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.

Throwback Thursday: Peace Pipe 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 34,500 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Commencement is this Sunday, and we join others in congratulating all graduating Jayhawks and wishing them the very best. This year’s graduates will follow the footsteps of previous classes by participating in the KU tradition of walking down the hill. But, they may not know about earlier commencement customs that are no longer practice. One such such tradition – smoking the peace pipe – is the focus of this week’s photograph.

Photograph with four KU graduates with pipes, 1928

Five KU graduates sitting in front of Strong Hall
with peace pipes, 1928. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/17 Negatives 1928:
University General: Commencement (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Additional information about the pipes can be found in a Commencement vertical file located in the Spencer Reading Room. One untitled and undated document describes the tradition this way:

The smoking of the Peace Pipe by all members of the Graduating Class had its beginning with the very earliest classes of the University in the 1800s. Records show that the Class of 1893 gathered on graduation day to smoke the Pipe of Peace, symbolizing the elimination of all past feuding on the part of Class Members — dissolving differences between the Laws and the Engineers, the Greeks and the Independents, and all other possible fractures of solidarity.

In the old days, a single pipe was passed around from one graduate to another. Today we are much more sanitary (and perhaps more wealthy); we can afford a pipe for each of us.

Now it is the time for all of us, men and women alike, to lift the pipe and light it signaling the complete and harmonious unity of the K.U. Class of 1967.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,