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The fairly simple sport of soccer, known internationally as football, is the world’s most popular ball game in numbers of participants and spectators. With the 2022 Men’s FIFA World Cup currently in play, the IDHH would like to highlight the sport of soccer and its rise in popularity in the United States. Soccer was brought to North America by European immigrants in the 1860s, with informal matches being contested by Canadian and American teams by the mid-1880s. Already a pastime with a devoted audience and professional associations in Britain, soccer was not immediately popular in Canada or the United States, as ice hockey and gridiron football (American football) were becoming more prominent respectively.
However, American cities with large immigrant populations, such as Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City, saw the sport played widely, and led to the official formation of the United States Soccer Federation in 1913. Over the first half of the 20th century, soccer’s popularity in the United States would steadily rise without ever truly finding a regular fan base. The sport’s fortunes would shift in the 1960s and ‘70s, though, as American teams began signing international players, such as the Brazilian athlete Pelé, and the passage of Title IX in 1972 further encouraged the participation of female players. Viewed as less violent and more socially inclusive than American football, soccer benefited from an influx of younger soccer players in the 1980s and ‘90s. The United States would host the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, setting an all-time attendance record as the U.S. women’s team led by Mia Hamm clinched the Cup. In the last two decades, soccer has solidified itself as a significant sport in the United States, with the creation of various national soccer associations and leagues, and a devoted following of American teams on the international stage.
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:
Cooler weather. Baking spices. Warm cider. These things might conjure up a variety of associations and feelings, but for those of us living in the northern United States, they herald the beginning of the autumn or fall season. With the start of November, the IDHH would like to highlight that time of year when the daylight hours wane and sweater weather is in vogue. In the Northern Hemisphere, autumn is usually recognized as the time between the autumnal equinox toward the end of September and the winter solstice toward the end of December. This time of the year has held various significance across cultures and periods, but early associations in the Northern Hemisphere centered around the passing of the year and the importance of the harvest season in areas across medieval Europe.
While this connection to harvesting continues to be paramount for those working in agriculture, the environmental changes during the fall season have also become a key aspect of tourism for certain areas of the world. In the United States, portions of northern New England, Appalachia, and the upper Midwest offer prime views of leaves changing from their usual green color to vivid hues of orange, red, and yellow in the autumn months. Millions of visitors pour into these areas of the country to witness this stunning natural display – an act referred to as ‘leaf peeping’ in some circles. A phrase used colloquially in the United States since only the 1960s, leaf peeping is an autumn activity enjoyed internationally in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada, as well as in various parts of Japan.
Here are a few of our favorite items featuring vibrant fall foliage:
October marks that time of the year when we dress up as ghouls and goblins, decorate our homes with spiderwebs and skeletons, and indulge in all manner of frightening things. As a nod to these spine-chilling 31 days, the IDHH is featuring the fascinating use and art of tombstones and other grave markers. As diverse as the great variety of funerary traditions around the world, grave markers serve not only the utilitarian purpose of demarcating the physical space where an individual might lie, but also reflect the social values and traditions of a specific period or people. Cemeteries and other burial places held great significance from the earliest days, as providing a place for the dead was thought to be an important family obligation. This significance would eventually extend to larger communal graveyards and burial places as inclusion in these spaces became exclusive to community members, often excluding foreigners, criminals, and other unwanted groups.
The tombstones and grave markers within these communal spaces have communicated a number of ideas to visitors over time. As a work of art, the craftsmanship and skill in the construction of the tombstones can be an aesthetic pleasure in its own right. Such artistry leads people to create gravestone rubbings with charcoal and to capture graveyard scenes through painting and photography. The construction and grandiosity of these markers may also impart a sense of prestige or wealth, such as in the image below of Carrie Eliza Getty’s large tomb in Chicago. Of course, tombstones also act as a memorial to previous generations, prompting us to seek out the histories of those buried there, like of the Mabie family and their influential 1840s circus show in Wisconsin. Whether viewed as art, icon, or historical marker, tombstones offer a (spooky) glimpse into the values and customs of those who are no longer with us.
Here are a few of our favorite items featuring tombstones from across the Midwest:
This second week of October marks the close of Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States. The national observance was established as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and then extended in 1988 to cover an entire month from September 15th to October 15th. Hispanic Heritage Month seeks to celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. To highlight just one of the many varied groups celebrated in Hispanic Heritage Month, the IDHH is featuring the Puerto Rican Cultural Center Collection and the Luis V. Gutiérrez Congressional Archives.
The Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) is a non-profit organization established in 1973 by the Puerto Rican and Latina/o community in Chicago to address both the social and cultural needs of the community. Currently located in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on the West side of Chicago, the Center is a community landmark on the historic section of Division Street known as Paseo Boricua (“Boricua [Puerto Rican] Promenade”). Acting as a community center, political organizing space, and cultural hub, the PRCC hosts educational workshops, publishes the bilingual community newspaper La Voz del Paseo Boricua, and partners with a number of affiliated organizations in the community.
Luis Vicente Gutiérrez is an American politician of Puerto Rican descent who was active in local Chicago politics as well as the U.S. House of Representatives. The first Hispanic Representative from Illinois, Gutiérrez first served as an alderman on the Chicago City Council from 1986 to 1993 before being elected as a Representative for Illinois in 1992. In addition to advocating for workers’ rights and LGBTQ+ rights throughout his political service, Gutierrez was also a steadfast champion of Puerto Rican independence. He protested the United States military use of the island as a bomb testing ground in the early 2000s and human rights abuses occurring on the island against University of Puerto Rico students in 2011.
The work of the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center and of Luis Vicente Gutiérrez reflect the vibrant culture, community, and impact of Puerto Ricans in the United States. Here are a few of our favorite items from these collections:
Through its more than half a million items, the IDHH provides invaluable glimpses into the history of the state of Illinois and the people that have lived here. However, all too often we do not know the viewpoint from behind the camera, the eye behind the lens. To better appreciate those capturing history with the snap of a camera shutter, the IDHH is featuring the Eddie Winfred “Doc” Helm Photograph Collection at the Illinois State Archives. Born in Mount Vernon, Illinois in 1911, Eddie Winfred Helm showed an interest in photography while still young, earning the nickname of “Doc” due to an early job delivering prescriptions for a local pharmacy. In 1934, Helm moved to Springfield to begin working with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. One of a few African-Americans working in the Capitol complex at that time, he initially performed a variety of duties for the Office, including that of putting the state flag on top of the Capitol Building each day without a harness or other protective gear.
During his first decade in Springfield, Helm held various positions within the Capitol Building, coming in time to microfilm documents for the Illinois State Library in the early 1940s. The Library contained a photo lab, where Helm began to develop personal film there on his lunch breaks, and Helm’s photographic talents caught the notice of the Head Librarian in 1944. This attention resulted in Helm’s appointment as the Official State Photographer in February 1944. Until his retirement in 1992, Helm photographed all manner of state events featuring dignitaries, celebrities, and everyday citizens alike. In his capacity as Official State Photographer, Helm possessed a proximity to the workings of government that few people of color had in the mid-20th century. As a Black American in a largely white space, Eddie Winfred “Doc” Helm captured not only the official history of the state of Illinois but of Springfield as well as he bore witness to the integration of the city and the Civil Rights struggles of the era.
Below are a few of our favorite Eddie Winfred “Doc” Helm photographs taken at Illinois State Fairs over the years:
From grand to upright to electronic, the piano has undergone a number of reinventions over the past three hundred years as musical tastes and needs have changed. With the start of National Piano Month on September 1, the IDHH would like to explore the history and influence of this versatile instrument on the wide world of music. Most sources point to the Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco as the inventor of the early piano. While the exact timeline of Cristofori’s work is murky, he undeniably had mastered the elements of modern piano action and created a piano (the fortepiano) by the early 1700s. While older keyboard instruments such as the clavichord and the harpsichord allowed for either dynamic control over individual notes or access to a loud, resonant sound, Cristofori’s fortepiano was revolutionary because it enabled players’ greater command of the instrument’s expressive tone and volume.
Over the next three centuries, variations in piano shape and design would multiply as renowned composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Frédéric Chopin wrote pieces specifically for the instrument, bringing greater attention and demand for the piano. By the 1860s, the upright piano had become a more practical and accessible musical option for use in private homes, as groups could now listen to simplified piano arrangements of popular music and enjoy an evening of tuneful entertainment together. Further innovations to piano design and construction were developed in the 20th century with the advent of electric and digital instruments, applying the technological advances of the era to the art of music making. Illinois has had its own role in the history of the piano, from William Wallace Kimball’s successful Kimball Piano Company in Chicago, to the numerous talented pianists such as Lillian (Lil) Hardin Armstrong who made Illinois their artistic home and contributed to the vibrant musical culture of the state.
Below are a few of our favorite items featuring the versatility of the piano:
A staple lunchbox food, picnic addition, or food on the go, the sandwich is so ubiquitous these days that we might eat or make one without ever stopping to wonder about the history of this versatile dish. With August as National Sandwich Month, the IDHH would like to highlight this humble entrée and the many ways it’s permeated our everyday culture. While something resembling the sandwich has most likely existed since the consumption of meat and bread began, legend has it that John Montagu, 4th earl of Sandwich, once dined on sliced meat and bread while playing at a gaming table so that he could continue to play as he ate. Indeed, the name was adopted in the 18th century for the earl, but probably due to his requests for the dish in London society or perhaps from a penchant of his to eat sandwiches while working at his desk. Regardless, Montagu’s social status lent the food credibility, and the sandwich soon became fashionable fare on the European continent.
The food item’s simplicity and versatility allow it to be a suitable choice in a variety of environments. Just as welcome in the lunchbox of an elementary school student as a busy professional, the sandwich can be arrayed in a myriad of ways, dressed up for foodies or made as plainly as possible. The World War II poster featuring the character “Jenny on the job” illustrates how the sandwich was used as part of an appeal to a sense of manliness and competence for female workers stepping into roles traditionally filled by men, who were overseas fighting in the war. As versatile as the food itself, the word “sandwich” may also refer to non-food items as well, such as the town of Sandwich, Illinois, the Sandwich Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, or the sandwich mathematical theorem.
Have are a few of our favorite sandwich-related items from the collection:
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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: