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State School of Mines and Metallurgy

Weir, Kansas



The Kenneth Spencer Research Library at Lawrence has the catalogues for the school and provided scans for my use.  The Topeka State Journal carried some news of the school—particularly as it concerned relations with the legislature.  The crossed hammers logo is from the "Preliminary Announcement."


State School of Mines and Metallurgy was chartered by the Kansas legislature in 1911 to provide a “thorough education in mining and metallurgical engineering.”  The overarching goal was to provide training for the “development of the natural resources of the state.”  The catalogue specifically mentions four of these—coal, salt, lead, and zinc.  The four-year program led to either a Bachelor of Science in Mine Engineering degree or a Bachelor of Science in Metallurgy degree.


Seniors were required to present a thesis as part of the graduation requirement.

Departments included languages, chemistry, geology and mineralogy, metallurgy and ore dressing, mining, physics, and drawing.  There were also short courses in assaying, mine safety, and first aid.


In addition to an athletic association (see below), students had a Dean Houghton Engineering society.  During both the Junior and Senior years, students made inspection trips to mines, smelters, and related industrial operations in Kansas and Missouri. 


The enrollment remained low.  The 1914-15 catalogue lists only 28 students for the previous year.  Enrollment peaked at 39 before falling to 18 in 1916-17.  Total enrollment was only 45 students according to the last catalogue.  The faculty was usually four--plus adjuncts.


From the beginning school critics in the legislature argues that the school was “more accessible to the people of Missouri and Oklahoma than to the people of Kansas and within fifteen miles of a well-established state school at Pittsburgh.”  By 1917 they noted that enrollment was down to four students with no graduates.  These issues coupled with the disastrous fires of 1915 and 1916, led to a closure of the school in January of 1917.  


West Side School building in Weir.  Image courtesy of Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Bricks and Mortar

The State School of Mines was located in Weir, a town of just over 2,000 in Cherokee County,  in southeast Kansas.  Catalogues note, “Students live in a mining atmosphere and their immediate surroundings continually illustrate and enforce the principles which the school teaches.”


The school shared the West Side School building with the Weir public school.  The Sanborn Fire Insurance map shows a 2 ½ story brick structure over a basement.  The State Journal notes that the state school used the top floor and the basement while the public school used the second and third floors. 


The building contained laboratories for chemistry and physics, a balance room for assaying and a room for mining equipment.  It also contained a library for mining and engineering materials.  Most students were from Weir itself or Cherokee County, so the school offered no rooming facilities. 


On November 15, 1915 the entire building burned to the ground.  Most equipment was lost in the fire.  The school then used rooms in nearby buildings, but a year later, these too burned.   


Sports were encouraged “within the proper limits.”  The Kansas School of Mines Athletic and Student Body Association governed “legitimate” athletics.   All students were required to be a member, paying an annual fee of $5.  The funds from membership fees, gate receipts, and private donations were to support a sports program. 


The 1914 catalog shows images of football, basketball and baseball teams.   But School of Mines teams would have been at considerable disadvantage in intercollegiate games because of low numbers and the school’s high academic demands.  College football Data Warehouse shows four football games in 1914—Pittsburg Normal (0-24), Missouri School of Mines (0-87), Drury College (5-83), and Springfield Normal (0-39). The State Journal shows a 7-0 win over Girard High School in 1913.

The 1913-14 School of Mines basketball team.  Image courtesy of Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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