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Kansas Memory has been created by the Kansas State Historical Society to share its historical collections via the Internet. Read more.



Kansas Memory Blog

Aug 23, 2023 by Megan Rohleder

By: Lauren Gray, Head of Reference

Upon entering our Research Room at the State Archives, one of the first things you’ll see is row upon row of gray metal cabinets. Inside each of these cabinets are thousands of reels of microfilm, micro reproductions of documents on a cellulose acetate base, which resembles old VCR film. These reels contain a variety of documents and records, the most numerous of which are reproductions of newspapers.

Newspapers are the ‘bread and butter’ of the Kansas Historical Society’s collections, but they also have a larger legacy. The historical society was founded in 1875 by a group of Kansas newspaper publishers and editors who recognized the need to preserve the history of the state. Newspapers were one of the earliest items collected by the Historical Society and continue to be a vitally important part of the State Archives’ collections. The first newspaper was printed in Kansas Territory in 1854, and it can still be viewed in the State Archives’ Research Room or online. By 1916, KHS could boast of having one of the largest collections of newspapers in the world. Today, it is impossible to quantify how many individual newspaper issues we hold, but close to one million would not be an unreasonable number. We are an ally of the printed news.

Why, one might ask, do we make such an effort to collect and preserve newspapers? While they are an important research tool, they are also a complex cultural resource and symbol. At first glance, newspapers may seem passé, a relic of history. With the advent of social media and non-traditional online resources, the printed word, or even a digital news site, can seem slow or out-of-touch with our increasingly voracious need for immediate information. But newspapers should not be supplanted by the digital age. Newspapers are vital to a healthy and functioning democracy.

Newspapers were one of the earliest publications in colonial America, far surpassing books and other print media in popularity. They became an integral component of social and political protest to British taxation in the 18th century. Print resources kept disparate and physically separated colonists informed. Newspapers strengthened the growing American resistance movement, which ultimately resulted in the American Revolution and the creation of the United States. Recognizing the importance of newspapers during the revolution, the First Amendment was established to protect the right of free press and free speech. The First Amendment was intended to defend the press as a part of the democratic process.

Newspapers have long been a means of communication. Before train lines and telegraph wires interconnected the continent, newspapers kept the young country informed. As tensions rose over slavery in the decades before the Civil War, newspapers fueled the debate over the expansion of slavery into the territories. Newspapers were the battleground for the war of words, and Kansas was at the foreground of that fight. With stirring mastheads like “The Herald of Freedom” and the “Squatters Sovereign,” newspapers captured and enflamed the galvanizing language of the day:


“The people of the free States, and all opposed to slavery, claim, as their birth-right, all the benefits accruing from the act of 1820, and for them tamely to surrender this right, must be but the discover that they had necks fitted to some vile purpose. They, however, can assert and vindicate their rights without any just cause of offence, and without treading upon any of the rights of slaveholders; and whatever is their right and privilege to do, it is their duty not to leave undone.”


                                                -Kansas Herald of Freedom, 1854 

Newspapers have supported and enabled the discourse on politics and policy since our country's founding. They represent our national conscience. We are who we are as Americans because of the power of newspapers. The printed word educates and informs, and we become better citizens through our engagement with that discourse. Newspapers mobilize the public to action as trusted sources of news. Newspapers continue to be a means by which communities discuss and debate ideas and events. While the face of newspapers has changed, with many becoming digital to stay relevant and to cut publishing costs, our need for them has not. Newspapers are an essential component for our cultural, social, and political development, and are a resource worth protecting.

You can access the State Archives’ collection of newspapers online through our website or in our Research Room:


Apr 25, 2023 by Megan Rohleder

By: Lauren Gray, Head of Reference

Abbie Bright is a name most of the Kansas Historical Society staff will recognize, if only because her writing was so extensive that she shows up in virtually every catalog search we do. But Abbie is more than a touchstone in our catalog – she was a vivacious and independent young woman at a time when it was rare for women to wander so far afield. It is also one of history’s small ironies that her surname so aptly described her: bright, as well as bold, daring, yet with an eye for quiet detail and a knack for assessing her own character. In attitude, Abbie was a conventional 19th century woman, but in action, she was startlingly unconventional, and it is this dichotomy that makes Abbie and her diary an enduring historical resource.


Born in Danville, Pennsylvania in 1848, Abbie worked as a teacher after she finished school. In 1871, she traveled to Indiana and Kansas to visit her brothers, who had struck out West after the Civil War. Abbie kept a diary during her trip, and recorded her thoughts and feelings, as well as vivid descriptions of her journey and details of her encounters with people on the frontier. Even twenty years after becoming a state, Sedgwick County was rural and sparsely settled. During her time in Kansas, Abbie’s brother, Phillip Bright, encouraged her, as an unmarried woman, to utilize the Homestead Act to invest in 160 acres of land in Sedgwick County.

From her diary, April 1871:

Brother Philip wrote his address is Wichita Kans. He had spent the winter in Kans. and Indian Territory. He says … if I want to come west, I can take up Government Land, and after living on it six months, can prove up on it by paying $1 1/4 an acre for it. He took up a claim some time ago, and if I go—I can stay with him, his house is almost finished. I am only to take heavy strong clothing, and what ever I will want for a bed. The rout is via Quincy— Kansas City, Topeka, Emporia—There a stage runs to Wichita, where he will meet me…If I decide to go, I shall do so at once. … I wonder what mother will say, when she hears I am going to Kans.


Abbie’s time in Kansas was marked by extreme weather, ague, and the rigors of frontier life. The only thing she craved more than mail from home was flour to make bread. She spent much of her time doing domestic tasks at her brother’s cabin. She made lasting friends, including Frank, a young man who lived in Wichita and who asked permission to write to her. While Abbie does not confirm if she agreed, Frank was a doting figure during her time in Kansas.

From her diary, June 1871

Frank gave me three arrows that had been shot into a buffalo.  Last winter when out hunting they shot a buffalo that the Indians had been chacing, and there were seven arrows sticking in him, and he gave me three.  I think them quite a curiosity.  It was not easy for the Indians to kill a buffalo, unless they shot them in the eye or back of the front leg in the heart.  Their skull is so thick an arrow glances off.

Unlike many settlers in Kansas, Abbie did not intend to stay forever. Despite her fondness for the new state and the many friends she made during her stay, she lived in Kansas less than a year. Abbie eventually resettled in Iowa. She married William Achenback in 1873 and became an active and beloved member of her community. Abbie’s diary and correspondence passed down to her grandson, who donated them to the Kansas Historical Society.

From her diary, November 1871

Now I have had the last look at my Kansas claim, and the dug out.  Where I spent many weeks.  I felt real sorry to leave.  As I stood alone by the dug out – no one in sight, no visible sign of civilization…  I felt depressed, I was so glad to be with Philip for over seven months.  Now I was leaving, when would I see him again?... I do not like changes.

History catches up with us in interesting ways. Earlier this year, Director Sarah Dougherty at the Beaman Community Memorial Library approached the Kansas Historical Society’s Archaeology Department about the arrowhead Abbie had acquired during her stay in Kansas. Whether it was the gift from Frank, or something she purchased as a souvenir while in Kansas, after her death, the arrowhead had passed to her descendants and stayed in Iowa, while her papers had journeyed, again, to Kansas. The Beaman Community Memorial Library, with the permission of the donor’s family, is transferring custody of the arrowhead to the Kansas Historical Society on April 7th, 2023. After over 150 years, Abbie’s arrow is coming home.

For more information about Abbie Bright, her papers, her time in Kansas, and the effect of white settlement on the frontier, you can refer to the following sources:

Abbie Bright Diary: https://www.kansasmemory.org/item/223662

Abbie Bright Correspondence: https://www.kansasmemory.org/item/223719

Abbie Bright Papers: https://www.kshs.org/archives/40293

Kansas Travelogues Blog: https://www.kansasmemory.org/blog/page/2

Kansapedia: https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/topic/american-indians 

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