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

Throwback Thursday: Kansas Day Edition, Part II

January 26th, 2017

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,500 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Happy birthday, Kansas! Kansas Day is this Sunday, January 29th, and we’re celebrating with a fun photograph from the 1954 Kansas Relays Parade.

Photograph of a float in the Kansas Relays Parade, 1954

A Kansas-themed float in the Kansas Relays Parade, 1954. The year marked
the 100th anniversary of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which established
Kansas Territory. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/2 1954 Prints:
Student Activities: Kansas Relays (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

The picture was taken on Massachusetts Street just south of Eleventh. The Watkins Museum of History is prominent in the background; the building originally housed the J. B. Watkins Land Mortgage Company and the Watkins National Bank, and it served as Lawrence’s City Hall from 1929 to 1970.

Be sure to also check out last year’s Kansas Day image: a photograph of girls in sunflower costumes in the 1949 Kansas Relays Parade.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Housing the Zodiac Club Doll Collection

July 13th, 2015

One of my favorite group of objects that has come to Conservation Services for housing is the Zodiac Club peanut doll collection, housed in the Kansas Collection. As the name implies, it is a series of dolls made from shelled peanuts for heads, with wire bodies and intricate, period-appropriate dress.

The Zodiac Club was founded as women’s studying group, organized on February 5, 1878, by nine women from the Lawrence, KS area. Over the years the club met in members’ homes every Tuesday to read and discuss items relating to “cultural improvement.”

In 1943, when the Zodiac Club celebrated its 65th anniversary, twelve dolls were made to represent the original members of the Zodiac Club. The dolls are made of a frame of covered wire with peanuts for faces and dressed in costumes from the 1870s. Besides the dolls, the collection includes miniature period furniture, as well as leather-bound books, a tea service, spinning wheel, tintype photographs, needlepoint, and braid rug.

Zodiac Club doll collection,before rehousing, Kansas Collection      Furniture from Zodiac Club doll collection, Kansas Collection

Left: Zodiac Club doll collection before housing. Right: Examples of the other items housed with the dolls.
Kansas Collection, call number RH MS Q61.


All the dolls, furniture, and other items were wrapped in paper towels and placed together in a box, making it difficult to tell what was in the box and to access particular items. A museum studies student intern was assigned to rehouse the collection into a more usable form.

Doll in paper towel from Zodiac Club doll collection, Kansas Collection

Peanut-headed doll wrapped in paper towel. Note the fine detail in the costume.
Kansas Collection, call number RH MS Q61.


I asked her to create a housing that would keep the dolls and the other items in one box. She devised an ingenious two-tray system: the furniture and other items that are less frequently accessed are on the bottom layer, and the dolls are in a removable tray on top. Featured on the outside and inside of the box is a diagram that indicates how everything fits in the housing. Now the peanut ladies will be better protected and more easily displayed for many years to come.

Zodiac Club doll collection, after rehousing, Kansas Collection  Zodiac Club doll collection, after rehousing, Kansas Collection

Left: Top tray with dolls and housing guide. Right: Bottom tray with furniture and other items.
Kansas Collection, call number RH MS Q61.


Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services

William S. Burroughs’ Last Journals Come to KU Libraries

February 7th, 2014

It’s been an exciting week or two in Lawrence for scholars and fans of William S. Burroughs.  Wednesday, February 5 was the centenary of the writer’s birth, and around town events and exhibitions have been exploring his writing, art, and deep ties to Lawrence.  Burroughs made Lawrence his home during the last fifteen years of his life, and now, thanks to a gift from James Grauerholz, executor of the Burroughs estate and a KU alumnus, the influential author’s last journals will join the collections of KU Libraries.

Burroughs helped revolutionize the post-WWII literary landscape with novels like Naked Lunch and Nova Express, the latter a part of his cut-up trilogy.  To celebrate the gift, five of the ten journals will be on display in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s lobby through February.  These notebooks, which span from November 1996 to Burroughs’ death in August of 1997, were the basis for Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs, a volume edited by Grauerholz and published in 2000.  In their pages we see literature, politics, art, and philosophy collide with everyday life.  A reference to speaking with an ailing friend, poet Allen Ginsberg  (“His voice over the phone from Beth Israel Hospital in NYC sounded very weak”), appears alongside a reminder to buy disposable razors.  The final entry (see below) offers a meditation on conflict and love.  To the left Burroughs has written:  “Love? What is it? / Most natural pain / killer what there is. / L O V E.”

Image of William Burroughs' last entry in one of his final journals.

William S. Burroughs’ final journal. Image courtesy of Chuck France / KU Office of Public Affairs.  Click here for a larger version.


Image of display case containing five of Burroughs' last journals  Image of display case containing five of William S. Burroughs' last journals, as seen from above.

On display through February in Spencer Research Library’s lobby: five of the ten journals donated by the Burroughs estate.


In addition to the journals, the gift also includes typescripts and draft materials for the edition Grauerholz produced. Once cataloged, these “last words” of William S. Burroughs will be available for researchers and the public to consult at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Elspeth Healey,
Special Collections Librarian