"For four decades, Jim Krohe has been the

premier writer about things Illinois"

                                                                                     

 James Nowlan

I've been a magazine journalist, essayist, and critic for nearly fifty years now. My work has appeared in more than a dozen national magazines and newspapers, including The Nation, Reader's Digest, New York Times Book Review, and Wall Street Journal. But by far the most of my work, and most of the best, has been done for newspapers and magazines in my native Illinois. 

The Corn Latitudes is an archives of writing on Illinois social life, history, politics, and culture, with particular attention having been paid to Chicago and Springfield, the state capital. The collection will be of interest to anyone with abiding connections to Illinois owing to their youth, their schooling,  or their family. Journalists eager for backgrounding on public issues might also find it useful, as might historians. Illinois writers, the architects, the politicians who called it home also being of national interest, the out-of-state reader should also find things worth reading, as will anyone curious to know more about Illinois’s crown jewel, the great city of Chicago.

"If you would learn about Illinois today, you must read about yesterday, especially if you are an historian or a journalist needing to do a quick study of an unfamiliar field. Many of the stories journalists labor on today were already written 20, 50,

150 years ago."

James Krohe Jr.

La Grange, Illinois, 2015, by Linda Davis

My longest and in many ways most rewarding association is with the Springfield weekly, Illinois Times, in which I appeared shortly after its founding in 1975. Writing mainly about the capital city, I contributed feature articles, reviews,  and opinion columns. The latter appeared under the title "Prejudices," until 1994; I resumed my career as an IT columnist in 2009 with a new weekly column, “Dyspepsiana”—an even thousand columns in all. 

The "other Illinois"Chicagobecame a preoccupation in 1978, when I first appeared in The Reader, Chicago's version of Illinois Times, and the city continued to be a topic until 1998. The city and the magazine scene was bustling in those days. During my time there I was made contributing editor of the magazine Chicago Times (from 1989 until 1990, when the magazine closed, undone by its publishers), and served in the same position at Chicago-based Inland Architect from 1992 until it was undone by the demise of its patron and sold, in 1994. I also was a regular contributor to the late, lamented Chicago Enterprise magazine, the do-gooding monthly of the Commercial Club of Chicago. 

 

A very different range of issues were the subjects of my regular contributions to Nature of Illinois, the short-lived but worthy journal of The Nature of Illinois Foundation. In addition to my magazine and newspaper work, I wrote or edited several reports and studies for Illinois public agencies and not-for-profit organizations. Topics include conservation planning, child welfare, school district reorganization, drug education, energy conservation, solid waste policy, and historic preservation.

How it piled up. Surprisingly little of it is available, since much of it pre-dated the internet. The Reader maintains an online archive that includes my post-1987 pieces for that publication, and all of my post-2009 work for Illinois Times can be read at that paper's web home, but most of the rest survive only on paper in my closet. Scanned versions of those moldering masterpieces constitute the bulk of this archives. 

 

Honors

 

In 1977 A Springfield Reader, which I designed and edited, was given an Illinois State Historical Society's Award of Merit. I authored one of three parts of a series on pollution and risk published by the American Bar Association's Student Lawyer magazine that won the Chicago Headline Club's 1985 Peter Lisagor Award for reporting and that year's award for editorial excellence from the American Society of Business Publications Editors. In 1994 I won the Illinois Press Association's "Best Column" award. In 2018 my book Corn Kings & One-Horse Thieves was recognized as a scholarly publication worthy of a Superior Achievement Award.

Why bother?

 

Readers will ask—as I have asked—why should anyone bother to read stories that for the most part are old news? I offer several reasons.

 

One is nostalgia; readers can revisit old events, causes, and controversies with which they were once involved. For another, faithful readers whose memories are as creaky as mine can enjoy old favorites as if they were new. Many of the Illinois books I reviewed on publication remain worth reading, and thus worth reading about. 

 

The school teacher in me insists that background reading of this sort contributes to one's education about Illinois and deepens one’s understanding of the place. (That certainly was my motive for writing many of these pieces.) Newcomers to the state might be curious to learn how Illinois became Illinois; old-timers might be curious to learn how the Illinois of our youth un-became itself.

Finally, many of yesterday’s controversies remain today’s controversies, even after 40 years. (Typical example from the headline of a 1991 story about higher education: “Tuition’s terrible toll: Are all but the wealthy getting priced out of college?”) When I began, Illinois faced new problems. How to protect Illinoisans and Illinois natural systems against pollution. How to wean ourselves of unreliable sources of energy, dependence on which threatened the national security. How to open a society long closed to women in all their aspects. How to counter the ugly new politics of the Nixonian right  based on racial division and class resentment. How to adapt our education system, our social safety net, and our tax system to a new economy that was cheating too many people of prosperity.

Illinois hasn’t fixed one of those problems. So if you would learn about Illinois today, you must read about yesterday, especially if you are an historian or a journalist needing to do a quick study of an unfamiliar field. Many of the stories journalists labor on today were already written 20, 50, 150 years ago.

From the site menu above, click The site for more detailed information about the contents of the archives and tips on how to navigate the site.

Please note that The Corn Latitudes

is a work in progress, so check back often. 

 

If you would like to see a specific piece that is not yet in the archive, let me know at the address below.

SITES

OF INTEREST

John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago

 

The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago, Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois

 

Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

Illinois Digital Archives

 

Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

[STILL A-BUILDING]

BOOKS

 OF INTEREST

Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of

solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study

. . . an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy

the book

Contact James Krohe Jr. at CornLatitudes@outlook.com

All material Copyright © by James Krohe Jr. unless otherwise indicated

Faragher