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Second threshing stone program to look at 19th-century agriculture

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The second of four programs scheduled to go with Kauffman Museum’s special exhibit “Threshing Stone: Mennonite Artifact and Icon” will take place Nov. 25 at 3:30 p.m. in the museum auditorium.

The Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum speaker is David Vail of Kansas State University, Manhattan, who will help place the threshing stone in context in a presentation titled “Of Fire and Steel: A Historical Sketch of 19th-century Kansas Agriculture.”

“To understand the historical role of the threshing stone,” Vail said, “we must first explore the larger and dynamic technological and environmental changes taking place in the state throughout the 19th century.

“From early fire application by native peoples and fire suppression by settlers to the steel plows, threshing tools and industrial machines at the turn of the century, the history of Kansas is one of blurred lines and relationships between farming technologies, the grassland environment and the cultural views of that landscape.

“My presentation will survey these relationships, how they changed over time and how the Mennonite threshing stone fits into this dynamic ‘envirotech’ past.”

Vail, originally from Medford, Ore., has a bachelor’s degree from Southern Oregon University and earned his master’s degree in history from Utah State University and his Ph.D. in history from K-State. His research specialties are in U.S. history, particularly environmental history, agricultural history and the American West, and in ecology.

His most recently published article was in the summer 2012 issue of Kansas History, the journal of the Kansas Historical Society, “Kill That Thistle: Rogue Sprayers, Bootlegged Chemicals, Wicked Weeds and the Kansas Chemical Laws, 1945–1980.”

The Nov. 25 program is the second of four Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum programs that complement the “Threshing Stone” exhibition. The Dec. 9 presenter is Isaias McCaffery of Independence Community College and the Jan. 6, 2013, presenter is John Thiesen of the Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel College.

All programs take place at Kauffman Museum and are free to the public through funding from the Kauffman Museum Association, Bethel College and the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit cultural organization promoting understanding of the history, traditions, and ideas that shape our lives and build community.

Regular Kauffman Museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the museum, which also includes admission to the special exhibit “Threshing Stone: Mennonite Artifact and Icon,” as well as the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture,” is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. For more information, call the museum at 316-283-1612 or visit its website,

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