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Wilbur D. Hess collection

Call Number: RH MS 1526


Wilbur Hess worked as a photographer both commercially and as a photojournalist in Salina and Lawrence, Kansas. This collection contains his journalistic photographs, aerial photographs, studio portraits of individuals and weddings, commercial images for businesses, personal photographs of his family and trips, and other photographic images in prints, negatives, slides, and other photographic medium. The collection also includes Hess' personal and business correspondence and papers, as well as news clippings from his career.


  • Majority of material found within 1880-1999, 1940-1985


Conditions Governing Access

Items located at RH VLT MS 1526 are available only with curatorial permission. Contact staff at or (785) 864-4334 for assistance.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biography of Wilbur D. Hess (1927-2008)

Wilbur D. Hess was born in 1927 in Larned, Kansas. He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas and served in the United States Air Force. He worked for the Salina Journal newspaper in Salina, Kansas until 1960 when he moved to Lawrence, Kansas to work for theLawrence Journal-World newspaper. In 1974, Hess began working as a freelance photographer. He spent the remainder of his career taking commercial, aerial, wedding, and other photographs mostly in Lawrence, Kansas.

He married Sue Hess, a librarian at Watson Library at the University of Kansas and income maintenance worker for the Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Service, in 1962. He was the stepfather to her four children, Mary Ann (Hyde) Johnson, Joe Hyde, Jane (Hyde) Hawkins, and Susan (Hyde) Holmes. Many of the personal photographs in the collection pertain to his stepchildren and their families, and also of many trips in the United States and abroad.

Hess had two brothers, Marvin and Dennis, and one sister, Marjorie, who died in the 1950s. His brother Marvin was a history teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District near Overland Park, Kansas. His brother Dennis worked for Centron, an industrial film company in Lawrence, Kansas, before starting a freelance film editing business.

Hess was interested in politics and wrote and received correspondence from state and national politicians. He died in Lawrence in 2008.

[Information for the biography is taken from material in the collection.]


41.75 Linear Feet (84 boxes + 11 oversize boxes)

Scope and Contents

This collection contains photographic material from Wilbur D. Hess, a professional photographer in Salina and later Lawrence, Kansas. He was a photographer for the Salina Journal newspaper during the late 1950s, and for theLawrence Journal-World newspaper from 1960-1974.

After 1974, Hess worked as a freelance photographer in Lawrence, Kansas, providing identification, promotion, aerial, wedding, legal, graduation, and other photographic services for businesses, political candidates, families, and organizations, including the University of Kansas.

A large segment of the collection is images from Hess and his family members, including their private lives, growing up in Lawrence, and their many trips and vacations.

Besides journalistic and commercial photography, Hess often photographed images in books and made copies of other photographs. He also tested his camera equipment by creating photographs. Hess entered many of his images in contests or submitted them to be published in magazines, and the collection includes these contest productions.

In addition to photographic prints, the collection contains a corresponding number of negatives, slides, transparencies, and other photographic media.

The bulk of the collection are photographic images. Hess' correspondence and papers cover his personal life as well as his journalistic and business (freelance photographer) careers. Many newspaper clippings of his published journalistic images are included.


Most of the collection arrived in titled file folders, large envelopes, or boxes. The journalism material was mostly separated, as well as the commercial, personal, and wedding material. This arrangement was mostly kept during processing, however some of the material of one series may be found in another series. Each series of photographic material--journalism, aerial, weddings, commercial, KU School of Business, personal, and test photographs--are further sub-divided by format for prints, negatives, slides, and transparencies where relevant. Photographic prints and negatives in the same folder were separated at the time of processing, with each receiving the same folder title. When papers were found in folders that were predominantly photographic material, the textual materials were removed to the business papers series.

Physical Location

RH MS 1526

Physical Location

RH MS Q476

Physical Location

RH MS R475

Physical Location

RH VLT MS 1526

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Mary Ann Johnson, Susan Holmes, Jane Hyde, and Joe Hyde, July 2015.

Separated Materials

The Brown Palace Story: Centennial Edition, by Corinne Hunt, 1992. Found with correspondence from Hunt to Hess. Located at RH C12426, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Travel Kansas, Helbert Travel Service, 1953. Located at RH AK143, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Map of Salina, Kansas, Chamber of Commerce, Salina, Kansas, 1949. Located at RH Map Q120, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Processing Information

Titles written by Hess are in quotation marks. If Hess added a note in parentheses, the note was retained in parentheses. If a note or clarification was added to Hess' title during processing, it was added in brackets.

Titles not in quotation marks were assumed by the processor. Occasionally a note of clarification in this case was added in parentheses.

Hess' titles often contained the abbreviated word "pix," which stands for "picture." He frequently used the word "mug," which meant "portrait."

Hess often used the abbreviation "KU" for the University of Kansas.

"Lawrence Journal-World," "Lawrence Journal Daily World," "Lawrence Journal World," "Journal World," and "J. W." have all been used interchangeably to refer to what is now known as the Lawrence, Kansas newspaperLawrence Journal-World.

Three slide boxes of Hess' material and a set of photographs of Aronda Hurst were erroneously processed with the Leonard Hollmann Collection (RH PH 536). These items were removed from the Hollmann collection in spring 2021 and placed with the Wilbur D. Hess collection (RH MS 1526).

The slide boxes were moved from box 78 of RH PH 536 to box 83 of RH MS 1526. The Hurst photographs were removed from box 72, folders 43-46 of RH PH 536 to box 15, folder 15 of RH MS 1526.

Guide to the Wilbur D. Hess Collection
Wilbur D. Hess collection
Finding aid prepared by lmw. Finding aid encoded by lmw.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Wilbur D. Hess Collection, RH MS 1526, 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