Basehor Historical Museum exhibit illustrates life at turn of century
Dennis Mertz looks at the images of frontiers, farms and railroads from turn-of-the-20th-Century southwest Kansas and sees Basehor's past, too.
“I think it relates to some of the growth that has happened in the city of Basehor,” Mertz said. “It reminds you that we're not a big city.”
Mertz was taking his first look Tuesday at the Basehor Historical Museum’s new exhibit: “Cowboys, Combines and Small Towns of Frontier Photographer F.M. Steele.” JED Installation, co-owned by Mertz, is the exhibit's sponsor.
F.M. Steele took a portable photo studio mounted on a buggy to Dodge City in 1890, according to the exhibit materials, to take photos of cowboys. He later expanded his source material to include scenes from small towns in the area as well as the developments in agriculture and transportation that were shaping life in Kansas at that time.
Museum director Carla Crawford pointed out that some of Steele's photos, such as one showing a parade float from the town of Ashland decorated with giant sunflowers, show that life was not so different during his era; but others, including one showing two young twin girls standing unattended in a cornfield, show how much things have changed.
“F.M. Steele was a fabulous photographer,” Crawford said. “He got a lot of shots that people didn't capture at the time.”
Though Steele arrived in southwest Kansas intending to photograph the frontier lifestyle of cowboys, he ended up capturing developments that showed how the world was changing as the 20th Century began. One photo shows the newly constructed Windsor Hotel in Garden City, which cost $110,000 to build in 1888, while another shows workers taking a break from railroad construction that was helping to shape new transportation patterns.
“It was just another means of progression,” Crawford said.
Mertz, a Basehor City Council member, said his company sponsored the exhibit because he thought it was important to support the museum. An emphasis on Basehor's history, he said, helps keep it distinct from other towns.
“Without the Historical Society, it's just another city,” Mertz said.
The exhibit, which was produced by the Kansas Humanities Council, Emporia State University and the Kansas Historical Society, includes examples of Steele's photography and information about his journeys through Kansas.
It is on display through May 3 at the museum, 2812 N. 155th St., during its regular hours: 9 a.m.-noon Tuesdays, 1-4 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays. Admission is free, though donations are accepted. For more details, call the museum at (913) 724-4022.
Other upcoming events
Two other museum events are approaching before the end of April.
First up is a presentation about the effect of water on Kansas history, from guest speaker Rex Buchanan, deputy director of the Kansas Geological Survey. It will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the museum.
Crawford said the museum chose the presentation to fit thematically with the event's sponsor, Suburban Water, Inc.
At the end of the month is a chocolate demonstration and tasting, featuring a chocolatier from Annedore's Fine Chocolates, based in Westwood Hills in Johnson County. Crawford said only a few tickets remain for that event, which will take place from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the Basehor VFW Post, next to the museum at 2806 N. 155th St.
Tickets are $10, available for purchase at the museum. Proceeds will benefit the museum.