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L. D. Robinson

Kansas State Capitol at night, 1947

After the Kansas State Capitol was completed in 1903, people began to criticize its maintenance. Some thought that it degenerated to the point of becoming a health hazard to all who entered. Floors were sometimes not swept for days, much less mopped. According to newspaper accounts of the day, janitors were appointed to their positions by powerful legislators who owed some favor to a constituent. Constituents were said to have found jobs for unemployable relatives. Consequently, the capitol janitorial staff was accused of being a crew of uncooperative misfits who would clean if and when it suited them.

Into this setting in 1931 came head custodian, L. D. Robinson. Robinson, born in 1888 in Sycamore Illinois, came to Kansas in 1919. He was an amateur artist who started his artistic ventures at age 10, when he was expelled for drawing his principle on the flyleaf of his textbook. The same principle soon commissioned Robinson to do paint a portrait of him in oils. From that time on Robinson continued to sketch, paint, and craft, but only as a hobby. He was always sure to stress that he was only an amateur, not a real artist.

Amateur or not after six years of working as the capitols custodian Robinson was given a good deal of leeway in adding his own artistic touches to the building. He was commissioned to add a mural to Attorney General, Clarence V. Beck's office wall. The mural, entitled, They Came for Homes, depicts a young couple standing next to their wagon, waving to their friends who have just left them. Robinson claims he wished to show what those early pioneers were really like, for the future generations. The mural took him two weeks to complete.

Other works in the statehouse by Robinson include a painting over the windows in the Kansas House of Representatives of the history of transportation from walking to airplanes. He was also credited with decorating a podium in the House which looked like marble but was composed of putty and paint.

While none of these exist today, there is one memorable wood carving which is currently in the Judicial Center, just south of the Kansas State Capitol. The carving is of the seal of the Kansas Supreme Court. An article, "Carved Court Seal Another of Robinson's Capitol Memorials," Topeka Daily Capital, October 6, 1948, explains that contractors, building the "highly polished wooden backdrop" behind the justice's bench did not feel they could fulfill the request. Robinson volunteered to do it. With a piece of 18-inch Ponderosa pine measuring two and a half inches thick, Robinson used a woodcarving set he purchased for $4.50. He worked on it in his spare time. This is the only remaining evidence of L. D. Robinson's artistic efforts at the Kansas State Capitol.

Entry: Robinson, L. D.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: March 2009

Date Modified: November 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.