Museum trying to unravel WWII mystery

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Loren Anthony  and the  WWII History Center Foundation are trying to unravel a mystery — one that started in a garage a few years ago. 

In that garage a print block was found — headlined with "V-Day in El Dorado!" — signed by dozens upon dozens of people. 

"We think this is probably from February or March of 1945, it talks about the victory in Europe," Anthony said. 

Once donated to the museum, the first mystery to solve for the printer's block was how to get a copy printed. The block is made from lead, backed with wood. The type of press used to print with that block has not been in use for decades. 

"I took it around to a lot of places that printed, and no one could print it because it was on an old time block. The Cowtown Museum in Wichita was able to make a print of the block its self," Anthony said.

Museum staff searched old El Dorado Times in microfilm, and did not find where it was printed in the paper. 

"But it does talk about El Dorado people," Anthony said. 

Some names, like R.R. Wiley, H.H. Adams, Elizabeth Barrick and M.E. Kellog are easy to read, while others not-so-much. The mystery isn't necessarily who signed the block — the mystery is why. 

"The signatures, we believe, were from the  sales of war bonds," Anthony said.

But he's not entirely sure. The museum has the block on display with a note — anyone who knows somone on the signature block should let the museum know. The hope is someone will have a idea of why all those signatures are there. 

For now, the block  is in a display box, mounted with a copy of the copy of the print. 

The World War II History Center is a museum and research library dedicated to World War II located at 119 W. Central in downtown El Dorado,

The World War II History Center Foundation was envisioned by founder Allen Cooley.  Cooley was a co-creator of the Kansas World War II Historical Society, a group of individuals that shared the same passion for preserving the history of World War II.  After a few years of setting up displays of memorabilia at Veteran's Day events, local fairs and other outlets, Cooley decided it was time to proceed to the next step of creating a permanent museum. 

The museum received the print block about six months ago — donated by the daughter of a local collector. That collector came across the print block at a garage sale, adding it to his collection. 

"The gentleman who bought it at a garage sale was a real collector. He had three or four sheds of stuff. When he passed away, his daughter had the opportunity to get rid of some of that stuff. ... A friend of mine and her found this and brought it to us," Anthony said. 

The historical musuem is trying to decipher the origins of this print block, made to commemorate V-Day.

The museum is open every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. except for holidays.  It can also be open on other days by appointment by calling  316-322-8753. 

To see the block, visit the museum.