In May 1859, James Richard (J. R.) Mead began his journey westward from Iowa to Kansas Territory. The James R. Mead Digital Collection documents Mead’s varied activities and insights as an explorer, buffalo hunter, Indian trader, town builder of Wichita, historian, and state legislator. The collection is comprised of Mead’s correspondence with family members, business associates, and colleagues who shared his scholarly interests; journals and memoirs; business records and account books; sketches of Native American petroglyphs; photographs; maps; news clippings; and his writings on Kansas history, ethnology, and geography. The majority of the collection dates from Mead’s arrival in Kansas Territory in 1859 until his death in 1910. Also included are documents related to his parents, Enoch and Mary Mead, which date from 1830 to 1900. Wichita State University Libraries was awarded a grant in 2016 from the National Historical Publication Records and Commission to digitize over 13,000 items from the James R. Mead Papers in Special Collections and University Archives.
Throughout his life, J. R. Mead's sense of awe and wonder of the land did not diminish. We invite you to explore this collection and learn through Mead's eyes the history of the place he called "as handsome a country as I ever saw … "