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Bowersock Opera House programs and bank book

Call Number: RH MS P475


This collection contains many theatre programs from live 20th century performances in downtown Lawrence, Kansas, and also a related 1905-1911 bank book. Seventy-one programs dated 1883 to 1925 are from Lawrence's Bowersock Opera House, which later became Bowersock Theatere. An 1890 program is from its predecessor, Liberty Hall.


  • Creation: 1883 - 1925


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions

Conditions Governing Use

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

History of the Bowersock Opera House

A building at the corner of 7th and Massachusetts Streets in Lawrence, Kansas started as an abolitionist newspaper during Kansas' territorial era of the 1850s. By the 1870s the building erected there was named Liberty Hall, in honor of a quote from President Abraham Lincoln who allegedly called Lawrence the "cradle of liberty."

In 1882, industrialist and entrepreneur Justin DeWitt Bowersock bought the building and renamed it as the Bowersock Opera House. This building burned in an electrical fire in 1911 and was rebuilt by 1912. Bowersock claimed it to be completely fireproof. It showed the first talking movie in Lawrence, Kansas in 1924.

In the 1930s, the building was renamed as the Jayhawker Theater, which remained in place until the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, the building served as a night club, bar, and disco. In 1986, Charlie Oldfather and Dave and Susan Millstein purchased and renovated the building and once again renamed it as Liberty Hall. The structure continues to show independent movies and live events and also holds a coffee shop and video store.


5 folders (72 items in 5 folders + 1 volume) ; Volume measures 14 cm tall.

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

A collection of seventy-one theatre programs, dated 1883 to 1925, chiefly from live performances at the Bowersock Opera House in downtown Lawrence, Kansas. Included is an 1890 program from the Opera House's predecessor, Liberty Hall. Programs which bear dates are arranged chronologically in folders 1-3. Folder 4 contains undated programs from live performances as well as motion pictures, and includes a postcard from the Liberty Theatre. Miscellaneous programs include one from Lawrence's Granada Theatre. Also included is a related 1905-1911 bank book.

Physical Location

RH MS P475

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Justin Hill, 1966; transfer from University Archives, 1989, 1990; removed from assistant currator's office 2005.

Related Materials

Justin DeWitt Bowersock business papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 50, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Guide to the Bowersock Opera House Collection
Bowersock Opera House programs and bank book
Finding aid prepared by lgg, 1974; sfw, 1983; mh, 2006. Finding aid encoded by skt, 2006. Finding aid revised by mh, Aug. 2006; eje, 2024.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Bowersock Opera House Collection, Kansas Collection, RH MS P475, 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