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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: Grandfather Naismith 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 6,000 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

This week’s photograph combines two things we love: grandparents (in honor of National Grandparents Day on Sunday) and basketball.

Photograph of Dr. James Naismith with grandchildren

Dr. James Naismith playing basketball with his grandchildren, undated (before 1939).
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 66/22 James Naismith: Athletic Department:
Coaches and Staff (Photos). Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

You can learn more about the inventor of basketball and founder of KU’s program through the KU Libraries online exhibit “James Naismith’s Life and Legacy: Celebrating 150 Years.”

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt, Megan Sims, and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

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2 Responses to “Throwback Thursday: Grandfather Naismith Edition”

Do you know the identities of these grandchildren? I worked with one of his grandsons for many years. Can not ID him in this photo. Sure would like to know. Thank you.


This is a great question!

The back of the photograph does not list the names of the grandchildren shown.

I’ve done some digging into James Naismith’s family tree and have identified seventeen grandchildren, only four of whom were granddaughters. Of those four, only one makes sense to be the little girl in this photograph: Helen Dodd (born around 1933), daughter of Hellen Carolyn Naismith Dodd and her husband Leslie. Assuming the girl is Helen and she’s about five years old in this photograph, that dates the picture to around 1938. The boy on the right is therefore probably Helen’s brother James (born around 1931). The oldest child, in the back, is probably James and Helen’s brother Leslie (born around 1926), but he might be their cousin Stuart Naismith (born around 1927), son of John Edwin Naismith and his wife Grace.

These are my best guesses based on the research I was able to conduct. Please don’t hesitate to follow up with us if you have any additional questions.

Best, Caitlin Donnelly

Caitlin Donnelly, Head of Public Services