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Art Exhibit during Big Kansas Road Trip

Updated: May 6, 2021

Library Exhibit to Feature Artwork of Historic Local Women

Mary Cotton Public Library is excited to present a special art exhibit featuring the works of the late local artists May Wines and Frieda and Elise Weiss. May Wines and the Weiss sisters were involved members of their community and freely shared their art and talents with others. This exhibit seeks to honor their shared creativity and community-minded spirit through this special event. Many thanks to those who have loaned the artwork to make this event possible.

The show will run May 6th - 8th in conjunction with the Big Kansas Road Trip - an annual state travel and tourism event, highlighting Nemaha, Brown and Doniphan counties this year. The Mary Cotton Public Library will be serving as an information point for this county-wide event.

Also on display at the library during this time will be selected works from the library’s own collection: prints by Kansas artist Margaret Whittemore as well as the “Queen Louise of Prussia” painting by Robert Stroud, better known as “The Birdman of Alcatraz”.

The art exhibit is free to the public and will be open during regular library hours: Thursday, May 6 and Friday, May 7 from 9:30 - 5:30; Saturday, May 8 from 10:00 - 4:00.

ABOUT MAY WINES (1898 - 1999)

Born into a pioneering family of Nemaha County, May White Wines attended school at nearby Albany. May began work as a country school teacher right after graduation and later returned to teach at Albany in the early 1920’s. Her connection to Albany continued throughout her life. She was responsible for the inception of a book, Albany Historical Museum. Wines was also instrumental in publishing A History of Sabetha, Kansas, and Surrounding Area. She is perhaps best known for her dedication to her local church and Sunday school students. Wines would paint a picture for each student's Sunday school graduation. Many of the paintings on display are from such an occasion.

ABOUT FRIEDA & ELISE WEISS (1887 - 1976; 1889 - 1969)

Known collectively as the Weiss Sisters, Freida and Elise were born in Sabetha to German immigrants. Frieda Weiss attended art school in Missouri. While there, she studied painting and developed an interest in china painting. While Elise did not have any formal training, she developed her own natural style. Elise was the long-time owner of Weiss Shoe Store in Sabetha and operated it with her sister, Frieda. Oftentimes their artwork would be on display in their store window.


Born in Topeka, KS, Whittemore was a highly regarded writer, illustrator, graphic artist, and block printer. She studied graphic arts at the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Taos Art Colony in New Mexico. During the 1930s, she worked as an artist in the WPA museum extension program and was tasked with creating a series of prints depicting Kansas landmarks. Whittemore was also a member of the Prairie Print Makers, a

group of artists whose aim was to depict the reality of everyday life in the Midwest.


Known as the Birdman of Alcatraz, Stroud was a convicted murderer, federal prisoner, respected ornithologist, and author who has been cited as one of the most notorious criminals in the United States.

He served time at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary and later Alcatraz. During his time in solitary confinement at Leavenworth, he studied birds, especially canaries, and he discovered cures and causes for a variety of avian diseases.

It was through the Roller Canary Journal and Bird World - a magazine he submitted many major articles to - that Stroud was befriended by a journal employee. This employee, Cora Peck Finney, was a former Sabetha resident. As a gesture of friendship to Finney, Stroud presented her a painting he’d made of the then-queen of Prussia.

Finney gifted the painting to the Sabetha Library in 1930. Despite his self-rehabilitation, his efforts and those of many others were insufficient to free him. After 54 years of incarceration, Stroud died in a prison medical center in 1963. Stroud’s “Queen Louise of Prussia” painting still hangs in the Mary Cotton Public Library today.


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