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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

January - February 2019

Volume 22, Number 1

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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. 
 

November - December 2018

Volume 21, Number 6

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100 years ago the bells tolled across the nation announcing the end of World War I. But if history has told us anything, the wounds from that cataclysm persist to the present day and the reverberations echo on and on. It is fitting that we commemorate the anniversary of the end of “The War to End All Wars” by revisiting what Illinoisans who survived it remembered. Great appreciation is offered to guest editor Bill Kemp, who put the bones and flesh on this issue of Illinois Heritage, and to the guest authors who gave it life.

In this issue we also congratulate the 2018 Centennial Award recipients, businesses and not-for-profit organizations that have served Illinoisans for 100 or more years. At a time when we hear so much about companies leaving the state, it is a delight to recognize those corporations whose roots remain deep in the Prairie soil.

Thanks to all of you who have taken time to renew your 2019 membership in the Illinois State Historical Society. Our organization thrives because of your  commitment to our mission of “fostering awareness, understanding, research,  preservation, and recognition of history in Illinois.” 

Wishing you the very best of holiday seasons, and a happy and brilliant New Year. 

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. 


 




A Bicentennial Commemorative of the Prairie State

Readings from the "Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society"

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A Bicentennial Commemorative of the Prairie State: Readings from the "Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society"
Edited by David W. Scott, with a foreword by Leah Joy Axelrod

Culled from the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society’s 110-year archive of scholarship, this volume of more than thirty articles illuminates the colorful episodes, meaningful events, and significant characters in the rich history of Illinois. Selected by committee and edited by David W. Scott, A Bicentennial Commemorative of the Prairie State celebrates the state’s two-hundred-year history with a broad scope of voices and perspective.
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