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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.

Throwback Thursday: Advertisement Edition

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!

This week’s post features an 1866 newspaper advertisement that announced the opening of the University of Kansas and the very first day of classes. According to one online resource, the $30 annual tuition for college-level courses would cost about $490 in 2020.

An advertisement in the Junction City Union newspaper, September 1, 1866. University Archives. This image appears in On the Hill: A Photographic History of the University of Kansas. Call Number: LD2688 .O5 1993. Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

When KU opened in 1866, it consisted of the following:

  • Zero on-campus housing options for students. According to the KU History website, “during KU’s early years, housing was catch-as-catch-can, with many of the students in attendance usually hailing from the surrounding area. As such, many lived at home, or with faculty, or in other private residences.”
  • One building: the newly-constructed North College. The structure was fifty feet square with ten rooms and no central heating. Located where Corbin Hall now stands, North College was demolished in 1919.
  • Three faculty members: Elial J. Rice, David H. Robinson, and Francis Huntington Snow.
  • Fifty-five students: twenty-six women and twenty-nine men. KU was open to African Americans and women from the beginning. While co-education of women and men was becoming more common by the 1860s, it was still notable enough that a newspaper reporter traveling through the state in 1867 observed that “Kansas is sufficiently civilized to mingle the sexes in the higher schools without danger of folly or impropriety.”

Kansas did not yet have high schools in the 1860s, so the state’s handful of colleges provided that level of education. At KU, the Preparatory Department taught students who were not ready for college work.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

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