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Willard G. Ransom photographs collection

Call Number: RH PH 54


Most of the collection is glass negatives, though some prints have been made from some of the negatives. The collection consists of images of locations in Kansas, New Mexico, Mexico, and Central and South America and were taken by the donor's grandfather, an engineer who worked with the Westinghouse power machinery manufacturing company.


  • approximately 1900-1940

Conditions Governing Access

Glass plate and flexible negative originals are only issued if the curator or head of Public Services gives permission.

Conditions Governing Use

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

History of the Ransom family

James Harvey (J. H.) Ransom was born in Chautauqua County, New York in 1836, the son of Dr. Willard Ransom. He moved to Kansas in 1868 and farmed, coal mined, served as postmaster, and otherwise worked in a handful of locations, mostly in Douglas County, before settling in what would become Ransomville, Franklin County in 1881. There he opened a general store and operated a coal mine, and the area was named after him. He later moved to Locust Street in Ottawa, the seat of Franklin County, and for several decades served as a contractor to the Santa Fe railroad building railroad track.

Ransom served two terms in the Kansas legislature from 1905-1909 and also served on the Ottawa city council. In 1862 he married Eunice Cornelia Glidden; she predeceased him, dying in the 1890s. They had two children, Myra (Ransom) Bennett, who married B. D. Bennett, and Willard G. Ransom. In 1901 J.H. married Edith Bradford Kissenger. J. H. Ransom died in October 1914.

Willard Glidden Ransom, J. H.'s son, studied electrical engineering at the University of Kansas and then Cornell University, graduating from Cornell in 1899. He worked as an engineer with Westinghouse, a major manufacturer of power machinery of the late 19th and 20th centuries. He spent time in both Mexico City and Bolivia managing some of their operations, amongst other locations in the United States and Central and South America. He also worked for Bettendorf Axle Company of Davenport, Iowa. Ransom additionally continued farming and operating other businesses in the Franklin County area and elsewhere in the United States, typically in partnership with others. Willard Ransom married Edna Lischer in 1911; they had four children: James, Willard, John Parke, and Marian. Willard G. Ransom died in March 1950 at the age of 75.


.5 Linear Feet (1 document case of prints + 20 card file boxes of glass plate and flexible negatives)

Scope and Contents

The collection includes glass plate negatives of images taken in Ellinwood, Great Bend, St. Johns, Ottawa, Ransomville, Russell, and Lane, Kansas; Davenport, Iowa; Rapid City and other locations in Illinois; New Orleans, Louisiana; Soccoro, Roy, Albuquerque, Raton, and other locations in New Mexico; Rabbit Ear Pass, Colorado; Yellowstone Park; and other (unknown) locations in the United States. Also included are images of Cordoba, Mexico City, Yucatan, and other locations in Mexico; Cuba; Panama; Ecuador; Lima, Arequipa, Cuzco, and other locations in Peru; and in Bolivia.

The images include people and landscapes, as well as cityscapes and manmade structures, such as bridges, factories, and railroad tracks, as well as images of those structures being constructed. The people in the images may be laborers, families, or Americans living in Central and South America, as well as family members and friends in Kansas and elsewhere in the United States. The collection has been organized into two series, A and B. Images in the A series are all from Mexico and Central and South America. Images in the B series are from the United States.

Physical Location

RH PH 54

Other Finding Aids

Inventories for the A and B series of negatives and prints are available at ksrl.kc.ransomwillarda.pdf and ksrl.kc.ransomwillardb.pdf. On the inventories, if Ransom's original plate number could be found, it is included in addition to Spencer Research Library's numbering system.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Dr. Willard G. Ransom, 1984.


Guide to the Willard G. Ransom Collection
Willard G. Ransom photographs collection
Finding aid prepared by rw, 2008. Finding aid encoded by rw, 2008. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2018.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in<language encodinganalog="language">English.</language>
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Willard G. Ransom photographs collection, RH PH 54, 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