Airbrushed illustration from 1860s removed from Capitol

Written by Muleskinner Staff


(KANSAS CITY, Mo., AP) — The Kansas Historical Society has removed an 1860s illustration depicting an election in the state’s territorial period after receiving complaints that the image had been airbrushed to remove references to voter fraud.
The original illustration, “Voting in Kickapoo” by Frank Beard, shows men waiting to vote and then lining up for whiskey after casting their ballots during the state’s “Bleeding Kansas” period. But the word “whiskey” and a poster that reads “Down with the Abolitionists” was removed in an altered version that appeared in the Capitol visitor’s center until it came down Monday.
“We hadn’t intended to offend anyone,” said Lisa Hecker, a spokeswoman with the Kansas Historical Society. “The whole thing is encouraging people to vote.”
The removal came after Sen. Greg Smith, an Overland Park Republican, questioned the changes to the image Friday in a Twitter post. “Why,” he asked, “has this historical picture been altered that is displayed in the KS Visitor’s Center?” The Topeka Capital-Journal then wrote about the flap over the illustration, which was displayed next to a quote from the Kansas Constitution: “All political power is inherent in the people.”
“I’m pleased. I have no problem with the message they were trying to send with the display but let’s use a picture that is historically accurate,” Smith, a history teacher, said after the removal. “That picture is of voter fraud, not voting.”
The illustration, which appeared in the book “Beyond the Mississippi: From the Great River to the Great Ocean,” highlights the fighting that occurred over whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state. An election was held in 1855 to pick the members of the territorial legislature in Kansas. Pro-slavery activists from Missouri crossed into the territory in large numbers to vote illegally and ensure the election of pro-slavery candidates. They were successful, and met in Lecompton to draft a pro-slavery document.
Free State settlers boycotted the vote that led to its approval, and the document was rejected by Congress. Kansas finally entered the Union as a free state in 1861 under a constitution that rejected slavery. By that time, southern states were beginning to secede.
Hecker said that the Historical Society wasn’t “trying to gloss over” the historical context with the altered image, which was a copy of the original and had been on display since January 2014. She added that a lot of young children visit the Capitol and that the details in the original illustration were “complicated.”
“It was a lot to explain to people in that spot,” she said, adding that the Historical Society is looking for a replacement image.
Kansas Memory: