Arthur C. Cole joined the history faculty of the University of Illinois in 1912. Before leaving for appointments elsewhere, beginning in 1920, he wrote The Era of the Civil War, 1848-1870, The Centennial History of Illinois, volume 3 (1919).
The notes comprising this collection were used in preparation of that book, and for a chapter in volume 5 of the Centennial History. They are almost entirely quotes from primary sources, mainly newspapers, and are organized chronologically, and by subject within each time period. The divisions are as follows: 1820-49, 2 boxes; 1850-59, 8 boxes; 1860-69, 12 boxes; 1870-79, 3 boxes; 1880-89, 3 boxes; 1890-1900, 1 box; and 1917-19, 5 boxes. In addition, the Survey has a microfilm copy of Box 1. There is also a folder of correspondence and data assembled by Cole for his chapter on World War I in The Modern Commonwealth, 1813-1918, The Centennial History of Illinois, volume 5 (1920).