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.
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:
As temperatures warm and days get ever longer, the sounds of bees buzzing past and birds chirping in the trees indicate not only the arrival of summer, but also the height of the plant pollination period. June 1st marked the beginning of National Pollinators Month, recognizing these creatures and the crucial role they play in the larger system of plant reproduction and proliferation. Pollinators come in all shapes and sizes, encompassing such diverse animals as insects, birds, and even some mammals. These animals travel from one flower or plant to another, carrying pollen as they go, and fertilizing flora with each new plant they visit. The symbiotic dynamic between these plants and pollinators is vital to both groups, as pollinators eat the pollen or nectar for its nutritional content, while the plants rely on the pollinators to spread their pollen, aiding in reproduction.
The importance of this intricate process and the players within it has captivated human populations for centuries as butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators have been ascribed cultural significance and symbolism in various communities around the world. Such cultural significance persists today as we create entertainment like The Bee Movie that foregrounds pollinators, hold events such as the Aurora Pollinator Festival that highlight the role of pollinators, and design outdoor environments that offer ideal conditions for these animals. Indeed, as our climate changes there is a greater need than ever to create pollinator-friendly landscapes using pollinator-friendly practices. By providing habitats conducive to pollinator animals, we can simultaneously safeguard this essential process and beautify the natural world around us.
Below are a few of our favorite items featuring one of the most popular pollinators – the honey bee:
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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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“As American as apple pie.” While the first recorded recipe for apple pie was written in England in 1381, this quotation has become synonymous with Americana and speaks to a country’s love of the versatile baked dish. Centuries before this catchy phrase was featured in advertisements of the Roaring Twenties, colonists of the fledgling United States found their wheat from England unsuited to North American soil and instead channeled their small amount of grain for use in pies rather than bread. With their flourishing New England apple orchards, this environment sowed the seeds for a nation’s embrace of the pie as a culinary favorite and cultural signifier.
From springtime fairs to end-of-the-year holidays and festivals, it’s difficult to think of an event or season in which some kind of pie would not be welcome. The dessert is so ubiquitous that ten U.S. states claim a pie as their “official” state dessert, state treat, or state pie. Maine even lists two iconic pies for the state, claiming blueberry pie as the state dessert and whoopie pie as the state treat (though the whoopie pie is not quite a pie and more a type of soft cookie). The IDHH’s own state of Illinois proudly lists the pumpkin pie as the state pie and today produces the most pumpkins used for processed pie filling.
While eating pies may be the more traditional way to enjoy the classic American dessert, some of our favorite items from the collection below show more inventive uses of the dish, from thrown projectile to animal treat:
Now included in the IDHH are two collections from the McLean County Museum of History. The Pantagraph Negative Collection 1930-1939 and 1940-1945 include roughly 48,000 scanned negatives from the Pantagraph, a newspaper headquartered in Bloomington. The collections include scans of negatives created by photographer-reporters between 1932 and 1945. The Pantagraph’s origins date back to 1846 and was known for its coverage of regional agricultural concerns, local sports, and community social events in 10 counties surrounding McLean County.
The collection, donated to Mclean County Museum of History by the Pantagraph, preserves vivid images of the early and mid 20th century, including the rise of industrial agriculture and the Great Depression in Central Illinois. Here’s a few of the gems from their collection: