The Sycamore True Republican, 160 Years Later

Origins and Influences

In 1857, Campbell Waite began publishing the Sycamore True Republican (De Kalb County, Illinois) as an organ for the newly formed Republican Party. Waite was particularly interested in promoting the anti-slavery portion of the Republican platform.1 Waite selected Sycamore as the location for his anti-slavery newspaper only after he had decided to publish one—in fact, Waite wasn’t even living in De Kalb County, and never had lived there, when he reached this decision. He started making plans for the new enterprise while living in Peoria, just months after the Republican Party held its first national convention.2 In the presidential election following that convention, Illinoisans almost evenly split their votes between Republican and Democratic candidates (40% to 44%). Voters in De Kalb County, however, went overwhelmingly for the Republican (83% to 14%). In fact, only two other Illinois counties—Boone and Winnebago—voted more overwhelmingly Republican than De Kalb,3 and all three were geographically contiguous, making  the region a Republican stronghold, and De Kalb County an ideal location for a Republican newspaper.4 Waite chose Sycamore, the seat of government for De Kalb County, as the home for his True Republican, and within a year he was publishing what became, more than a century later, De Kalb County’s oldest newspaper.

Continue reading “The Sycamore True Republican, 160 Years Later”

Ranen Omer-Sherman: September 11 Noon Workshop

The first Jewish Studies workshop of the semester is at noon on Monday September 11 in 109 English.

Ranen Omer-Sherman, Professor of English and Judaic Studies at the University of Louisville will discuss his paper, “The European Immigrant and the Rupture with the Past in Early Kibbutz Fiction.” We will serve bagels and cream cheese—please feel free to bring something else to eat if you prefer. More information about Professor Omer-Sherman and a link to his paper are here. All best, Brett

–Brett Kaplan

Unternationale: Dialectical Polyglot Klezmer Cabaret

Psoy Korolenko and Daniel Kahn

Tuesday, September 19, 2017, 7pm

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts Stage 5

Krouse Family Visiting Scholars in Judaism and Western Culture

 “The Unternationale: Dialectical Polyglot Klezmer Cabaret” promises to be an amazing event! Psoy Korolenko is a polyglot performer who incorporates Russian, Yiddish, English, French, and other languages into his phenomenal performances. He also has a Ph.D. in Russian literature and tours and talks all over the world, often with Daniel Kahn. Kahn, a Detroit native who has relocated to Berlin, performs widely with the Painted Bird as well as with Korolenko. Kahn says: “I come from Detroit, a worker’s city. I love songwriters like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. And especially Yiddish labor songs. You can take a song written a hundred years ago and sing it about unemployment in the US today.  It still works. But while I love political songs, I’ve also translated and sung Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones in Yiddish. You could say I make a kind of Yiddish punk cabaret.” 

–Brett Kaplan

Can you can? Tips for vegetable longevity.

As we head toward the end of summer and the hot weather garden crops arrive, roll up your sleeves and get canning! Canning is a process recommended to preserve the longevity of your garden vegetables and fruits, so they may be used during the cold winter months. It also fosters a sense of americana self-sufficiency, and acts as an industrious hobby with an end-product you may eat for months to come.

Canning is a food preservation process that’s over two centuries old. The art of preserving all kinds of animal and vegetable substances for several years , written by M.Appert in 1812 as part of a Napoleonic campaign to feed French troops, is considered the first comprehensive canning manual. In the United States, canning began to boom as a household practice in the twentieth century. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) particularly encouraged canning as a form of family economy and nutrition. During World War I and World War II, the USDA promoted canning as part of the war effort campaign. It was promoted as the patriotic duty of citizens in order to stave off food shortages, and to enable factory production and usage of large-scale resources to be directed toward the Wars.

If you’d like to read some advice about different canning processes, and observe how they changed overtime, please peruse June-September issues located in the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection’s Farm Field and Fireside collection. The 1897 issue of the Farmers’ Review provides insight of jelly making and provides recipes you may peruse in how to use preserved fruits. Yum! Consult the Banker Farmer for in-depth instruction on the “cold pack” canning process, which was considered a safer, healthier preservation method at that time. Should these articles pique your interest and inspire you to can your own vegetables and fruits, please consult the up-to-date information provided by the Illinois Extension Office in the links below.

Modern Canning Safety Practices:

Illinois Cottage Food Operation Information

UIUC Extension Office Food Preservation and Canning Resources

UIUC Extension Office Canning Recommendations

UI Extension Food Preservation Resources


Foreign Office Files for Japan: Module 1: Japanese Imperialism and the War in the Pacific, 1931-1945

Documents from British National Archives record series FO 371 (Foreign Office: Political Departments: General Correspondence from 1906-1966) and FO 262 (Foreign Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Embassy and Consulates, Japan: General Correspondence).

To be released in three modules:

  1. Japanese Imperialism and the War in the Pacific, 1931-1945 (available now)
  2. Occupation of Japan, 1946-1952
  3. Japan and Great Power Status, 1919-1930

Documents are mostly correspondence. Part of Archives Direct from Adam Matthews publishers.

Continue reading “Foreign Office Files for Japan: Module 1: Japanese Imperialism and the War in the Pacific, 1931-1945”

Celebrate Freedoms Safely!

May your 4th of July celebrations have been filled with great food, people, and festivities. Independence Day is an annual event that recognizes the landmark act of rebellion which led to the establishment of the United States of America. Festivities usually include parades, fairs, cookouts, and local fireworks displays.

Fireworks displays prove to be the highlight time and again for this National holiday. Each year prior to the 4th, national press and fire safety releases are issued to present helpful tips for staying safe while observing and/or shooting off fireworks. Each year following the 4th come in the reports of people losing fingers, eyes, or their lives due to the hazards that come with igniting explosive mortar and powder at close bodily range. In 2016 an estimated 11,100 people found themselves in the ER to treat injuries related to consumer fireworks.

To reduce the number of injuries which always bottle-rocket in the month of July, the US Consumer Products Safety Commission releases an awareness video along with safety tips. These safety tips are important to keep in mind, and their release arises from the work of firework safety advocates that stems back over 100 years!

Prior to campaigns and regulation, injuries due to fireworks included severe burns, tetanus, and death. This became a source of consternation to the medical community, and a few concerned citizens. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) began to compile statistics from 1903 to 1916, which led to the foundation of the Safe and Sane Fourth campaign. Advocates for this campaign featured articles in publications across the USA, including the Farmer’s Wife.

Title page, July 1, 1912.
Cover page, July 1, 1912.

The above image is the cover-page illustration of the July 1st, 1912 issue of Farmer’s Wife. The issue featured only one minor article pertaining to the Sane Fourth campaign, yet this image is presented throughout the entirety of the issue as a reminder to readers the dangers that firecrackers present to children.

Farmer's Wife, July 1, 1912, p 62.
Farmer’s Wife, July 1, 1912, p 62.

The mid-1910s served as the height of the Sane Fourth movement, in which advocates penned letters to their legislators, and promoted alternative activities such as plays and games that served to provide a safer outlet for celebration and a form of educational outreach. Examples of these advocates’ campaign material is available publicly online via the Hathitrust initiative. These efforts continue today in the form of parades, local displays shot off by professionals with firefighters on standby, and city ordinances regarding fireworks. For access to more information about Safe and Sane Fourth campaign influences, consult early 20th century July issues of the Farmer’s Wife, made publicly available via the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection.

Consult the links appended to this post for referenced articles and further reading:

2016 CPSC Fireworks Injuries Report

 CPSC Fireworks Safety Tips

Latham, Harold Strong. A Little Rebel: a “sane” Fourth of July Play … New York: Edgar S. Werner & Company, 1912.

Rice, Isaac L., Mrs. A Safe And Patriotic Fourth. New York: Dept. of Child Hygiene of the Russell Sage Foundation, 1910.

Smilor, R. W. (1980), Creating a National Festival: The Campaign for a Safe and Sane Fourth, 1903–1916. Journal of American Culture, 2: 611–622.


Ghana Labour

Ghana Labour (September 1960).
Ghana Labour (September 1960).

Yesterday we began processing a collection (over 300 boxes!) of labor newspapers acquired several years ago from Canada’s Department of Labour Library.

Already this morning we cataloged our first rarity: Labour, the official periodical of the Ghana Trades Union Congress. Our run goes from the very first issue (July, 1960), through the combined November/December issue for 1961. The periodical seems to have ceased in 1962.

The periodical’s prospectus describes itself as follows:

Ghana Labour is the official organ of the Ghana Trades Union Congress. The Labour will be a source of guidance and information reflecting the life and struggles of workers and will encourage exchanges of their experiences.

“If this journal is to be what you want it to be, then you, our readers, must give us a hand. By writing to us, by letting us know of what is going on in your areas, in the factories, construction sties, and the chief events in trade union life, your forms of struggle and progress of unity.

“In this way, these experiences will become known to workers in other parts of the country and the solidarity of the workers will become still more powerful.

“You can set your friends and relatives straight about the labour movement by helping them get their labour news first hand from the Ghana Labour.

“Through our efforts the voice of organised working class will make itself heard.”

Click here to see the other new titles as we add them to the collection.

Raise your glass and beat the heat!



As a heat wave strikes across the U.S. this week, leaving temperatures highin the 90s, it’s time to find ways to beat the heat for the moments when air conditioning is inaccessible or you just feel like sitting outside all the same. Perusal of the July, 1917 issue of Farmer’s Wife provides the a cool solution:

In this issue, Ms. Lyons presents two enjoyable and refreshing drink mix recipes. If you find that you have some lemons, water, and sugar on-hand go ahead and give this recipe a try:

Lemonade Recipe

The addition of pineapple and orange isn’t strictly necessary, although it does add additional sweetness and flavor. Alternate ideas include mashing and stirring berries together in with the lemonade to taste. If preferred, the beverage may be made in a recycled gallon jug and shaken, not stirred. Best served chilled or over ice.

Peruse other issues of the Farmer’s Wife made freely available online via the Farm, Field, and Fireside collection of the Illinois Digital Newspapers Collection.

Farmer’s Wife, 7/1/1917

New Agricultural Newspaper Collection

Readex’s American Business: Agricultural Newspapers is a valuable, but in many ways disappointing collection. When complete, it will contain 238 farm newspapers from the 19th and late 18th centuries, the heyday of rural America. About 20% of the projected 238 titles are forthcoming.1 Over half of the titles currently available are represented by ten or fewer issues;2 almost half of the titles currently available are represented by five or fewer issues;3 and 33% of the titles are represented by a single issue.4 Only 58 of the newspapers have fifty or more issues. Continue reading “New Agricultural Newspaper Collection”

New Resource: Socialism on Film: Wars & Revolutions

Is it enough to worry?
Is it enough to worry?

Newsreels, feature films, and documentaries from 1917 through the Cold War. Films were produced in communist and socialist nations, such as the Soviet Union, Vietnam, China, Korea, Cuba, East Germany, and nations of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Browse the collection by topical subject, person as subject, place as subject, era as subject, place of production, and more. Includes ample supplementary material, such as case studies, chronologies, and essays. All films have keyword searchable transcripts.

All footage comes from the collections of the British Film Institute.

Wars and Revolutions is the first of three modules to be published in the collection Socialism on Film. Module II (to be released in 2018) will cover Newsreels and Magazines; and Module III (to be released in 2019) will cover Culture and Society.