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Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Volume 112 Number 2 Summer 2019

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Our summer issue presents three essays on topics that have not received much scholarly attention. In "The African American Community in Brushy Fork, Illinois, 1818-1861," co-authors Charles Foy and Michael Bradley examine the origins and history of a small and isolated free black settlement in northern Coles County. There is a paucity of scholarship on rural free black communities before the Civil War. Digging deep into census data and the relatively sparse documentary record on Brushy Fork in the antebellum era, Foy and Bradley reconstruct life in this remote prairie settlement. Due to Illinois's discriminatory black codes, and the ever-present danger of being pursued, caught, and taken South into slavery, the people of this community lived precarious lives. However, family and kinship networks, along with Brushy Fork's remoteness, enabled its people to create and maintain a fragile autonomy, at least partially free from white control, on the east central Illinois prairie. 

Just as scholarship on antebellum African Americans is heavily biased toward urban areas, so too the study of institutions designed to address poverty in the nineteenth century. In "Life on the Morgan County, Illinois Poor Farm: Christian Benevolence in Early Social Services," Joe Squillace focuses on the history and treatment of the poor in a rural, west central Illinois setting. To be sure, normative ideas of Christian benevolence undergirded the efforts to build institutions that could serve the poor in Morgan County. Jacksonville, the county seat and location for the county poorhouse, was also home to several state institutions that served what many at the time considered the deserving poor. Sometimes this outlook led to efforts to control the lives and movements of the marginalized, so-called undeserving population, as some scholars of nineteenth century poor releif have argued. Squillace's fascinating research uncovers the many ways in which the poorhouse served as a safety net of last resort , where the poor and afflicted, of whatever background or circumstance, turned to for help and from which they received relatively enlightened care by standards of that day. For this reason, Squillace suggests, the Morgan County poorhouse "was a predecessor institution to later developments in institutional care" and later social welfare. 

Finally, in "Annabel Carey-Prescott: African American Educator and Chicago Leader," John S. Burger traces the history of this neglected pioneer in human relations education. Born to an affluent black family, Carey-Prescott excelled in a career that spanned four decades, as both a teacher and administrator in Chicago public schools. Burger documents how her idea to introduce human relations concepts into the classroom was first inspired by her travels to Europe, then later sharpened as she pursued Ph.D. work in education back in America. Of course, Carey-Prescott's innovative curriculum didn't solve Chicago's racial problems. But such a conclusion underestimates the value of Carey-Prescott's work and contribution to Chicago's black community, including its poorest members, from the 1920s to the 1950s.    

Volume 112 Number 1 Spring 2019

Volume 112 Number 1 Spring 2019

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We open 2019 with three articles addressing murder, politics, and ethnoreligious identity in Illinois. In "Untouchable: Joseph Smith's Use of the Law as a Catalyst for Assassination," Alex Smith offers a fine-grained analysis of the Mormon prophet's understanding- and misunderstanding- of key legal concepts leading up to his murder at a Carthage, Illinois jail in 1844. The assassination of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum has been, of course, the subject of a considerable historiography. Alex Smith Sees the Mormon prophet's use (and abuse, if contemporaries are to be taken at their word) of his legal powers as yet another key force driving the mob's anger that fateful day in Carthage.

Like the histroy of Joseph Smith and anti-mormonism, antislavery politics has generated a rich and variegated historiography. In "Free Soil, Free Labor, and Free Men: The Origins of the Republican Party in DuPage County, Illinois," Stephen Buck synthesizes many of the widely accepted explanations for the Republican Party's emergence in the 1850s, including the powerful ideal of free-soil in the trans-Mississippi West; opposition to the political clout of the "Slave Power" nationally; and genuine moral committments to the abolition of Slavery. DuPage COunty, in Buck's retelling, serves as a sort of case study in the steady growth of free-soil principles in northern Illinois beginning in the 1840s. Buck finds that by the time of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858, the sectional crisis was so encompassing that it deeply inscribed party identification, even in elections to town and county offices. 

Always a city of immigrants, Chicago has rightfully served as a key focus for a wide-ranging body of scholarship on the immigrant experience in America. Oddly, however, the French, the first Europeans to se and settle the area, have largely faded from view in histories of immigrant Chicago. Daniel Snow sheds much needed light on the French-American experience in the Windy City in "Of Three Nations: Devotion and Community in French-American Chicago, 1850-1950." By practicing their Catholic faith in their new homeland, building voluntary associations, and mounting street festivals and parades, French immigrants to Chicago staked claims to visibility and citizenship, while synthesizing to tri-partite identity rooted in the distinctive cultural traditions of Old World France, French Quebec, and their newly adopted home in the United States.

Articles

"Untouchable: Joseph Smth's Use of the Law"
Alex D. Smith

"Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Origins of the Republican Party in DuPage County, Illinois"
Stephen J. Buck

"Of Three Nations: Devotion and Community in Frech-American Chicago, 1850-1950"
Daniel Snow

Review Essay

"Ungovernable Chicago?"
Gregory L. Schneider

Book Reviews

Prairie Defender: The Murder Trials of Abraham Lincoln. By George R. Dekle, Sr.
Reviewed by Eric Mogren

Free Spirits: Spritualism, Republicansim, Republicanism, and Radicalism in the Civil War. By Mark A. Lause.
Reviewed by Francesca Morgan

National Parks Beyond the Nation: Global Perspectives on "America's Best Idea." Edited by Adrian Howkins, Jared Orsi, and Mark Fiege
Reviewed by Paul Gulezian

From Warren Center

Volume 111 Number 4 Winter 2018

Volume 111 Number 4 Winter 2018

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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

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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

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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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