May 10, 2017
This is “Our Past Is Present” from the Geary County Historical Society.
In 1986 a J.J. Pennell photograph of six prominent Junction City matrons wearing turn of the century dress, was donated to the Museum by Sally Powers Dietrich of Topeka. Several of the ladies were identified on the back of the photo including the donor’s great grandmother, Anna E. Manley Pierce. Mrs. Dietrich said she thought the group was called “The Budget” but didn’t know the meaning of the name. However, a faded newspaper clipping discovered amongst some memorabilia donated to the Museum, revealed the mystery. According to the 1913 issue of the “Kansas City Star”, “The Budget” was a letter writing club. It further explained that “Twenty years ago, Mrs. Winans, Mrs. Barnes, Mrs. Pierce, Mrs. Carr, Mrs. Brown and her daughter were all neighbors and members of the Universalist Church in Junction City. They later scattered. Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Barnes went to Kansas City to live, Mrs. Winans to Hutchinson and Mrs. Carr to Toledo, Ohio, where her husband became the President of a bank. Mrs. Pierce later moved back to Junction City where she and the Browns continued to live. In 1894, one year after they had been so widely separated, they met in a reunion in Junction City. It was suggested that the ladies regularly write to each other. A plan was evolved so that one of the six women would write a letter once a month to the others. She in turn would read it and write a letter of her own to one of the six and send it with the letter she had received. This would continue until the first letter writer got in one envelope five letters from each of the other ladies. The club was called “The Budget” in reference to the combined letters which each received each month and to the wise budgeting of time which the round robin of letters signified. Today, we can e-mail multiple people to receive the same message and they receive the information almost immediately on their computer or on their phone. How times have changed.