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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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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

Volume 111 Number 3 Fall 2018

Volume 111 Number 3 Fall 2018
For the Fall 2018 issue of the Journal we return to our usual quarterly format. In "Setting the Northern Border of Illinois," longtime Illinois chronicler David W. Scott offers a refurbished account of the boundary disputes that led to the creation of the State of Illinois. Scott surveys the history of the 1787 Northwest Ordinance and the subsequent efforts by territorial leaders to set the current boundaries of the Old Northwest. From the Vantage point of 200 years, it is clear that Nathaniel W. Pope, Illinois Territory's delegate to Congress in 1817, was the leading force behind the statehood bill that pushed the northern boundary of Illinois a full sixty miles north of what the Northwest Ordinance originally called for. Had Pope failed to gain any Lake Michigan shoreline for Illinois, today Chicago and the collar counties would all be in Wisconsin, and Illinois' economic and demographic profile more like modern day Iowa or Kansas. 

The next two articles examine aspects of twentieth century liberalism and its shortcomings. In "Shelter Men': Life in Chicago's Public Shelters during the Great Depression," Chris Wright offers a spirited assessment of New Deal era public relief in Chicago. Wright's fine-grained case study reveals the limitations of municipal relief policy during the Great Depression and how the men responded to the many exigencies and indignities of shelter life. In telling this story, Wright emphasizes the class-conscious agency and essential humanity of the shelter men, as they negotiated and resisted the worst facets of being homeless---or "bums," as the conservative Chicago Tribune labeled them. 

Finally, in "All the Way with Adlai: John Bartlow Martin and the 1952 Adlai Stevenson Campaign," Ray E. Boomhower offers a detailed, behind-the-scenes account of the freelance journalist's role as speechwriter for the 1952 Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign. Boomhower tells the story of Martin's political coming of age as a New Frontier or Great Society liberal Democrat; before 1952, Martin's award-winning journalism was free of partisan calculations or commitments. Yet as it turned out, the subjects of Martin's earlier freelance career---America's underprivileged and forgotten classes---became increasingly central to the policy agenda of postwar liberalism. Boomhower's engaging narrative thus takes us back to a formative moment in the history of the Democratic Party. 


 




Volume 111 - Number 1–2 - Spring/Summer 2018

Volume 111 - Number 1–2 - Spring/Summer 2018
VOLUME 111 NO. 1-2 is our second consecutive double-issue commemorates Illinois’ 200th anniversary of state­hood. For those of us laboring in the historical profession and cognate fields—academically affiliated scholars and their students, unaffiliated scholars and researchers, public historians, museum professionals, archi­vists and librarians, and the like—anniversaries are moments to reflect upon disciplinary practice. They are, in other words, splendid occasions to reckon with the past, take stock of the present, and imagine the future. The last two major anniversaries of Illinois statehood—the centennial and sesquicentennial—produced landmark works of state history that collectively established the main contours of scholarship on the Prairie State well into the twentieth century. (These works, and our intellectual debts to them, are identified in the articles that follow.) The current issue of the Journal, “Illinois History: A Bicentennial Appraisal,” is offered in the same spirit. We seek to highlight the connections between the past—the history of this land called Illinois; the present—the current state of professional history about this land; and the future—how we might fruit­fully reframe and re-present this land’s history moving forward. The first six essays offer insightful sur­veys of recent trends in historical scholarship on Illinois from the colonial era to the very recent past. The historiographical essays mark the most important developments in historical scholarship on Illinois over the last thirty years or so, a necessary first-step in generating new research agendas and ultimately new narratives. The final two essays examine the practice of public history in Illinois, as it stands today. The cautionary les­sons learned from museum professionals and other practitioners of pub­lic history—declining public investments, conflicting political agendas, the growing role of local initiative, and most crucially, greater reliance on private resources—should alert us all to the need for an historical practice that informs, connects, and enriches diverse audiences and stakeholders.



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