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The digitization of selected materials from the Ignace Mead Jones Collection of James R. Mead Papers by Wichita State University Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives, provides online access to one of its most heavily consulted manuscript holdings and arguably its most important collection of primary source materials documenting Kansas and Wichita in 19th and early 20th centuries.

The project was funded by Wichita State University and a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) dedicated to making historical records of national significance to the United States broadly available by disseminating digital surrogates on the Internet. Only five new digitization grants were awarded by the NHPRC in 2016.

Project work began in August 2016 and was completed in July 2017. The completed project provides researchers from anywhere in the world access to high-quality scanned images of the Mead Papers and provides a research experience that rivals the experience of handling the originals.

The Mead Papers comprise nearly 30 linear feet of business materials, personal correspondence, biographical materials, memorabilia and photographs. The largest part of the collection is Mead's business papers, which include trading post ledgers from the 1860s to 1880s, bills for goods and supplies purchased from other merchants, and correspondence with partners and associates. Later correspondence details Mead's involvement in the railroad, the First National Bank of Wichita and various state organizations. In addition to business correspondence, the collection contains several diaries kept by Mead as he traveled and manuscripts written later in life about his remembrances of Kansas Territory. The collection also contains Mead's personal correspondence with other members of his family, a large collection of family photographs, memorabilia, and newspaper clippings.

Digitization of this collection now provides students and other researchers an opportunity to identify mid-19th century social, economic and cultural patterns of democracy in the west and to determine to what extent they shaped its later development.

Team members of the project included:

  • Dr. Lorraine Madway, Curator of Special Collections and University Archivist – Principal investigator and consultant
  • Kathy A. Downes, Dean of University Libraries – Co-investigator
  • Mary Nelson, Project Consultant – Digital collection coordinator and web content
  • Paul Kitchen, USD 259 Teacher – Instructional consultant
  • Sarah Forster, USD 259 Teacher – Instructional consultant
  • Darla Loggans, USD 259 Teacher – Instructional consultant
  • Arslan Butt, Graduate Assistant – Proposal preparation assistance
  • Umair Jaffar Mohammad, Graduate Assistant – Proposal preparation assistance
  • Aparna Puppala, Graduate Assistant – Processing, selection assistance, and scanning
  • Jack Freeman, Student Assistant – Processing and scanning
  • Muhammad Rohail Jamil, Student Assistant – Processing and scanning
  • Raheel Baig Mirza, Student Assistant – Website development

A special thanks are extended to:

  • Nancy J. Melley, Director for Technology Initiatives (NHPRC),  and Fran Cook, Senior Grants/Contracts Administrator (WSU Office of Research and Technology Transfer) whose insights and guidance helped develop and support his project.
  • Samuel Willis, Assistant Professor and Technology Development Librarian, who coordinated and assisted with the creation of the website.

Receipt from Jesse Chisholm

In 1863 James R. Mead established a trading post at Towanda in Butler County, Kansas. For the next several years he traded with various Indian tribes and supplied other traders including Jesse Chisholm, namesake of the Chisholm Trail and Mead's friend and business associate. On October 5, 1867, Chisholm came in for coffee, sugar, flour and alligator boots.

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