was standing near the water’s edge watching the ice move down the stream, when almost at his feet a forty pound catfish was crowded out on the bank, and started for the timber to [e]scape the ice. McCann, who is fleet of foot, took after it and soon overhauled the monster cat and put it out of harm’s way.

Topeka State Journal, January 28, 1910

Since the ice gorge at Lawrence has been broken and the water has receded to the channel of the river, the Santa Fe has been able to restore its train service to normal condition.

Osage City Free Press, February 10, 1910

The county boards of Jefferson and Douglas counties held a conference at the Lecompton bridge this week for the purpose of taking some action to repair the bridge, which was partially destroyed by an ice jam in January. Nothing definite was accomplished. All three of the wrecked spans are in sight; one is about 100 feet from the wrecked bridge, one about 150 feet and the third about 400 yards distant at the mouth of the Delaware. Their condition could not be ascertained, owing to the mush ice in the river and the fact that they are partly buried in sand which is rapidly forming a bar around them…Cal Walton estimates that it will take $14,000 to repair the damage.

Lawrence Daily World, February 26, 1910

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Celebrate the New Year with a Carrier’s Address

January 1st, 2018

Carriers’ addresses were published by newspapers, usually on January 1, and distributed in the United States for more than two centuries. The custom originated in England and was introduced here during colonial times. The newsboys delivered these greetings in verse each New Year’s Day and the customers understood that a tip was expected. The poems, often anonymous, describe the events of the past year, locally, regionally, and nationally, and end with a request for a gratuity for the faithful carrier. Often the poem referred to the carrier’s diligence and hardships during winter weather. Illustrated with wood-engravings and decorative borders, carriers’ addresses are distinctive examples of popular publishing in nineteenth century America.

Brown University Library Center for Digital Scholarship

Spencer Research Library has several carriers’ addresses in its holdings, including one distributed in Lawrence on January 1, 1870, to readers of the Republican Daily Journal newspaper.

Image of a Carrier’s Address to the Patrons of the Republican Daily Journal, 1870

Image of a Carrier’s Address to the Patrons of the Republican Daily Journal, 1870

Image of a Carrier’s Address to the Patrons of the Republican Daily Journal, 1870

Carrier’s Address to the Patrons of the Republican Daily Journal,
Lawrence, Kansas, January 1st, 1870: Happy New Year
.
Call Number: RH P629. Click images to enlarge.

The poem notes that “For events of importance ’tis useless to roam/There’s enough to engage us, right here at home.” Throughout 1869, Lawrence residents were focused on several local events and topics, including the following, mentioned in the text:

  • A failed attempt to build a dam on the Kansas River.
  • Controversies about the railroad (“what matter whose land these Railroads must cross?”) and the tolls charged to use the only bridge crossing the Kansas River at Lawrence (“the time has arrived, when the Bridge should be free”).
  • Road improvements and remaining problems.
  • New buildings, including the gas works (a plant for manufacturing gas and especially illuminating gas) and the First Baptist Church.
  • Praise for the city Library and the University of Kansas.
  • The success of the Kansas State Fair (held in Lawrence, September 7-10) and Kansas entries at the National Fair.
  • Immigrants moving to Lawrence
  • The election of Elijah Sells and his son William H. Sells to represent two of Douglas County’s six districts in the Kansas Legislature.

What did Lawrence look like in 1869? Check out a bird’s-eye view of the town from that year, digitized by the Library of Congress. Be sure to zoom in to see all of the details. (Spencer Research Library also has a copy of this map.)

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Langston Hughes in Lawrence, Kansas

January 30th, 2017

In honor of Langston Hughes’s birthday on February 1, we remember his time in Lawrence:

Langston Hughes spent his early boyhood in Lawrence, Kansas. In a presentation at the University of Kansas in 1965 he recalled: “The first place I remember is Lawrence, right here. And the specific street is Alabama Street. And then we moved north, we moved to New York Street shortly thereafter. The first church I remember is the A.M.E. Church on the corner of Ninth, I guess it is, and New York. That is where I went to Sunday School, where I almost became converted, which I tell about in The Big Sea, my autobiography.”


Title page of The Big Sea, by Langston Hughes (first edition, 1940).
Hughes signed this copy for the University of Kansas. Call number RH C7422.
Click image to enlarge.

Hughes lived with his maternal grandmother, Mary Sampson Patterson Leary Langston, at 732 Alabama Street. The house does not exist today. His grandmother was the widow of one of the men killed with John Brown at Harpers Ferry (Lewis Sheridan Leary), and later married Hughes’s grandfather, the ardent abolitionist Charles Howard Langston.

Langston’s years in Lawrence with his grandmother were lonely and frugal. In 1909 he entered the second grade at Pinckney School, having started school in Topeka, KS, while living briefly with his mother. He was placed with other African American children in a separate room for his education. At various times between 1909 and 1915 Langston and his grandmother lived with friends James W. and Mary Reed at 731 New York Street. Hughes also attended New York School, and Central School, where he was reportedly a good student. Langston lived with the Reeds after his grandmother’s death in March 1915, and left Lawrence to join his mother in Illinois later in the year.

Photograph of Langston Hughes. Call number RH PH P2790.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

As he writes in The Big Sea:

“The ideas for my first novel had been in my head for a long time. I wanted to write about a typical Negro family in the Middle West, about people like those I had known in Kansas. But mine was not a typical Negro family. My grandmother never took in washing or worked in service or went much to church. She had lived in Oberlin and spoke perfect English, without a trace of dialect. She looked like an Indian. My mother was a newspaper woman and a stenographer then. My father lived in Mexico City. My granduncle had been a congressman. And there were heroic memories of John Brown’s raid and the underground railroad in the family storehouse. But I thought maybe I had been a typical Negro boy. I grew up with the other Negro children of Lawrence, sons and daughters of family friends. I had an uncle of sorts who ran a barber shop in Kansas City. And later I had a stepfather who was a wanderer. We were poor – but different. For purposes of the novel, however, I created around myself what seemed to me a family more typical of Negro life in Kansas than my own had been. I gave myself aunts that I didn’t have, modeled after other children’s aunts whom I had known. But I put in a real cyclone that had blown my grandmother’s front porch away.”

Sheryl Williams
Curator, Kansas Collection

Adapted from the Spencer Research Library exhibit, Langston Hughes: A Voice for All People.

A Nineteenth-Century Woman’s New Year’s Resolutions

December 30th, 2015

According to Wikipedia, a New Year’s resolution is “a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people, beginning from New Year’s Day.” In January 1864 Elizabeth Duncan wrote down her resolutions on the back pages of her new diary. Little did she know that 150 years later we would use her resolutions to gain insight into what it was like to be a women in the Midwest during her lifetime.

Photograph of Elizabeth Duncan, circa 1860-1865

Photograph of Elizabeth Duncan, circa 1860-1865.
Ladies of Lawrence Portrait Album. Call Number: RH PH 51.
Click image to enlarge.

Wesley Duncan (1814-1902) and his second wife Elizabeth (1837-1879) became residents of Lawrence, Kansas, in May 1855, when the town was less than one year old. Wesley was in the dry goods and grocery business. In 1867 the family left Lawrence and traveled to California, where they briefly settled in San Jose. Sometime around 1868 they returned to Lawrence, and Wesley opened a hardware store.

Kenneth Spencer Research Library holds three of Elizabeth’s diaries, covering the years 1864, 1867, and 1868. The 1864 diary, shown here, was a gift to Elizabeth from her favorite nephew. On January 1st of that year she recorded that “This morning was intens[e]ly cold but I think some warmer than yesterday I wished all the folks a happy new year. About noon Fred Eggert…presented me this book which I value very highly.” The next day she wrote, in part, “I am going to try to live a more elevated life this year than I did last.”

Image of Elizabeth Duncan's diary, front cover

The front cover of Elizabeth’s 1864 diary. Elizabeth Duncan Collection.
Call Number: RH MS A26. Click image to enlarge.

Image of Elizabeth Duncan's diary, inscription

The inscription on the inside cover of Elizabeth’s diary reads
“From Fred to his Aunt Bettie as a New Years Present Jan 1st 1864.”
Elizabeth Duncan Collection. Call Number: RH MS A26.
Click image to enlarge.

Image of Elizabeth Duncan's diary, title page

The title page of Elizabeth’s diary. Elizabeth Duncan Collection.
Call Number: RH MS A26. Click image to enlarge.

Elizabeth began writing in this diary four months after Quantrill’s Raid, an event that took place in the turbulent years of strife between Kansas and Missouri during the American Civil War. Writing in her diary faithfully throughout 1864, Elizabeth primarily spoke of her family, daily life, and the people she knew. She only occasionally mentioned incidents and issues concerning the war and politics of the time.

In January 1864, Elizabeth (age 26) and her husband Wesley (age 50) had been married for almost ten years. Their household included two daughters, two-year-old Katie and one-year-old Cettie; seventeen-year-old William (“Willie”), Wesley’s son from his first marriage; and Ella Jackson, a nineteen-year-old domestic helper.

Image of Elizabeth Duncan's diary, New Year's resolutions

Elizabeth’s resolutions for 1864. Elizabeth Duncan Collection.
Call Number: RH MS A26. Click image to enlarge.

Elizabeth wrote her New Year’s resolutions on the volume’s back pages, dating them January 21, 1864. They are transcribed here.

Jan 21st 1864

Today I have determined more fully to live an humble and devoted Christian and so [illegible] that I may make more steady progress in the good way I have determined to pass the following 1st resolutions which are as follows.

Resolved that I will let no day pass without reading two or more chapters in the Bible or Testament.

2nd Resolved that I have stated times and place for secret prayer and if I am hindered in any way so as I am not possible attend to it just at the stated time I will improve the very first opportunity after.

3rd Resolved that I will be more firm with the children and not let my temper get control of me.

It appears that Elizabeth added another resolution later that year.

4 Resolved that by the grace of God assisting me I will do all in my power to make those around me happy especially our own family. July 22nd, 1864

To learn more about Elizabeth, her diary, and her life in 1864, check out Katie H. Armitage’s article in Kansas History; see also Armitage’s article about Duncan’s 1867-1868 diaries.

Kathy Lafferty
Public 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