This collection contains more than a thousand "penny postals" (U.S. business postcards), sent or received by C. F. Hall of Dundee, McHenry County, Ill., who also did business as C. F. Hall & Co. in Richmond, Kane County, Ill. Hall was a grocer and dry goods merchant. The cards document the wide range of products that were bought and sold in small-town northern Illinois stores. Hall depended upon companies in many places, not just Chicago, and he also placed orders directly with a stream of traveling salesmen.
Although "postals" were an ephemeral mode of communication, the preservation of such a large number of postcards to and from a single correspondent makes possible a detailed analysis of commercial transactions during the accelerated settlement of two northern Illinois counties in the late nineteenth century.
The collection was preserved due to Fred Hall's close friendship with the family of Edmund Bruce "Bill" Stiles (b. 1866) and Hubert William ("Will") Stiles (b. 1872), as noted by the donor, Judy Cook of Laurel, Md. Kristin Hoganson of the University of Illinois Department of History facilitated the gift of the collection to the University Library's Illinois history unit in 2012.