The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum has a surprise gift for fans of local history and old photos depicting Wichita’s past.
Museum staff have been working on a big “legacy” book for about three years, intended to celebrate the city’s 150th anniversary in 2020, and they will release the book on Saturday – just in time for Christmas presents. It is called “A Spell Created: A Sesquicentennial History of Wichita and Sedgwick County”.
The hardcover book, which measures 10 x 14 inches, has 356 pages and weighs six and a half pounds. It costs $95 and goes on sale Saturday after a special book release event scheduled for 3-5 p.m. at the museum, 204 S. Main.
Eric Cale, the museum’s director, said the book is an update to the last “go-to” book the museum published in 1970. Titled “Wichita Century,” it was a hardcover book with a bright red cover which was issued to celebrate the city’s centenary. Only 5,000 were published and copies can still be found in antique shops and estate sales.
“It’s the must-have book of the last 50 years,” Cale said. “We were interested in doing a similar book, but it had to be twice as long as the first. There is a demand that has not been met for 50 years.
The production of the book was a collaboration between the museum’s longtime curator, Jami Frazier Tracy, and his predecessor, Judith Heberling, who now lives in Pennsylvania. The duo combed through the museum’s collection, which includes more than 10,000 photographs, and carefully chose which ones to use. The list includes 425 images, including several rarely seen photos from Wichita’s past that cannot be found floating around the internet.
“A Spell Created” is not written in chronological order but instead explores various aspects of the city’s rich history, from its settlement in 1870 to its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Included are broadcasts on topics such as the Wichita Street Fair and Carnival, a large event that took place downtown each year in the early 1900s. There are also sections on the arrival of automobiles in Wichita and the first gas stations. service, the first theaters and the first newspapers, including The Wichita Eagle.
The history of Carry Nation is of course included, as well as a photo of the bar that the first temperance advocate destroyed, and there are sections on aviation, agriculture and trade. Readers can also find photos and stories about early homes in Wichita, Ackerman’s Island, and the Riverside Boathouse, as well as stories and photos of early Chinese, African-American, and Mexican-American residents of Wichita.
The book also contains photos of items included in the museum’s collection, such as documents, furniture, and curios that survive from Wichita’s early days. Its full-color cover features a painting of the museum house, formerly the Old Town Hall, painted by artist Stephen J Bauer in 1992.
“It’s really kind of a culmination of 80 years of our work, both collecting artifacts and interpreting history through them,” Cale said.
The museum will celebrate the release of the book from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, with remarks scheduled for 4 p.m. The book will be on sale during the event, and after that copies will be available in the museum shop, which is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Admission to the museum is $5 for adults, $2 for children, free for museum members and their guests.
This story was originally published December 6, 2021 1:03 p.m.