Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

January 1, 1804: Haiti Declares Independence

January 1st, 2019

January 1st is celebrated in both the United States and Haiti as the start of the New Year, but it is an important holiday in Haiti for another reason. January 1st is the day in 1804 that Haiti declared its independence from colonial rule. Freeing itself from French control, Haiti became the first nation to be founded by formerly-enslaved people having successfully revolted through a series of uprisings starting in 1791.

Haiti is the focus of the 2018-2019 KU Common Book, a shared reading experience that is part of the university’s First-Year programming. In the selected book, Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, the author Edwidge Danticat points out that the United States did not immediately recognize Haiti as a free state. Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States from 1801 to 1809, expressed concerns about the impact the slave revolt in Haiti might have on the U.S. A brief overview of the American political perspectives on the Haitian Revolution is available online from the Office of the Historian of the United States Department of State.

Historic maps often interestingly reflect a particular political perspective. The map shown below is from Spencer Research Library’s Special Collections. It is a map of the United States published in 1816 (and “improved to the 1st of January 1818”) in Philadelphia. The map includes “the contiguous British and Spanish possessions” and has an inset of the West Indies.

Image of the "Map of the United States with the Contiguous British and Spanish Possessions," 1816

Image of the title of the "Map of the United States with the Contiguous British and Spanish Possessions," 1816 Closeup of the title of the "Map of the United States with the Contiguous British and Spanish Possessions," 1816

The map (top) with closeups of its title (bottom), which reads as follows: “Map of the United States with the
contiguous British & Spanish possessions / Compiled from the latest & best Authorities by John Melish / Entered
according to Act of Congress the 6th day of June 1816. / Published by John Melish Philadelphia. / Improved
to the 1st of January 1818.” Call Number: N8 Orbis #127. Click images to enlarge.

An inset showing the West Indies on the "Map of the United States with the Contiguous British and Spanish Possessions," 1816

St. Domingo shown on the "Map of the United States with the Contiguous British and Spanish Possessions," 1816

An inset showing the West Indies (top) and a closeup of “St. Domingo” (bottom).
Modern-day Haiti occupies the western side of the island of Hispaniola.
The eastern side is the Dominican Republic. Hispaniola is part of the Greater Antilles
in the West Indies. Call Number: N8 Orbis #127. Click images to enlarge.

Although Haiti had established itself as a republic in 1804 and had discarded its former name as the French colony of Saint-Domingue, this American map from 1816 shows the entire island of Hispaniola labeled as “St. Domingo.” A “Statistical Table of the Several Countries Exhibited on the Map” (shown below) includes the states and territories of the United States and other countries with the subcategories of British possessions, Spanish possessions, and an unlabeled grouping that lists St. Domingo as controlled by “Natives,” Guadaloupe controlled by the French, St. Bartholomew controlled by the Swedes, and St. Thomas and Santa Cruz controlled by the Danes.

A statistical table shown on the "Map of the United States with the Contiguous British and Spanish Possessions," 1816 Closeup of a statistical table shown on the "Map of the United States with the Contiguous British and Spanish Possessions," 1816

The map’s statistical table. Call Number: N8 Orbis #127. Click images to enlarge.

It was not until 1862, during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, that the United States government officially recognized Haitian independence.

Stacey Wiens
Reference Specialist
Public Services

Holiday Hosting with “The ‘Home Queen’ Cook Book”

December 7th, 2018

December has arrived and with it the winter holiday season! Since the holiday season means holiday parties, I wanted to look into hosting an oft forgotten type of affair – a lovely, elegant dinner party!

Personally, I do not have much experience with dinner parties so I decided to go to the best source I could find: The “Home Queen” Cook Book. Compiled during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, The “Home Queen” Cook Book features recipes, etiquette, and entertaining suggestions from “over two hundred World’s Fair lady managers, wives of governors, and other ladies of position and influence.” Armed with the advice of these many esteemed ladies, I set out to see if I could recreate an elegant dinner party from generations past. What follows is a story of research, abandoned dreams, and a final feeble attempt to do anything I had originally hoped to accomplish.

Image of the cover of "The 'Home Queen' Cook Book," 1901

The cover of The “Home Queen” Cook Book, 1901.
Call Number: Galloway C35. Click image to enlarge.

Now, I do not know what everyone else pictures when they think of a dinner party, but I was envisioning an elegantly set table with beautiful linens and fine china to hold a magnificent multi-course meal. With that image in mind, I immediately began examining the section on “Party Suppers” in The “Home Queen” Cook Book. That sounds like the place to start, right? And what did I learn? First, a “party supper” and a dinner party are not synonymous. A party supper is much less formal than what I was expecting when I read the heading:

An evening party… would assemble quite early in the evening. This would give plenty of time for social intercourse, music and innocent amusements. Refreshments might be carried around on trays, and the guests served with cake, coffee or lemonade. Fine large napkins should first be handed around. These should be spread on the knees to receive the plates afterward furnished. Delicate sandwiches of chopped tongue, spread thinly on sandwich biscuits, or the white meat of turkey or check are very nice for such entertainments. Ice cream, confectionery, and ripe fruit of any kind may be served.

I liked the idea of this informal gathering, which was meant to “facilitate conversation, ease, and the choosing of congenial companions out of mixed gatherings at large parties.” What more could you want from a festive holiday party? However, I still had the aforementioned picture of a dinner party in my mind. This prompted me to look to the sections on “The Mid-Day Meal” and “The Evening Meal” in the book, hoping to find any information that might be of use. Lo and behold, I found exactly what I was picturing in “The Mid-Day Meal” section! In it was everything I could ever want to know about table settings, the most appropriate food choices, even how to properly invite your guests to the affair. Before spending a great deal of time on the overwhelming amount of food described, I decided to focus first on the most basic aspect of the evening: a proper table setting.

After reading the descriptions of the proper linens, plates, crystal, and silver, I realized that just setting the table would cost a small fortune. The proper “snow white” table linen made of the suggested “handsome Irish damask” would easily cost over $100 for a small tablecloth. Any attempt at recreating the quality of a proper dinner table setting was clearly out of reach.

“Ok,” I thought to myself, “If the expected quality is unmanageable, what can I do that would dress up a somewhat subpar table setting so that it at least looks elegant?” Returning to the book, I found the perfect remedy: an artfully folded napkin. Aided by the “Folding Table Napkins” section, I began my attempt to create anything that might give me the air of sophistication I had hoped to achieve when I originally formed this brilliant plan of mine.

Image of the instructions for the Escutcheon napkin fold in "The 'Home Queen' Cook Book," 1901

Escutcheon napkin fold diagram and instructions in
The “Home Queen” Cook Book, 1901.
Call Number: Galloway C35. Click image to enlarge.

The “Home Queen” Cook Book features no less than twenty-one different napkin-folding techniques to help ensure that “the dining room, the table and all that is placed upon it shall be made as attractive as possible.” With such a plethora of options – all with detailed instructions and pictures to guide me – I thought I had finally found the perfect starting point on my way to my dream dinner party. Unfortunately, my optimism and confidence were quickly destroyed after attempting only two of the possible folds: the Escutcheon (picture above) and the Chestnut Pocket (pictured below).

Image of the instructions for the Chestnut Pocket napkin fold in "The 'Home Queen' Cook Book," 1901

The Chestnut Pocket napkin fold diagram and instructions in
The “Home Queen” Cook Book, 1901.
Call Number: Galloway C35. Click image to enlarge.

The Escutcheon: Described as “the easiest of all the ornamental foldings,” the Escutcheon was the beginning of the end for me. It was here I learned that the instructions to starch and iron the napkins immediately before folding was not a suggestion but truly an absolute requirement. After close to a half an hour of intense labor and a great deal of swearing, I finally managed to produce… something.

Photograph of an Escutcheon napkin fold attempt

My attempt at the Escutcheon napkin fold. Click image to enlarge.

The Chestnut Pocket: My attempt to regaining any semblance of dignity after being so embarrassingly defeated by the Escutcheon finally yielded a positive result for me! I even took it a step beyond the Chestnut Pocket and created the Pocket Napkin. I found that the secret to success lay in finding a napkin-folding technique that did not need to stand up. With this revelation, I managed to produce the following creation:

Photograph of a Pocket napkin fold attempt

My successful attempt at the Pocket napkin fold
(a variation on the Chestnut Pocket napkin fold).
Click image to enlarge.

So after all of this – the research, the numerous disappointments, the defeat, and eventual triumph – I am sure you must be wondering: will I be hosting my envisioned elegant dinner party this holiday season? To put it succinctly, absolutely not. There is only so much embarrassment by fabric I am willing to put myself through in the name of holiday entertaining.

Emily Beran
Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Reading Room Edition

December 6th, 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!

Good luck on finals next week, Jayhawks! Spencer’s Reading Room and lounge are great options for quiet places to study.

Photograph of Special Collections Reading Room at Spencer Research Library, 1968

The Special Collections Reading Room at Spencer Research Library, 1968.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 32/37 1968: University of Kansas
Libraries: Special Collections (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Spencer Research Library opened to researchers on December 2, 1968 – a couple of weeks after the dedication ceremony (November 8th) and public opening (November 15th). At the time, the Kansas Collection, Special Collections, and University Archives had separate Reading Rooms on the second, third, and fourth floors, respectively. Today, Spencer has one Reading Room for all researchers, and the above photo was taken from roughly where the reference desk is now located.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition

November 8th, 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!

Fifty years ago today, the University of Kansas celebrated the dedication of the new Kenneth Spencer Research Library. It was the culmination of a project that had started over seven years earlier, and the result of a year of intensive planning by KU Libraries, multiple other campus units, KU Endowment, Helen Spencer, and the Kenneth A. and Helen F. Spencer Foundation.

The dedication was comprised of four events:

Describing the dedication ceremony, the University Daily Kansan student newspaper reported on November 11th that “about 270 persons braved 35 degree weather Friday to watch” the event.

KU Chancellor W. Clarke Wescoe began the ceremony with introductory remarks. He later remembered that “a chill wind swept the terrace; the remarks were not brief because of it but because in moments of great meaning the heart speaks swiftly.”

Photograph of the dedication ceremony on the terrace at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, November 8, 1968

Photograph of the dedication ceremony on the terrace at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, November 8, 1968

Photograph of the dedication ceremony on the terrace at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, November 8, 1968

KU Chancellor W. Clarke Wescoe speaking at the dedication ceremony, November 8, 1968.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/82 1968 Dedication:
Campus: Buildings: Spencer Research Library (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Next, Helen Spencer – speaking on behalf of the directors of the Kenneth A. and Helen F. Spencer Foundation – presented the library building to the University.

It is truly gratifying to be here for this dedication. I appreciate so many of my dear friends coming today to share with me what I consider a significant occasion.

If Kenneth were here, he would enthusiastically approve of this Library and the concept behind it —

Because this Library will serve the students, both graduate and undergraduate, of the State of Kansas, where he was born and reared and began his career;

Because it will serve this great University, which he loved and from which he was graduated in 1926;

Because it will serve the entire Middle Western area, of which he was always fiercely and justly proud;

Finally, he would have approved of this Research Library and the uses for which it is intended. As a business man and as a mining engineer, he was firmly convinced that growth of science-based industries in the Middle West could occur only with the aid of strong educational institutions capable of inspired teaching with facilities for forward-looking research in the sciences.

Photograph of the dedication ceremony on the terrace at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, November 8, 1968

Helen Spencer speaking at the dedication ceremony, November 8, 1968.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/82 1968 Dedication:
Campus: Buildings: Spencer Research Library (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Charles N. Cushing, Chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, replied and accepted the building on behalf of the Board of Regents and the University of Kansas.

I am deeply honored to accept this magnificent building from a generous and most gracious lady. We know there are people with means, but we also know there are few people with vision. So first of all, I would like to pay tribute to a person who has such vision and who is responsible for the reality we dedicate here today.

It is people like Helen Spencer who have made Kansas a great state. And it is generosity such as hers which has contributed immeasurably to the quality of this University she so deeply loves. And yet there is no person quite like Helen Spencer and, therefore, there is no gift quite like this one that has made this imposing structure possible.

We stand in awe here today of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Far more than any other building on this campus it represents creative imagination. From its first concept to its final completion, it carries the imprint of a lady whose impeccable taste can be seen throughout–from the largest design to the smallest detail. For this building typifies those very qualities so dear to Mrs. Spencer’s ideals.

It is only fitting and proper that this building bear the name of her late husband, the distinguished industrialist, Kenneth Spencer. A proud name for a proud building. And it will carry with it also the distinguishing characteristics of Kenneth Spencer’s life–quality–excellence–creativity. Through the years, the decades, and even the centuries to come, this building will long endure as a memorial–the building Helen Spencer built to honor her husband.

But we must remember it is more than just a memorial–it is a means. It is a tool by which we may open the door to both the past and the future. And it will benefit not only those who use it, but all who profit by new knowledge, and that is all of us–everyone. So it is today that everyone is indebted to you, Mrs. Spencer, and we thank you more than words can express.

English physicist, chemist, civil servant, and best-selling novelist Lord Charles Percy Snow followed with brief remarks. According to Joseph C. Shipman, Director of the Linda Hall Library, Snow was an excellent choice to speak because, in addition to being “a well-known name,” he “speaks and writes in such a fashion that his audiences are likely to relish and remember what he has said.”

Photograph of the dedication ceremony on the terrace at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, November 8, 1968

Lord C. P. Snow speaking at the dedication ceremony, November 8, 1968.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/82 1968 Dedication:
Campus: Buildings: Spencer Research Library (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Dr. Earle B. Jewell concluded the ceremony by reminiscing about Kenneth Spencer and providing the benediction.

Photograph of the dedication ceremony on the terrace at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, November 8, 1968

Guests entering the library after the dedication ceremony, November 8, 1968.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/82 1968 Dedication:
Campus: Buildings: Spencer Research Library (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of guests touring the Special Collections reception area after the dedication of Kenneth Spencer Research Library, November 8, 1968

Guests touring the Special Collections reception area after the dedication
ceremony, November 8, 1968. This area is now the library’s Exhibit Space.
Lawrence Journal-World Photo Collection, University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG LJW 32/37 1968: University of Kansas Libraries:
Special Collections (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

‘Palm’ Reading with MS Q57

October 9th, 2018

Throughout history, people have found innovative ways to record the written word. Civilizations have used clay, stone, papyrus, animal skin – almost anything they could think of to produce records and share their stories. Recently, I was introduced to another innovative writing surface: palm leaves!

Photograph of the Rāmāyaņa palm-leaf manuscript, circa 1600s

Spencer’s Rāmāyaņa palm-leaf manuscript inside its acid-free storage box.
Call Number: MS Q57. Click image to enlarge.

Created in the 17th century, this palm-leaf manuscript (also referred to as a Pothi) contains the first five books of the Rāmāyaņa, an ancient Sanskrit epic about Prince Rama’s quest to rescue his wife, Sita, from Ravana, the 10-headed Rakshasa king of Lanka. While the epic itself dates back to over two millennia ago, the text in Spencer Research Library’s manuscript is a Telugu translation from the 13th century.

Photograph of the Rāmāyaņa palm-leaf manuscript, circa 1600s

Photograph of the Rāmāyaņa palm-leaf manuscript, circa 1600s

Close-up views of Spencer’s Rāmāyaņa palm-leaf manuscript.
Call Number: MS Q57. Click image to enlarge.

Palm-leaf manuscripts were created by drying and curing palm leaves. Holes were then added to the leaves so that a string could pass through, securing the leaves into a book. To create the text, scribes used a stylus to etch the characters before adding a layer of black soot or turmeric to improve the text’s readability. While the use of palm leaves for writing declined in South India as the printing press became more widely used in the 19th century, thousands of palm-leaf manuscripts containing the history, traditions, and knowledge of the region still exist today.

Emily Beran
Public Services