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Bicentennial symposium celebrates 200+ years of Illinois History

Bicentennial symposium celebrates...

No celebration is complete without cake and the state's bicentennial...

Bicentennial symposium celebrates 200+ years of Illinois History

Bicentennial symposium celebrates 200+ years of Illinois History

No celebration is complete without cake and the state's bicentennial commemoration had a slice for everyone?
Roots and revery

Roots and revery

How much prairie is left in the Prairie State? In 1818, there were...

Roots and revery

Roots and revery

How much prairie is left in the Prairie State? In 1818, there were about 22 million acres of native tallgrass prairie. In 1978 only 2,500 acres remained.
Built to last

Built to last

Robert Gilmore LeTourneau's all-steel "Carefree Home" undergoes...

Built to last

Built to last

Robert Gilmore LeTourneau's all-steel "Carefree Home" undergoes renovation in Peoria.

 

Today in history

3/22/1872

Illinois passes the first law in the country prohibiting discrimination in employment because of gender.

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Historical Markers

Since 1934, the Illinois State Historical Society has erected more than 500 historical markers statewide. Subjects of historical significance to Illinois are co-sponsored by local organizations and supporters. The Illinois State Historical Society coordinates the placement and management of historical markers throughout the state.

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Submit your Bicentennial event

Do you have an exciting local history news story or an event that you would like to share? Use this form to submit it and after a quick review it will be added to our news roll or events calendar. There is even a special category for Bicentennial events. The goal is to add news and events from all over the state to celebrate Illinois’ rich history. Get involved and get the word out about news and events in your area.

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Best of Illinois History Awards Banquet and ISHS Annual Meeting

Best of Illinois History Awards Banquet and ISHS Annual Meeting

Join us for a celebration of Illinois history and the people that help tell the story of the Prairie State. Dinner and awards banquet in Menard County, Illinois, home of the New Salem State Historic Site. 

Volume 111 Number 4 Winter 2018

Volume 111 Number 4 Winter 2018

Volume 111 Number 4 Winter 2018

We close 2018 with three fascinating articles that illuminate the social and cultural history of Illinois in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In “Charles Dickens, Cairo, and the Panic of 1837,” Peter Pellizzari analyzes the mix of truth and myth that drove western land speculation in the lead up to the Panic of 1837. At the center of Pellizzari’s story is Darius Blake Holbrook, Cairo’s chief promoter and financier in the 1830s. The town of Cairo, and Americans like Holbrook, also served as source material for parts of Charles Dickens’ novel, The Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, first published serially in 1842–44. Pellizzari unpacks Holbrook’s career as Cairo’s preeminent booster—artfully blending truth and fiction, Holbrook induced investors to drop huge sums into Cairo land and other ventures. Holbrook’s financial schemes, of course, like castles made of sand, disintegrated in the wake of the Panic of 1837. In this way Holbrook was a real life version of Zephaniah Scudder, Dickens’ fictional land agent who dazzles Chuzzlewit with alluring images of Eden, a fictional American river town unmistakably inspired by real life Cairo, which Dickens had seen during his travels to America in 1842. Dickens’ critical relationship to antebellum American society emerges here as one important source of the British novelist’s ouvre. Also striking is Pellizzari’s convincing account of how fiction and fact—myth and reality—were deployed by boosters like Holbrook in the service of western land speculation. While the macroeconomic forces that fueled the Panic of 1837 have received much scholarly attention (and rightfully so), Pellizzari’s tale of greed, hope, allure, and illusion points to an equally important aspect of antebellum economic history: The cultural mores that sustained market transactions (and a market bubble in western land) in the years running up to the panic.

It is a commonplace that Irish labor built the Illinois & Michigan Canal. Yet few scholars have bothered to study the Irish immigrant experience in the antebellum period outside of urban contexts like Chicago or New York City, or the coal fields of Pennsylvania. What sustained Irish communities in the many small, rural towns that grew along the I&M Canal Corridor in the decades before the Civil War? In “Canal Diggers, Church Builders: Dispelling Stereotypes of the Irish on the Illinois & Michigan Canal Corridor,” Eileen McMahon examines Irish immigrant agency downstate, in towns that dot the prairie. Central to Irish immigrant life was the Catholic Church. The parish served as the focal point of a rich immigrant experience in a foreign land; as a force for communitybuilding, ethnic pride and identity, and eventual assimilation. McMahon’s study of small-town Irish community formation and the efforts to establish parishes across the Canal Corridor enlarges our understanding of the antebellum Irish experience.

Finally, we close with a study of the Depression-era collaboration between two Illinois-born artists. In “Doris and Russell Lee: A Marriage of Art,” Mary Jane Appel traces the mutually creative practices that shaped both Doris’s American Scene paintings and Russell’s work as a documentary photographer for the Farm Security Administration. As Appel demonstrates, the married couple shared a “reciprocal relationship with a fluid exchange of ideas and artistic visions.” The rural imagery that suffused the Lees’ work, of course, trace back to their Midwest and specifically Illinois roots. But Appel’s larger contribution is to establish the artists’ collaborative working methods, their creat

January - February 2019

Volume 22, Number 1

January - February 2019

The Illinois bicentennial commemoration wrapped up for the Illinois State Historical society with our 2018 History Symposium on December 3 at the University of Illinois Springfield. Many thanks to our excellent speakers––Michael Wiant, Bill Kemp, Devin Hunter, and Bob Sampson––for donating their time and  talents to the program. 

This year brings us another anniversay to celebrate: the 120th anniversary of the ISHS, which was organized on May 19, 1899. The Society continues to be the leading advocate for the promotion of historical research and understanding of our Prairie State history. With our dedicated Board of Directors, Advisors, and staff we seek to expand the reach of our organization into every home in the state of Illinois and beyond, but that kind of mission requires the participation of every member of the Society too. Please do your part by renewing your membership (if you have not already done so), and by sharing our publications and programs with Illinois history advocates in your community. Consider sponsoring a public library membership, nominating a community museum exhibit or local history author for an award, or sharing news of a historical event in your hometown. We all learn when we share our history. 
 

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