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Biographies and Autobiographies

John Brown
Cyrus K. Holliday
James H. Lane
Charles Robinson
Other Biographies/Autobiographies

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Brown, John (1800-1859)

Bondi, August. “With John Brown in Kansas.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1903-1904 8 (1904): 275-289. An Austrian, Jewish immigrant who came to the territory in 1855, road with "Captain" Brown, and thus offers a first-hand account of “his heroic deeds.”

Gridley, Karl L., “John Brown and Lawrence, Kansas Territory, 1855-1859: A Militant Abolitionist’s Relationship with the Free State Fortress.” Embattled Lawrence: Conflict &Community, Dennis Domer & Barbara Watkins.

Hinton, Richard J. John Brown and His Men: With Some Account of the Roads They Traveled to Reach Harper's Ferry. New York: Funk, 1894. This was an admiring biography by an early journalist and participant with Brown and others in the territorial Kansas struggles.

Malin, James C. John Brown and the Legend of Fifty-Six. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1942. This classic tome was, according to the originally dust-jacket description, “not a biography of John Brown but a penetrating analysis of old and new historical evidence throwing a brilliant searchlight on Brown’s character and his role in the anti-slavery movement.”

Malin, James C. “The John Brown Legend in Pictures: Kissing the Negro Baby.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 8 (November 1939): 339; continued, 9 (November 1940): 339-342. The articles include several versions of the painting of this legendary incident, which, according to the Whittier poem, occurred on the way to the gallows.

Moore, Ely, Jr. “The Naming of Osawatomie, and Some Experiences With John Brown.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1911-1912 12 (1912): 338-346. The son of a special agent to Indians (1853) and early Lecompton official here argued “Brown's brain was unbalanced.”

Morse, O. E. “An Attempted Rescue of John Brown From Charlestown, Va., Jail.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1903-1904 8 (1904): 213-226. The plot, concocted by Kansans Richard J. Hinton, James Hanway, and James Montgomery, was reportedly halted by Brown himself; Morse’s essay followed by comments from D. R. Anthony and D. W. Wilder.

Oates, Stephen B. To Purge This Land With Blood: A Biography of John Brown. New York: Harper and Row, 1970. Oates’ well-received biography of “one of the most controversial figures in American history,” describes Brown as “a dedicated emancipationalist and friend of the Negro . . . who instigate the Pottawatomie massacre” and hoped to incite a slave insurrection with his attack on Harpers Ferry.

Quarles, Benjamin, ed. “John Brown Writes to Blacks.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 41 (Winter 1975): 454-467. Reprinted here are several letters from John Brown and John Brown, Jr., to Frederick Douglass’ Paper, beginning in December 1851, and ending in April 1856.

Sherar, R. H. “John Brown and Border Warfare.” Kansas Magazine 4 (September 1910): 52-63. The author, “one of the five survivors of the Battle of Osawatomie,” holds Brown not responsible for the Pottawatomie massacre, since he was allegedly ten miles away on that fateful night; the Battle of Osawatomie was a different story, however.

Villard, Oswald G. John Brown, Eighteen Hundred to Eighteen Fifty-Nine: A Biography Fifty Years After. New York: Peter Smith Publishers, Inc., 1929. In his classic, early biography, Villard agreed that a hundred myths about the Kansas period of his life had attached themselves to John Brown.

Holliday, Cyrus K. (1826-1900)

Baldinger, Wallace S. “The Amateur Plans a City.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 12 (February 1943): 3-13. Cyrus K. Holiday, well-remembered for his role in establishing the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, was representative of the many “novice” city planners of his era; Holiday, of course, helped found and plan Topeka in 1854 and 1855.

Barnes, Lela. “Letters of Cyrus Kurtz Holliday, 1854-1859.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 6 (August 1937): 241-294. C. K. Holiday penned these letters to his wife Mary, who did not initially accompany her husband to Kansas Territory, describing varied activities—political and business related—during territorial period.

Seely, Frederick F. “The Early Career of C. K. Holliday: A Founder of Topeka and of the Santa Fe Railroad.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 27 (Summer 1961): 193-200. The focus here is on Holliday’s college and early business ventures in Pennsylvania before his 1854 move to Kansas Territory.

Treadway, William. Cyrus K. Holliday: A Documentary Biography. Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1979. Extensive excerpts from letters written by Holliday, a founder of Topeka and the Santa Fe Railroad.

Lane, James H. (1814-1866)

Castel, Albert. “Jim Lane of Kansas.” Civil War Times Illustrated 12 (April 1973): 22-29. A brief but useful biographical essay that conveys a sense of Lane’s complex personality, a troubling characteristic for his contemporaries and for historians, and asserts: “Among demagogues of his time . . . [Lane] was pre-eminent in energy, persistence, and sheer gall.”

Connelley, William E. James Henry Lane: The “Grim Chieftain" of Kansas. Topeka, Kans.: Crane & Company, Publishers, 1899. Connelley left no doubt about how he viewed the enigmatic Lane: “There were giants in those days; and in the ‘imminent deadly breach’ towered the form of James Henry Lane above them all.”

Miner, Craig. "Lane and Lincoln: A Mysterious Connection." Kansas History 24 (Autumn 2001): 186-199. Although Abraham Lincoln and James H. Lane were two very different historical personalities, Miner found some interesting similarities, and throughout the Civil War to the surprise of many and the chagrin of some, Senator Lane wielded considerable influence over the Lincoln administration.

Speer, John. Life of Gen. James H. Lane, "The Liberator of Kansas": With Corroborative Incidents of Pioneer History. Garden City, Kans.: J. Speer, printer, 1896. A Lane intimate, Speer intentionally provided the subtitle for this biography.

Spring, Leverett W. “The Career of a Kansas Politician.” American Historical Review 4 (October 1898): 80-104. Spring’s subject was James Henry Lane, Kansas firebrand and U.S. senator, 1861-1866.

Stephenson, Wendell H. The Political Career of General James H. Lane. Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1930. Uses Lane to show that Kansas “was Western to the core and in some features radical, new and revolutionary.”

Robinson, Charles (1818-1894)

Blackmar, Frank W. “Charles Robinson.” Kansas Historical Collections, 1897-1900 6 (1900):187-202. Robinson was, of course, an active participant during the territorial years, being an agent for the New England Emigrant Aid Company, a leader of the Free State Party, governor of Kansas under the Topeka Constitution of 1856, and eventually Kansas’s first state governor.

Blackmar, Frank W. The Life of Charles Robinson, The First Governor of Kansas. Topeka, Kans.: Crane, 1902. This is a relatively lengthy, comprehensive biography that contains numerous quotations from Robinson’s letters and speeches.

Robinson, Charles. The Kansas Conflict. 1892. Reprint. Lawrence, Kans.: Journal Publishing Co., 1898. A major political player in Kansas Territory throughout the “conflict,” Robinson was elected governor under the Topeka and Wyandotte constitutions; for an intriguing discussion of how the book was received and promoted, see Julie Courtwright, “‘A Goblin That Drives Her Insane’: Sara Robinson and the History Wars of Kansas, 1894-1911,” Kansas History 25 (Summer 2002).

Wilson, Don W. Governor Charles Robinson of Kansas. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1975. A relatively brief, but comprehensive biography based on his doctoral dissertation entitled “Charles Robinson: First Governor of Kansas” (University of Cincinnati, 1972).

Other Biographies and Autobiographies

Clark, John G. "Mark W. Delahay: Peripatetic Politician; A Historical Case Study." Kansas Historical Quarterly 25 (Autumn 1959): 301-312. The Democratic editor of Leavenworth Kansas Territorial, Delahay championed a middle way between abolition and pro-slave positions; he soon identified with the Free-state movement.

Connelley, William E. “Daniel W. Wilder, The Father of Kansas History and Literature.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1923-1925 16 (1925): 1-21. Biographical essay of pioneer journalist whose "Annals" were a monumental contribution to Kansas historiography.

Etcheson, Nicole. “Novelists Revisit Territorial Kansas: A Review Essay.” Kansas History 21 (Winter 1998-1999): 276-282. Etcheson, a historian of antebellum America and the Kansas territorial conflict, examines the treatment this subject receives in two novels published in 1998: Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks, which explores the life of John Brown, and The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton by Jane Smiley.

Fellman, Michael. “Julia Louisa Lovejoy Goes West.” Western Humanities Review 31 (Summer 1977): 227-242. Examines the “range and depth of Julia's experiences” in Kansas Territory; she was a New England emigrant dedicated to abolitionism who corresponded regularly with several Eastern newspapers.

Gambone, Joseph G., editor. “The Forgotten Feminist of Kansas: The Papers of Clarina I. H. Nichols, 1854-1885.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 39 (Spring 1973): 12-57; and seven subsequent issues: 39 (Summer 1973):220-261; 39 (Autumn 1973):392-444; 39 (Winter 1973):515-563; 40 (Spring 1974):72-135; 40 (Summer 1974):241-292; 40 (Autumn 1974):410-459; and 40 (Winter 1974):503-562. Nichols, a recognized reform leader in Vermont, moved to Lawrence in 1854 and remained an advocate for equal political and civil rights for women in Kansas until moving to California in 1871.

Hay, Robert. “The Great Seal of Kansas.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1903-1904 8 (1904): 289-299. Background, development, and role of John Ingalls and others; included illustration.

Henry, Stuart. “Solon O. Thacher.” Kansas Historical Collections, 1897-1900 6 (1900): 206-219. This is a useful biographical sketch of a leading journalist and attorney, who settled in Lawrence in the late 1850s and represented that town at the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention.

Johannsen, Robert W. “John Calhoun: The Villain of Territorial Kansas.” The Trail Guide 3 (September 1958): 1-19. Calhoun was the pro-slave, surveyor-general of the Kansas and Nebraska territories.

Kimbrow, Harriet, ed., and Ruth Gates Lindenmeyer, trans. “‘A Genuine Western Man Never Drinks Tea': Gustavus French Merriam's Letters from Kansas in 1860.” Kansas History 8 (Autumn 1985): 162-175. Two letters written from Gardner, K.T., June 5 and June 17, 1860, reflecting on a variety of people, places, and things in the territory, and describing a Shawnee “dance” in considerable detail.

Langsdorf, Edgar. “S. C. Pomeroy and the New England Emigrant Aid Company, 1854-1858.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 7 (August 1938): 227-245; concluded 7 (November 1938): 379-398. Pomeroy, who became one of Kansas’s first U.S. senators in 1861, was a company agent during those critical first years of territorial settlement.

Langsdorf, Edgar, and R. W. Richmond, editors. “Letters of Daniel R. Anthony, 1857-1862.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 24 (Spring 1958): 6-30; three additional parts, 24 (Summer 1958): 198-226; 24 (Autumn 1958): 351-370; 24 (Winter 1958): 458-475. One of Kansas’s most colorful characters, the pugnacious D. R. Anthony was the editor of the Leavenworth Conservative and brother of suffragist Susan B. Anthony.

Litvin, Martin. The Journey: A Biography of August M. Bondi the American-Jewish Freedom Fighter Who Rode With John Brown in Kansas. Galesburg, Ill.: Galesburg Historical Society, 1981. Born at Vienna, Austria, in July 1833, Bondi served in the Fifth Kansas Cavalry after riding with Brown and then spent much of the postwar years in Saline County where he died in September 1907.

Malin, James C., editor. “F. H. Hodder's ‘Stephen A. Douglas.’” Kansas Historical Quarterly 8 (August 1939): 227-237. Reprint of Hodder's first contribution (1899) to “Little Giant” historiography in which he stressed Douglas’ responsibility for the Compromise of 1850 and his overriding concern with the organization of western territories.

Parrish, William E. David Rice Atchison of Missouri: Border Politician. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1961. Recently retired from the U.S. Senate (1843-1855), Atchison took an active interest in the organization of Kansas Territory, riding on some occasions in 1855 and 1856 with the so-called “Border Ruffians.”

Sanborn, Victor Channing. “Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, A.B., 1831-1917.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1915-1918 13 (1918): 58-70. Followed by "Personal Reminiscences" by W. E. Connelley of the New Englander who was "one of the early friends of Kansas," as well as a friend, supporter, and later biographer of John Brown.

Smith, Duane A. "The Kansas Days of Horace Tabor." Kansas Historical Quarterly 39 (Autumn 1973): 367-378. A free-state settler in 1855, Tabor farmed and served in Kansas legislature until 1859; then he moved to Colorado where he made millions in the gold fields and pursued a career in state and national politics.

Taft, Robert. “The Appearance and Personality of Stephen A. Douglas.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 21 (Spring 1954): 8-33. Includes catalogue of Douglas photos with twelve portraits reproduced.

Wells, Eugene T. “Jefferson Davis and the Kansas Territory.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 22 (Winter 1956): 354-357. Davis, soon-to-be president of the Confederacy, was secretary of war (1853-1857) during the most intense and bloodiest years of Kansas struggle.

Williams, Burton J. “John James Ingalls: The Sumner Years.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 33 (Winter 1967): 409-442. As a young lawyer in 1857, Ingalls settled in this soon to be extinct Atchison County river town.


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