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Artificial Kansas-based photographs collection

Call Number: RH PH 535


This artificial collection was assembled by putting together smaller sets of purchased photographs from various photographic dealers on a variety of subjects relating to Kansas. Many of the purchases were selected by Spencer Research Library's Kansas Collection photoarchivist during the 1980s and 1990s. The collection consists of real photographic postcards, lithographic print postcards, cabinet cards, cartes de visit, mounted and unmounted prints, stereoviews, glass plate negatives, and other visually-based formats of towns, cities, townships, and other locations in Kansas.


  • Creation: approximately 1875-1984 (bulk 1900s-1910s)

Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions. There are a handful of glass plate negatives in the collection, which 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.


8.75 Linear Feet (17 boxes + 6 oversize boxes, 4 oversize folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

This collection consists of images purchased or otherwise received by the Kenneth Spencer Research Library's Kansas Collection, typically from dealers specializing in photography. Kansas Collection staff picked these images for their content and subjects. While the bulk of this collection's formats consist of real photographic and lithographic print postcards, also in the collection are cartes de visit, cabinet cards, 20th century prints, and other mounted prints.

Most frequent images in the collection are street scenes or bird’s eye views of a town, church or school buildings (often with congregations or student groups standing in front of the buildings), weather incidents and other disasters of various kinds, and farming scenes. Typically images are of exteriors of buildings, unless the description notes that it is an interior.

Individual images within folders are described, the photographer noted when possible. Many postcards were sent via the mail and may have messages written on the back. When a description was provided on the image, this is used for describing the item in the inventory. If no description was provided, or if a description appears to have been provided by the dealer rather than a person contemporaneously, processing staff have written a description [in brackets]. Processing staff have sometimes included additional description when it appeared necessary or useful, again [in brackets]. Descriptions provided frequently make use of acronyms, particularly for specific religious denominations, such as M.E. for Methodist Episcopal; Cong. for Congregational; U.B. for United Brethren, etc.

Dating for many of the items in this collection has been approximated by when a postcard was postmarked and mailed. Location has sometimes been approximated by where the photographer was located or by where a postcard was postmarked.

This is not a comprehensive collection of all Kansas cities, towns, and townships. Currently the collection contains no images for Sheridan or Stevens County.


This collection is organized geographically by counties in Kansas, alphabetically by county name. Within each county are towns, cities, townships, and any other political boundaries, which are also arranged alphabetically. Images are thereafter classified into broad categories, such as "aerial views" (also known as bird's eye views) or "street scenes," "agriculture," "commerce," "education," "religion," "social customs," etc. Each classification may have sub-categories as needed.

The "Agriculture" category may include grain elevators, ranching, irrigation, and other topics related to farming and raising livestock. The "Commerce" category may include images of banks, garages and gas stations, saloons or soda fountains, restaurants, and other building types and occupations in which money is exchanging hands. The "Industry" category may include images of construction, manufacturing, milling, utilities, and other large-scale industrial works. The "Politics and government" category may include courthouses and city halls, post offices, and the State Capitol. The "Recreation" category may include hunting and fishing for sport, horse racing, gardening, picnics and boating, the rodeo, athletic team portraits, and other images that appear to be related to recreational activities. The "Social customs" category includes parades, fairgrounds, parties, holidays, funerals, monuments and memorials, and other images related to cultural activities. The "Weather and disasters" category includes both weather incidents and manmade disasters, such as building fires.

Images that can be identified as coming from Kansas but that do not have a more specific geographic identification are in a series for Kansas generally; geographic areas or political boundaries that cross multiple counties--such as Fort Riley, the town of Sabetha, or Lake Perry--are also included in this series.

The bulk of the collection is located at RH PH 535. Oversize materials have been physically separated to RH PH 535(f) and RH PH 535(ff) and are described at the end of each relevant series for which there are oversize images. Images located at oversize locations have not typically been classified beyond what county and town they show; most oversize images are mounted prints.

Physical Location

RH PH 535

Physical Location

RH PH 535(f)

Physical Location

RH PH 535(ff)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchases, Frank Wood, 1995, 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008; Don Ulrich, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997; Ruth S. Klopp, 1996; Roger York, 2003; Western Exchange & Gifts, 2003; Dennis Coffey, 2003, 2004, 2006. Transfer from University of Kansas Archives, 2014; Watkins Community Museum, 1993. Gifts, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1995; Lin Fredericksen, 1996.

Related Materials

Consult reference staff for information about other photographic collections in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library that may be relevant.

Purchased photographs for non-Kansas places are located at RH PH 539, Artificial Non-Kansas-Based photographs collection. Purchased portraits, i.e. photographs focused solely on an individual or group of people and often taken in photographic studios or other formal settings, have also been separated from the Kansas-based collection and are located at RH PH 540, Artificial Portraits collection.

Guide to the Artificial Kansas-Based Photographs Collection
Artificial Kansas-based photographs collection
Finding aid prepared by mwh, 2019. Finding aid encoded by mwh, 2019. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2021, 2022, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Artificial Kansas-based photographs collection, RH PH 535, 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