Our Storytellers

Names you know. Names you should know. They saved and told the stories of Kansas, America, and the world.

Little House on the Prairie

INDEPENDENCE
2507 Country Road 3000
620-289-4238

Memories from traveling across American pioneer country by covered wagon and growing up on this farm in 1869-70 inspired Laura Ingalls Wilder to write her original novel. The Little House on the Prairie Museum brings history alive for new generations ands hosts a Prairie Days Festival each summer.

William Allen White

EMPORIA
927 Exchange St
620-342-2800

From the 1890’s until his death in 1944, the articulate, humorous, and uncommon sense approach to life editorials by this small community newspaper publisher were reprinted throughout the U.S. so often, he was considered a spokesman for middle America. A Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, his family hosted five presidents at their Emporia home, Red Rocks, now a museum.

When anything is going to happen in this country, it happens first in Kansas.

William Allen White

Appeal to Reason

GIRARD
300 S Summit St
620-231-1440

The battle over worker rights and safety during the coal mining era of Southeast Kansas led publisher Julius Wayland to relocate his socialist newspaper from Kansas City to the region. Writers included Mary “Mother” Jones, Helen Keller, Jack London and Upton Sinclair. With half a million subscribers in 1910, this was the largest circulation socialist newspaper in American history. Learn how Wayland’s efforts affected worker rights today at the Girard History Museum.

Martin & Osa Johnson

CHANUTE
111 N Lincoln Ave
620-431-2730

The original travel bloggers & vloggers, from 1906 to 1953 Martin & Osa Johnson captured the public’s imagination with their films and books of adventure to Africa, the South Pacific Islands, and Borneo. Their footage and photographs were many Americans first glimpses of these distant lands. Relive their adventure at the Martin & Osa Johnson Safari Museum, which is located in Osa’s hometown.

Gordon Parks

FORT SCOTT
2108 S Horton St
620-223-2700 ext 5850

World-renowned photojournalist for Life Magazine. Fashion photographer for Vogue magazine. The first African-American to direct a major Hollywood production. Author. Composer. Painter. Poet.

The Gordon Parks Museum celebrates the life of this National Medal of Arts and NAACP Image Award winner; and, honors his semi-autobiographical novel and subsequent film, The Learning Tree, about growing up as a teenager in Fort Scott in the 1920’s.

“I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.”

Gordon Parks

The Little Blue Books

GIRARD
300 S Summit St
620-231-1440

The Wikipedia of its era with more than 300 million booklets sold worldwide between 1919 and 1978. Small enough to fit in a pocket and printed cheaply, these brought classic literature to the working class, started the “how to” genre, and brought a wide range of ideas to the public.

It wasn’t just the topics that got publisher Emanual Haldeman-Julius (and his wife Marcet) dubbed “the Henry Ford of literature”. It was their strategies:

  • They distributed via advertising, mail order, in drugstores, toy stores, and even had a line of vending machines. They tried anything they thought would sell a book.
  • What writers now call A/B headline testing: If a book sold less than 10,000 copies within a year, they would change the name, often creating a hit.

A willingness to publish a wide range of topics, including controversial subjects, led J. Edgar Hoover to put publisher Haldeman-Julius on his FBI enemies list.

The Girard History Museum has multiple exhibits on the Haldeman-Julius family and their endeavor to bring knowledge and ideas to the masses.

Unsung Heroes: Irena Sendler

FORT SCOTT
1 S Main St
620-223-1312

It’s a story that inspired the creation of an entirely different kind of museum: The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes, and is the only permanent exhibit at the museum.

When a Southeast Kansas high school teacher saw an article mention a woman who saved 2,500 children in the Holocaust and could not find her story, he told his students it might be a typo. The students decided to find out more.

As the students pieced together the remarkable story, they knew they had found a story that must be told. They wrote a performance, Life in a Jar, and began performing it. They searched for her grave only to discover that Irena Sendler was still alive.

But her story was not known within her own country. That changed because of a group of teenagers a world away.

Sendler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and now more than 30 schools in Poland are named after her.

If you see someone drowning, you must jump in to save them, whether you can swim or not.

Irena Sendler