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Kansas History - Summer 2007

(Vol. 30, No. 2)

Kansas History, Summer 2007

Julie A. Scott, "More Than Just Monkey Business: Kansas Newspapers Respond to the Scopes Trial, July 1925."

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Few other events in American history have generated more national publicity or public dialogue than the trial of John T. Scopes in Dayton, Tennessee. During July 1925 newspaper editors across the country commented extensively on the courtroom showdown that pitted three-time presidential nominee and leading anti-evolutionist spokesman, William Jennings Bryan, against famed trial lawyer and avowed agnostic, Clarence Darrow. Although scholars have written extensively on the national newspapers' treatments of the trial, there has been little investigation of how newspapers with more localized news coverage and smaller audience bases responded to the events in rural Tennessee. Historian Julie Scott fills some of that void with this examination of how four Kansas newspapers-the Topeka Daily Capital, the Wichita Beacon, the Wichita Eagle, and the Emporia Gazette-reported on and interpreted the trial. While the national media tended to focus it attention on-and against-Bryan, Kansas newspapers concentrated on more substantive issues that framed the trial within the context of a larger socio-religious controversy. By this means, their editorials, cartoons, published letters to the editor, and locally written articles attempted to diffuse rather than to deepen the theological and cultural divide between American Protestantism's fundamentalists and modernists. By objectively looking at both sides, Kansas newspapers ensured that their readers understood the theological and cultural breadth of the trial's implications.

Craig Miner, "Editor Clymer Buys a Press: Continuity and Change in a Kansas Country Town, 1926-1929."

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When in the summer of 1926 the press broke down at the El Dorado Times, editor Rolla Clymer had more to consider than its mere repair. El Dorado itself and small-town journalism in general were in the midst of rapid change in the 1920s. Clymer-a protégé of William Allen White, and therefore a quintessential local news hawk and purveyor of an All-American image-had to deal with increasing centralization of advertising, homogenization of national news, and faster printing press technology, which required increased circulation to justify its considerable cost. Before he installed a new 20,000 impression an hour Duplex press at his newspaper in 1929, Clymer debated with himself, his investors, and his readers about his vision of the future and of the best course to take. In the process, editor Clymer tried to move forward while maintaining the best of the White journalistic tradition. Clymer's editorials illuminate the decision and the period, as does the unprecedented detail on the press investment available in the fifty boxes of Clymer personal papers held by the Kansas State Historical Society.

Thomas Prasch, "Cinema and the Kansas/Plains Past. Film Reviews."

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In his most recent installment of the journal's biennial film review section, Washburn University professor of history Thomas Prasch pulls together an impressive array of essays critiquing classic movies, recent features, and documentaries related to the state's past, both myth and reality. "Insofar as Kansas history figures into the mainstream imaginary," writes Professor Prasch, "it is that mythologized repository of changeless American Midwestern values that, even when events are set in the present, may as well be the past, say somewhere in the 1950s." This "is not real history," but it is nevertheless instructive. "Cinema and the Kansas/Plains Past" features eleven scholarly reviews of fourteen films that fall into several genres and essentially cover 150 years of Kansas "history." Included are Through Martha's Eyes, Touched by Fire, and Bad Blood, which treat aspects of the turbulent territorial era; director Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Buffalo Bill and the Indians; two recent Westerns, Broken Trail and Brokeback Mountain; two KTWU documentaries, Beyond Theology: What Would Jesus Do? and June 8, 1966 on the Topeka tornado; the late Gordon Parks's Learning Tree; Capote and Infamous, feature films that extend the legacy of In Cold Blood; The Kansas Governor, which features interviews with six chief executives, past and present; and Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus.


Colonel Richard Irving Dodge: The Life and Times of a Career Army Officer
by Wayne R. Kime
xvii + 646 pages, maps, photographs, illustrations, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965, cloth $45.00.
Reviewed by William J. VanderGiesen, adjunct professor of history, Newman University, Wichita, Kansas.

New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905
by Rebecca Edwards
296 pages, illustrations, bibliography, discussion questions, index.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, paper $35.00.
Reviewed by Karen Manners Smith, associate professor of history, Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas.

The Deadliest Woman in the West: Mother Nature on the Prairies and Plains, 1800-1900
by Rod Beemer
xviii + 392 pages, illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index.
Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 2006, paper $18.95.
Reviewed by Thomas D. Isern, professor of history, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

Taking Charge: Native American Self-Determination and Federal Indian Policy, 1975-1993
by George Pierre Castile
164 pages, notes, references cites, index.
Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2006, cloth $35.00.
Reviewed by Alan G. Shackelford, visiting professor of history, Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas.

Kansas Murals: A Traveler's Guide
by Lora Jost and Dave Loewenstein, with foreword by Saralynn Reece Hardy
xviii + 278 pages, photographs, maps, list of sources, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006, cloth $35.00, paper $19.95.
Reviewed by Marjorie Swann, Department of English, University of Kansas, Lawrence.

Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide, with a Section on the Wire Road
by Earl J. Hess, Richard W. Hatcher III, William Garrett Piston, and William L. Shea
xviii + 284 pages, photographs, maps, appendix, notes.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006, paper $19.95.
Reviewed by Arnold Schofield, site administrator, Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site.

Where Did the Party Go? : William Jennings Bryan, Hubert Humphrey, and the Jeffersonian Legacy
by Jeff Taylor
xiii + 372 pages, notes, bibliography, index.
Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006, paper $19.95.
Reviewed by Duncan Stewart, librarian, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

I Wish I'd Been There: Twenty Historians Bring to Life Dramatic Events that Changed America
edited by Byron Hollinshead
xiv + 185 pages, photographs, maps, notes, index.
New York: Doubleday, 2006, cloth $26.95.
Reviewed by Derek S. Hoff, Department of History, Kansas State University.

American Outback: The Oklahoma Panhandle in the Twentieth Century
by Richard Lowitt
xxi + 138 pages, illustrations, tables, map, notes, index.
Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2006, cloth $21.95.
Reviewed by Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, Department of History, Kansas State University.

Ballots and Bullets: The Bloody County Seat Wars of Kansas
by Robert K. DeArment
ix + 266 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Robert W. Richmond, former assistant executive director, Kansas State Historical Society.

Book Notes

Great Plains Originals: Historic Documents form America's Heartland. By Brian Burnes. (Kansas City, Mo.: Kansas City Star Books, 2006, vi + 191 pages, cloth $29.95.)

As anyone who has ever attempted research at an archive knows, "if you're willing to blaze your own trail, a vast forest awaits." In Great Plains Originals, Brian Burnes does the blazing for his readers. Burnes selects some of the most fascinating finds from amongst the 50,000 cubic feet of one-of-a-kind photographs, illustrations, documents, and artifacts stored in the National Archives' Central Plains Region branch. Housed in Kansas City, this collection is made up of materials from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. Two hundred handsomely designed, full-color pages catalog significant moments in the region's history, including the original transcripts of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and a habeas corpus proceeding on behalf of Richard Hickock and Perry Edward Smith. The only thing this volume lacks is an index, which would help guide readers through its noteworthy pages.

Sunshine Always: The Courtship Letters of Alice Bower & Joseph Gossage of Dakota Territory. Edited by Paula M. Nelson, complied with afterword by Maxwell Van Nuys. (Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2006, xi + 293 pages, cloth $24.95.)

Sunshine Always documents the courtship of Alice Bower, an ambitious typesetter who worked in Nebraska and the Dakota Territory, and Joseph Gossage, the founder of the Rapid City Journal. The two lived more than four hundred miles apart when they were "introduced," and they exchanged letters and photographs for nearly six months before meeting face-to-face and becoming engaged. This correspondence, along with letters the couple continued to write during their six-month engagement, is collected in Sunshine Always. The letters are not merely tokens of affection, however, as they offer glimpses into everyday life on the Plains in the 1880s. In particular, they provide insight into the life of a working woman in an age and profession dominated by men. The letters also describe the business of newspapers, the difficulties of intra-state travel, and social mores of the time. In these ways, this collection adds to what we know of life in 1880s America.

Writings of Frank Marshall Davis: A Voice of the Black Press. Edited by John Edgar Tidwell. (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2007, xxxiii + 221 pages, cloth $40.00.)

A central figure in the black press in the mid-twentieth century, Frank Marshall Davis (1905-1987) used his platform as a reporter and editor to challenge status quo understandings of race in America. The newspaperman commented on blues and jazz, literature, politics, and travel, always with an eye toward reshaping public discourse on racial and economic issues. Here Davis's work is edited by John Edgar Tidwell, associate professor of English at the University of Kansas, who notes that the black press usually told the "other side" of the story, bringing to the forefront views that were disregarded or altogether ignored by mainstream media. To further help readers understand the context in which Davis wrote, each section prefaced by an historical introduction. Acknowledging that readers may not be familiar with names and organizations that appear throughout Davis's work, the editor helpfully provides an extensive glossary at the book's end, as well as a useful subject index. While a small list of works consulted is included, a full bibliography would further help readers put Davis's work in context.

By His Own Hand?: The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis. By James J. Holmberg, John D. W. Guice, and Jay H. Buckley, edited by John D. W. Guice. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006, xxi + 178 pages, paper $14.95.)

Despite the strange circumstances that surrounded it, Meriwether Lewis's death-the result of two gunshot wounds-was ruled almost immediately a suicide. As a result, no hearing to determine precisely what happened before dawn on October 11, 1809 was ever held. After two centuries of speculation, By His Own Hand? undertakes such a trail. The evidence is introduced by Clay S. Jenkinson, and James J. Holmberg argues Meriwether committed suicide, while John D. W. Guice contends the man was murdered. Jay H. Buckley does not render a definitive ruling, though he acts as judge between the two arguments, weighing their merits and weaknesses. Those following the case will find most helpful a selection of original documents, as well as a timeline of differing theories and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska Civil War Veterans: Compilation of the Death Rolls of the Departments of Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, Grand Army of the Republic, 1883-1948. By Dennis Northcott. (St. Louis: Dennis Northcott, 2007, xii + 660 pages, paper $30.00.)

Established in 1866, the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) became the largest association of Civil War Union veterans, and by 1890 it had a national membership of 409,489. Soldiers and sailors in the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps who served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865 were eligible for membership. In later years, as such veterans died, membership in the organization declined, and the last member of the group died in 1956. Here Dennis Northcott provides the third installment (after Illinois and Indiana, and to be followed by Pennsylvania and Ohio) in his series of compilations of G.A.R. death records. This volume details the deaths of 36,000 war veterans, supplying the name, rank, company, regiment, or ship, post, age, and death date of its entrants. Northcott also supplies citations from the Journal of the Annual Encampment of the G.A.R. documents he utilized in compiling his list, allowing for further research.

Recollections: The Memoirs of Lyman Beecher Kellogg. Edited by Sam Dicks. (Emporia, Kans.: Emporia State Printing Services, 2006, iii + 233 pages, paper $19.95.)

A native of Illinois, Lyman Beecher Kellogg (1841-1918) came to Emporia, Kansas in 1865, at age twenty-three, to open the new Kansas State Normal School. Save for a few brief years in which Kellogg helped found Arkansas City and served a two-year term as attorney general in Topeka, he made Emporia his home. Kellogg lived in a pivotal time in Kansas's history, and his memoirs preserve a picture of "one family's adventuresome life and survival in an America of slavery, civil war, and westward expansion." Readers will discover that Kellogg focuses on his early life, from childhood up through his move to Kansas and his founding the Normal School, more so than on his later work as an attorney and politician. Accompanying Kellogg's memoirs in this volume are appendices containing his correspondence, articles, and speeches, as well as a subject index.