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Thomas Russell Smith papers and correspondence

Call Number: MS 288


The earliest material in this collection are papers and correspondence of Thomas Russell Smith (1910-1996) including accounts of his travels with his family around the world in 1925-1926 and to Europe in 1929. The bulk of the collection consists of research notes, photographs, drafts, papers and correspondence about the history of cartography. There are also some notes from his course on the history of cartography.


  • Creation: 1925 - 1983


Conditions Governing Use

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biography of Thomas R. Smith

Thomas Russell Smith (1910-1996) joined the Department of Geography at the University of Kansas in 1947 and retired in 1981, having served as professor and head of the department, as well as the first director of the university's East Asian Studies Center.

The son of geographer J. Russell Smith, Thomas R. Smith had the opportunity to travel around the world with his family in 1925-1926 and to Europe in 1929. He received a B.A. in Economics from Swarthmore College (1933) and a Ph.D. from Columbia University (1943). From 1943-1946 he served in the U.S. Army and worked in the cartographic division of the Office of Strategic Services in London, Germany, and Washington.

While at the University of Kansas, Smith was instrumental in building a collection of modern maps (named the Thomas R. Smith Map Collection in his honor upon his retirement and housed in the University of Kansas Libraries), as well as Spencer Research Library's Orbis Collection of early maps and reference works on the history of cartography. He published research on maps represented in the Orbis Collection, The Mapa Geográphic Meridional, 1775, by Juan de la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla, and the mid 17th-century portolan charts drawn by Nicholas Comberford (a member of a group of English chartmakers known as the "Thames School"). He also offered a course on the history of cartography.


7.25 Linear Feet (8 boxes + 4 oversize boxes, 13 oversize folders)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

MS 288

Physical Location

MS Q91

Physical Location

MS Qa6

Physical Location

MS R27

Physical Location


Physical Location

Q109: 1-8

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Roberta P. Smith, 2009; transfer from University of Kansas Geography Department, 2019.


  • Smith, Thomas Russell and Bradford L. Thomas. Maps of the 16th and 19th Centuries in the University of Kansas Libraries: An Analytical Cartobibliography, (Lawrence: University of Kansas Libraries, 1963).
  • Smith, Thomas Russell. "Cruz Cano's Map of South America, Madrid, 1775: Its Creation, Adversities, and Rehabilitation", (Imago Mundi, 20:1 (1966), pages 49-78).
  • Smith, Thomas Russell. "Manuscript and Printed Sea Charts in 17th-Century London: The Case of the Thames School", from The Compleat Plattmaker: Essays on Chart, Map, and Globe Making in England in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, (Berkley: University of California Press, 1978).

Processing Information

The order of the Thomas Russell Smith collection was maintained from the original, except for a portion of Box 7 located at MS 288. These materials were unordered and mostly unfoldered. Like materials were grouped together for ease of use (i.e. all correspondence, research papers, etc.).

Items removed from folders because of size are described in a separate series within the oversize box (MS Qa6) where they now reside and are also indicated in the original location.

Each folder is titled in the way T.R. Smith originally labeled it (except for the oversize materials that have been given general descriptions of material type). When the original designation has been amended or edited, that information will appear [in brackets] after the original version. Individual folder content descriptions are indicated (in parentheses) at the end of the description.

The label "(research)" indicates a wide variety of items exist within that folder: anything from correspondence and notes to photocopies of charts, articles, and questionnaires regarding specific maps or early cartographers.

Guide to the Thomas Russell Smith Collection
Thomas Russell Smith papers and correspondence
Finding aid prepared by pb, 2010. Finding aid encoded by pb, 2010. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2020, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Thomas Russell Smith papers and correspondence, MS 288, 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