Near the Illinois border with Indiana lies the town of Marshall, the county seat of Clark County, Illinois. Boasting a history much bigger than its size might suggest, the IDHH is pleased to feature the Marshall Public Library Digital Archive as one of our newest additions to the Illinois Digital Heritage Hub. Marshall traces its founding to 1835, when Illinois politician and businessman William B. Archer officially organized what would be the beginnings of the city. Marshall took the surname of a Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Marshall, as its namesake and would be incorporated as a city in 1873. Situated along the National Road, the first major improved highway built by the federal government in the early 1800s, Marshall saw thousands of settlers pass through on their travels to the West.
The city would play host to a variety of notable persons over its nearly 200-hundred-year history, with Abraham Lincoln being a frequent visitor of Marshall during his time as a lawyer. Marshall was also the temporary home of James Jones, best-selling author and winner of the 1952 National Book Award for his novel From Here to Eternity. Jones helped found the Handy Writers’ Colony in 1950 with Lowney Turner Handy and her husband, Harry Handy. A demanding teacher, Lowney Handy would have her students spend many hours copying, by hand or typewriter, materials from authors whose work she admired. The Colony would eventually dissolve after operating for 14 years, but not before seeing several of The Colony writers such as John Bowers and Charles Wright receive publications of their works.
Marshall continues to be a small city with big appeal, whether hosting its annual Fall Festival each autumn or offering a summer of live music by the Marshall City Band, the oldest, continuously operating band in Illinois. Here are a few of our favorite items from the Marshall Public Library Digital Archive:
Along the Mississippi River, across from St. Louis, Missouri, lies Madison County, Illinois. Part of the Metro-East region comprising various counties on both sides of the Mississippi River, Madison County is home to a number of cities, villages, and townships that speak to the larger history of the state of Illinois and the land on which it stands. Established on September 14, 1812, the county was named for President James Madison and initially included the modern state of Illinois north of St. Louis as well as all of Wisconsin, part of Minnesota, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Over time, this enormous jurisdiction would be reduced to its present size of 741 square miles. An industrial region since the late 1800s, the area was first populated by the largest and most influential urban settlement of the Native American Mississippian culture – Cahokia. Containing about 80 humanmade earthen mounds near Collinsville, the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is now a National Historic Landmark and one of the 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites within the United States.
In the last 250 years, Madison County’s advantageous position next to the Mississippi River has allowed it to bear witness to a variety of notable people and events in United States history. Camp Dubois, the winter camp and launch-point for the exploration of the Louisiana Purchase by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1803, lies within the county, as did the original City Hall in Alton, which hosted the last of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates on October 15, 1858. The Madison County Historical Society seeks to preserve the wonderful history of the county through their mission of “Opening Doors to Madison County History.” The digital collections shared with the IDHH certainly fulfill this mission, as they provide insight into the lives of 19th-century women through a series of private letters (Private and Real), the experiences of an American nurse serving in France during World War I (In Her Own Words), and the ways in which Madison County has changed over the years (Picturing the History of Madison County).
Join us in offering a warm welcome to the Madison County Historical Society, and enjoy a few of our favorite items from their collections below:
With summer just around the corner, the IDHH is pleased to feature the Archive Collection from one of our newest contributors, Prairie State College. A two-year community college founded in 1957 as Bloom Township Junior College, the college offered its first classes in 1958 in the basement of the First Christian Church in Chicago Heights. From these humble beginnings, Prairie State College has emerged as a vital part of the Chicago Heights community, now spanning 130 acres and serving over 20 different communities in the diverse area once known as “the Crossroads of the Nation”. The first community college in Illinois to guarantee that all credits would transfer to other colleges and universities in the state, Prairie State College now offers degrees and certificates in more than 100 fields of study, from liberal arts subject areas to technical and career disciplines.
The extensive Archive Collection at Prairie State College provides a look at the rich history of the community college, from its earliest days as Bloom Township Junior College and into the 21st century. Of particular note are items in the collection that focus on the various technical and career programs available at the college. Images of students working under car hoods, on dental patients’ mouths, and with nursing equipment reflect the practical experiences of students in the Automotive Technology, Dental Hygiene, and Nursing programs respectively. In addition to these photographs, the Archive Collection contains items featuring the expansion of the campus and construction of campus buildings, the day-to-day events and happenings of the college, and the achievements and recognition of Prairie State College students.
The IDHH warmly welcomes Prairie State College, and we hope you enjoy perusing their collection as much as we do! Here are a few of our favorite items:
Nestled along the picturesque Rock River in northwestern Illinois, the city of Dixon bears a fascinating history in the early nineteenth century as a fledgling outpost in the newly incorporated state of Illinois. Established in 1828 by Joseph Ogee, who operated a ferry along the banks of the Rock River, the city would take its name from a “Father” John Dixon after coming to the area in 1830 and purchasing the ferry operation from Ogee. With its advantageous position on the Rock River for trade and commerce, the settlement prospered from the abundance of the significant waterway and quickly grew into a thriving community.
Fifty years later, the thriving city of Dixon saw the creation of Dixon College, a private college that operated with a teacher-training institution, the Northern Illinois Normal School. Dixon College advertised itself as an institution that taught “practically everything” and offered courses in such subjects as civil and electrical engineering, typewriting, and law. Though Dixon College closed around 1914 after only 35 years, the city of Dixon has a number of attractions that keep visitors coming to the area year after year. Designated the “Petunia Capital of Illinois” by the Illinois General Assembly in 1999, the city holds an annual Petunia Festival every summer featuring a parade, carnival, and fireworks show. In preparation for the festival, volunteers and citizens plant thousands of pink petunias along main streets, such as Galena Avenue with its iconic Dixon Arch.
The IDHH is pleased to welcome the Dixon Public Library to the IDHH and feature their collections with this Highlights post. Here are a few of our favorite items:
Imagine the wonder of one day being able to ride a new-fangled machine powered entirely by electricity that could whisk passengers between cities at a brisk speed of up to 20 miles per hour. Such was the excitement and delight with the invention of the streetcar in the mid-1880s by American engineer Frank Julian Sprague (1857–1934). Before the arrival of streetcars, also known as trolleys or trams, the fastest mode of interurban transportation was the horse-drawn tram, a much slower way to travel within or between nearby cities. The convenience that the streetcar provided facilitated a boom in urban populations as citizens could move to suburban areas and become the first commuters.
The area of East St. Louis in Illinois experienced a surge in population growth and urban expansion in the late 1800s as the East St. Louis & Suburban Railway extended its reach in the St. Clair and Madison counties of the state. Stretching from the town of East St. Louis in Illinois to St. Louis in Missouri and beyond, the Great East Side Railway moved passengers and freight between the two states, becoming a transportation hub and spurring industrial development in the area. The IDHH is pleased to welcome the St. Clair County Historical Society to the Illinois Digital Heritage Hub and to feature their Metro East Streetcar Photographic Collection, which contains images of the streetcars and transportation infrastructure of the East St. Louis & Suburban Railway and the St. Louis & Belleville Electric Railway. Passed down through generations from a longtime employee of the Union Electric Company, which provided the power for the electric railways in the area, these photographs offer a glimpse at the historic influence of this novel mode of transportation.
Here are a few of our favorite items from the collection:
Des Plaines’ collection boast a rich record of the distant past as well, including diaries from the Civil War. This collection boasts several objects, including journals and images and is growing, and is a truly remarkable addition to the many Civil War artifacts available in IDHH collections.
Finally, Des Plaines memory includes selected works of local artist, Edward Dougal (1937-2016). Dougal was a versatile artist with expertise in several forms and a host of media. He was a painter, sculptor, wood worker, and a writer and illustrator of children’s books. His pieces incorporating mirrors are among the most interesting, some of which are featured below.