The Twin City Review: A 1920s Labor Newspaper For Champaign County

The Twin City Review went into circulation in November 1920. The Review was originally published in Tolono, Illinois, before relocating to Champaign. The Twin City Federation of Labor published the paper “in the interest of organized labor.” At the time, Champaign County’s primary industries were higher education (the University of Illinois), railroads, and farming.  The Review frequently wrote about the perceived need for solidarity between farmers and urban laborers, including an inaugural issue article titled “Farm and City Workers Aim Identical-To Secure Justice” 

The Champaign-Urbana area boomed in the 1920s, and the population expanded by over twenty-eight percent during the decade of the Review’s existence. The paper, however, had entered an already-saturated market, so that it was competing with three well-established newspapers: The Champaign News-Gazette, the Urbana-Daily Courier, and the Daily Illini, all of which had publishing roots stretching back for over a half-century.   

H. H. Buckwalter| Buckwalter, Harry H. Rocky Mtn. News printing press. 1902. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America,

In the paper’s first edition, issued November 26, 1920, the editor C.F. Daugherty wrote, “The Review is not printed for profit; except the profit one derives from reading it.” The Review followed the standard model of labor union papers from the early twentieth century, which was to rely heavily on reader subscriptions due to a lack of advertisers. The Review was broadly successful in maintaining high circulation numbers despite the crowded market, as evidenced by an expansion in the number of pages throughout its run and higher production values. Editions of the Review also frequently included nationally syndicated political cartoons.  

A major talking point for the Review was the need for “Closed Shops” instead of “Open Shops.” Closed Shops are businesses that require all non-management employees to be union members. At first, the Twin City Review was not successful. The newspaper industry in Champaign was itself composed of open shops. One article from July 8, 1921, described a printer’s strike fighting for unionization and better working conditions. In this article, the author wrote, “Locally the situation remains practically unchanged. Several of the offices have imported a few strikebreakers and are making an attempt to operate, but the class of workmen that they are able to secure are of an inferior quality”. Over the next three years, collective action changed working conditions at newspapers across Champaign County. By 1924 ninety percent of printers in the county were unionized. The Review had made a clear impact on local unions.  

Geological Survey (U.S.). Illinois (Champaign County), Urbana quadrangle : topography. 1906. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, (Accessed April 16, 2021.)

The Review ceased publication in 1929, and was succeeded by a new paper called the Mid-West Farmer. The name change may have been an attempt to refocus its subject matter, and to reach an important local demographic. The change was likely accelerated by the stock market crash in 1929, causing a decline in subscriptions, as the last extant weekly edition came out the week before the economic collapse. The effort to re-brand was not successful, and Mid-West Farmer closed only two years later in 1931.  

–By Connor Monson

The Twin City Review was digitized with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program.

New Library Catalog debuts June 24, 2020

In late June, the University Library will introduce its new catalog, Primo. The Primo Catalog is the search interface of a state-of-the-art library management system called Ex Libris Alma. The Alma/Primo system was designed to provide better access to, and management of, 21st-century library collections. It has been adopted by a number of research libraries including Harvard and Northwestern.

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HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access

A message from the Library’s Associate Dean for Digital Strategies:

The ETAS will provide University students, faculty and staff with online reading access to print materials that are currently unavailable to our users.  It is being offered while the COVID-19 pandemic is limiting access to the print collection.  By offering this service, HathiTrust is helping us to continue to support teaching and research during the stay-at-home order.

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Halloween Reads at the Library

It is that time of year again! The leaves are changing and the weather is dramatically fluctuating between warm and astonishingly cold as Fall tries to get its footing. The perfect time to curl up under a blanket and read something eerie. If you’re looking for a good non-fiction book to read in honor of Halloween then this is the list for you.

Here are a few of the books in our collection that are excellent for this season:

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The Mad Gasser of Mattoon

In September of 1944 the front pages of the Daily Illini were covered with updates about the ongoing war. The newspaper readily chronicled major developments in the war as well as the deaths of young men who, just a few short years before, had once walked the university’s halls. Given the amount of bloodshed that was unfolding around the world, it is easy to miss the newspapers’ coverage of one particularly strange event, one that would come to be called the Mad Gasser of Mattoon.

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A Brief History of Advice Columns

In March of 1912 a lovelorn young woman wrote into the Rock Island Argus with a problem. At 20 years old she found that her boyfriend of 2 years was starting to hint that he was interested in marriage. Overcome with doubt, she wrote a letter to Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson, the Rock Island Argus’ resident advice columnist. After explaining the situation, she ended her letter with one simple question: Am I too young? The answer she received was quick and straight to the point: “No”.  This short and straight to the point style of answering questions seemed to be Mrs. Thompson’s specialty. Another woman in the same issue asked for advice on what to wear to an upcoming masquerade and was told curtly to dress as a French maid. Mrs. Thompson’s knowledge base was expansive and she seemed to be able to answer questions over a broad array of topics from skincare to food to fashion. She also dealt with much heavier topics, telling people, women in particular, how to survive and provide for their children when they had nowhere else to turn.

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Something Interesting About Early American Newspapers Series 13

Series 13 of Early American Newspapers boasts over 2,300 titles from the trans-Mississippi west. If you browse the series, however, you might notice something peculiar: over a third of these titles are represented by only a single issue, with all these single issues coming from the year 1876. Why does the collection contain so many random issues from the year 1876?

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Morbidity, Macabre, Murder, and Memory: a look into our collections

There is no secret that humans are drawn to the macabre. Shows revolving around murder, such as CSI and Criminal Minds, carry on for years and spur a number of spin-offs which are often met with success. In the meantime, podcasts like UP and Vanished and My Favorite Murder continue to top the iTunes podcast charts.

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