Thursday, September 26, 2013

HCHM Goes Digital: the Photograph Collection

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Recently, several of the visitors to the museum have come to research a specific address in Newton.  They were particularly interested in photographs.  They were also in somewhat of a time crunch.  Luckily, a staff member could help them conduct a search of the photo archives on the computer by street address. The photos in our collection for this address quickly appeared on the screen.  The researchers were able to order the photos they wanted and return later to pick up their copies.

Our ability to do this type of search of our entire collection of photographs did not happen over night.  This service is available only because a dedicated museum  volunteer, Linda Koppes, spent several years scanning each photo in the collection.  The Photograph Collection consists of over 9,000 images of all sizes. She then described and made research notes for each photo. A searchable data base was created using keywords and search terms.  If we did not have this, staff would be required to search through the original photographs and the above request would have taken considerable amount of staff time.  

Looking through the photo archives on the computer is a free service offered by HCHM.  A charge is collected for reproducing the photograph.

Scanning the Photograph Collection to a computer on the main level is one way we are increasing accessibility to our collections.

Partnership with Forsythe Library, Ft. Hays State University

We are also very excited about our partnership with Ft. Hays State University Forsythe Library.  They are working with us to put our photographs on-line. The very first  group of photos, the John C. Nicholson Collection, is on line now.

To try it out visit Harvey County Historical Society Photographs.

Example of the photos on the Forsythe Library site.

John C.Nicholson
Example of photographs available at
Harvey County Historical Society Photographs

Collection NameNicholson Family Collection
TitleJohn CNicholson - he is sitting and is wearing a suit
DescriptionLarge photo stored in VaultOversized Photo Box 3Color-tinted portrait of John CNicholson.
Accession Number2011.154
Clothing & dress
Harvey County (Kan.)
Personal NameNicholsonJohn C.
CollectionNicholson Family Collection
PlaceNewton, Harvey County, Kansas
RepositoryHarvey County Historical Society
Digitization SpecificationsOriginal scanned on an HP Photosmart C4640 at 300 dpi in Color, 8-bit file by the Harvey County Historical Society. Saved as a TIFF, then re-sized and saved as a JPEG by the Harvey County Historical Society.
Publisher DigitalForsyth Library Digital Library Area, Fort Hays State University
Date Digital2011-04-04
Resource Identifier201115460.jpg
Format OriginalPrint
Format Original Size16" x 20"
Format Digitalimage/jpeg
Home LocationVault, Oversized Photos, Box 3
TypeStill Image
Rights ManagementCopyright Harvey County Historical Society. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission. To request permission, contact HCHM, 203 N. Main, P.O. Box 4, Newton, KS 67114. Phone: 316-283-2221; E-mail: Please credit Harvey County Historical Society as your source.

Our volunteer photo tech continues to work to get more photos ready for the on-line site at Forsythe Library. The next collection will be the J. Burch Stuart Collection.  Stuart was a long time NHS chemistry teacher and an active member at the Harvey County Historical Society.  Most of his photos are from the 1950s through the 1970s.  Following that, the focus will be on up loading photos from the other six Harvey County communities.

The staff at HCHM continues to look for ways to make our Archives, the objects in our collection and photographs more accessible to the public. We are excited for the opportunity to provide parts of our photograph collection on-line!

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tools of the Trade: Engineer's Coal Oil Torch

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

H.K. Giggy, Fireman and C.C. Garr, Engineer, pre-1928
Note oil can in his hand.
1800 compound 2-6-2 eng
HCHM Photo Archives

The Harvey County Historical Museum and Archives has a large collection of railroad related artifacts, documents and photographs.  Currently, these items are not on display, but we still want to share them with the public.  Many of these pieces are made of heavy iron and difficult to move around, but there are also smaller pieces that helped the engineers, firemen, and brakemen operated a steam locomotive safely.  

As I got this object out to photograph it, the smell of kerosene still lingered and the exterior is no doubt slightly cleaner than when it was in use.
 Engineer's coal oil torch
HCHM 84.858
In the days before flashlights, kerosene-fueled inspection "torches" like this one were used to inspect parts of a steam locomotive when natural light was inadequate.

ATSF Engine 1012
Brakemen - A.F. McDowell, E.C. Humphfres;
Engineer - H.B. Mell; Conductor - E.G. Pusey;
Fireman - R.D. Beach
HCHM Photo Archives

  • Hurley, L.M. "Mike", Newton, Kansas #1 Santa Fe Rail Hub; 1871-1971. Newton, KS: Mennonite Press, 1985.
  • Harvey County Historical Museum and Archives Railroad Collection.
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Ten Minute Stop: Evelyn Crandall's Character Sketches

By Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Evelyn B. Crandall may have spent most of her life in Newton, Kansas, but she touched the lives of people from Hollywood to New York through her work as an editor.  Crandall was born in Newton in 1889 and graduated from Newton High School.  Following graduation, Evelyn taught school for a number of years and was considered "one of the most successful teachers in the rural schools of the county."  She then moved to Iowa for a brief time where she became involved with a newspaper as the society editor. In 1928, she returned to Newton to be with her family and help her parents.

Courtesy Crandall Family Album
John Whitlock

On September 1, 1928, she embarked on a career with the Evening Kansan Republican that she enjoyed for the rest of her life. She served as society and local news reporter, but "one of her favorite diversions  . . . was interviewing prominent people passing thru the city on the Santa Fe railroad."  These interviews were published in the paper as "Character Sketches".  In this role she met movie stars, a commander of the U.S. Navy and many other interesting people.

Train travel was the most efficient way to get across the country in the 1930s  and the rich and famous traveled in luxury in the "Chief" that stopped for about ten minutes in Newton, Kansas for supplies.  Just enough time to visit with Evelyn Crandall.

Lili Damita
"It was of her husband, Errol Flynn, that Lili Damita wished to talk as we paced the station platform this week during the ten minute stop."
Damita was on her way to New York with "her tall blonde Irish giant of a husband" who had "just started in pictures." 

Billie Burke
"As Billie Burke lay in her berth in a compartment on The Chief . . . enroute east, she looked so young and refreshing it was difficult to believe that she was a star away back in silent movie days.  Billie Burke has the essence of eternal youth. . . . she looked like a little girl as she lay snuggled in soft blankets, and white silk pajamas reading a book. . . .tiny red sneakers tucked beneath the berth, indicated that Miss Burke did not spend her entire time in bed."  (Evening Kansan Republican, 21 May 1935.)
Billie Burke would go on to play Glenda, the Good Witch of the North in the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz

Sylvia Sidney

Of Sylvia Sidney, Crandall noted;
Sidney, "more beautiful off the screen than on, received me rather ungraciously in the state room on The Chief Wednesday afternoon. . . This young actress has always been an enigma to me.  I have tried to analyze her work on the screen.  She speaks in monosyllables, in a low, rather flat and melancholy tone. . . . While I do not admire her acting, or am not attracted to her personality, I do pay tribute to her beauty and ambition, which have made her one of the most successful young screen actresses of the day. . . . As she lay in her state room, smoking a cigarette, and reading "Lords of Creation", by Allen, I thought she didn't need to talk to be attractive." 

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine- 1936 Poster.png

When Crandall interviewed Sidney, she had just completed "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" (1936) with Henry Fonda.  This full length feature film was the first shot in three-strip Technicolor and outdoors.  By this time Sidney already had acquired a reputation of being difficult to work with.

Carol Stone

Other encounters with movie stars were much more pleasant and fun. She met the actress Carol Stone when Stone "jumped off The Chief here Saturday night to get some magazines."  Crandall reminded her readers that Stone was the heroine in "Freckles" a 1935 movie. 

"She is much prettier off the screen than on.  The camera man did something to her in "Freckles", which put ten years on her age and three inches to the length of her face."
Evelyn struck up a conversation with the young star who was on her way to New York to perform on Broadway.
"As she stood talking to me I noticed an absence of make-up. "I use mild soap and water", she said in explaining her lovely complexion."
The porter called, "All Aboard," and the star was "off to conquer new worlds."

Lois Moran

Sometimes Evelyn was able to get her picture taken with those she interviewed.  The below photograph was taken at the Newton station with actress Lois Moran.
Crandall Family Album
Courtesy John Whitlock

For several months in 1937, Evelyn had been feeling badly and on the advice of her doctor she took some time off to rest.  Even with rest, she continued to feel ill. After an operation for goiter, she seemed to be improving and "gathering strength".  On Sunday evening it seemed that she was recovering and her mother felt comfortable enough to leave the hospital for the first time in three weeks. At 1:00, the morning of July 5, 1937, Evelyn suffered a heart attack and died soon after.

Her obituary noted that she "had a world of friends because of her contacts in her work, and her sincere, sympathetic,  understanding disposition and personality. . . . her passing will be keenly felt."  Evelyn Crandall was 48.

  • Crandall Family Album courtesy John Whitlock.
  • "Character Sketches" u.d. clippings in the Crandall Family Album, includes Character Sketches for Carol Stone, Sylvia Sidney and Lili Damita.
  • Evening Kansan Republican, 22 November 1934, "Character Sketches: Grace Moore"
  • Evening Kansan Republican, 3 December 1934, "Character Sketches: Admiral Reeves"
  • Evening Kansan Republican, 21 May 1935, "Character Sketches: Billie Burke"
  • Evening Kansan Republican, 6 July 1937, "Evelyn B. Crandall" Obituary.
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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Disney's "Thumper" Has a Newton Connection

Harvey County, Kansas has been the beginning point for many people that went on to become famous nationally.  In this blog post, HCHM Archivist Jane Jones, highlights a famous ice skater.

by Jane Jones, HCHM Archivist

In the 1942 movie version of Disney's "Bambi" there is an ice-skating sequence featuring Bambi, the deer and Thumper, the rabbit. The ice-skating model for Thumper is Donna Atwood who was born in Newton on February 14, 1925. She left Newton at the age of nine, the family moving to Arizona and then to California. The rest they say is history, because she became the very talented and popular star of John Harris' Ice Capades from 1941-1956.

Donna being called to the podium
Dwarves in the background!
My connection to Donna Atwood goes something like this. I had stopped dance lessons at the age of 8 and my mother probably desperate to get me into something encouraged me to select ice-skating lessons. I along with some other classmates attended lessons once a week after school at the Pla-Mor Skating Rink in Kansas City.

I was certainly not destined to become a Donna Atwood, but I had some sense of what it took to become a good skater and was always enraptured when the Ice Capades came to the Pla-Mor in Kansas City. It was thrilling to watch Donna and her skating partner Bobby Specht do their eye-catching twirls.

The photos in this blog are in the photo collections at the museum. Donna is receiving roses from Merle Norton, owner of Norton's Memorials in Newton and in 1954 Chairman of the Newton Planning Commission. My guess is Donna was being honored for her connection to Newton, Kansas. In April,1954 the Ice Capades were featuring Donna and Bobby in "Snow White" at the Pla-Mor. If you look at the top photo carefully you can get a glimpse of three of the seven dwarves.

Donna receiving flowers and giving kiss to Merle

Donna Atwood and skating partner Bobby Specht

The Atwoods are listed in the Newton City Directory from 1923-1931.(Our next City Directory is 1938 and the family is gone by then.) Donna's father was a pharmacist at Knowlton Drug Store and Rexall Drug Store. She took dancing lessons from the age of 3, here in Newton. Their residences were 330 E. 9, 528 E. Broadway and 916 E. Broadway. She probably attended Cooper School.The family is listed in the 1930 census in Newton: Chester, Anna, brother Bill and Donna. By the 1940 census she is living in Los Angeles with her mother and brother. Her father had died.

 According to her obituary in the Los Angeles Times her brother gave her her first pair of skates. Atwood was mostly self-taught. She won the junior ladies title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1941. Harris offered Donna who was 16 a contract after seeing her skate. "For 15 years, billed as 'the Sweetheart of the Ice,' she gave over 6,000 performances in two dozen venues while touring the United States and Canada." In 1956, her last performance year for the Ice Capades, she did "Peter Pan" which according to one of her sons was her favorite role.

Atwood and Harris, 27 years older, married. They had 3 children. Donna retired at the age of 31 to be a stay-at-home Mom. Later, she divorced Harris and never remarried. Donna Atwood died December 20, 2010 at the Motion Picture Television and Country House in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 85.

1.  Slides from Photo Collection at HCHM.
2.  Obituary by Valerie J. Nelson, LA Times January 21, 2011.
3.  Newton City Directories, HCHM