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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.

That’s Distinctive!: Uncle Henry’s Letters to the Farm Boy

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.

This week on That’s Distinctive! I am sharing Uncle Henry’s Letters to the Farm Boy (1897) by Henry Wallace. Wallace (1836-1916) was born and raised on a farm in Pennsylvania. He spent much of his life on the farm before becoming a writer. By the time of his death, Wallace had written a total of six books. The University of Iowa Special Collections Department houses a collection of Henry Wallace’s papers including some diaries.

Each chapter of Uncle Henry’s Letters to the Farm Boy addresses a different thing a farm boy might encounter throughout his life. The chapters include “the farm boy and his father,” “the farm boy and his future business,” and “the farm boy and his education” (all shown below). The book at Spencer is a second edition printing and is signed by Henry Wallace himself.

I found this book merely by coincidence. I stumbled upon it one day while walking through the stacks. I was curious to see if the title was as literal as it seemed, and it was. I always find books like this fascinating because it shows a glimpse into what life was like back then.

 An online version of this book can be found via the Internet Archive.

The title of the book against a muted blue-green background.
Handwritten text of "Compliments of Henry Wallace, April 28, 1898."
This image has text. The facing page has a black-and-white headshot photo of Henry Wallace with the handwritten note.
This image has the text of the first page of chapter 1, "The Farm Boy and His Father."
This image has the text of the first two pages of chapter 6, "The Farm Boy and His Future Business."
This image has the text of the first two pages of chapter 8, "The Farm Boy and His Education."
The front cover of – and selected pages from – Uncle Henry’s Letters to the Farm Boy by Henry Wallace, 1897. Call Number: RH B2381. Click images to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
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