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Knaus-Gavitt correspondence and miscellaneous documents

Call Number: RH MS 115


The Knaus-Gavitt collection consist mostly of correspondence and miscellaneous documents to Warren Knaus and W.W. Gavitt.


  • Creation: 1867 - 1936


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Warren Knaus

Warren Knaus, newspaper editor and professional entomologist, was born in Jay County, Indiana, February 24, 1858. At the age of 12, he moved west with his parents to a farm near Roper, Wilson County, Kansas. He graduated from high school in 1876 and continued his education at the Kansas State Agricultural College, earning a bachelor of science degree in 1882 and a master of science degree in 1885.

It was during his college career that Knaus was introduced to entomology by Professor Edwin A. Popenoe. He pursued his special interest in coleoptera throughout his life, eventually earning an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Kansas State College and McPherson College in 1927. Knaus was a member of the Kansas Academy of Science for 56 years and its president in 1929. He was also a founder of the Kansas Entomological Society in 1927 and its president in 1937.

Knaus began his newspaper career in the early 1880s working for the Salina Herald while attending graduate school. In 1886, he founded the first democratic newspaper in McPherson County, The Democrat. Knaus consolidated The Democrat with another McPherson democratic paper, The Opinion, in 1912 to form The Democrat-Opinion, which he owned and published up to the time of his death. Knaus was also engaged in the printing business with C. A. Shaw and served as post master of McPherson for a short time in the 1890s. He was a member of Odd Fellows, Modern Woodmen of America, and an active promoter of the Democratic Party.

Warren Knaus was married in 1891 and died in McPherson, Kansas, on June 28, 1937.

A brief family tree for the Knaus family is available at ksrl.kc.knausgavittfamilytree.ead.pdf.

Biography of W. W. Gavitt

W. W. Gavitt was the owner of a patent medicine company, the W. W. Gavitt Medical Company, based in Topeka, Kansas. The company was established in 1869 and reorganized in 1889 with his brother, Harry E. Gavitt, as manager. According to the letterhead, the company had a world audience, with three buildings in Topeka (a main office and laboratory, a mercantile department and printing department, and a branch lab) and branch offices in four foreign countries. In addition to household medicines, the company sold articles of toiletry.

W. W. Gavitt also operated a bank and brokerage firm, W. W. Gavitt and Company, established in Topeka. The company was involved in buying and selling real estate in Kansas and had interests in Kansas oil and gas companies during the 19th Century. Harry E. Gavitt also operated his own business, a mail-order poultry company in Topeka in the early 19th century.


4 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Knaus-Gavitt collection, containing approximately 2,000 letters and documents, has been divided into three sections: Warren Knaus, W. W. and H. E. Gavitt, and miscellaneous correspondence.

The Knaus series consists of correspondence from family members, business associates and professional colleagues (entomologists) to Warren Knaus, principally between the years 1890 to 1920. There are only a few letters written by Warren Knaus. While the strength of the collection is in general business correspondence pertaining to such matters as land sale requests, printing orders, newspaper subscriptions, and election campaign material, there is interesting professional correspondence between Knaus and notable entomologists such as Francis Huntington (F.H.) Snow, Chancellor of the University of Kansas, and B. B. Smyth, Curator of the Kansas State Museum in Topeka.

The bulk of the Gavitt series is incoming correspondence, between 1890 and 1910, from the W. W. Gavitt Medical Company's field agents working in Kansas and from individual customers requesting household medicine. There is limited correspondence from residents of Colorado on this subject. The W. W. Gavitt general business correspondence pertains to the following subjects: food and drug legislation in Kansas, labor, industry and factory inspection; and real estate companies, oil and gas companies, and banks. Harry E. Gavitt's correspondence, both incoming and outgoing, is principally limited to his interests in his mail-order poultry business with Kansas farmers between the years 1891 and 1919.

The miscellanous section is a collection of family and business correspondence written by unidentified Kansans. There is considerable information about current local events in Kansas towns and daily farm life activities. Some of the documents may originally have been part of the Knaus or Gavitt materials, but the original order has been disturbed, thereby making positive associations impossible. Of special note are approximately 30 letters directed to A. T. Stewart (1803-1876), a New York philanthropist for Kansas citizens. There is also correspondence from Henry Isely and his son William, notable Brown County, Kansas residents of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Series List

The collection has been arranged into three series: Warren Knaus materials, W.W. and H.E. Gavitt materials, and miscellaneous correspondence.

Physical Location

RH MS 115

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, William Fremont, 1971.

Related Materials

Isley family collection, RH MS 7, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Warren Knaus correspondence on entomology, RH MS 1394, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Guide to the Knaus-Gavitt Collection
Knaus-Gavitt correspondence and miscellaneous documents
Finding aid created by MRW April 26, 1979. Finding aid encoded by amh, 2004. Finding aid revised mwh, 2016 and cmp, 2022.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in <language encodinganalog="language">English.</language>
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Knaus-Gavitt correspondence and miscellaneous documents, RH MS 115, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States