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John Hess collection

Call Number: RH PH 13


This collection includes photographs and ephemera related to Halstead High School, from which John Ambrose Hess graduated in 1902, as well as real photograph and lithographic postcards of towns and other scenes from around Kansas. There is also one of Hess' report cards from elementary school in the collection.


  • Creation: 1891-1892, 1901-circa 1915


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 John Ambrose Hess (1885-1976)

John Ambrose Hess was born in 1885 in Perry, Polk County, Illinois. His family moved to Halstead, Harvey County, Kansas when he was a toddler, and Hess graduated from Halstead High School in 1902. He spent a year studying at the University of Kansas (KU) before returning to the Halstead area to teach at a rural school for two years.

Thereafter, Hess completed his undergraduate degree at KU in 1908. He was awarded a teaching fellowship under the direction of William H. Carruth and then elected to the position of instructor in German, positions he held while completing his Masters in German language and literature at KU in the 1909-1910 academic year.

In 1910, Hess took an instructor position at the University of Indiana - Bloomington (IU). He was later an assistant professor in the German Department and completed additional graduate work while at IU. In 1913-1914 he took a leave of absence from IU to study at the Alliance Francaise and University of Berlin in Europe, studying mostly German literature and philology but also learning French. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I in Europe, and he was compelled to stay in Marburg, Germany unexpectedly until the German Army had been mobilized away from Marburg and he was able to return to the United States.

Hess remained at IU until 1918 but had difficulty his last year there due to German studies being considered unpatriotic after the United States entered the war. He found a position at the University of Kansas, however, as a French instructor. In 1920 he was promoted to assistant professor of Romance Languages, a position he held until 1927 when he left for a German teaching position at the University of Ohio - Athens.

Hess married Mary C. Whitcomb (1893-1987) in 1918. They had three children: Harry Alvah, John Reginald, and Lina. John A. Hess died in Athens, Ohio in 1976.


.25 Linear Feet (1 document case)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

There are a few items related to the graduating classes of 1901-1903 for Halstead High School in Halstead, Harvey County, Kansas, as well as John Ambrose Hess' report card from the 1891-1892 school year. The bulk of the collection are color lithographic and black and white real photographic postcards Hess collected or received, depicting scenes from around Kansas.

Many of the postcards, dating from circa 1908-1915, were sent to Hess and have inscriptions on the back. There are several postcards for Lawrence, Emporia, and Halstead, Kansas; otherwise most towns only have one or two postcards. Images include exteriors of courthouses and city halls, schools (including normal schools and Haskell Institute in Lawrence), churches, private residences, hospitals, grain elevators and mills, railroad depots, libraries, etc. There are also images of bridges, dams, rivers, railroad cars, and street scenes. There is one postcard from a town in Iowa.


Ephemera and photographs related to Halstead High School appear first in the collection. Postcards are arranged alphabetically by town, with the Iowa postcard at the end of the collection.

Physical Location

RH PH 13

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Sister Lina Hess, S.N.D, 1977, 1978, 1990.

Separated Materials

Postcards depicting the University of Kansas, mechanical drawings, and various KU-related ephemera such as programs and commencement announcements, were transferred to the University of Kansas Archives in the 1970s and 1980s.

Processing Information

Some materials in this collection were removed to RH MS P574 and RH MS-P P574 in 1997; other materials were processed at call number RH MS P821. All materials were reconsolidated in 2020 at the original RH PH 13 call number.

Guide to the John Hess Collection
John Hess collection
Finding aid prepared by db, 2007. Finding aid encoded by db, 2007. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2020.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
John Hess collection, RH PH 13, 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