Richard C. Skagenberg served as the official photographer of the many events which marked the centennial of Bement, Ill. in 1955. This collection contains hundreds of Skagenberg's carefully identified photographs of that landmark year. It also contains his scrapbook of clippings, programs, and ephemera which document the centennial, and a smaller quantity of materials that document the sesquicentennial in 2005.
The celebration began with a Kick-off dinner on Apr. 11 and concluded with a Touchdown dinner on Nov. 9. Daily events, which drew crowds many times larger than Bement's population of about 1,500, occurred during the week of July 31 to Aug. 6, 1955.
Carleton Smith, a native of Bement, arranged for a number of prominent figures to come to the centennial, most notably James A. Farley, Marilyn Monroe, Carl Sandburg, and Norman Thomas. He also brought to Bement Clark Eichelberger, executive director of the American Associaton of the United Nations; Sen. Ralph Flanders of Vermont; Charles B. Shuman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation; Rep. Philip Wilkie of Indiana; and Sen. Alexander Wiley of Wisconsin.
Smith (1908-84) graduated from the University of Illinois in 1928, and for a time pursued a career as a music critic. He founded the National Arts Foundation in 1948 and served as its director. Through the foundation, a precursor of the National Endowment for the Humanities, he sought to arrange international exchanges of art and artists. He endeavored to establish a range of cultural programs and exhibits, and to find donors to support them. For an exhibit at the Bement centennial in particular, he obtained on loan a broad spectrum of documents, paintings, and sculpture.
Richard Skagenberg and Eleanor Ann Lefever Skagenberg, residents of Monticello, Ill., gave the collection to the University of Illinois Library in 2014. They donated additional materials related to Marilyn Monroe in 2015.