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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.

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

Pride Month, 2022: Highlights from the Bruce McKinney Papers

June 27th, 2022

Hello and happy Pride Month!

The Bruce McKinney collection at Kenneth Spencer Research Library holds many pieces of LGBTQIA+ materials and memorabilia. McKinney was a Kansas activist for gender and gay rights. His collection of papers ranges from pamphlets for rallies and centers for queer individuals all over the country to stickers and pins.

For example, McKinney’s papers document the work of the Wichita, Kansas, LesBiGayTrans Center, an organization with which he worked closely.

Text that reads "Welcome to The Center, Wichita's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and HIV/AIDS Affected People's Community Center, Operated by Kansans for Human Dignity. Look for a Volunteer wearing a KFHD volunteer staff badge."
A flier for The LesBiGayTrans Community Center of Wichita, Kansas, undated. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 15, Folder 29. Click image to enlarge.
Black text on a white background describing the event.
Flier for Lesbian/Gay History Month at The LesBiGayTrans Community Center of Wichita, Kansas, October 1994. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 15, Folder 29. Click image to enlarge.
Black text on white and pink backgrounds. The main text reads "Your Next Step" and "This is Who I Am."
An undated National Coming Out Day pamphlet in Bruce McKinney’s files of The LesBiGayTrans Community Center. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 15, Folder 29. Click image to enlarge.
Blue text that says "Safe Zone" on white paper. There is also a pink triangle centered in a blue circle.
An undated Safe Zone flier in Bruce McKinney’s files of The LesBiGayTrans Community Center. This jumped out to me because I recently learned that Nazis used pink triangle badges to distinguish gay men in concentration camps. The triangle was later reclaimed as a protest symbol against homophobia. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 15, Folder 29. Click image to enlarge.

Some items in the McKinney collection highlight the history of the LGBTQIA+ community at the University of Kansas. The documents below focus on LesBiGay Awareness Week events held in 1995.

Black text on white paper. There is a black-and-white American flag in the background.
Flier for the “Pride March on Lawrence,” April 1995. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 31, Folder 39. Click image to enlarge.
Black text on white paper.
KU Queer Prom flier, April 1995. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 31, Folder 39. Click image to enlarge.

Additionally, McKinney’s papers includes information to help learn more about the queer community. I was particularly interested in the information written on bisexuality and even a paper about how to defend homosexuality in instances where individuals use the Bible against them.

Black text on yellowish/orange paper. The document lists four biphobic (negative) attitude levels and four bifriendly (positive) attitude levels.
“The Biphobia Scale,” undated. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 14, Folder 49. Click image to enlarge.
Black text on white paper. The document is a resource order form for workshop and teaching materials.
“Campaign to End Homophobia” flier, undated. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 14, Folder 48. Click image to enlarge.
Black text on white paper. The document examines Bible verses Genesis 18-19 and Judges 19, arguing that they "were not written as tools for condemnation toward homosexuals."
“Homosexuality and the Scriptures” document, undated. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 14, Folder 49. Click image to enlarge.

Some of the more fun things to look at were the many different bumper stickers that McKinney saved!

Two circular stickers with primarily white text against a red background.
Hot pink text against a black background.
Pink text with a row of people in black silhouette against a white background.
Blue text with a globe, a compass, and a pink triangle on a white background.
A selection of bumper stickers from Bruce McKinney’s collection. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS 1164, Box 15, Folder 5. Click images to enlarge.

Have a happy and safe Pride!

Black-and-white newspaper clipping of a man leaning up against a wall. He is wearing a black cowboy hat and a white t-shirt that says "Queer Cowboy."
Advertisement for a “Queer Cowboy” t-shirt in the Over the Rainbow catalogue, undated. Papers of Bruce McKinney. Call Number: RH MS Q306, Box 124, Folder 10. Click image to enlarge.

Alex Williams
Public Services Student Assistant

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

National Librarian Day: Remembering Carrie Watson (1857-1943)

April 15th, 2022

April 16th is “National Librarian Day.” In honor of all library faculty and staff on KU’s campuses, here is a look back at Carrie Watson, a librarian at the University of Kansas from 1878 to 1921.

Caroline “Carrie” Morehouse Watson was born in Amenia, New York, on March 31, 1957. The following year, her family moved to Lawrence, Kansas Territory. They did so, like the abolitionist settlers who came before them, to ensure that Kansas would enter the Union as a free state. When she was five, Confederate guerilla chief William Quantrill and his band of men raided Lawrence, killing approximately 200 men and boys. Carrie attended survivor reunions and can be seen in group photographs.

Sepia-toned headshot photograph of a young woman. Her hair is pulled up, and she is wearing large earrings and a white ruffle collar.
Carrie Watson about the time she graduated from KU, circa 1877. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty: Watson, Carrie (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Carrie graduated from the University of Kansas in 1877. Several months later, Chancellor James A. Marvin (whose tenure lasted from 1874 to 1883) appointed her Assistant to the Librarian of the University. At that time, the position of “Librarian” was held by a faculty member chosen annually by the chancellor. The holdings of the library consisted of about 2,500 books – mostly government documents – housed in a room in old Fraser Hall (located roughly where modern Fraser Hall currently stands).

Black-and-white photograph of male and female students sitting and reading at long wooden tables. Lamps hang from the tall ceilings, and bookcases line the two visible walls.
The student reading room in Old Fraser Hall, 1886. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 32/0 1886: University of Kansas Libraries (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Carrie earned the title of Librarian in 1887, under Chancellor Joshua Lippincott (1883-1889). She had taken courses in librarianship as she could, mostly over summer breaks, and traveled to the Boston Athenaeum, Harvard Library, and Boston Public Library to gain additional training. KU’s new library building was ready in 1894, and the holdings were moved from Fraser Hall to Spooner Library (now Spooner Hall).

Black-and-white photograph of male and female students sitting and reading at wooden tables arranged in two rows with a cleared aisle in the middle.
The Reading Room at Spooner Library, 1895. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 32/0 1895: University of Kansas Libraries (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Throughout her career at KU, Carrie oversaw the expansion of holdings such that when she retired in 1921 the library had about 140,000 volumes, 1,185 periodicals, and 121 newspapers. After her retirement, Carrie continued to serve in the KU Library, mostly as an unpaid volunteer.

Sepia-toned photograph of two women sitting at a roll-top desk.
Carrie Watson consulting with a colleague, undated. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty: Watson, Carrie (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Thirty years after moving into Spooner, the library, again, had outgrown its space. A new building was approved by the Kansas Legislature. It was completed in 1924 and named Watson Library, forever honoring KU’s first true librarian.

In a December 1943 article for The Graduate Magazine, author Margaret Lynn wrote:

What Miss Watson had inherited of pioneer spirit went into the library. She did not merely take what was put into her hands and make a temporary best of it. She saw the needs of a University library and fought for them, sometimes with authorities who did not see what an investment a library should be. She faced regents and chancellors and professors. She carried on with a staff too small, and quite untrained except in what she taught it. She managed with inadequate or crude equipment. When in 1894 the library was moved from the rooms in Fraser Hall to the new building, the gift of W.B. Spooner, it was a great day. At last there was enough space! But not one assistant had been added to the small staff. Miss Watson had a share in the development of her state also. She was a pioneer in state library work. She was ready to carry what she had learned to those who were still at the beginning. She assisted in state organizations. She was on state committees. She spoke at conferences. She helped librarians-to-be with fundamental instruction. She lectured [to] high school libraries, to education classes in the University. She lectured on bibliography to history classes. She had not only a task but a mission….The three institutions which in childhood she saw beginning – the State, the University, the Library – she lived to see established and developed. She could not have guessed how important a part she was to have in them.

Black-and-white photograph of a woman sitting at a desk reading a book.
Carrie Watson at her desk, 1939. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 41/ Faculty: Watson, Carrie (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

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