Happy Birthday, Kansas!

Kansas will turn 152 years old on Tuesday, January 29. She became a state in 1861 after a volatile period as a territory which had bold consequences for the nation as a whole. The Special Collections Room has a number of books about the history of the Kansas territory and of Kansas statehood. Stop by and browse through the books which make up part of the Western Collection.

Also, the traveling exhibit titled “Americans by Choice: The Story of Immigration and Naturalization in Kansas” is currently on the main floor of the library. It will be here until February 20. Celebrate Kansas Day by coming to view the history of immigrants who settled in Kansas!


Who are the Volga Germans?


The Volga-German story begins in Germany shortly after the Seven Years War had brought disaster and poverty to many Germans. Catherine the Great was now Tzarina, empress of Russia, but she had been a German princess by birth. Catherine felt that some people from Germany would move to and settle in the wild uninhabited areas in Russia to escape the aftermath of the Seven Years War. She issued a manifesto in July 1763 offering travel costs, religious freedom, 5 to 30 years of tax exemption, and most of all, freedom from military service forever. Between the years of 1764 and 1766, approximately 25,000 Germans set sail for Russia seeking peace, freedom and prosperity.

104 German colonies were established in Russia in the Volga River region, and the people prospered there for many years. However, in 1873, only 100 years after moving to Russia, the promised freedoms were threatened. A new law by Czar Alexander II  in 1871 required the induction of German sons into the Russian army. This law alarmed the German people, and other problems soon developed.

In 1874, five men representing a number of colonists were sent to America to scout for land in Nebraska, Kansas and Arkansas. After finding land in Kansas to be favorable, they returned to Russia and made plans to move their families to Ellis, Rush and Russell Counties in Kansas. The first Volga-German settlers arrived in Ellis County in the spring of 1876 after spending the winter of 1875 in Topeka. They brought with them to America, their customs, traditions, heritage and faith.


The following communities were established in Ellis County by these settlers: Antonino, Catherine, Emmeram, Herzog, Munjor, Pfeifer, and Schoenchen. I will tell about some of these towns in future blog posts.

The Kansas Historical Society has an online exhibit that addresses the story of the Russian-Germans in Kansas. This exhibit also highlights the Mennonites, who settled in Marion, Harvey and McPherson Counties in Kansas. You may view the exhibit at this link – http://www.kshs.org/p/online-exhibits-from-far-away-russia-introduction/10679


Traveling Exhibit at Forsyth Library


A traveling exhibit titled Americans by Choice: The Story of Immigration and Naturalization in Kansas is now set up on the main floor of Forsyth Library. The following information is from a press release written by the U. S. District Court, District of Kansas:

“Most Kansans can trace their heritage to another part of the world.  Some came in search of a better life for themselves or their children—many came to join families or friends.  Between 1865 and 1880, Kansas attracted immigrants at a faster pace than anywhere else in the United States.The state’s population grew from 107,205 in 1860 to 1,428,108 in 1890—thanks to the irresistible promise of a better life through land and jobs. In 1870, 13% of Kansas’ total population was foreign-born.  Employment opportunities, lower cost of living, and ease of integrating into communities in a meaningful way, continue to attract many new immigrants to the state.  Today, 6% of all Kansans are foreign-born.  And, each year, the U.S. District Court, District of Kansas hosts more than 20 naturalization ceremonies where individuals who have completed the requirements for citizenship take the Oath of Allegiance and become United States citizens.

This is the unique story told in Americans by Choice: The Story of Immigration & Citizenship in Kansas, a new exhibit now touring the state.  It is now open to the public and will close on February 20.  It will be open to the public during library hours.  The exhibit illustrates the paths to citizenship taken by Kansas settlers from around the world over the past 150 years, and personalizes the story of immigration and citizenship—who came, where they came from, why they came to Kansas, and why they chose to become U.S. citizens.  It features photographs, documents, quotes, and interactive books describing major laws affecting immigration and naturalization over the past 150 years, the consequences of those laws and how they directly affected the life of a Kansan.    

The exhibit was commissioned by the U.S. District Court, District of Kansas to highlight the Court’s role in the naturalization process. A permanent exhibit of the same title is installed at the Robert J. Dole Courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas.  The Honorable Kathryn H. Vratil, Chief Judge, stated, “I speak for every one of the judges on this court when I say that participating in naturalization ceremonies is one of the highlights of our professional life. It helps us reaffirm and refocus ourselves on the values that we hold very dear to our hearts as American citizens.” From 1931 to 2010, more than 75,000 new citizens were naturalized in Kansas, an average of 2,400 annually.

The exhibit project was developed by Jean Svadlenak, a museum consultant based in Kansas City, Missouri, with over 35 years of experience in the history field.  “I have been captivated and inspired by the people I’ve met through this project.  Their personal stories give meaning to immigration and citizenship facts and figures.  Working on this project has given me a deeper appreciation for my own American citizenship,” Svadlenak said.”

The exhibit is located on the main floor of Forsyth Library and will be available for viewing through February 20. If you have questions or comments, please send an email to pnichola@fhsu.edu

Photo taken by Cynthia Garrety, Learning Commons


Inauguration Day – January 21, 2013

How much do you really know about inauguration day?  Do you watch all the televised events?  Maybe you only try to catch the swearing-in.  The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies has a website to help you learn more.   The “about” page includes links to information about the inauguration of specific presidents.  The Day’s events tab gives a brief history of the events that typically take place on inauguration day.  The swearing-in page shows the inaugural platform being built.  I don’t know when they begin the process of building the platform, but I have seen them building it in October so it must be a fairly long process.  I wasn’t able to get as close as the picture on this page shows because the area was fenced off.  However, I was able to walk down the stairscapitolstairs the President will walk as he makes his trip to the inaugural platform.   This page also links to the text of inaugural addresses.  The luncheon tab even includes recipes from recent inaugurations.   There is also a media and getting tickets tabs.

If you are planning to attend the inauguration you may want to see this guide from the District of Columbia government.  It includes information such as “getting there” and “closures” and “spectator information”.  As I write this the website isn’t complete yet, but it should be helpful as they continue to add information.

Here are some other links you may find interesting.

George Washington’s inaugural address

Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953 Presidential Inauguration

Presidential Inaugurations – from American Memory