History of the
Leavenworth County Historical Society
& Museum.

Early Days
Acquiring a museum
Museum Activities & Educational Programs
Plaques Program
The Society Today

Early Days
The Leavenworth County Historical Society was founded in 1954 as a project of the local Kiwanis Club. This project was part of the City's Centennial Celebration. The first meeting was held December 4, 1954 at the Leavenworth City Hall Auditorium, with approximately ninety people in attendance. After an emotional speech from John Fuller, a motion was made to organize the Leavenworth County Historical Society.

The first president of the organization was John Fuller. Other charter officers included Miss. Lula Baum, Helen Yoakum, D. R. Anthony III, and Sen. E. Bert Collard, Sr.

After one year the Historical Society's first newsletter,announced that charter membership was over 100. The mission of the society was also listed as:

  1. To discover and preserve for prosperity as much accurate information as possible about Leavenworth city & county.
  2. To encourage pride in the achievements of Leavenworth Pioneers who made such significant contributions to the conquest of the west and building a united nation.
  3. To stimulate loyalty on the part of present citizens to the community and its potential progress.
  4. To advertise the city and county in such a way as to create national and international interest in the most historical region of Kansas.

The treasurer's report in 1955 showed a balance of $81.25. The 1999 income was well over $100,000.

For the next few years the society met quarterly with several regional speakers, including military officers, elected state officials and regional historians.

The first public project of the society was taken in 1959. The society agreed to furnish five rooms depicting phases of living in the Leavenworth Area between the years 1850-1900. These rooms were located at the Frontier Army Museum of Fort Leavenworth. Donations of artifacts were solicited from Leavenworth Families. This was the beginning of the museums collections.

On September 25, 1962, the society filed Articles of Incorporation with the State of Kansas, thereby becoming an official non-profit corporation. The society's goals remained the same with the addition of the interest in acquiring and owning real property.

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Acquiring a Museum
A momentous event in the life of the society occurred at the annual meeting in 1964. Miss Ella Carroll, who was a charter member of the society, conveyed her home at 1128 Fifth Avenue, by quit claim deed for the price of one dollar, to the Leavenworth County Historical Society, Inc. It was reported in the Kansas City Star newspaper, that the donation of the building was not expected by the society. The article quoted a member, "Whenever the discussion about the lack of a museum building came up, Miss Carroll would say, 'We'll have one someday',and then change the subject".

The board of directors had to make a decision on how the house would be used. The society already had the furnishings for four rooms ready at the Fort Leavenworth museum, thus the decision was made to furnish the house as a Victorian Home. On September 13, 1964 the society had an open house at the proposed museum. Over 500 visitors viewed the empty home. One June 19, 1965 the Leavenworth County Historical Society had a grand opening, with a fully furnished Victorian Home Museum. Over 14,500 visitors were registered in the first two years of operation.

The museum that opened its doors to the public on June 19, 1965 was in many respects similar to the museum that now greets the public. The museum and historical society was organized and governed by volunteers. In 1966 the museum had its first paid position, a caretaker. The original caretaker, was paid $100 a month, and furnished a room to live in. In 1971 a part-time administrator was hired. In 1977 a second part-time volunteer coordinator was hired, and by 1980, a third part-time staff member was hired for duty on the Weekends. Today the Society has a full time Administrator, a Half Time, Assistant, who is responsible for the accounting, and a part time Weekend Administrator.

The Historical Society museum would not be in existence however without the time and support of over 50 volunteers who give approximately 2,500 hours of time a year. This time is given through hostesses and tour guides, researching and documenting artifact collections, Board Member's time in formulating polices and even volunteer work in gardening, landscaping and minor maintenance in the museum itself.

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Museum Activities.
The museum engages in a number of activities besides opening the house for tours. These activities are either educational or social in nature.

The primary educational activity is the "Living Museum" program for fourth grade students. This popular program was developed in 1975 by the then president and a volunteer who had written a similar presentation for a Virginia Museum. The Program follows the activities of a family in the 1890's as they prepare for the wedding of their daughter. There are a number of characters portrayed, from the father, to the cook. Each character talks to the children in character. For instance, the cook describes her modern kitchen with its ice box and washing machine. Volunteers portray each part. This program is attended by most of the 4th grade classes in Leavenworth County each year.

The Living Museum is produced 20 times a year for all Leavenworth County 4th grade Students free of charge. The average attendance for the last few years has been over 1,000 students each year. The living museum has been featured in the local press many times, and in regional publications such as Kanhistique, Kansas Magazine!, and on KCTV-Channel Five News. This regional coverage speaks volumes for the quality and impact of this educational program.

Other educational programs include Vintage Fashion Shows and illustrated talks at local schools on topics which include: Language of the Fan, Grandmothers Trunk, and Heading West.

Slide presentations for adults on Early Residents, Log-Cabins and Mansions, Women of Leavenworth, Early Post-Cards and Historical Sites of Leavenworth County are available to all civic groups. Other slide presentations include Historic Photos and one of Leavenworth's Historic Architecture. In 1999 these programs were presented to over 3,800 people in Leavenworth as well as Kansas City area civic organizations.

The Historical Society also offers a bi-annual speakers program at the museum. This program is sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council and has included talks on topics ranging from "Grandma May Have Been a Lady, But She Worked Like a Dog", to "Kansas, Circle of History."

Each Holiday season the Historical Society offers a unique children's program. This program is held the Friday after Thanksgiving, and provides an opportunity for Children to learn about Victorian holiday traditions. Children learn how to make Victorian ornaments, bake old-fashion sugar cookies, and hear vintage-Christmas tales. Since the mid-1980's this program has had over 1,000 attendants.

Another Christmas tradition is the Tour of Homes held the second Sunday in December. Each year, up to 10 members of the Vintage Homes Society of Leavenworth open their homes to allow the public to see some of Leavenworth's beautiful vintage homes decorated for the holdiay season. The Vintage Homes Society donates the money made from this event to the Historical Society.

The Society's newest annual event is the Herb Market,held the first Saturday of May. This market features herbs, vintage vegetables, scented geraniums and everlasting plants as well as gardening books, clay pots, statuary, herbal vinegars and herb baked goods. 2000 will be the market's 6th year.

The Society also participates in several off-site activities. The Historical Society has display booths at the Leavenworth Riverfest and other local celebrations.

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Plaques Program
The Historical Society's Plaque program was developed in the mid-1960's and continues today. We have placed over 40 Historical Bronze Plaques through out Leavenworth County. These plaques commemorate many organizations, buildings, and people.

In 1998 the Society placed plaques at the Voorhies house and Saint Mary College. For a complete listing of the historic plaques erected by the society see our web page Historic Plaques Erected by The Leavenworth County Historical Society

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The Society Today
Today the Leavenworth County Historical Society boasts a membership of over 380 people and businesses. The museum is open over 270 days of the year, and has an annual visitation of over 6,500 visitors.

The Historical Society publishes a bimonthly newsletter, The Historical Society Gazette.

Volunteer committees at the museum also help with research requests. In 1999, the Leavenworth County Historical Society assisted with many reference requets, and has provided information to such organizations as National Geographic Magazine, Time-Life Books, The Jeopardy Game Show, a PBS documentary about the Civil War, and several free-lance writers who working on fictional and reference Material for the Smithsonian, and the U. S. Congress.

The museum has received grants from the Institute of Museum Services (IMS), a Federal Agency which supports less than 10% of the Nation's Museums. The competition for these awards are great, and the Leavenworth County Museum is only 1 of 11 museums in the entire state of Kansas which has received an award from the IMS. In 1998, the Society received major grants, totalling over $100,000 from the State of Kansas, the city of Leavenworth and Leavenworth County for the preservation of the porches. This was a major renovation project, that will ensure the structural integrity of the building for years to come. The Society received a grant in 1999 from Hallmark Corporation for the purchase of new clothing for the living museum program, museum software and a digital camera that will be used to gather information on the collection.

The out-reach programs of the Historical Society reach over 30,000 people through the Riverfest, temporary exhibits, festivals and local organizations.

Return to Society Home Page
Last Update: 21 January 2000.
Your comments are welcome, send them to:

[email protected]