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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.

Happy Birthday!

January 2nd, 2024

I’ve recently hit 40 and so birthdays have been on my mind, and what is New Year’s other than another sort of birthday celebration? Birthdays have been a cause for partying and remembrance for a long, long time. They’ve been a way families can reinforce bonds, a way to celebrate public figures, and certainly a way to mark the time. As such, we’ve gathered a number of birthday related materials in our collections and in celebrating my own birthday, I’ll share a few with all of you! 

Black and white photograph of people in "hillbilly" costumes holding animals. Captioned "Birthday party for "Mr Jack" March 1931  Wolfe".
Birthday Party for “Mr Jack”, photograph by Topeka Photographer Wolfe, in the Leonard Hollman Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH 536(f). Click images to enlarge.

I can’t help but hope that the “Mr Jack” in question is the chicken in the center of the photo, but I suppose we’ll never know.

We also have some heavy hitters, literarily speaking: An invitation sent to William Allen White, at the behest of George Harvey, to attend the 70th birthday celebration of Mark Twain!

Black and white printed script invitation to the 70th birthday of Mark Twain to a written in William Allen White.
George Harvey to WAW, Correspondence in our William Lindsay White collection. Call Number: RH MS 608. Click images to enlarge.

Continuing a trend of journalistic birthday items, we have a lovely collection of letters from Albert T. Reid, known for political cartoons among other things, to his grandson Leonard. This letter shows the sharing of gifts and building of birthday memories, even with those not able to be present. 

Handwritten letter on Albert T. Reid stationary including a sketch of a toy tank pulling a toy dachshund by a leash.
Letter to Lenno from G.R. in New York, August 13, 1931. Illustrated Letters to Grandgoy Leonard. Call Number: RH MS 1358. Click images to enlarge.

Strengthening the family aspect, we have a poem from the poet William Sotheby (1757-1833) on how gifts (flowers) are lovely, but that “Duty, Gratitude, and Love” are even more precious offerings for a parent’s birthday given that they grew from the parent’s own influence.

Handwritten poem on elaborately decorated paper with embossed scrollwork edges and image of angels and flowers at the top.
The Birthday Offering, from the Personal Papers of William the Poet Sotheby in the Sotheby Family Papers. Call Number: MS 4. Click images to enlarge.

I love the physical detail of the document as well as the reflection present in the poem itself. Here’s a transcript I put together as I know the script is none too clear.

The Birthday Offering

Lov’d Parent! While these flowr’s we wreathe
To grace thy natal day,
And oer their transient blossoms breathe
Pure nature’s simple lay;
Oh view, unlike frail bloom of flow’r
The heart that greets this blissful hour!

The blossom fades, the flowret falls.
There cherished duties grow,
Fond memore there the past recalls,
And thoughts that grateful glow:
And kind affections planted there
Spring up beneath a mother’s care.

These purer offerings deign approve
Lo! Duty, Gratitude, and Love.

– W.L. Sotheby

We have many more things as well: cake photos, party programs, letters, and more. We would absolutely love to be the inspiration for your next celebration! And Happy Birthday to me. 🎉

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

Collection Campaign Highlights 2022

November 8th, 2022

Another election day is here! This Tuesday, November 8th, 2022, we’ll be voting in a midterm election for all sorts of positions in local and state service with a national potential impact. So, with all of us in a somewhat political frame of mind, we wanted to share a few collection highlights related to campaigns and elections of the past.

Election ticket for Union Party listing Lincoln, Johnson, and slate of electors as well as candidate for First District of San Francisco congressional seat.
Union ticket for President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and Vice-President Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, 1864. Call Number: RH VLT Misc. 2. Click image to enlarge.

Election ticket for the slate of candidates representing the National Union Party (as a temporary name used for a conglomeration of the Republican Party and some smaller factions of other parties) in the 1864 election.

Button with drawing of a frog wearing a "No Bypass" shirt and holding sign saying "Write in Agnes T. Frog".
Agnes T. Frog, campaign button, 1986. Agnes T. Frog political campaign materials. Call Number: RH MS 472. Click image to enlarge.

An artifact of a very local campaign, this button was part of a write-in campaign in 1986 for Agnes T. Frog for Douglas County Commissioner to protest the environmental impacts of the southern Lawrence bypass.

Blue text on white paper. "Elect D. Jenilee Miller" with small photo and pledge/issue information.
Flyer for D. Jenilee Miller campaign, 1970. 1970 political campaigns collection. Call Number: RH MS 1453. Click image to enlarge.

And something in between. In 1970 D. Jenilee Miller lost her campaign for Secretary of State for Kansas with 41.13% of the popular vote, campaigning on modernizing Kansas Government and election issues which still hold public interest today.

Rear of Union ticket depicting sinking of C.S.S. Alabama.
Union ticket for President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and Vice-President Andrew Johnson of Tennessee (rear), 1864. Call Number: RH VLT Misc. 2. Click image to enlarge.

Shelby Schellenger

Reference Coordinator

Flag Day, 2022

June 14th, 2022
Bandstand decorated by the Eagle Flag Co. in Sedan, Kansas, 1913. Kansas Collection Photos. Call Number: RH MS P2178. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Not a federal holiday, but a celebration and a remembrance. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14th as Flag Day, celebrating the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. Flags are a particular manifestation of symbols. A flag can indicate an idea, a group, a place, or an area. With the adoption of an official flag for the United States of America, there was a unified way to signal the influence of the USA. With that noted, maybe we can look at how it and a few other flags have been used through the years!

Here we have one of several KU flags, this one a 1928 design. Used in this manner, it is very similar to a national flag, showing identification and support for the University of Kansas.

University of Kansas flag designed in 1928; photo taken in 1933. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/49: General Records: Flags and Banners (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Flags sometimes come with the hint of violence. Here we have a photo of students around their flag to fight for on May Day in 1895. Having your flag captured was quite the sign of disgrace!

May Day Scrap, 1895. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/10: Student Activities: May Day (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

While flags can be used as positive symbols – representing enthusiasm, identification, etc. – flags can also be used as negative symbols. Here at a KU an anti-Vietnam war Student protest in May 1970, black flags are displayed along with a U.S. flag on a coffin near a U.S. flag at half-mast. The same flags used for celebration here demonstrate shame and loss.

KU anti-Vietnam student protests on May 3-9, 1970. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/18: Student Protests (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

And while a flag can be used to isolate and claim dominion, flags can be used to show hope, alliance, and gathering together as in the dedication ceremony for Allen Fieldhouse in 1955.

The Allen Fieldhouse dedication ceremony, 1955. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/1: Campus: Buildings: Allen Fieldhouse (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Flags have been and are used in many different ways in many different circumstances: in humor, in celebration, in victory, in defeat, in shame, and in pride. Flag Day may specifically celebrate the adoption of a United States flag, but isn’t a bad day to think of all the flags we fly!

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

Yellowstone: The Sesquicentennial of the National Parks

March 10th, 2022
Yellowstone Park booklet, undated. Cooper-Sheppard-Cox Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS 576. Click image to enlarge.

On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill that established Yellowstone. So… Happy Birthday! And 150 is kind of a big one. Yellowstone has very little to do directly with Kansas, but that doesn’t mean there are no connections as our collections here at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library contain maps, photos, postcards, diaries, and even a symphony inspired by the national park. 

Black-and-white photograph of a crowded bridge. A man standing to the side appears to have a megaphone.
All right, on three, everybody sing! But actuall,y “Crowd on Bridge over Firehole River,” 1931. Personal Papers of Raymond Beamer, Photo Envelope 6, Field Expedition Photos. Call Number: PP 392. Click image to enlarge.

People liked seeing the amazing natural scenery of the park; there were quickly hotels, support buildings, postcards, trails, and many named natural attractions. 

Color illustration of a long multistory brown building on top of a small hill.
“Grand Canyon Hotel, Yellowstone Park,” undated. Yellowstone National Park Postcards, Ruth Adair Dyer Papers. Call Number: RH MS 745. Click image to enlarge.
Black-and-white photograph of a rock formation.
Jupiter Terrace, Yellowstone National Park, 1931. Personal Papers of Raymond Beamer, Photo Envelope 5, Field Expedition Photos. Call Number: PP 392. Click image to enlarge.

I haven’t gotten the chance to visit Yellowstone yet, but when I do get to go on vacation, the National Parks are definitely a consideration when picking a destination. The variety of the natural scenery, the ideals of conservation, the privilege of getting to visit these places, shared with so many other people. It is sort of a peaceful and exciting feeling all at once! 

Color illustration of visitors in four yellow open-air cars, driving along a lake framed by tall conifer trees.
“Auto Stages at Sylvan Lake, Yellowstone National Park,” undated. Yellowstone National Park Postcards, Ruth Adair Dyer Papers. Call Number: RH MS 745. Click image to enlarge.

I also mentioned maps, diaries, and even a symphony. There is a map of the tour route in the back of that booklet whose cover starts this post. Evangeline Lathrop Phillips kept a diary of her trip in 1922. And finally, composer and former KU professor James Barnes composed his Fourth Symphony, The Yellowstone Suite, here performed by The Symphonisches Blasorchester Norderstedt.

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator

Celebrate National Ice Cream Month!

July 23rd, 2020

I love ice cream. I’ve very rarely screamed for it, but I may occasionally feel the urge! There are many flavors I like, including matcha and mint chocolate chip, though I feel there is something special about a good vanilla or my absolute favorite…homemade peach ice cream. Ice cream flavors are also a great thing to disagree about. You can have a very satisfying argument about which flavor is best (or at least rank them) knowing that it doesn’t really matter. It is a treat, it is satisfying, it is not particularly healthy, and it has a special quality of nostalgia for me.

Photograph of Snyder’s Ice Cream Co. (Wichita, Kansas) building exterior with ice cream trucks, circa 1920
Snyder’s Ice Cream Co. in Wichita, Kansas, circa 1920. Artificial Kansas-Based Photographs Collection. Call Number: RH PH 535, Box 11, Folder 19. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of Brown's Taylor Maid Ice Cream Shop, circa 1950-1970
Brown’s Taylor Maid Ice Cream Shop in Coffeyville, Kansas, circa 1950-1970. Patterson Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P 476, Box 1, Folder 1. Click image to enlarge.

I remember getting together with family on the Fourth of July, playing all day, eating too many hot dogs/burgers/potluck/picnic food of all sorts, then finding the room to try three or four different flavors of homemade ice cream while sitting back and watching the fireworks. The sound of the churns were a persistent whine accompanying the conversation and bangs going on through the day.

No doubt such shared smiles and remembrances led to the naming of July as National Ice Cream Month.

Photograph of William Joe Woods at Franklin Ice Cream Co. in Tonganoxie, Kansas, circa 1940
William Joe Woods at Franklin Ice Cream Co. in Tonganoxie, Kansas, circa 1940. Woods Family Papers. Call Number: RH MS-P P660, Box 1, Folder 6. Click image to enlarge.

Ice cream can be found in our collections as well. I mean…not literally. That would be a nightmare for archival control. Instead there are pictures of people working on the apparatus of ice cream making, gathering socially around ice cream, or even making a buck going back quite a while!

Photograph of a man with a violin and ice cream sign in Anthony, Kansas, circa 1880-1900
Man with a violin and ice cream sign in Anthony, Kansas, circa 1880-1900. Leonard Hollmann Photograph Collection. Call Number: RH PH 536, Box 54, Folder 3. Click image to enlarge.

So when the urge for ice cream strikes, indulge, at least a little.

Shelby Schellenger
Reference Coordinator