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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!: New Year’s Eve Poetry

December 29th, 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.

In honor of the upcoming new year, this week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing An Ode to the Sun, For the New Year by Elijah Fenton, published in 1707. The poem comes from Spencer’s Horn Collection, a collection of poems and pamphlets (satirical and panegyrical) concerning John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722). A transcription of the poem can be found via the All Poetry website, and a digitized copy of the entire document can be found via the Internet Archive.

This image has text.
This image has text.
This image has text.
The front cover and first three pages of An Ode to the Sun, For the New Year by Elijah Fenton, 1707. Call Number: Horn E44. Click images to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
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

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