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Robert Taft Collection

Manuscript Collection No. 172



The collection of Robert Taft (1894-1955), professor of chemistry, author, historian, and editor at the University of Kansas was given to the Kansas State Historical Society by his children Robert W. Taft, Jr. and Dorothy Taft Harney. The gift was made over a period of years from 1968-1975. Although Taft was a professor of chemistry, his avocation was art and photography. For this reason, the collection consists of correspondence, notes, notebooks, newspaper clippings, manuscripts for journal articles, photographs, and other miscellaneous papers dealing with frontier artists and photographers and Kansas history. There are no restrictions on the use of the collection.


Robert Taft was born March 24, 1894, in Tokyo, Japan, the son of George and Jessie (Humpstone) Taft, Baptist missionaries. At the age of three, his parents returned to the United States settling in Rochester, New York, where Robert graduated from high school. Taft received a bachelor of arts degree from Grand Island Baptist College (Nebraska) in 1916 with a major in history. He received his masters degree from the University of Iowa (Iowa City) in 1919, where he taught for a year. Taft then moved to Ottawa, Kansas, where he taught for a year before joining the faculty at the University of Kansas in 1922. Taft received his Ph.D. in chemistry from K. U. in 1925. Taft remained a professor at the University of Kansas until his death in 1955.

During his tenure at K. U. Taft was the author of several books, Photography and the American Scene (1937), Across the Years at Mt. Oread (1941), 50 Years in Bailey Chemical Laboratory (1950), Artists and Illustrators of the Old West (1953), and The Years on Mt. Oread (1955) which was a revision of his earlier work. He also wrote numerous articles on chemistry, photography in the West, and Kansas history. One of his articles “Mathew B. Brady and the Daguerreotype Era” won the P. H. Emerson award in 1935. He received the Byron Caldwell Smith award for Artists and Illustrators of the Old West. At the time of his death, he was planning several additional books on American photography.

Taft had served as president of the Kansas Academy of Science and as editor of that organization’s Transactions from 1941 until his death. He was president of the Kansas State Historical Society from 1952-1953 and was chairman of the Kansas Territorial Centennial Committee in 1953-1954. He was a member of the American Association of University Professors.

In 1916, he married Josephine Miller. They were the parents of two children, Robert W. Taft, Jr. and Dorothy Taft Harney. Taft died at his home in Lawrence, Kansas, on September 22, 1955.

Scope and Content

The Robert Taft papers consist of forty-nine document boxes and fourteen notecard boxes with the material covering the period from 1918 to 1955. From 1918 to approximately 1932, the collection is somewhat sparse. Most of the correspondence is letters of recommendation of Taft for teaching positions. Taft became interested in photography in 1932-1933 and stated several times that his interest began when he was reading an account of Fremont’s explorations, including the first use of photography in explorations of the west. Upon looking for answers to his questions, he found there were no books to give him the answers. Out of his research came Photography and the American Scene, after six years of study.

Research to Taft involved writing letters to libraries, historical societies, and descendants of early day photographers. Taft literally had many people searching their attics for diaries, newspaper clippings, and photographs. The response he got was great. Taft kept a record of the letters he sent to the individuals and the replies he received. The letters came from across the nation and eastern Europe. This was the way he handled his research for his two major books: Photography and the American Scene and Artists and Illustrators of the Old West.

Besides his correspondence to institutions and individuals, Taft did a great amount of research in newspapers and magazines. Many of the articles from newspapers and magazines such as Leslie’s Weekly and Harper’s Weekly were copied and are included in the collection.

The one exception to this type of research was when he wrote the history of Kansas University. There is little correspondence and few notes, although in the introduction to the book he states he is indebted to many.

While serving as Chairman of the Kansas Territorial Centennial Committee, he corresponded with a number of notable people in planning the celebration ceremonies. At this time, he also did a considerable amount of research on territorial Kansas and the collection includes many accounts from Kansas and out-of-state newspapers.

Included in the collection are most of the journal articles written by Taft. Most of these are typed copies, although some are in manuscript form. Also included in the collection are various speeches delivered by Taft at various events.

Most of the correspondence is of great value in terms of research. This is especially true of the frontier artists series. The collection includes many artists not mentioned in his book Artists and Illustrators of the Old West. The correspondence contains invaluable information from many people now deceased.

There are many photographs included with the collection, especially with the artist series. The photographs are reproductions of paintings and sketches by artists Taft was studying and are included with the notes and other material collected by Taft. One weakness of the collection is the personal notes that accompany the research material. These notes probably have little meaning except to Taft as they are in reference to his books. Most of the notes are excerpts from newspapers and books relating to artists, photographers, photography, Kansas history, and general American western history.

Of interest to researchers would be the papers and correspondence on Frederic Remington. Taft was planning to write a biography of Remington and had completed several chapters of a first draft. Anyone doing research in the area of photography and art would find the correspondence a valuable aid because of personal replies from individuals or relatives of individuals associated with photography. Another area of interest might be the Kansas Territorial Centennial Committee papers. Taft corresponded with descendants of territorial officers such as Andrew Reeder’s grandson. It also offers an insight into the workings of an official centennial committee. If one was interested in writing about Taft, his correspondence would be an excellent reference to his character, along with his notes, articles, and speeches.

The collection originally contained 55 notecard boxes some of which have been transferred to the Library or the Newspaper division. The 14 boxes remaining with the collection deal with the history of KU, research on Civil War illustrators, territorial Kansas, among others. Thirty-one boxes were transferred to the library and contained indices to illustrations in the following periodicals: Ballou’s Pictorial, Illustrated London News, National Magazine, Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly (various titles), and Harper’s Weekly (various titles). Eight notecard boxes were transferred to the newspaper division. These boxes contained indexes to the Leavenworth Daily Times, Sept. 1859-June, 1862; Herald of Freedom, Oct. 1854-Dec. 1859; Kansas Weekly Herald, Jan. 1855-July, 1860; and Squatter Sovereign, Feb. 1855-Dec. 1857.

February 1978 Steve Hanschu, Intern
Revised May 1991 Patty Emmerich, Intern

Contents List

Box No. Description Dates No. Folders
1 Correspondence 1918-1952 28
2 Correspondence/ 1953-1955 23
  Undated/Miscellaneous Papers    
3 Articles and Speches   49
4 Chemistry Notebooks-2/   16
  Chemistry Lecture notes    
5 Miscellaneous Notes   28
  on Kansas History    
6 Kansas Newspaper notes   19
7 Papers Related to Kansas History:   17
  Kansas Newspaper notes/    
  Squatter Sovereign    
  Leavenworth Daily Times    
  Kanzas News    
  Miscellaneous Newspapers    
8 Papers related to Kansas History   32
  Notes: Out-of-state newspapers    
9 Papers Related to Kansas History   20
  Out-of-state newspapers    
10 Papers related to Kansas History and   17
  Kansas University History/    
  Correspondence, Notes and Notebooks    
11 Photography/Correspondence/ 1926-1935 23
  Herschel Correspondence 1933-1939  
  Concerning the Draper Daguerreotype    
Box No. Description Dates No. Folders
12 Photography/Correspondence 1936-1955 26
13 Photography/Articles/Pamphlets/   12
14 Photography Notes   18
15 Photography Notes   27
16 Photography/Notes/   21
17 Photography/Notes/   13
  Newspaper Clippings    
18 Correspondence and Notes,   18
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
19 Correspondence and Notes   18
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
20 Correspondence and Notes   18
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
21 Correspondence and Notes   23
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
22 Correspondence and Notes   19
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
23 Correspondence and Notes   21
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
24 Correspondence and Notes   20
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
Box No. Description Dates No. Folders
25 Correspondence Related   29
  To Frontier Artists:    
26 Correspondence and Notes   14
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
27 Correspondence and Notes   24
  Related to frontier Artists:    
28 Correspondence Related 1923-1943 13
  To Frontier Artists:    
29 Correspondence Related 1944-1954 10
  To Frontier Artists:    
30 Correspondence and Notes   10
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
31 Correspondence and Notes   13
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
32 Correspondence and Notes   10
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
33 Correspondence and Notes   4
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
  (paintings and sketches)    
34 Correspondence and Notes   7
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
  (biography ms., first draft)    
Box No. Description Dates No. Folders
35 Correspondence and Notes   16
36 Correspondence and Notes   16
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
37 Correspondence and Notes   23
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
38 Correspondence and Notes   17
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
39 Correspondence and   9
  NotesRelated to Frontier Artists:    
  Miscellaneous Artists    
40 Correspondence and Notes   9
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
41 Correspondence and Notes   9
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
42 Correspondence and Notes   9
  Related to Frontier Artists:    
  Notebooks entitled,    
  "Frontier In Pictures"    
  (Volume I to IV, Also,    
43 various   5
  Correspondence and Notes    
44 Related to Frontier Artists:   15
  Miscellaneous Paintings and    
45 Sketches   8
  Civil War Illustrators and    
  Correspondence and Notes    
  Civil War Sketches by    
  Edwin Forbes    
Box No. Description Dates No. Folders
46 Civil War Illustrators/   3
  Sketches by A. and William Waud,    
  Winslow Homer; sketches from Frank Leslie's    
  Illustrated Newspaper    
47 Papers Related to The Life of Abraham Lincoln   12
  and Stephan A. Douglas    
48 The American West/   19
  Notes and Notebooks    
49 Photographs and Scrapbook   12
50           Note Cards Related to History    
  of University of Kansas/    
  (Across the Years on Mt. Oread)    
51           Note Cards Related to History    
  of University of Kansas/    
  (Across the Years on Mt. Oread)    
52           Note Cards Related to History    
  of University of Kansas/    
  (Across the Years on Mt. Oread)    
53           Note Cards Related to History    
  of University of Kansas 1940-1953  
54           Note Cards Related to History    
  of University of Kansas    
55           (old #6, not available)    
56           Note Cards Related to Civil War    
  (Artists Biographical Data and    
  (Harper's Weekly Artists)    
Box No. Description Dates No. Folders
50                 Note Cards Related to Civil War    
51                 Note Cards Related to Army Sketch Book    
  (1-270), (A-Z)    
  (Cross Index)    
52                 Note Cards Related to Pictorial    
  Field Book:    
  (1-75, (A-Z)    
  (Cross Index)    
53                 Note Cards Related to Territorial    
54                 Note Cards Related to Territorial    
  Kansas/ (Letters and Speakers Bureau)    
55                 Note Cards Related to Animals in    
  Kansas Historical Collections    
56                 Note Cards Related to the Illustrations    
  Found in the Book, The Soldier In Our Civil War,    
  (A-Z), (1-980)    

Index of Artists and Illustrators in
the Robert Taft Papers
Abert, J. W.   Brush, George deForest
Adams, Cassidy (Cassity?)   Bryant, Edwin
Alexander, J. W.   Buel, J. W.
Allen, Thomas   Bugbee, Harold
Attwood, Francis G.   Burbank, E. A.
Bagley, James M.   Butman, Frederick A.
Baker, George H.   Cameron, Edgar S.
Bartlett, W. H.   Campbell, A. H.
Beard, W. H.   Carvalho, Solomon N.
Becker, Joseph   Cary, William M.
Becker, Otto   Catlin, George
Berghaus, Albert C.   Caylor, Henry W.
Bierstadt, Albert   Christensen, C. C. A.
Bingham, George C.   Coleman, Samuel
Bishop, William   Colyer, Vincent
Blakelock, Ralph A.   Cooper, G. V.
Blumenshein, Ernest L.   Couse, E. I.
Bodmer, Karl   Cox, H. F.
Bonwill, C. E. H.   Craig, Charles
Brewerton, George D.   Cross, H. H.
Browere, Albertus O. O.   Curley, Edwin A.
Brown, Grafton T.   Cushing, Frank H.
Davis, Theodore R.   Gaul, Gilbert W.
Deas, Charles   Gifford, S. R.
Deming, Edwin W.   Girard, J. B.
Dixon, Maynard   Gollings, Elling W.
Dickerman, Sumner   Goodkins, James F.
Didier, E.   Goupil, Adolphe
Dougal, William H.   Graham, Charles
Dunton, W. Herbert   Griset, E. H.
Durkin, John   Hafen, John
Eakins, Thomas   Hamilton, Hamilton
Earl, Lawrence C.   Hansen, Herman W.
Easterly, T. M.   Harmer, Alexander F.
Eastman, Seth   Hastings, Matthew
Eber, Elk   Hays, William J.
Egloffstein, Frederick von   Heap, Gwynn H.
Elkins, Henry A.   Heger, Joseph
Elliott, H. W.   Hencke, A.
Ellsbury, George H.   Heroncourt, W. V.
Emory, W. A.   Hill, Thomas
Farny, Henry F.   Holdredge, R. G.
Father Point   Holmes, W. H.
Fenn, Harry   Houghton, Arthur B.
Foote, Mary Hallock   Howland, John D.
Ford, Henry Chapman   Hutton, W. R.
Fox, R. Atkinson   Jackson, William H.
Frenzeny, Paul   Johnson, Eastman
Jorgensen, Christian   Maurer, Louis
Jump, Edward   Mayer, Frank
Kane, Paul   Mente, Charles
Keith, William   Merrick, William M.
Kensett, John F.   Metcalf, W. L.
Kern, Edward   Miller, Alfred J.
Kern, Richard   Mills, John Harrison
Kicking Bear   Mitchell, Alfred
Koppel, Charles   Mollhausen, Heinrich B.
Knox, E.   Moran, Peter
Kurz, Rudolph F.   Moran, Thomas
Lane, Remington W.   Morse, Samuel F. B.
LeClear, Thomas   Mulvany, John
Leigh, William R.   Nahl, Charles
Lenders, Emil W.   Ogden, Harry A.
Lesueur, Charles A.   Ottinger, George M.
Leutze, Emmanuel   Parsons, Charles
Lewis, Henry   Paxon, Edgar S.
Lorenz, Richard   Piercy, Frederick
Lovie, Henri   Pitman, Theodore B.
Lucas, Marc   Poore, Henry R.
Lumley, Arthur   Pratt, Henry C.
Lungren, Fernand   Preuss, Charles
Macy, William S.   Pride, Sam
Marvin, F. O.   Ranney, William T.
Mathews, Alfred E.   Reaugh, Frank
Redwood, Allen C.   Smyth, William
Reedy, Leonard   Sohon, Gustav
Remington, Frederic   Sontag, William L.
Rindesbacker, Peter   Sprague, Issac
Rix, Julian   Stanley, L. T.
Rogers, Cornelius   Stanley, John Mix
Rogers, William A.   Stobie, Charles S.
Rollins, Warren E.   Streight, Howard A.
Russell, Charles M.   Strobel, Max
Sartain, John   Strong, Joseph D., Jr.
Sauerwen, Frank   Tappan, William H.
Scheuerle, Joseph   Tavernier, Jules
Schindler, A. Zeno   Taylor, Bayard
Schott, Arthur C.   Terry, W. E.
Schreyvogel, Charles   Thulstrup, Thure de
Schuchard, Carl   Tidball, John C.
Scott, Julian   Tofft, Peter
Seymour, Samuel   Trotter, Newbold H.
Sharp, J. H.   Ulke, Henry
Shaw, Joshua   Wolk, Douglas
Shirlaw, Walter   Walker, James
Smillie, James   Ward, J. C.
Smith, Dan   Warre, Henry James
Smith, DeCost   Washburn, Edward P.
Smith, Gean   Waud, Alfred R.
Smith, J. H.   Waud, William
Waugh, Alfred S.   Winter, George
Waugh, H. H.   Woodward, John D.
Webb, William E.   Worrall, Henry
Weggeland, Danquart A.   Wyeth, N. C.
Weiss, John   Yeager, Walter R.
White, J. S.   Young, Harvey B.
Whittridge, Worthington   Young, John J.
Wiles, Samuel N.   Zogbaum, Rufus F.
Wimar, Carl