Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Throwback Thursday: Homecoming History Edition

September 20th, 2018

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 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of an early KU Homecoming football game, 1910s

An early KU homecoming football game at McCook Field, 1910s. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

For over a century, the tradition of homecoming has been observed across KU and the city of Lawrence. Originating as an opportunity for alumni to revisit campus, the first homecoming game was played against the University of Missouri in November 1912, with KU winning 12-3. Over the next decade, the popular event spun off into many traditions. Some – like homecoming parades – have endured to this day, while others – like the annual tiger bonfire and a day dedicated to dressing like hobos – have disappeared.

Photograph of KU students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931

Students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931. The raucous event became an
integral part of homecoming festivities at KU. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/9 1931 Prints: Student Activities: Hobo Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Homecoming mostly continued on in this fashion for nearly six decades – a week of parties, rallies, and promotional activities leading up to the big football game. It wasn’t until 1970 that the next major development in the history of KU homecoming took place. In 1969, senior student Janet Merrick was crowned KU’s final homecoming queen. The selection of the homecoming queen had been part of the celebration since 1925. Protests surrounding the war in Vietnam and a growing sense of student-establishment tension deemed the tradition to be clashing with modern sensibilities. Additionally, frustrated with a process that had never resulted in a black homecoming queen, KU’s Black Student Union first chose its own queen in 1969. The following year was the first homecoming celebration without a queen, and the tradition remains shelved. The Black Student Union continues to crown a homecoming queen each year.

Photograph of KU Homecoming Queen Jan Merrick, 1969

Homecoming Queen Janet Merrick, 1969. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 1969 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The following year, KU introduced a second Jayhawk mascot. During halftime of the 1971 homecoming game against Kansas State University, Baby Jay was unveiled to the student body after hatching from a giant blue egg. Big Jay and Baby Jay have been staples of the university spirit team ever since.

Photograph of the Baby Jay egg, 1971

Baby Jay egg, 1971. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/25 1971
Negatives: University General: Jayhawk mascot, dolls, etc (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of KU Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971

Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 2/13 1971 Prints:
Chancellors: E. Laurence Chalmers (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

In 1993 there may have been some consideration in reviving the homecoming court; however, a new tradition began instead. An award was given to students that exhibited academic excellence, leadership, and a strong sense of service to the Lawrence community. This became the KU Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Awards, or the KU Ex.C.E.L. Awards. This honor has been given to two students, every homecoming, for the past twenty-eight years.

Homecoming in more recent years has seen the emergence of new traditions. For example, at Chalk ‘n’ Rock, student groups and organizations create elaborate chalk murals along Wescoe Beach. The Jayhawk Jingles continue as a new version of the Jayhawk Follies; students compete in a contest of musical performances.

Photograph of the Jayhawk Follies, 1954

Four women dancing on stage dressed as dolls in the Jayhawk Follies, 1954.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/1 1954 Prints: Student Activities:
Homecoming (Photos). Click on image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

This year, KU faces off against Oklahoma State in the 106th homecoming football game. The theme this year is “Home on the Hill,” a call for alumni to return home to their University as they always have and for current students to further solidify their own homes on the hill.

Mallory Harrell
KU Museum Studies graduate student and University Archives intern

Throwback Thursday: Freshman Toss Edition

August 23rd, 2018

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 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

One of the fun topics you can learn about in University Archives is the history of traditions at KU, especially those observed during the university’s early decades but no longer practiced today.

One contentious custom required all freshmen to wear tiny caps (beanies) and to tip it before the school flag, faculty members, and seniors. According to an article on the KU History website, the punishments for not doing so included “a severe paddling, an involuntary dip in Potter Lake, or having oneself tossed repeatedly into the air from huge canvas blankets, held by members of the Men’s Student Council and the K-Club, which was composed of lettermen from all University sports.”

Photograph of a group of men tossing a freshman caught without his cap, 1914

Photograph of a group of men tossing a freshman caught without his cap, 1914

Freshmen being tossed in the air after being caught without a cap, 1914.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/66/14 1914 Prints:
Student Activities: Sports: Football (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Both of the above photos were taken in 1914 during KU football games at McCook Field, located roughly where Memorial Stadium now stands. The opponents were the College of Emporia (October 10, top) and the University of Missouri (November 21, bottom).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Baseball Game Edition

May 3rd, 2018

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 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of a KU baseball player running to a base, 1900-1901

KU baseball game at McCook Field, 1900-1901. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 66/12 1900/1901 Prints: Athletic Department: Baseball (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Information on the back of the photograph states that the picture was taken during a tournament on May 10, 1901. Note North College, KU’s first building, prominently in the background. It was located approximately where Corbin Hall now stands.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

“The Bleachers are Dead! Long Live the Stadium!”

May 10th, 2016

Ninety-five years ago today saw an impressive event at the University of Kansas. As summarized by an article by John H. McCool, “Chancellor Lindley declared May 10, 1921, to be Stadium Day and turned loose hundreds of male students and faculty who proceeded to physically tear down the [McCook Field] bleachers in only 78 minutes.”

Photograph of the KU v. MU football game at McCook field, 1910

The marching band playing at halftime of the KU v. MU football game, McCook Field, 1910.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/66/14 1910: Student Activities:
Sports: Football (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

McCook was KU’s “original outdoor athletic grounds,” and by 1920 the 25-year-old wooden bleachers were considered dilapidated, uncomfortable, and inadequate. According to McCool, “these conditions, coupled with a steady rise of alumni and student interest in KU football, made construction of a new, permanent stadium a top priority, and if it also served a commemorative function [to memorialize KU students, alumni, and faculty who had died in World War I], then so much the better.”

Photograph of McCook Field bleachers, 1920

McCook Field bleachers prior to demolition, 1920. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1920 Prints: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

The University Daily Kansan announced Stadium Day on May 9th with a front page article. “Each student will have his chance to show just what his true relations to his University and his feelings toward it really are,” it read, continuing:

The removal of the old bleachers is not such an event in itself. The participation in clearing the ground for the new structure is the big feature of the entire school year. The ground is to be broken for the new stadium. The old gives place to new and every one present will witness the beginning of the biggest building project that K. U. has to date hoped to attain…This is the one big day of the entire school year, the last all-university holiday and frolic. Tuesday is the day! McCook Field is the place! You are the individual responsible! Be there!!

Reporting on Stadium Day on May 11th, the Kansan proclaimed that it was “a grand and howling success.” Below are some photographs of the event, accompanied by further descriptions from the Kansan.

University Daily Kansan, May 11, 1921: “In alphabetical order, the workers gathered at various sections of the bleachers, and began their task of lifting planks, removing joists, and prying side-pieces. As soon as a swarm of students would remove the ancient timber, another group would begin to carry it off the field…While the bleachers were undergoing their last rites, an immense company of men was building portable bleachers to contain crowds at the two track meets to be held here yet this year. This bunch of men were aided by two power saws, and the short time consumed in the construction of these temporary stands was miraculous.”

Photograph of Stadium Day, bleachers being disassembled, 1921

Bleachers being disassembled, 8:30am on Stadium Day, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of Stadium Day, bleachers being disassembled, 1921

Stadium Day, south bleachers at 9:00am, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of Stadium Day, bleachers being disassembled, 1921

Stadium Day, north bleachers at 9:30am, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Stadium Day workers, 1921

Stadium Day workers, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Stadium Day, men carrying logs, 1921

Students working on Stadium Day, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0 1921: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

University Daily Kansan, May 11, 1921: “Although by far the great majority of students turned out to assist in the destruction, a few sluggards stayed in their homes. Toward the censure of these, a personnel squad turned out, thirty-five strong, and made a tour of the Hill. Armed with paddles, the squad discovered sixty men, and the sixty were soon with the multitude of laborers.”

Photograph of the Stadium Day paddle squad, 1921

Stadium Day paddle squad, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

University Daily Kansan, May 11, 1921: “But work wasn’t the main pleasure of the day. Just after a bunch of Kansas City alumni and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce pulled up Illinois Avenue headed by a band, fifteen ‘chow’ lines were put into motion, and 4,000 persons were fed in less than an hour. The fifteen lines proceeded past tables which were presided over by ten or twelve University women. Heaped upon these tables were thousands upon thousands of sandwiches – peanut butter, pimento cheese, and freshly barbecued beef, giant quantities of beans, pickles, innumerable ice cream cones, and gallon after gallon of steaming coffee. An orderly crowd then took plates to the cars and curbings on Illinois street, and was soon stuffed. ‘Seconds’ were allowed those who came back for more. Never before in the history of the University had such a feed been held, and never before anywhere had 4,000 appetites been so thoroughly satisfied.””

Photogrpah of Stadium Day barbecue, 1921

Stadium Day barbecue, 1921. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

University Daily Kansan, May 11, 1921: “A pushball contest was announced, the thousands adjourning to Hamilton Field. After this sport had resulted in countless bruises and boundless enthusiasm, the last scheduled event of the celebration took place.”

Phototograph of Stadium Day pushball contest, 1921

Stadium Day pushball contest, 1921. Many of the day’s activities were
filmed by a Pathé News cameraman. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints: Campus:
Buildings: McCook Field (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

University Daily Kansan, May 11, 1921: “Clad in overalls, Chancellor Lindley plowed a straight furrow across McCook Field. The ground for a new half-million dollar project was broken. The bleachers are dead! Long live the Stadium!” Earlier in the day, Lindley had “sounded the keynote of the holiday in a short speech. ‘The students of Kansas deserve everything that is given to the students at Princeton, Yale, and Harvard,’ he said, ‘and they are going to have it.'”

Photograph of Chancellor Lindley at Stadium Day, 1921

Chancellor Ernest Lindley (left, hat in hand) at Stadium Day, 1921.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1921 Prints:
Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Construction of the new Memorial Stadium began on July 16, 1921. But, as John H. McCool wrote, “with only a quarter-million in the bank, the Memorial Corporation could only pay for the east and west sides; rounding off the U would not be possible until 1927 (when full capacity reached 38,000), and only then after raising ticket prices and floating hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bonds.”

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Baseball Edition

July 9th, 2015

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 5,300 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is next Tuesday, so this week we’re sharing a fun picture of an early KU baseball game. A horse and buggy along the outfield wall is something you certainly don’t see today!

Photograph of a KU baseball game, 1890s

KU baseball game at McCook Field, late 1890s. McCook was located
approximately where Memorial Stadium is today. This photo looks south/southeast
from the field; Spooner Hall and Old Fraser Hall can be seen in the background,
on top of Mount Oread. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 66/12 1890s Prints:
Athletic Department: Baseball (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Robert Taft writes in Across the Years on Mount Oread (1941) that baseball has been played at KU since 1866, “almost from the first day of University history.” Games were sporadic until April 18, 1880, the date of KU’s first intercollegiate game of which there is a definite record. Washburn College emerged victorious, winning 29-23. This was a decade before the first intercollegiate football game at Kansas.

Taft also writes that “the baseball team in the earlier years was handicapped by the lack of a suitable playing ground.”

During the late eighties [1880s] a field was used on South Massachusetts street (the site of the present Liberty Memorial High Central Middle School) but its use, however, had to be divided in time with the town team. As the field was also some distance from the University, regular practice was seldom attempted (40).

The construction of McCook Field – also used by the football and tennis teams – in 1892 established “baseball as a permanent sport on campus” (40).

Photograph of McCook Field, 1890s

McCook Field, 1890s. This view was taken from Mount Oread and looks north.
Note the Old Dutch Windmill in the background, at what is now the corner of
Emery Road and 9th Street. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/47 1890s: Campus: Buildings: McCook Field (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants