Jump to Navigation

Kansas History - Forthcoming issue

Volume 44

Summer 2021

“‘Suspense More Trying Than Death Itself’: The Service and Disappearance of Sgt. Frank Orris Pierce in World War I”
by Jeffrey Patrick

On May 5, 1919, the citizens of Topeka, Kansas, welcomed home nearly four thousand servicemen who had fought in France during World War I. But not all Kansans celebrated the Allied victory. Many families mourned the loss of a husband, father, or brother. Others were still uncertain about the fate of their loved ones, including the Pierce family of Bronson, Kansas. Sgt. Frank Pierce had joined his local National Guard company in 1917 and experienced some of the most intense combat of the First World War as a member of the Thirty-Fifth Division. He then seemingly disappeared during the fighting, leaving his family to endure many heart-rending months as they gathered fragments of information about his fate, sadly leaving them with more questions than answers. In this article, Jeffrey Patrick examines the process of locating and identifying a lost Kansas soldier, highlighting the anguish and heartache of his family in the aftermath of the "Great War."

“‘Any Kind of Added Protection’: Interest Groups, Cultural Heritage, and the Kansas Right-to-Hunt Amendment”
by Ryan T. Fullerton

In 2016, Kansans approved a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to hunt, fish, and trap and declaring these activities the “preferred means of wildlife management” in Kansas. Although the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism stated openly that no wildlife management policies would change because of the amendment, Kansans approved it by a 4-1 margin, making Kansas the twentieth state to pass such an amendment since 1996. Given that it was public knowledge that no policies would change, the amendment’s widespread popularity and the fact that legislators and voters deemed it necessary to enshrine these protections in the state constitution, seems odd at face value. In 2003, however, the National Rifle Association had drafted a model amendment for states to follow to protect hunting rights. Examination of the words of individual voters and the promotional materials of pro-hunting interest groups such as the NRA, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, reveals that state right-to-hunt amendments have been so popular because these groups have both responded to and stoked deep-seated fears among voters that the right to hunt was at risk. To do so, they continued to use language that spoke to voters’ perception of hunting as a critical component of American cultural heritage. Furthermore, groups that opposed right-to-hunt amendments, such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, were unsuccessful in rallying opposition because their message lacked cultural resonance among voters in favor of language that was more scientific and political.

“Pictures for a Pandemic”
edited and introduced by Tom Prasch

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the film industry, disrupting all aspects of the industry, from production and distribution to viewing. As Thomas Prasch argues in the introduction to this year’s selection of film reviews, the lockdown’s impact on film has a striking resonance with the results of a previous pandemic, echoing the reshuffling of the film industry in response to the flu epidemic of 1918. Still, films continued to get made, viewed (albeit more often by streaming than in theaters), and reviewed. Our selection of reviews opens as usual with a look back at classics, this time a double-barreled review of two 75-year-old films, Abilene Town and The Harvey Girls, followed by a dozen reviews that consider sixteen different fictional films, documentaries, television limited series, or short-film collections. This year’s survey pushes at our conventional geographic boundaries of “Kansas and the Great Plains” to consider First Cow, a film focused on Oregon’s settlement (coming under our purview as a Western), and to treat the experience of Black soldiers in the Vietnam War and the Houston “riot” of 1917 (both the work of Kansas filmmaker Kevin Willmott). For the most part, however, we stick closer to home, in reviews that range from the latest treatment of Kansas abolitionist John Brown through a range of Westerns, documentaries about Indigenous people and Kansas communities, and explorations of the Plains landscape and the people who work on it, to sexual politics and horror films in contemporary Kansas City.


Book Notes