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Kansas History - Spring 2016

Kansas History, Spring 2016(Volume 39, Number 1)

Marilyn Irvin Holt, “‘Over the Hill to the Poorhouse’: Kansas Poor Relief.”

People today might casually say that they are going to end up in the poorhouse, but the poorhouse, or poor farm, was not some imaginary place. It was a physical reality, and by the early twentieth century, most Kansas counties had one. The first poor farms appeared in the years immediately after the Civil War, when homesteaders and town builders came to Kansas in large numbers. More were created as western portions of the state were settled and new counties were established. In this article, Marilyn Holt, an independent scholar and author, explores the genesis of the poor farm as the centerpiece of local poor relief in Kansas, where state law required counties to look after impoverished residents. Considered in this study are the working mechanics of these institutions, how they were managed, and who were the most likely to become residents. A few poor farms continued to operate into the 1950s and 1960s, but the majority were gone by the early 1940s, with several factors contributing to this demise. These are examined in a discussion of the role of the federal Social Security Act of 1935 and the shift from local to state control of public welfare programs. 

Zachary J. Wimmer, “A Place For All: The American Indian and African American Experience in Kansas Civilian Conservation Corps Camps, 1933-1942.

An “Alphabet Agency” of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps, comprised of over three million enrollees, dramatically altered the environment of the Sunflower State and the nation during the Great Depression. State parks, bridges, trees, contoured fields, and lakes are lasting monuments to the strenuous effort members of the agency exerted from 1933 to 1942. In “A Place for All,” Zachary Wimmer, an American history educator in Sublette, Kansas, examines the experiences and voices of the hundreds of American Indian and African American enrollees of the Corps stationed in Kansas. Their unique experiences while enlisted reveal the diversity that existed in the CCC’s nine-year tenure in Kansas. The Civilian Conservation Corps may have been terminated with the United States’ entrance into World War II, but the contributions by the Native American and African American Corps members helped carve the modern landscape residents of Kansas are used to today.

Norman E. Saul, “The ‘Russian’ Adventures of Henry and Me: William Allen White and Henry Justin Allen in Stalin’s Russia.”

Paraphrasing the title of one of William Allen White’s best known books, The Martial Adventures of Henry and Me (1918), for his article title, University of Kansas professor emeritus Norman Saul goes on to examine the visits of two prominent Kansas editors and publishers—William Allen White and Henry Justin Allen—to Russia in 1933. White’s interest in Russia began with the revolution in 1917 and continued into the  early 1930s. He was regularly invited to join the annual "seminar" group of Sherwood Eddy, also from Kansas, and finally in 1933, White joined with Allen in attending a three-week summer tour, going by ship from London to Leningrad and then to Moscow. White recorded his impressions in syndicated columns in major newspapers and with more details in the Emporia Gazette.  He spent much of his time gathering information from veteran Moscow correspondents, who took advantage of White's visit and fame to provide information that they could not send directly from Russia, thus providing an expert analysis of the impact of the First Five Year Plan upon the Soviet Union. Both White and Allen were firm in their commitment to U.S. recognizing of the USSR and promoted that in their national newspaper columns. They were also committed to educating Kansans and other Americans about the real Russia/Soviet Union in the 1930s, just as they did in the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

Jeffrey P. Stone, “Kansas ‘Dis-centers’:  The Competition to Claim Ownership of the Center of the Nation.”

In early 1940 city boosters in the small northern Kansas town of Lebanon received some very dark news.  The town’s proud claim of being located nearest to the exact geographical center of the nation was suddenly being challenged by another small town in southern Nebraska.  The unnamed Nebraska town had recently been championed by an unnamed professional cartographer. Lebanon city boosters hastily formed the “Hub Club,” an organization tasked with re-securing the city’s threatened national geographic prestige.  They hired their own professional mapmakers to restore Lebanon’s cartographic celebrity, and by its own reckoning, the Hub Club successfully reclaimed the distinction of the national center that same year.  In the following decade, however, numerous rival cities from both within and without Kansas claimed ownership of the national center in an effort to attract tourist dollars, new industry, and city and state notoriety.  Drawing from maps produced by commercial advertisers, city and state chambers of commerce publications, and the federal government, Jeffery Stone, an adjunct professor of history at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas, details the harrowing cartographic campaign of the Lebanon “Hub Club” to solidify its prestige as the national center against a multitude of would-be usurpers at the municipal and state levels.

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