Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Summer/Fall 2022
Volume 115, Numbers 2–3
Touching the great lakes and plunging into the South, the State of Illinois offers tremendous diversity. What it lacks in geographical variation is more than compensated through a rich blend of people, places, customs, and of course, a past that reveals the conflicts, clashes, and compromises marking our life as a nation. As Americans of the early twenty-first century redefine themselves in a changing world, Illinois's shared past opens insights.
This combined Summer/Fall issue of the Journal illustrates a state's history from the battles between local breweries in Rock Island to Black workers’ response to bitter discrimination, exclusion, and violence to the competing visions of Czech Americans and Czech nationalists at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. These pages reveal the struggles of a headstrong, courageous to the point of foolhardiness veteran of the Philippines war and the improbable rise of an unassuming immigrant to leadership in the Capone mob and its successors.
Michael W. Dean explains the hopes of both Czech Americans and Czech nationalists at home in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire as they focused on Bohemian Day at Chicago's 1893 exhibition. Chicago, he notes, had the largest population of Czech immigrants in the United States. Here we find the roots of future political involvement by Bohemians producing leaders and, eventually, a governor. Native Illinoisan and US Army officer F. S. Wild, was, as J. T. Murphy demonstrates, a complicated individual—resenting perceived slights, taking great personal risks in combat, and unable to successfully adapt to peacetime conditions after his service in the Philippines. We find a man most at home in combat and frustrated when not under fire.
The complicated, sometimes violent, history of race relations in Illinois, particularly in the workplace and on picket lines emerges in Alonzo Ward's “‘A Revolution in Labor’: African Americans and Hybrid Labor Activism in Illinois during the Early Jim Crow Era.” Contrary to the once-prevalent portrayal of Black workers acting as scabs during mining and other labor disputes, Ward offers a complicated picture, including Black unionism and hopes—unrealized until later—of successful biracial labor organizing. Braden Neihart, in his work on Rock Island's “beer wars” between 1896 and 1907, unveils an often overlooked area of study—the brewing and marketing of beer. It is, he writes, an “important avenue to explore American history and the negotiations disparate groups undertook to navigate power relations.” Contests such as the ones he examines in Rock Island demonstrate the “messiness” of monopolies and capitalism.
Finally, James S. Pula explores the unlikely rise of a man who bragged that he never carried a gun to a leadership position in the Al Capone gangster enterprise. Jacob “Greasy Thumb” Guzik not only outlasted his benefactor but played a key role in expanding Mob enterprises after the end of Prohibition. This issue's Special Projects contribution comes from Timothy Dean Draper, who interviews Jon Lauck, a leader in the revival of midwestern studies.
These pages provide evidence of Illinois's diverse, complex story—stories requiring multiple perspectives. We hope you will find such multivariegated slices of history interesting. As always, let us know what you think.
Robert D. Sampson, PhD
Editor, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society
“What Blood Unites, the Sea Shall Not Divide”: Bohemian Day at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893
Michael W. Dean
“Send Forth the Very Best Ye Breed”: Captain Frederick S. Wild and the War in the Philippines, 1899–1902
J. T. Murphy
“A Revolution in Labor”: African Americans and Hybrid Labor Activism in Illinois during the Early Jim Crow Era
Alonzo M. Ward
Capitalism, Protectionism, and Beer Wars in Rock Island, 1880–1900
“Greasy Thumb”—The Man Who Made the Chicago Mob
James S. Pula
Interview with Jon Lauck
Timothy Dean Draper
Edith: The Rogue Rockefeller McCormick
By Andrea Friederici Ross
Reviewed by Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein
Life of Mà-ka-tai-me-she-kià-kiàk, or Black Hawk, An Autobiography
Edited with a Critical Introduction and Essay by Michael A. Loraro
Reviewed by Gray H. Whaley
Gray Gold: Lead Mining and Its Impact on the Natural and Cultural Environment, 1700–1840
By Mark Milton Chambers
Reviewed by Greg Hall
The Herrin Massacre of 1922: Blood and Coal in the Heart of America
By Greg Bailey
Reviewed by Michael Tow
The Crooked Path to Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution
By James Oakes
Reviewed by Joseph Rathke
A float from the parade on Bohemian Day lists examples of Czech contributions to democracy and culture throughout the ages. On its pinnacle is written, “Our reward for over a century are chains and shackles.” The large inscription on the bottom left-hand side of the float, Spolek cesky uhliruh (Bohemian Coal Dealers Association), is indeed written in poor Czech. It should read Spolek českých uhlířů. Photograph courtesy of the Archive of the Náprstek Museum in Prague.