Jump to Navigation

Kansas History - Summer 2011

Kansas History, Summer 2011Frank Baron, “James H. Lane and the Origins of the Kansas Jayhawk.”

Read this article online

Tracing today’s colorful jayhawk mascot back to its earliest beginnings in the mid-nineteenth century, the time of Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War, Professor Frank Baron, director of the Max Kade Center for German-American Studies at the University of Kansas, reveals a series of historical layers. Previously neglected sources show an evolutionary process from the fantastic and unsubstantiated claim that a bird called the “jayhawk” actually existed in Ireland. This aggressive bird, it was said, pounced on its prey to destroy it. James H. Lane, a charismatic leader of the free-state movement, gave a strong impetus to this image when, in a fiery 1857 speech, he induced his fighters to become jayhawks and take revenge on the proslavery enemy. Controversy followed. For many, jayhawkers were simply criminals and jawhawking meant stealing. Others, however, saw in the jayhawk movement a force for the emancipation of slaves. By tracing the origins of the term, Professor Baron highlights the many nuances of thought surrounding the issues of slavery and statehood in Kansas’s early days.

Steven C. Haack, “Gathering War Clouds: George Bent’s Memories of 1864.”

Read this article online

The year 1864 was a pivotal one in Kansas history. Increasing settlement and travel along emigrant trails led to a deterioration of relations between whites and American Indians, and a number of incidents served to agitate hostilities. The U.S. military, stretched to its limits by the Civil War in the East, was ill prepared to respond effectively to the increasing number of raids on ranches and emigrant trains. The escalating cycle of raiding and retaliation would reach a grim climax at Sand Creek. George Bent, son of the famous trader William Bent and his Southern Cheyenne wife, Owl Woman, lived with the Southern Cheyennes during this period of time. Educated at academies in Missouri, he would eventually write hundreds of letters about his experiences to Omaha scholar George Hyde. In this article Steven Haack, a widely published independent researcher, utilizes Bent’s letters, along with a map he annotated at Hyde’s request, to provide a unique perspective on the events of that year on the plains of Kansas and Colorado.

David M. Katzman, “William Allen White Attends a Lawrence Jewish Wedding, 1887.”

Read this article online

Having imbibed too much bubbly wine, cub reporter/university student William Allen White failed to file a report on an 1887 Jewish wedding for one of the local Lawrence newspapers. White recalled the story in his Pulitzer Prize winning Autobiography (1946), and he regretted losing the opportunity to change local wedding coverage by omitting the long list of gifts made to the couple. The fact that White was assigned to the wedding of two families that were not a part of the city’s social elite reflects the paper’s struggle to balance its roles as recorders of daily life in Lawrence and as a business that made its profit from advertising taken out by local businesses such as the Jewish merchants whose children were being married. When White became owner/publisher/editor of the Emporia Gazette, he recognized the importance of covering local life cycle events, especially weddings, though he chose not to print lists of all the gifts couples received. In “William Allen White Attends a Lawrence Jewish Wedding, 1887,” University of Kansas Professor David Katzman offers a glimpse into nineteenth-century German-Jewish merchant communities in Kansas, a group that tends to be nearly absent from all other surviving historical records and narratives.

Thomas Prasch, editor, “Beyond the Yellow Brick Road: Sesquicentennial Visions of Kansas and the Great Plains in Film.”

Read this article online

In his introduction to the sixth installment in the journal’s biennial film review series, Washburn University history Professor Tom Prasch writes that “Kansas’s most iconic film image”—the Land of Oz—is being “deterritorialized,” suggesting “that the status of Kansas as the otherworld to Oz’s color-rich realm is increasingly irrelevant to the film’s range of reference.” Nevertheless, Prasch continues, “as the state celebrates its sesquicentennial, film representations of the region and its history have figured quite prominently in the celebrations,” and a wide range of films, especially historical films, with a Kansas and Great Plains connection have been released in the last few years. Sixteen of these films are reviewed in “Beyond the Yellow Brick Road” by a diverse group of fine Kansas scholars: True Grit, both old (1969) and new (2010); Kevin Willmott’s The Only Good Indian (2009); Amelia (2009), staring Hilary Swank as the Kansas-born aviatrix; Every War Has Two Losers (2009), about Kansas poet and conscientious objector William Stafford; We Shall Remain: Wounded Knee (2009), the final installment in the American Experience series; Mariachi Estrella (2011), about Topeka’s ill-fated female mariachi group; Return to PrairyErth (2010), made twenty years after the publication of William Least Heat-Moon’s widely acclaimed “deep history” of Chase County; What’s the Matter with Kansas? (2009), featuring and based on the book by Thomas Frank; a look at the Topeka legend Porubsky’s—Transcendent Deli (2010); and two sets of three short films, “As Big as We Think” and “There’s No Place Like Home” (2010).

Note—The best way to obtain information about the film Return to PrairyErth is to contact the director, John O'Hara. He can be found on Facebook (under John O'Hara). It seems a DVD of the movie can also be purchased at http://flinthillsfilm.com/.


Cowboy’s Lament: A Life on the Open Range
by Frank Maynard, edited and introduced by Jim Hoy
xxxii + 216 pages, illustrations, index.
Lubbock, Tex.: Texas Tech University Press, 2010, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Thomas Fox Averill, writer-in-residence and professor of English, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas.

In the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark: Early Commemorations and the Origins of the National Historic Trail
by Wallace G. Lewis
xiii + 246 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2010, cloth $40.00.
Reviewed byAmanda Laugesen, school visitor, Australian National University, Canberra.

War Party in Blue: Pawnee Scouts in the U.S. Army
by Mark Van de Logt
xviii + 350 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, cloth $35.95.
Reviewed byKathryn Sweet, PhD candidate, School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, Arizona State University, Tempe.

Bess Wallace Truman: Harry’s White House Boss
by Sara L. Sale
xiv + 166 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliographic essay, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Kelly A. Woestman, professor of history, Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.

Life at the Kiowa, Comanche, and Wichita Agency: The Photographs of Annette Ross Hume
by Katrina L. Southwell and John R. Lovett
x + 243 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed byRon McCoy, professor of history, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.

Frontier Feminist: Clarina Howard Nichols and the Politics of Motherhood
by Marilyn S. Blackwell and Kristen T. Oertel
xii + 344 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed byJanet Allured, associate professor of history, McNeese State University, Lake Charles, Louisiana.

A Most Magnificent Machine: America Adopts the Railroad, 1825–1862
by Craig Miner
xviii + 325 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2010, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by I. E. Quastler, professor emeritus, San Diego State University, San Diego, California.

Book Notes

Eisenhower 1956: The President’s Year of Crisis—Suez and the Brink of War.By David A. Nichols. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011, xx + 347 pages, cloth $28.00.)

By the author of A Matter of Justice: Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution, reviewed in the summer 2008 issue of Kansas History, Eisenhower 1956 examines a critical year in the administration of the president from Abilene, Dwight D. Eisenhower. David A. Nichols, formerly a professor and dean at Winfield’s Southwestern College, effectively brings his considerable research and writing skills to bear on this important but often marginalized period and uses heretofore closed documents to further illuminate the leadership style of our thirty-fourth president. As Nichols explains, “Eisenhower 1956 is . . . a book about Ike in the most difficult year of his presidency,” a year that among other things found him fashioning a policy toward the Middle East, “enshrined” the following year “in the Eisenhower Doctrine,” which “still informs the current policy debate” (p. xvii).

Dear Harry, Love Bess: Bess Truman’s Letters to Harry Truman, 1919–1943. Edited by Clifton Truman Daniel. (Kirksville, Mo.: Truman State University Press, 2011, xvi + 271 pages, paper $24.95.)

Perhaps most of us are familiar with the oft-told story of Bess Truman burning her half of a voluminous correspondence with Harry S. Truman, written before and after their marriage in 1919: “Think of history,” said the former president, catching his wife in the act; “Oh, I have,” said his first lady, as she stoked the fire with another stack of letters. Thus, this volume of 185 letters, which somehow escaped Mrs. Truman’s notice and therefore her inferno and mostly cover the two decades between 1923 and 1943, is especially welcome and useful in helping us better understand one of the most celebrated “partnerships” and love stories of the twentieth century. “The Bess Truman I knew was a little old lady,” writes grandson Clifton Truman Daniel. “The Bess Truman I discovered in her letters was a talker. She could go on for pages reporting family and political news, making wry observations about people and events, or just recounting shopping, eating lunch, or the amount of ironing she had to do” (p. xiii).

National Title: The Unlikely Tale of the NAIB Tournament.By Danny Stooksbury. (Bradenton Beach, Fla.: Higher Level Publishing, 2010, ix + 222 pages, paper $12.95.)

Pictured on the cover of National Title is the “father” or inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, who plays an important role in Danny Stooksbury’s story, told in large part through numerous newspaper articles and a few other primary documents, such as the minutes of the executive committee of the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB). In fact, National Title is, according to its author, “a compilation of available resources related to the creation and development of the” association, the precursor to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics or NAIA (p. v). It was Dr. Naismith, Baker University’s Emil S. “Big Liz” Liston, and a few others who in 1937 gave life to the NAIB and launched its annual championship tournament, which was “to assist small colleges in gaining an outlet for postseason basketball competition” (p. 198). But it is nearly forgotten, as is Liston who rightly receives much of Stooksbury’s attention—at the time of his death in October 1949, the Kansas City Star called him “a great and powerful man in college athletic circles” (p. 3).

Kansas Irish.By Charles B. Driscoll, introduction by Matthew L. Jockers. (Wichita, Kans.: Rowfant Press, 2011, xx + 300 pages, paper $16.50.)

First published by the Macmillan Company in 1943, Kansas Irish follows the author’s turbulent family history from Long Island in County Cork, Ireland, where his father, Florence “Big Flurry” Driscoll, was born about 1836 to the Kansas farm near Wichita, which was the author’s birthplace. Charles Driscoll (1885–1951), a prolific Kansas/New York author and Wichita/New York journalist, was “one of the more gifted Irish-American regional writers of the early twentieth century,” concludes Stanford University’s Matthew Jockers; and Driscoll’s “memoir of growing up Irish in Kansas offers a realistic and engaging glimpse into the rural, western Irish-American experience” (p. viii). Driscoll’s Kansas Irish was well received by his literary peers, if somewhat controversial back home, when it first appeared nearly seven decades ago, and it is well worth revisiting today.

Wichita Jazz and Vice Between the World Wars. By Joshua L. Yearout. (Wichita, Kans.: Rowfant Press, 2010, viii + 87 pages, paper $10.00.)

The late author, Joshua Yearout, died four years after completing the core of this little volume as his Wichita State University master’s thesis.Wichita Jazz “is a narrative of Wichita, Kansas’ jazz heritage prior to the Second World War. Albeit somewhat truncated, the narrative is a rare study in that it is one of only a few to branch away from the standard practice of rewriting jazz history focused only on the major figures and places of jazz” (p. 2). The book contains a table of Wichita jazz venues, from the 1920s through the 1940s, and another of performers—Gene Coy and His Black Aces, Whitey Clinton’s Eleven Piece Orchestra, the Jay McShann Orchestra, and many more—who played Wichita before the war.

Oklahoma: A History.By W. David Baird and Danney Goble. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011, xiv + 342 pages, paper $19.95.)

First published in 2008 and now out in a paperback edition, Oklahoma: A Historywas reviewed in the summer 2009 issue of Kansas History, where the reviewer observed that Professors Baird and Goble “are synonymous with Oklahoma history” and this collaboration “is a self-described narrative history that relates the state’s story in a way that makes it accessible to a wide range of readers.” It is, nevertheless, serious scholarship “on a sometimes complex topic and it is a credit to the writing skills of both authors that the work maintains its readability” (32:147). From ancient communities and peoples to the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, it is a story that, especially during the middle and late nineteenth century, has much relevance for Kansas and Kansans.