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.
With the conclusion of the 2023 football season, I thought it would be fun to share some photos from KU football’s beginning. The football team at the University of Kansas played its first season in 1890, which makes it one of the oldest college football programs in the country. According to Wikipedia, “The most successful era for Kansas football was 1890 to 1952, when the program recorded four undefeated seasons and posted an overall .603 winning percentage, over 300 wins, several conference championships, and made major bowl appearances.” After 1952, the team’s success progressively fell. However, since 2021 the team has had a dramatic change of pace, ending the 2023 regular season with an 8-4 record. The season also led the Jayhawks to the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona, where they won against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 49-36.
The Jayhawks’ home stadium, David Booth Memorial Stadium, opened in 1921 and is the seventh oldest college football stadium in the country. In December 2023, construction began on the stadium to kick off the Gateway District project. The project includes restructuring of the stadium, the addition of a hotel and a conference center, and more. A livestream of the construction can be viewed online. Phase 1 of the project is expected to be finished in time for the 2025 football season.
Below I am sharing team photos from 1890, 1891, 1892, and 1893. Interestingly, KU’s first African American football player, Edward Harvey, was a member of the 1893 squad; you can see him in the last photo below. An all-around athlete, Edward also played on the 1890 and 1891 baseball teams. His two brothers were also athletes at KU.
These photos are from University Archives. Located in Spencer, University Archives houses all things KU related; from photos, to ephemera, to manuscripts, much of the history of KU is documented here. Digital collections from University Archives can also be found via Spencer’s website.