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In recognition of Black History Month, the IDHH would like to highlight the vibrant history of the black musicians of the historic Maxwell Street Market, the birthplace of Chicago blues. Between 1916 and 1970, six million African Americans moved from the rural Southern United States to the more urban Northeast, Midwest, and West in the Great Migration. Bringing new life to industrial cities like Chicago, one of the many areas in which these new Chicagoans landed was that of Maxwell Street, part of the Near West Side of the city. A bustling residential district, Maxwell Street first appeared on a city map in 1847 and over the next 75 years would become an increasingly diverse neighborhood, earning itself the nickname “Ellis Island of the Midwest”. By the 1920s, the area’s residents were predominantly African American, and these new migrants brought with them the sound of blues music.
In the 1930s and ‘40s, Maxwell Street became known as a place where black musicians could be heard by the greatest number of people as shoppers browsed the wares in the open-air market or inside stores. These street musicians played the acoustic blues of the South, but soon realized that amplification was needed so that they could be heard above the din of the noisy market. Setting up near storefronts, they began to play a blues music using electric guitar and the harmonica, both heavily amplified, often to the point of distortion. Over several decades, the featuring of these instruments and the blending of musical genres gave birth to an electrified, industrial blues, later coined, “Chicago Blues.” Made famous by black musicians on Maxwell Street such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Bo Diddley, Chicago blues would find mass appeal through Chicago blues record labels like Chess Records and have a significant influence on early rock musicians like The Rolling Stones.
Here are a few of our favorite items from IDHH collections featuring the music of the famous Maxwell Street Market:
As a native Texan, I have always regarded winter sports with a healthy amount of both respect and fear. However, an exception to this innate mindset was made every four years with the performance of the Winter Olympics. For those few weeks, I was awed by the grace of the figure skaters, the fearlessness of the luge racers, and the gravity-defying feats of snowboarders in the half-pipe. With the winter season in full swing here in Illinois, and the 2022 Winter Olympics just around the corner, the IDHH would like to feature a staple winter sport: ice skating.
Ice skating is believed to have developed in Scandinavia as early as 1000 BCE, using skates initially made from the bones of elk, oxen, reindeer, and other animals. While it is not exactly known when metal blades were introduced in the construction of ice skates , Dutch paintings from the 17th century clearly depict skaters gliding along on metal blades. Gaining in popularity as a recreational pastime in the 1800s, the activity eventually reached North America and a number of skating clubs were established in major cities in the Northern Hemisphere. Toward the end of the century, the sport would be indelibly changed in 1876 with the creation of the first rink using artificially frozen ice – the Glaciarium in London. The artificial ice rink in Madison Square Gardens opened soon after in 1879 and the innovation of creating artificial rinks led to the rise of various skating sports and a desire for ice shows as popular entertainment. Eventually, ice skating would make its debut in the 1908 Summer Olympics, with speed skating to follow as an event at the first official winter games in 1924.
Whether a newcomer to skating or a veteran of the ice, please enjoy a few of our favorite ice skating items from the collection:
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Visit the IDHH to explore other items related to ice skating.
To ring in the new year, the IDHH is pleased to feature the North Suburban Library District Local History Collection, one of our oldest collections, from the North Suburban Library District (NSLD). Opened in 1944 by the North Suburban Woman’s Club, the North Suburban Library District serves Machesney Park, Roscoe, and Loves Park with branches in Loves Park and Roscoe. Fifty years after opening, the North Suburban Library District Local History Collection began taking shape when the Friends of North Suburban Library group formed a local history committee. From an 1869 assessor’s book for the town of Harlem to photographs taken in 2001 of the NSLD Loves Park branch building, this collection illuminates the humble beginnings of the communities that surround Rockford, Illinois as well as important developments in this area over the past 150 years.
Local landmarks such as the River Lane Outdoor Theater and Kiddieland amusement park in Loves Park are included in the collection and provide a sense of recreation and entertainment in the metropolitan area. A particularly distinctive addition to the collection are images from the telephone operators’ strikes in 1945-1948, a series of strikes over the span of three years in which “telephone girls” picketed against the Illinois Bell Telephone Company, including a walkout of more than 16,000 telephone workers across Illinois and Indiana in November 1945. These demonstrations ultimately won the workers better wages and advancement opportunities, and the images of these demonstrations offer a glimpse at traditionally unseen workers and speaks to the power of workers’ unions at the time.
With such vibrant items in the collection, we hope you enjoy revisiting the North Suburban Library District Local History Collection as much as we do! Here are a few of our favorite items from the collection:
As another year comes to a close and 2022 looms large on the horizon, the IDHH would like to devote a post to the ways in which we reconnect, recharge, and renew ourselves during these busy holiday weeks. As a nod to the ways in which we all might choose to close out this year, we have featured a few forms of togetherness and entertainment from years past.
Invented by American Thomas Edison in 1877, the phonograph was the first sound machine that could both record and reproduce sound. The earliest “record player”, these devices consisted of a stylus or needle which traced the grooves etched upon a rotating cylinder and then amplified the sound waves through a flared horn. By 1890, record manufacturers had begun to mass-produce their product, allowing consumers to assemble their own record collections and share their favorite music with friends and family.
While previous generations may not have had the ability to binge-watch an entire season of TV together over the course of a weekend, they could enjoy dazzling depictions of scenes and far-off places from the comfort of their very own homes using a magic lantern. Widely accepted to have been invented by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens in the 17th century, the magic lantern created large-scale projections from images on transparent glass plates by manipulating one or more lenses and a light source. With these larger images, a magic lantern was preferable for large groups of viewers and was commonly used for entertainment purposes from the 18th century until the mid-20th century.
However we choose to spend these last moments of 2021 together – whether that’s listening to music, dancing with our favorite dance partner, or watching a feel-good movie – the IDHH wishes everyone a joyous holiday season and a wonderful New Year!
The IDHH is thrilled to once more partner with Analú María López, the Newberry’s Ayer Indigenous Studies Librarian, for our first post this December. Analú’s work focuses on underrepresented Indigenous narratives dealing with identity, language, and decolonization, and we are pleased to feature her writing for a second time as she sheds light on the Seeing Indian in Chicago exhibition, an outgrowth of the American Indian Oral History projecthighlighted in last month’s blog post.
The Chicago American Indian Photography project by Analú María López
For a long time, photography has reinforced negative stereotypes of Indigenous people, oftentimes placing them in the past. When we think of “Native American” or “Indigenous photography”, we think of the cliché photographs by white photographers like Edward Curtis1, we don’t usually think of Native American or Indigenous photographers. Despite the fact that Indigenous People have long taken images of their communities, we rarely see these images uplifted or reflected in history texts, let alone in the history of photography. In fact, Indigenous Peoples embraced photography early in the nineteenth century. Some even owned and operated their own photography studios, such as the Purépecha photographer Antonio Calderón Sandoval and Tsimshian photographer Benjamin Haldane. As the photographer and educator, Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (Seminole-Muscogee-Diné) once wrote, “No longer is the camera held by an outsider looking in, the camera is held with brown hands opening familiar worlds. We document ourselves with a humanizing eye, we create new visions with ease, and we can turn the camera and show how we see you.”
A collection of photographs titled the Chicago American Indian Photography project and Seeing Indian in Chicago exhibition records, held at the Newberry Library in Chicago, an independent research library with a focus on rare books, manuscripts, and other archival materials, highlights the Native American community in Chicago through a series of photographs created by Native and some non-Native community members. These photographs are part of the Indigenous Studies collection, which was founded on the donation from Edward E. Ayer’s Library in 1911. Ayer, a white settler, was one of the Library’s original Trustees and one of the most active collectors of his time in the field of Indigenous Americana.
An outgrowth of the American Indian Oral History project which was highlighted in last month’s blog post, included the Chicago American Indian Photography project and the subsequent Seeing Indian in Chicago exhibition, held July 22-September 21, 1985 at the Newberry Library. These projects aimed to document the Native American community in Chicago by creating an archive of photographs taken by community members over a span of 20 years. The project’s selections were chosen by an advisory group, and while Indigenous women photographers made the final list, the advisory committee’s decisions may have been based on how long the photographers had been photographing in the community.
The final exhibition included six photographers of the Chicago Native American community: Dan Battise (Alabama-Coushatta), Ben Bearskin (Ho-Chunk), Orlando Cabanban (Filipino-American), Joe Kazumura (Japanese-American), F. Peter Weil, and Leroy Wesaw (Pokagon Band of Potawatomi).
At two community meetings and dinners, held at the American Indian center on May 22, 1985, audiences were shown the photographs taken by each of the photographers; three photographers were featured at each meeting. Many identifications of the individuals in the photographs were made during the viewing of the photographs. On July 26, 1985, an opening was planned to commemorate the start of the exhibition, and attempts were made to make it a community event. A neighborhood spiritual leader conducted a prayer, then dancers and singers performed. At least half of the 400 persons who attended the brief event were members of the Chicago Native American community.
Images of the photographers, Powwow celebrations, community events and clubs such as the Camera and Canoe Club are just a few images seen within this collection. The Camera Club, first founded in the 1960s, often met at the American Indian Center in Chicago twice a week on Thursdays and Saturdays. At one point, the Camera Club proposed building a traditional black and white darkroom where youth could learn how to print from negatives.
Despite some obstacles, such as timeline and prohibitive printing costs, the Chicago American Indian Photography project’s overall success, which led to the organization of the Seeing Indian in Chicago exhibition, reflects a growing consciousness among Chicago’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities that Indigenous histories must continue to be told and uplifted through the lens of the community.
1Edward Sheriff Curtis was an American photographer and ethnologist whose work focused on the American West and on Native American people. Curtis’ portraits reinforced the Vanishing Race myth: often, and problematically photographing Native people as ethnographic depictions of a “disappearing” people. The “Vanishing Race” myth derived its name from the caption of Edward Curtis’s photograph of Diné riders disappearing into the distance.
We need your input! The Illinois Digital Heritage Hub website is now live but that’s not the end of the story. Changes are on the way, guided by the input and insight from site users like you. Please take a 4-question survey to tell us what you think about the website and portal. We welcome suggestions to improve existing content and ideas for new features. And if there’s something you really like, let us know. Thank you for helping us make the website better.
Happy October! The Illinois Digital Heritage Hub will be at the Chicago Research Summit and the Illinois Library Association Conference later this month.
Join Keri Cascio, chair of the IDHH Marketing Working Group and Chicago Public Library’s Assistant Chief of Technology, Content and Innovation at the Chicago Research Summit on October 18th. Keri will introduce the new IDHH website and search portal and its potential as a resource for educators and students of Chicago History.
Joshua Lynch, IDHH metadata specialist and webmaster, will present on the IDHH Website and Portal at the Illinois Library Association Annual Conference during both exhibits sessions on Wednesday, October 23rd and Thursday, October 24th. Learn about the IDHH and the DPLA and the website as a tool for new and current contributing institutions, educators and learners, and other user groups.
We look forward to seeing you there and want to hear your thoughts on the site!
The Illinois Digital Heritage Hub is proud to announce the launch of a brand new website! The site provides a portal to all of the IDHH’s contributors’ rich and unique cultural heritage objects, numbering more than 300,000 and growing.
Visitors can search the catalog by keywords or browse topics, Illinois historical events, locations, people, or formats. Users may also browse by some of the IDHH’s more than 140 contributors. The site also provides documentation for new providers preparing to get started contributing collections.
Special thanks to our providers whose contributions make the IDHH possible. The website was made possible by the DPLA’s Local platform and we thank the Digital Public Library of America’s developers, who provided the out-of-the-box technology infrastructure and necessary modifications for additional pages and features. The IDHH is glad to be a part of this feature development and trusts that it will build on the solid foundation of DPLA Local and empower other DPLA partners. Finally, graduate student assistants, Tath Haver and Kaylen Dwyer made essential contributions toward developing key site features and their work is greatly appreciated.
The website will be undergoing several rounds of updates in the coming months and new features are soon to come. These include more features for educators and students, more browsing options, and, longer term, digital exhibits.