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Kansas History - Forthcoming issue

Volume 44

Autumn 2021

“‘The Original and Genuine Kansas’: Robert Van Horn, Kansas City, and Civic Rivalry in the Civil War Era” by Jeremy Neely

The early career of newspaper editor Robert Van Horn was a conjoined tale of urban promotion and political opportunism. Soon after he arrived in western Missouri in 1855, he recognized that the economic destiny of his adopted home was inextricably linked to that of the adjacent Kansas Territory. Convinced that railroad development would transform the sleepy Town of Kansas into the hub of a “New West,” he relished the competition for commercial supremacy with Leavenworth, St. Joseph, and other Missouri valley rivals. His stewardship of the Enterprise and Journal of Commerce testified to slippery partisan loyalties which shifted between the factions best positioned to fulfill his civic and personal ambitions. Once a conservative Democrat and defender of the proslavery Lecompton administration, Van Horn emerged during the Civil War as a stalwart Unionist and a self-described Radical Republican. This transformation culminated in his election to the U. S. Congress, where he helped to secure the internal improvements that would fulfill Kansas City’s destiny as a regional metropolis.

“How Word Got Around: An Examination of the Little Blue Books and Public Discourse on Venereal Disease in Modern America” by Shelly Lemons

The public conversation regarding venereal disease infections (VD) in modern America evolved from an individual’s concern in the Progressive Era and 1920s to a government medical concern during the two World Wars and the Great Depression, culminating as a social concern for public health by the middle of the twentieth century. Examining the eight sexual health titles in Emanuel Haldeman-Julius’s Little Blue Books series reveals the prominent role the Girard, Kansas, publishing company played in the shifting American discourse of venereal disease. The inexpensive pamphlets containing step-by-step self-treatment instructions provided middle- and working-class readers with access to VD discourse. Turn-of-the-century Americans often believed sexually transmitted diseases indicated weakness of character and morality and limited their desire to seek formal medical care. As VD treatments advanced during the first two decades of the twentieth century, public discourse began to encourage more medical intervention. An examination of Little Blue Books sexual health titles reveals the shift from individual responsibility for personal health to institutional responsibility through advanced medical care. Thus, careful review of the Little Blue Books shows how discussions of sexual health reflect the changing the roles of individuals, institutions, and ideals in creating the modern American identity.

“Preserving Psychiatry on the Plains: The Complicated Case of the Menninger Foundation Archives” by Marcella Huggard

This article by Marcella Huggard, an archivist at the University of Kansas, provides a look at the history of the Menninger Foundation archives, a hybrid special collections and corporate archives founded in the 1950s to preserve the history of the Menninger Foundation and family of Topeka, Kansas, as well as the history of the larger psychiatric profession in the United States. The archives suffered from a lack of resources, as well as struggling to find its place organizationally within the larger institution. Despite these challenges, the Menninger family recognized the significance of the archives.

Editor’s Note by Kristen Epps


Book Notes