Segregation in Kansas City

Posted by Jocelyn Wehr (Digital Archivist)

The Major Hudson School was first opened in the Rosedale community of Kansas City on March 14, 1924. Later that year, the local Mexican consul, Benigno Cantu, sent a five-page telegram to Governor Jonathan M. Davis concerning a report of four Mexican boys barred from enrolling in the fifth grade at Major Hudson School because other students threatened to stop attending classes if the Mexican children were allowed to attend. Cantu says a mob of two hundred children and adults shouted abusive language until the principal, Margaret Jones, called the police. The consul asks that the governor investigate the situation.

This incident was only one of several conflicts between the Mexican-American community and Kansas City School District during this period. The following year, the Mexican Consulate again pressured the school board and Governor Benjamin S. Paulen to address the issue when the parents of white students signed a petition to remove four other Mexican students from Argentine High School. Further information about the conflict at Argentine High School can be found on Kansapedia.

View the entire telegram regarding segregation at Major Hudson School on Kansas Memory.

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400,000 images!

The Kansas Historical Society is excited to announce that we’ve reached the 400,000 image milestone on Kansas Memory! The 400,000th image is a letter written on August 30, 1918 from Miss Jennie B. Momyer to Helen McKenna Mulvane, state chair of the Woman’s Committee of the Council of National Defense. The committee coordinated women’s activities and resources for national defense during World War I.

Momyer, a former superintendent of Barton County schools, writes to ask Mulvane to send her information about the civilian school for nurses. Momyer states that she knows women in Barton County who are too young to attend the recently established Army School of Nursing but want to pursue training to help the American war effort. The entire collection can be found here.

The digitization of the Council of National Defense Woman’s Committee collection was paid for through the Margot R. Swovelan Endowment Fund. Margot spent her entire career at the Kansas Historical Society working primarily with the newspaper collection. We are grateful for the generous gift from Margot’s family, her husband, Ed Swovelan, and her brother, Eric Rinehart. 


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From May Fete to First Woman Treasurer of the United States

Kansas Memory Blog

May 6, 2014 by Jocelyn Wehr

Georgia Neese was born in 1898 in Richland, Kansas, to Albert and Ellen Neese. Gray attended school in Topeka and graduated from Washburn College in 1921. While attending the Sisters of Bethany College, Topeka, she was one of Miss Marguerite Koontz’s students who performed in the college’s Alumnae May Fete. The performance took place in Central Park on Saturday, May 20, 1916. Georgia Neese is on the far left in the photograph.

During college, she developed an interest in acting and after graduation attended the Franklin Sargent School of Dramatic Art and spent nearly ten years acting with various stock companies. She married her manager, George M. Clark in 1929. They divorced in the mid-1940s. She started working at her father’s Richland State Bank as an assistant cashier in 1935 and became president in 1937 following his death. She became active in the state Democratic Party and was elected National Committee Woman in Kansas in 1936, a position she held until 1964. She was an early supporter of Harry Truman. It was this support that brought about her nomination as the first woman to be Treasurer of the United States.  She served in that office from June 1949 until January 1953 when Truman left office.

Her name, Georgia Neese Clark, became known to millions through her signature on all U.S. currency issued while she was in office.

Reminiscing about her conversation with President Truman about taking the position, Gray said Truman pointed out the disadvantages of the job including low pay and asked her if she could afford to take the job. She replied, “Can I afford not to?” This is indicative of the zest and style with which she represented her position as first woman treasurer and her state.

Following her term, she returned to Kansas to work in the family’s business. In the same year she married Andrew Gray and wished to become known as Georgia Neese Clark Gray. She remained active in national Democratic Party politics until 1964 when she resigned from the Democratic National Committee. Gray died in 1995.

Written by Pat Michaelis, Research Collections Division Director

Biographical information from Kansapedia

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March Winds But No April Showers

The year was 1935.  Southwest Kansas was in the midst of the Great Depression but it was also suffering from a multi-year drought.  Rainfall in southwest Kansas was never plentiful but it normally averaged around 18 inches per year in western Kansas.  Between 1930 and 1940, the average was 15.25 inches with the lowest rainfall during that time period occurring in 1934 with an average of 11.14 inches.  Because of the prolonged drought, conditions were extremely dry and western Kansas suffered horrific dust storms in late March and April in 1935. It is difficult to imagine the intensity of these storms but, fortunately, photos and postcards of these clouds of dust have been preserved.  While most of the storms occurred in western Kansas, some of them reached eastern Kansas.

Lillian Foster kept a scrapbook that contains postcards, photos, newspaper clipping, and her own accounts of her experiences with dust storms in Ness City, Kansas.  The content of the scrapbook gives an excellent overview of the impact of the dust storms.  Lillian Foster scrapbook

The Kansas Emergency Relief Committee (KERC) was established to provide work relief in Kansas.  They undertook a number of projects across the state including a number of water conservation efforts.  The KERC produced an accomplishments movie that included footage of dust storms.  This film is available at KERC Accomplishments Film, segment 11.  A large population of jack rabbits created problems by eating the sparse vegetation so drives were organized to try to control them as illustrated in segment 10 of the KERC video.

Residents of western Kansas had to deal with the dust storms and their results.  Many people wore masks to keep from breathing in the dust and farmers had to deal with drifts of fine dust all over their farms.  Those who endured the dust storms and remained in western Kansas experienced a period of ample rainfall and prosperity during the 1940s.  We hope the current drought in western Kansas is broken long before dust clouds can be formed.


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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

You never know what you will find in a collection of records. The Menninger Archives has a group of records called the Historic Psychiatry collection.  Within that group of records are three letters that relate to Dr. Karl Menninger receiving an autographed copy of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” originally written in 1922.  In a note written September 1, 1959, Dr. Karl explained how he came by the autographed copy of the poem.  He had shared a room with Dr. Merrill Moore at the American Psychiatric Association meeting in May 1940.  Dr. Moore was a well-known psychiatrist but also a poet.  Dr. Karl and Dr. Moore were sharing a room because the hotel was full.  Moore recited the Frost poem and Dr. Karl wrote that he “was entranced.”  Apparently, Dr. Karl wrote Dr. Moore after the conference.  On June 6, 1940, after sharing niceties, Dr. Moore responded that “Oddly enough the day your letter came Robert Frost was in my office consulting me so as he left I asked him to sign this poem for you.  Needless to say, he was delighted to do it.”  Enclosed with the letter was a typewritten copy of the poem with Robert Frost’s autograph.  He also wrote:  “To Dr. Karl Menninger of Topeka Kansas through the thoughtfulness of Dr. Merrill Moore of Boston, 1940.”

 [Post written by Pat Michaelis (Research Collections Division Director)]

Karl Menninger



A Farnsworth Thanksgiving

Here is another glimpse into the life of Martha Farnsworth, through her diary entries.  Her Halloween entry for 1918 indicated that her “boys” were serving in armed forces during World War I.  Martha and her husband had taught a class of boys at their church and they advanced with the boys each year until they were teaching young men.  Martha always refers to these young men as “our boys.”

Thurs. 31 Cold today. Writing letters all day- I wish I could write with both hands at once. Nancy Boone and Lillian Larson called early in evening and Luther Davis. Helen Campbell, Millard Stowell and Miss Bush came in for the evening. I have always had a Halloween Party for the Boys, but they are all away to War now.

However, her emotions had changed drastically by Thanksgiving because the war had ended.  The armistice ending hostilities with Germany was signed on November 11, 1918.  Thanksgiving Day in 1918 was November 28.  Martha’s entry for that day starts out with a description of the snow and then Martha shares her gratitude that peace has arrived.

November 1918

“Thanksgiving Day”

Thurs. 28  Snowing when we awakened this morning, but by noon the sun was shining bright and warm and beautiful and took all the exquisite beauty from the trees, fences and shrubs—everything was covered deep with soft, feathery snow, this morning and so wonderfully beautiful, I hated to see the sun come out and spoil it.

Thanksgiving Day and what a Day—While it is wholly an American day, yet today the whole wide world should celebrate it with us, for the most brutally fiendish, of all the Wars of the Ages, has come to an end, and we have Peace—great glorious, Peace, for which we thank God with all our very, being.  Some way, I am dumb with thankfulness.  I am so thankful, I cannot find words, to express myself.  This evening, Edwin Jones, John Keating and their friend Kenneth Corbett, Robt. Sympson-Helen Leeper, John Carlson-Dorothy Leeper, Shelley Monroe and Sallie Slaughter came in for short calls.

I roasted a fine young goose, ($2.80) and made pumpkin pies.

Martha’s eloquent thankfulness for peace reminds us that war is always traumatic on both the battlefield and the home front.

[Post written by Pat Michaelis (Research Collections Division Director)]

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Why I Hate Museums

By Mary Madden, Kansas Historical Society


As a teacher, do you ever feel this way?  Are you disappointed when you take a field trip with your students?  That the effort is not worth the return?  You aren’t alone. This was the title of a recent article published on August 22 on the CNN Travel website. In this case the author was describing museums as places were curator’s “collect and cage” artifacts and then expect the visitor to be as excited about the item but with only a minimum of information.

When you take your class to a museum you should expect more.  Your visit should engage your students.  They should be involved in learning and not listening passively to a walking lecture.  They should experience learning by doing with hands-on objects, investigating higher-order questions that require analysis and evaluation, and exploring topics that make them the expert (that they share with other students back in class).

How do you get this type of visit?  First visit the museum’s website to see what they provide.  If you don’t see it, request it. Museums today should be very interactive—especially with students.  To provide the best experience for your students, all museum educators should adhere to this maxim when creating student programs, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” 

At the Kansas Museum of History,, we offer a number of interactive, engaging tours.  Your students can work on the railroad, investigate Indian homes, journey on the Oregon Trail, and explore the lives of Kansans in the Civil War. 

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Anniversary of Quantrill’s Raid

August 21, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of Confederate guerilla William Quantrill’s devastating raid on Lawrence.  The raid took 150 lives and left 80 women widows.  Even the most ardent Kansas State fans would have to agree that it was a horrible and despicable deed.

Quantrill’s raid was not an act of war but an act of terrorism carried out on innocent civilians. Every day newspapers provide stories about current terrorist atrocities around the world and at home.  The recent heinous Boston Bombing would make a good discussion “bridge” from the present to the past.  Why do people make war on civilians? What is the perspective of the terrorist versus the victim?  What can be done to stop this type of warfare?

The Kansas Historical Society has a Read Kansas! lesson that addresses two different perspectives on the 1863 raid.  “The Civil War Comes to Kansas: Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence” (M-16) is available on the website,  It is already aligned to the new Kansas Standards for History, Government, and Social Studies as well as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards. 

When you are in Topeka be sure to stop by the Kansas Museum of History to see the other “survivors” of the raid.  Burned musical instruments, melted glass, and a charred Bible speak volumes about the personal devastation of terrorism.

Mary Madden

Kansas Historical Society

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HGSS + KCCRS = Integrated Lessons

I spent last Friday at a workshop in Salina with a group of fifty dedicated teachers learning how to implement the new History, Government, and Social Studies standards in their districts.  It was “training the trainers” as districts look at writing curriculum and implementing best practices, literacy expectations, standards and benchmarks.  Don Gifford, Education Program Consultant for History, Government, and Social Studies for the KSDE, began with a PowerPoint presentation on the new standards.  I highly recommend you take a look and then share it with your fellow teachers.  It is highly informative and has just the right amount of entertainment, a Jay Leno “Jaywalking” clip and, my favorite, the woman trying to ignore the nail in her head— change is hard and usually unwelcome. Here’s the link: http://hgss_implementation_workshop_june_21_2013_salina

Beth Ratway, Senior Consultant at American Institutes for Research, spent the rest of the day sharing training modules from her Building the Bridge website  As stated on the website: “This site was created to facilitate professional development focused on the instructional shifts that Social Studies teachers will need to understand to effectively implement the Common Core Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts. Each Shift will be addressed through this professional development effort and links to examples and resources will be provided.”  The modules will give you tons of great ways to get students “doing” history, government, geography, and economics.

As we prepare to celebrate America’s 237th birthday next week, don’t forget to include a museum visit as part of your holiday tradition.  Your support is necessary to keep these institutions alive and working to preserve and interpret our nation’s cultural history.

Mary Madden

Kansas Historical Society

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Museum Geek

By Mary Madden, director of education, Kansas Historical Society

I am a museum geek.  I grew up going to museums in Chicago, part of our annual trip to see my grandparents. That, plus my love of American history, led me to the museum field and teaching with artifacts.  Nothing can bring history to life like the things left behind.  Don’t believe me? Check out the German U-boat, the U505, at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.  Or examine the pike at the Kansas Museum of History, one of the actual pikes John Brown purchased and shipped to Harper’s Ferry to start a slave insurrection. Looking at the pike you can’t help but ask yourself “Who used it?  What happened to that person? Why did he buy pikes and not rifles?  Why did the revolt fail?” This is why I love artifacts.  You automatically start asking questions and looking for answers. This is why I am so excited about the state’s new History, Government, and Social Studies standards.  They encourage teachers to use objects, and other primary sources from the past, to engage students in learning history. 

I will be writing more about teaching with primary sources and materials available to teachers from the Kansas Historical Society.  For now, here are two activities that you can use with young students to help them cross over from “reading” history to “doing” history.

Introduction to Reading Historical Documents

1.      Ask students to bring in a document or photograph from home to share with the class.  This item should be something that is from the past, something they saved.  It could be a photograph of when they were babies, a birthday card, their birth certificate, a newspaper article, an award certificate, etc. 

  1. During your turn in class, present your document providing the following information:
    1. What type of document is this?
    2. What is the date of the document?
    3. Who created the document?
    4. How does the document relate to you?
  2. Consider, for your document and the documents of your classmates, responses to the following questions:
    1. What does the existence of this document say about whoever created it?
    2. What does the existence of this document say about whoever saved it?
    3. What does the existence of this document say about American life in this era?

4.      Is there a comparable item from 100 years ago?  If so, how is it the same or different?

a.       What does that say about American life 100 years ago?


Introduction to Analyzing Objects


1.      Analyze objects in your classroom, such as a desk, chair, table, computer, etc.

2.      Describe or draw the object. What is it made of? 

3.      How is it made? Is it made by hand? In a factory?  Is it the only one of its kind or are there many?

4.      How is it used?

5.      Who uses it?

6.      What does this object say about schooling in the United States today?

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