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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.

Wayback Wednesday: Turkey 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 11,400 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of the KU football team posing with turkeys, 1946

The KU football team posing with turkeys, Wednesday, November 27, 1946.
The image was printed in the Kansas City Star.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 66/14 1946 Team Prints:
Athletic Department: Football (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

According to newspaper clippings in a University Archives Athletics Department scrapbook (volume 4, pages 36 and 42), the photograph shown above was taken when the Jayhawks stopped in Kansas City en route to play the University of Missouri in Columbia. The game was the final one of the season and a Thanksgiving Day showdown.

Players, coaches, and cheerleaders were guests of KU alumnus Bill Anthony, who was a member of the 1922 football squad. Anthony was inspired to host the event earlier in November when the Jayhawks defeated Oklahoma in dramatic fashion. According to one article,

Bill had for years taken the jibes of his employees, an astonishing number of them being Missourians, anent the impotencies of Jayhawker football teams.

The man had suffered in silence, waiting for that day when more encouraging reports would emanate from Mount Oread.

“I will do something nice for the first Kansas team that goes into this game against Missouri with at least an even chance,” he resolved.

And so to the home of each member of the squad he sent a turkey. But the stunt, if it had stopped there, would have lacked the flair Bill thought it needed and besides he wanted a picture of the boys holding his turkeys in front of his manufacturing company at 201 West Gregory.

It was arranged for the Jayhawkers to be taken from the Union Station this morning to the Anthony Manufacturing Company. Turkeys were unloaded and passed out one to a customer, the boys were lined up and a battery of cameramen loaded their instruments.

To make the scene even more realistic the Kansas cheerleaders, their cheeks made pink by the sharp wind, were brought into the picture.

The gridiron stalwarts seems to be a little out of their element as they stood first on one foot and then on the other while they clung desperately to the huge birds.

Quite a crowd of curious collected to witness the unveiling of Bill’s dream.

According to another article, “the live turkeys [were] only props for the photographers because the birds [that] grace[d] the tables of the footballers and their coaches [had] already been killed and oven-dressed; full-breasted turkeys, totaling 691 pounds of white and dark meat, [were] frozen and shipped to the boys at their Lawrence addresses.”

The event was deemed a “crowning success,” and all players and turkeys survived the ceremony without incident or injury. Moreover, KU won the game against Missouri the next day, 20-19, spoiling Homecoming for the Tigers and their fans. The Jayhawks finished the season 7-2-1.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

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

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