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HPPR Arts, Culture & History

Immigration stories, caricatures and stereotypes at the Stauth Museum

Two traveling exhibits, one featuring personal stories of Kanas’ immigration history and the other the role of caricature and stereotype in forming American values and attitudes about immigration, are now on exhibit at the Stauth Memorial Museum in Montezuma KS.  As part of the exhibition, a presentation and discussion on “Ethnic Labor and Small Towns on the Rock Island Rail Line” will be led by M.J. Morgan, director of research at the Chapman Center for Rural Studies at Kansas State University, on Sunday, August 11 at 2 pm at the museum.

The Kansas immigration exhibit, “Americans By Choice: The Story of Immigration & Citizenship in Kansas”, illustrates the paths to citizenship taken by Kansas settlers from around the world.  Between 1865 and 1880, Kansas attracted immigrants at a faster pace than anywhere else in the United States. The state’s population grew from 107,205 in 1860 to 1,428,108 in 1890—thanks to the irresistible promise of a better life through land and jobs. In 1870, 13% of Kansas’ total population was foreign-born. Today, 6% of all Kansans are foreign-born.  

The exhibit personalizes this history through photographs, documents, quotes, stories, interactive elements and a documentary video of citizens describing what it means to be an American.  The United States District Court for the District of Kansas commissioned this exhibit to celebrate its role in the naturalization process as part of its 150th anniversary celebration in 2011.

The second exhibit, “Immigration and Caricature: Ethnic Images from the Appel Collection” explores the role of caricature and stereotype in forming American values and attitudes about the multicultural development of the United States. It utilizes a collection of immigrant and ethnic caricatures from popular graphics dating primarily from the Civil War to World War I, a period of massive migration to the United States. To modern Americans, the contents are sometimes humorous, sometimes very disturbing. Nevertheless, the collection offers great insight into American cultural attitudes and is a remarkable resource for the study of American cultural history.

The items used in this exhibition consist of a variety of print media such as cartoons, postcards, trade cards, and prints and lithographs, all of which come from over 4,000 pieces donated to the MSU Museum by Dr. John and Selma Appel collection at Michigan State University.  An online version of the exhibition is available here.

Both exhibits are on display through September 1, 2013.  Click here for hours and directions for the Stauth Museum.