The University of Kansas

Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

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.

North Gallery Highlight: University Archives

July 16th, 2020

Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s North Gallery houses a permanent exhibit highlighting materials from the library’s various collecting areas: the Wilcox Collection, the Kansas Collection, Special Collections, and University Archives. While the library is closed to the public, we hope you enjoy the periodic exhibit highlights we’ll be sharing on the blog. Once Spencer reopens, we hope you’ll be able to visit the library and explore the full exhibit in person!

The University Archives portion of the North Gallery exhibit showcases materials related to University Chancellors, faculty, athletics, and student life. In one interactive part of the exhibit, visitors can peruse a timeline of highlights from nearly 150 years of KU’s history.

Below are two videos from the timeline. The first (which has no sound) is a compilation of film clips and photographs showing snippets of student life at KU during the 1940s. The second video contains clips of Robert F. Kennedy’s speech at Allen Fieldhouse on March 18, 1968.

Molly Herring
Associate Archivist, University Archives

Throwback Thursday: World War II Memorial Edition

June 6th, 2019

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!

Photograph of bells being installed in the World War II Memorial Campanile, 1951

Bells being installed inside the World War II Memorial Campanile, 1951. University
Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/22/8 1951 Prints: Campus: Buildings:
Campanile (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

KU’s Danforth Chapel

May 18th, 2018

Photograph of Danforth Chapel, 1971

Danforth Chapel, 1971. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14 1971: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click image to enlarge.

In 1927, William H. Danforth, founder of the Ralston-Purina Company in St. Louis, Missouri, created the Danforth Foundation. It provided college scholarships, supported revitalization projects in St. Louis, and funded the Danforth Chapel Program. Danforth recognized the need for a place of spiritual meditation on college campuses. The Chapel Program funded twenty-four chapels around the country, fifteen of those on college campuses. A few still stand today, including the one at the University of Kansas. The architect for KU’s Chapel was Edward W. Tanner, who declined payment for his work. Tanner also designed The Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

Photograph of William H. Danforth and Chancellor Deane W. Malott at the Danforth Chapel dedication, 1946

William H. Danforth (left) and KU Chancellor Deane W. Malott (right)
at the dedication of Danforth Chapel, 1946. University Archives.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14/i 1950s Prints: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click on image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Image of a Daily Kansan article about the dedication of Danforth Chapel, April 2 1946

Article about the dedication of Danforth Chapel in the
University Daily Kansan student newspaper, April 2, 1946.
University Archives. Call Number: UA Ser 69/2/1. Click image to enlarge.

Danforth Chapel was constructed during World War II. Locally imprisoned German POWs did much of the labor. The contractors in charge of the building project hired them and paid them for their work. They worked eight hours a day, six days a week. Part of the labor agreement stipulated that the POWs would work on the chapel only when not needed by local farmers or industry. They worked under guard and returned to their barracks at the end of each workday. They wore denim jackets and t-shirts with the letters “PW” boldly printed on them. Once completed, the chapel furnishings were acquired with money raised by the campus Danforth Chapel Committee. One of the members of this committee was Forrest C. “Phog” Allen, the legendary basketball coach. Donations came from faculty, staff and students.

Photograph of Danforth Chapel under construction, 1942

Danforth Chapel under construction, 1942. University Archives.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14 1942: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Today Danforth Chapel remains nondenominational. Renovated and re-dedicated in 2007, it still provides a quiet place for individual prayer and meditation, weddings, christenings, memorials and student activities.

Image of Daily Kansan article about the first wedding in Danforth Chapel, March 20 1946

University Daily Kansan article about the first wedding
in Danforth Chapel, March 20, 1946. University Archives.
Call Number: UA Ser 69/2/1. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of a a wedding at Danforth Chapel, circa 1953

A wedding at Danforth Chapel, circa 1953. University Archives.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14 circa 1950s: Campus: Buildings: Danforth Chapel (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

On the Research Trail: World War II Prisoners of War in Kansas

May 4th, 2018

The diversity of the Spencer Research Library collections is explored through the description of a search process related to a research question or theme.

In my first months as an employee of the University of Kansas, I was curious about the history of the buildings on campus. In particular, the Danforth Chapel piqued my interest as I wondered what the connection might be between the Danforth for whom the chapel is named and the former chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, my alma mater. I went to the University Archives page on the Spencer Research Library website and clicked on Campus Buildings to see what I could find out. I then clicked on Campus Buildings Directory.

Screenshot of the Campus Buildings page on the Spencer Research Library website

Click image to enlarge.

This took me to the KU Places Directory page. I typed “Danforth Chapel” (without quotation marks) into the search box.

Screenshot of the KU places directory website

Screenshot of information about Danforth Chapel on the KU places directory website

Click images to enlarge.

I was surprised to learn that German prisoners of war (POWs) from a camp in Lawrence participated in the construction of the Danforth Chapel. My research path took a turn in pursuit of answers to new questions: When was this? Where was the Lawrence POW camp located? How had POWs become involved in a campus project? What was this experience like for those involved?

Knowing that most of the buildings on campus have files in the University Archives, I started my quest for answers by using the search interface for findings aids on the Spencer website. I typed “Danforth Chapel” (without quotation marks) into the Search for field. I retrieved four results. The first item in the results list was the finding aid for the University of Kansas General Records. I clicked on this item.

Screenshot of the Spencer Research Library finding aid search results page

Click image to enlarge.

Looking at the left side of the finding aid, I skimmed through the list of different types of general records to find and click on Buildings. In the Buildings section, I located Buildings Scrapbooks as well as Danforth Chapel.

Screenshot of a portion of the finding aid for KU General Records at Spencer Research Library

Click image to enlarge.

Scrapbooks are collections of newspaper clippings and other relevant artifacts related to a particular topic that were gathered and organized by KU librarians up until approximately the 1960s. The scrapbooks for KU buildings are organized by date. Examining the records for a specific building first, before looking through the four volumes of scrapbooks, is useful because the files for a building often contain an index that points the researcher to the volume and page numbers of relevant items in the scrapbooks as well as to sources of other related information at Spencer.

Photograph of materials in the Danforth Chapel building file

Materials in the Danforth Chapel building file.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of pages in a KU buildings scrapbook

Pages in a KU buildings scrapbook. Call Number: SB 0/22 volume 1. Click image to enlarge.

I found an index in the Danforth Chapel box of records and looked at each page listed in the corresponding scrapbook volume. The clipped articles were about the role of the chapel, fundraising, opening ceremonies, etc., and did not answer my questions. I continued to look through the box of Danforth Chapel records which are organized by year. In the 1945 folder, I discovered photocopies of two newspaper articles about the role of German prisoners of war on campus.

Photograph of folders in the Danforth Chapel building file

Photograph of newspaper articles in the Danforth Chapel building file

Folders and newspaper articles in the Danforth Chapel building file.
Call Number: RG 0/22/14. Click images to enlarge.

One of the photocopies did not include the source information for the article. It was evident from the surrounding information on the page that it was from the KU newspaper, the University Daily Kansan (UDK), but I wanted to know the date it was published. Inferring the date range from the second photocopied article, which did have source information, I located the appropriate roll of microfilm on the UDK shelf in the Spencer Reading Room. I loaded it on the microfilm reader and found the article in the June 4, 1945, issue. I put that date in context by a quick check online to confirm that June 1945 was one month after the surrender of German forces in the European theater of World War II.

Photograph of the microfilm reader in the Reading Room

From the first article, entitled “Fifteen German Prisoners Detailed to Campus to Work on Danforth Chapel and Grounds,” I learned that the POW camp in Lawrence was located near the Santa Fe railroad station. The POWs were paid contract workers and had been brought into the area to meet labor shortages in agriculture and industry.

The second article (shown below) provided me with some insights into how the relationship between the prisoners, their guards, and the KU community was governed by a set of rules.

Photograph of Danforth Chapel article in the University Daily Kansan, 1945

Article about German POWs in the University Daily Kansan,
August 5, 1945. Call Number: UA Ser 69/2/1. Click image to enlarge.

I wondered if there are items in the collections of the Spencer Research Library that might provide information about World War II prisoner of war camps in Lawrence and other parts of Kansas. I went to the Spencer website and clicked on Search KU Libraries Catalog. To search only in the Spencer Research Library holdings, I clicked on Set Other Search Limits. (Note: This is an alternative to the search method described in my previous blog post.)

Screenshot of the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

I then selected Spencer Research Library as the Location and clicked on Set Limits.

Screenshot of the search limits page in the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

In the Advanced Search interface, I typed in “prisoner of war camp Kansas” (with no quotation marks) and “prisoners of war Kansas” in two of the Search for fields. I clicked on Or in between the two fields to search for either of the two keyword phrases. (Note: You can leave out the word of when entering the keyword phrases.)

Screenshot of the advanced search page in the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

This search retrieved eighteen results. Since I did not specify World War II or German prisoners, some of the results were related to other wars or other groups of prisoners. Scanning through the list of items, I found six that appeared to be relevant to my research questions. The items included a curriculum for courses taught at the camps in Kansas, oral histories of prisoners and community members, and a book providing a comprehensive overview of the POW camps in Kansas at the end of World War II.

Screenshot of a search results page in the KU Libraries online catalog

Click image to enlarge.

Pursuit of answers to my research questions was well-supported by utilization of the collections at Spencer Research Library. I found materials to address my initial questions and a wide variety of additional sources to allow for deeper investigation of the topic of POW camps in Kansas.

Stacey Wiens
Reference Specialist
Public Services

World War II: The African American Experience

February 27th, 2018

The tradition of celebrating African American history in February was established in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.  The 2018 theme of Black History Month is “African Americans  in Times of War,” and this week we feature two brief excerpts from an oral history interview with WWII veteran William Tarlton. The interview comes from Spencer Research Library’s World War II: The African American Experience oral history interview collection.

Photo logo for World War II: The African American Experience, featuring pictures of Africa American soldiers.

More than one and a half million African Americans served in the United States military forces during World War II. They fought in the Pacific, Mediterranean, and European war zones, including the Battle of the Bulge and the D-Day invasion. These African American service men and women constituted the largest number enlisted in the Army and Navy, and the first to serve in the Marine Corp after 1798. World War II: The African American Experience begins to document the experiences of African American World War II veterans through audio recorded interviews. These oral histories are part of the collecting program established by the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s Kansas Collection in 1986 to enhance the region’s permanent historical record of the African American experience. The collection includes donated materials that provide information about families, churches, organizations and businesses, especially during the 20th century.  The World War II oral history project is sponsored in part by the Sandra Gautt KU Endowment Fund, which Professor Emerita Gautt established to honor her father, Sgt. Thaddeus A. Whayne, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen unit.

William Tarlton: Two Oral History Excerpts

Photo of William Tarlton in uniform

Photograph of William Tarlton from a Squadron F 463rd
Army Air Force photo collage, 1947. Tarlton served with Squadron F
after re-enlisting, following his wartime service with the 371st Infantry.
African American World War II Oral Histories Collection.
Call Number: RH MS-P 1439, Box 1, Folder 3. Click image to enlarge.

A life-long resident of Topeka, Kansas, William Tarlton served in the United States Army’s 92nd Division, 371st Infantry. Wounded twice during the Italian campaign, he was awarded the Bronze Star medal for “his outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy.” In the passage below, excerpted from his oral history interview with Deborah Dandridge, Field Archivist and Curator for the African American Experience Collections, Tarlton recounts the experience of being shelled.

DANDRIDGE: So when you were training in combat, what sort of things do you remember you had to learn how to do?
TARLTON: Keep your head down. (chuckles) Dig a fox hole. Get in that fox hole or stay on the ground. Yeah.
DANDRIDGE: Did you ever have to do that?
TARLTON: I certainly did. Yes I did. The other one thing that I remember vividly is the fact that I was in, it was a bridge that we went across, that goes across a little creek. And we — me and another guy, one was on one side of the bridge and one was on the other side, I was right there, and three of the artillery shells that fell hit that bridge and they never went off and fell right off into the water. I remember they hit. And see that was, see that German eighty-eight millimeter gun was — you’d hear a “Boo” and next thing it’s on you. You know? Yeah, those are the things that— And that was about, that was one of the, some of the scariest things, especially at night. I mean it’s all dark over there and then — Oh, the other thing that I remember, I was, when I got shrapnel wounds in my arm and back we was getting close to the end of the war and we were up there in a British Signal Corps outfit and we went up in there and they shelled that outfit. And then we were going to get some breakfast that morning. Way off in the field and somehow or other they zeroed in on that thing and you — it just sounded like a pile of lumber falling down.
DANDRIDGE: So you didn’t get your breakfast?
TARLTON: We got it, eventually, after it got all clear. Those British soldiers are resilient people, they’re crazy some of ‘em.
DANDRIDGE: So did you ever, so did you eat with ‘em? Did you eat with the British?
TARLTON: (overlapping) Oh yeah, yeah we ate — I did. And, then me and several of us that was on patrol and we ate down there. Yeah, we did that. And they were very nice. And they were — So one of the things that I can remember that they were, of course I’m young, but the British, they always had some Scotch Whiskey. (chuckles)
DANDRIDGE: And so you all were sharing, is that what you’d say?
TARLTON: They shared a little bit with us.
(William Tarlton Oral History Interview, excerpt from  37:42-40:36)

Over the course of his interview, William Tarlton also discusses segregation in Topeka prior to his service, segregation in the armed forces, and his memories of being at Fort Francis E. Warren, Wyoming when the U.S. military’s new policy of racial integration was implemented after the war.  He briefly addresses these last two subjects in our second excerpt:

TARLTON: Well, we were still—We were still in segregated army when I went, in 19— when we got back to the States, we were still segregated. And then we went to Cheyenne, Wyoming and that was where — I can’t remember. I got that on discharge, can’t remember — But, anyway, that was Fort Warren, and it was all, it was segregated out there. They had the white troops over on one side and we was on, we was down on Randall Avenue in nice buildings, nice quarters. And I went to the motor pool and they gave me quarters over there where I started work on those cars, I was along with another couple of soldiers.
DANDRIDGE: Were they white or black?
TARLTON: Oh, two of us—yeah,  was white. We— We started getting along real good together because we was in the different area and we all —
DANDRIDGE: So you all socialized together?
TARLTON: Yeah, socialized together and—
DANDRIDGE: Did you ever go out in town?
TARLTON: Not together. That was one of the things that we didn’t do until— See in 1947, when they desegregated the Army, that was 1947 and I was out there when that happened.
DANDRIDGE: What was that like?
TARLTON: Well it was— The only thing, this old white boy come up to me and says—put your clothes down on the side, says “Guess I’m going to bunk beside you.” I said, “Okay.” (chuckles)
(William Tarlton Oral History Interview, excerpt from 58:40-1:00:34)

This interview, recorded on August 12, 2010,  is even more striking when you hear William Tarlton’s voice as he recounts his experiences. We encourage you to listen to the entire recording online here, where you will also find a full transcript of the interview.

Once you have explored the World War II: The African American Experience Oral History collection, consider visiting some of the other online resources related to Spencer Research Library’s African American Experience Collections, including the online version of the 2017 exhibition Education: The Mightiest Weapon and the Leon Hughes Photographs digital collection.

Deborah Dandridge
Field Archivist and Curator, African American Experience Collections
Adapted from her text for World War II: The African American Experience