This collection consists of personal papers from Stephen Alfred Forbes (1844-1930). The materials reflect life before, during, and after the Civil War; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; and the accomplishments of Stephen A. Forbes in his academic and scientific career. The collection includes correspondence, photographs, published works, newspaper clippings, and other materials.
Enlisting at the age of 17, Stephen A. Forbes served in the 7th Illinois Cavalry during the Civil War, attaining the rank of Captain. After the war ended, Forbes took courses in medicine at Rush Medical College in Chicago. Before he completed his degree, however, he decided to study botany and natural history while teaching in southern Illinois. In 1877, he established the Illinois State Laboratory of Natural History--later the Illinois Natural History Survey--which he directed until his death in 1930. In 1884, the laboratory moved from Normal, Illinois, to the University of Illinois campus where Forbes served successively as Professor of Zoology and Entomology, as well as Dean of the College of Science (1885-1905). He retired in 1921 and received the title of emeritus professor.
The collection is comprised of 12 series, including Correspondence, Civil War Material, Genealogical and Ancestral Materials, and Photographs. Although the collection dates from 1830 to 1992, the bulk of the material dates from the 1860s to the mid-1930s.
The Civil War Material series contains correspondence, diaries, and Army orders and citations. Official U.S. Army documents include position commissions, certificates, and other materials related to Forbes's service during the Civil War. The series also includes correspondence, speeches, and newspaper articles discussing Grierson's Raid (1863) through Confederate territory in Mississippi, which Stephen A. Forbes participated in.
The Genealogical and Ancestral Materials series includes a 500+ page volume entitled Forbes Family Letters and Journals of Stephen Alfred Forbes, 1847-1870. The volume was written and compiled by Ethel Forbes Scott (Stephen's daughter) in 1936, one-hundred years after the Forbes family first settled in Illinois. It contains typescript copies of the Forbes's letters and journal entries, as well as genealogical information. Several letters and journal entries offer insight into the war, including what life was like as a captured Union soldier behind Confederate lines. Also included in the series are copies of family records, such as obituaries and legal papers.
The Library acquired the collection in a series of donations from Ethel Forbes Scott (daughter of Stephen A. Forbes) in 1953, 1958, and 1968; Bertha Forbes Herring (daughter of Stephen A. Forbes) in 1958; Richard M. Forbes (grandson of Stephen A. Forbes) in 1966 and 1987-1989; Irene Hansen in 1992; and Robert A. Croker in 1999.