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Zu Adams Collection



Zu Adams, the eldest daughter of Franklin G. and Harriet Clark Adams, worked for the Kansas State Historical Society during its first thirty-five years. Her papers consist of two boxes and one letterbook, covering from 1872-1911. These papers, along with those of her father, were given to the Society in1934 by her sister, Dr. Harriet Adams, and her brother, Harry J. Adams. There are no restrictions on their use.


Zu Adams was born in Atchison, Kansas, in 1859. Named Abzuga for her father’s mother, she was always known as Zu. As a child she lived in various Kansas towns including Waterville, Wichita, and Topeka. In 1876, when Zu was seventeen, her father became Secretary of the new Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka, and she became his unpaid assistant. Later she was given a salary and the title of librarian. At the time of her father’s death in 1899, both she and he hoped that she would succeed him as Secretary. When George Martin emerged as a candidate for that position, however, Zu reluctantly withdrew her own candidacy. She worked as Martin’s assistant until her own death in 1911. Zu never married, remaining in the family home and raising her younger brothers and sisters. In addition she adopted a daughter of her own in 1896.

Because of the role which Zu played in the development of the Kansas State Historical Society, her papers are a major resource for anyone researching that institution or any of the individuals involved in its development. Perpetual struggles over funding and space are documented in the collection, along with day-to-day activities such as cataloging, indexing and proofreading. Zu and her father often did Society work at home, involving various other family members, and, throughout the collection, information about her family and the Society are interwoven.

Scope and Content

To a large extent, the contents of the Zu Adams collection are the papers of the entire Adams family. There is information about and letters by her parents, Franklin G. and Harriet Adams; her brothers and sisters, Henry J. (Harry), Jesse, Harriet (Hal or Hally), Margaret (Mag), George, Sam, and Paul, and her daughter, Helen. The Adams were related to Frank and George Root, and there is also information in the collection about “Uncle Frank” and “Cousin George.” In addition Zu corresponded erratically with numerous other cousins, aunts, and uncles.

The collection consists of four diaries, three letterbooks, correspondence, a scrapbook, and miscellaneous materials. The earliest diary covers from September 7, 1887, to April 10, 1888. Entries deal chiefly with family news and with Zu’s work at the Society. After a two year interval, which is covered by letterbooks, the diary resumes with Christmas, 1890, and continues through Feb. 5, 1891. The bulk of the next diary dates from May 24, 1892 to January 8, 1893, with a few later entries, usually in shorthand, and ends June 7, 1896. Again domestic and work news predominates but there are some personal entries. The third diary begins on May 26, 1899, and contains a detailed account of her father’s final illness and death. Their joint efforts to secure the secretaryship for Zu are also described. After his death on December 2, 1899, the majority of the entries deal with financial and genealogical matters; but Zu documents her continued involvement in developing Society policies. The last entry is May 15, 1902.  The fourth diary contains sporadic entries starting on November 19, 1908 through October 9, 1910. It contains family, domestic and work news with several entries about building the new Memorial building in Topeka, Kansas.

A folder of Zu’s unbound correspondence from September 27, 1881, to March 25, 1885, contains letters to and from family members and friends. A few personal comments are included, but most of the letters relate minor news of the family and the Society. Another folder contains correspondence and miscellaneous papers after November 2, 1893. Here, in addition to letters to family and friends, are agreements by which F. G. Adams purchased newspaper routes for his sons, the deed by which he transferred the family home to Zu during his last illness, insurance and financial papers, negotiations over Zu’s salary and her father’s portrait, and correspondence dealing with the honorary degree Zu received from Baker University in 1909.

In addition to the unbound correspondence, the collection contains three letterbooks. The earliest entries in Letterbook #1 date from 1873 to 1886 and are apparently momentos of Zu’s mother and sister, Jesse, both of whom had died by 1887. Another section contains letters and sketches by her brother George who died in 1888. However, the majority of the items in both Letterbook #1 and Letterbook #2 date from 1887 to 1890 and were written during the absence of various family members from home. There are letters written during the trip Zu and her young brother Paul took to Wisconsin in 1887; during her father’s trip to Excelsior Springs, Missouri, in 1889; and during the trip he and Harriet, a younger daughter, took later that year to Chicago, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Many of the letters were written during Zu’s absences from home in 1890. Zu was suffering from vague health problems and, during the summer of 1890, she visited various Kansas towns trying to regain her strength. In September she went to a sanitarium (run by J. H. Kellog) in Battlecreek, Michigan. While away, she received numerous chatty letters from family and friends, including her younger brothers who were children at the time. During this period she also wrote voluminous letters, the most interesting of which deal with the innovative diets, exercises, and other treatments she received at Battlecreek. She also described Kellog and, somewhat surprising, discussed her menstrual problems with her father. The letters in these volumes are generally arranged by family member, but the order is only approximate. Letters from the same person on the same trip often appear in several places, making it necessary to check all items. In addition family letters, as well as some diary entries, are sometimes in shorthand.

Letterbook #3 includes copies of the letters which Zu, and occasionally other family members, wrote from May 24, 1903 to January 21, 1911. In it are long letters full of sisterly concern that Zu wrote to scattered family members and letters dealing with her and their financial affairs. Letters from Zu to other relatives and friends are also present. In addition, there are business letters, some of which directly concern the affairs of the Historical Society. For example, there are letters about Zu’s efforts to reorganize state library functions and to get a new building in 1909. During these years, Zu also kept abreast of library developments elsewhere. She attended national meetings, and frequently requested and gave out information on such matters as library methods and training. She was also active in the Kansas Library Association, and wrote numerous letters to the members, especially in 1904 and 1905 when she served as president. Zu’s involvement in the Daughters of the American Revolution and her interest in genealogy and early Kansas history are also evident in the Letterbook. There are few entries between May 1909 and Zu’s death, April 12, 1911.

Also included in the Zu Adams collection are the journal in which Zu recorded her activities at the State Historical Society during her father’s absence in 1882, copies of speeches she gave on a variety of topics (see attached list), her obituaries and other biographical materials, and an unfinished index she was compiling to Isaac McCoy’s History of Baptist Indian Missions. There is also a scrapbook in which Zu kept miscellaneous clippings, invitations, calling cards, momentos, a temperance card and a letter from Susan B. Anthony.

Scattered throughout the collection are references to woman suffrage. Diary entries dated October 13, 15, and 16, 1887, describe the visit of national leaders to Topeka for the municiple suffrage campaign. On June 30, 1892, Zu wrote in her diary of their return visit and how welcome it was. Entries in Letterbook #3 for January 17, 1905 and March 12, 1908 relate to suffrage along with a lengthy synopsis of legislation concerning woman suffrage passed by the Kansas legislature, 1899-1910, which Zu prepared for Mrs. William Johnson, December 24, 1910. In addition, one of Zu’s speeches is about woman suffrage in Kansas. Long descriptions of Susan B. Anthony are included in her diary entries for October 16, 1887, and June 30, 1892. Zu’s letters to Anthony in December 1909 are present in Lettterbook #3, and Anthony’s letter to Zu from this exchange of correspondence is in the scrapbook.

Although the Zu Adams collection provides information about the Historical Society, her family and her various interests, Zu was seldom introspective and her papers reveal little of her personal emotions. Exceptions include a November 4, 1883, letter expressing the wish she could have studied medicine, and a September 25, 1889, letter about her wish to adopt a child. In addition, in Diary #2 (June 30, 1892) she repeatedly criticized herself for her own lack of patience and expressed “a desire to be someone besides a debt-payer and cataloguing machine.”

Additional information about Zu Adams may be located in the correspondence files of the Kansas State Historical Society and the Franklin G. Adams collection. Letters addressed to her when she was Registrar of the Topeka Daughters of the American Revolution, 1907-1909, are in the collection of that organization. Her portrait hangs in the office of the Society.

Marilyn Dell Brady, Intern
June, 1982

Contents List

Speeches and Articles by Zu Adams

Jan. 22, 1895 The Work of the Kansas Historical Society and its relations with the Press. Paper before the Kansas Editorial Association.
Feb. 3, 1895 Judge Charles E. A. Gayarre. Biographical sketch read before the Sorosis Club.
1899 Evolution of Light. Paper read before the Topeka D. A. R.
Sept. 28, 1901 With Bourgmont Through Kansas in 1724. Paper read before the Sorosis Club.
Feb. 22, 1902 Story of Southeastern Kansas. Paper read before the D. A. R.
Apr. 10, 1902 Paper read before the Kansas Women's Press Club. [About
  Topeka Women and Politics]
Apr. 12, 1904 Facts about the Kansas State Historical Society. Talk given
  before the Kansas Women's Press Association.
Nov. 2, 1905 Address before the Kansas Library Association.
Apr. 27, 1907 The Rev. Isaac McCoy. Paper read before the Western
  Sorosis Club.
1908 Kansas Publications. Proof sheets of compilation made by
  Zu Adams for union list compiled by R. R. Bowker and
  published at the office of the Publisher's Weekly.
  A Few Kansas Women. Lucy Armstrong, Lucy Biglow, Clarin
  Howard Nichols, Lucy Gaylord Pomeroy, Merriam Colt,
  Hannah Ropes, Sara Robinson, Mrs. S. N. Wood (2 versions).
  Speech on Franklin G. Adams (2 versions).

Zu Adams Collection Box List

Diary #1: Sept. 17, 1887 - April 10, 1888
  Dec. 25, 1890 - Feb. 5, 1891
Diary #2: May 24, 1892 - May 13, 1894
Diary #3: May 26, 1899 - May 15, 1902
Diary #4 Nov. 19, 1908 - Oct. 9, 1910
Letterbook #1: 1873-1890
Letterbook #3: 1903-1911
Obituary and other biographies  
Journal, 1882  
Correspondence, 1881 - 1885  
Correspondence and papers, 1893 - 1909  
Speeches and articles, 1895 - 1908  

Incomplete index to McCoy's Historyof the Baptist Indian Missions

Letterbook #2: 1889-1890

Adams, Zu [Papers,] 1873-1911

(Coll.: Adams, Z) 1 ft.
Folder List

B. F. Description Dates #IT
  Diaries 1887-1910 4
1.1 No. 1 1887-1891 1
1.2 No. 2 1892-1894 1
1.3 No. 3 1899-1902 1
1.4 No. 4 1908-1910 1
  Letterbooks 1873-1911 2
1.5 Letterbook No. 1 1873-1890 1
  (No. 2: see 0.1 [oversize])    
2.1 Obituary and other biographies 1882  
2.2 Journal 1881-1885  
2.3 Correspondence 1881-1885  
2.4 Correspondence and other papers 1893-1909  
2.5 Speeches and articles 1895-1908  
2.6 Incomplete index to McCoy's History    
  of the Baptist Indian Missions    
2.7 Scrapbook    
2.8 Letterbook No. 3 1903- 1911 1
0.1 Letterbook No. 2 (oversize) 1889-1890 1

Index Terms

Subject Headings

Adams, Franklin G.
Adams, Harriet
Adams, Henry
Adams, Margaret
Adams, Paul
Adams, Sam
Anthony, Susan B.
Daughters of the American Revolution
Kansas Library Association
Kansas State Historical Society
Martin, George
Root, Frank
Root, George
Woman Suffrage