A Springfield Reader
Historical views of the Illinois Capital, 1818–1976
Sangamon County Historical Society
The showpiece of the Sangamon County Historical Society’s Bicentennial Studies in Sangamon History was A Springfield Reader: Historical Views of the Illinois Capital, 1818–1976.
I vaguely recall that the idea of publishing an anthology of historical views was mine. As I had done on the preceding publications in the series, I would edit the volume, including securing the necessary permissions, and design and lay out the book and oversee its printing and distribution. The design was crudely done using press-on type for the cover and chapter title pages and graphics done up using the Xerox machine at Lincoln Library. Seeing it today, I feel like I did in my 50s when I opened an old box and found a clay ash tray that I’d made for my mother in kindergarten.
Producing it was a stretch for an organization of the Society’s modest means. The fattest of the previous publications in the Bicentennial series ran to 56 pages; the book I proposed would be 320 pages. Cullom Davis and Dick Hart, the grownups involved, had the sense to seek subsidies from local businesspeople. The head of the Marine Bank agreed to give $500 toward the costs and we sold books at cost to the Springfield Board of Realtors, which gave one to each new resident of Springfield until the books ran out. The portrait my authors painted was anything but flattering; I wonder what they made of it.
Local reviewers were very generous. John Garvey praised it as “a fine anthology . . . a richer look at Springfield's heritage than anything else I have seen . . . simply no better introduction to this place.” In a well-observed essay-review in the State Journal-Register, Mike Kienzler wrote that, compared to kindred works, the Reader gave “a better idea of what Springfield is about—a little schizoid, never sure whether to keep its gaze upwards, to Lincoln, or downwards, to make sure the state legislature hasn't stolen its socks.”
The back cover promised "original essays on the Illinois capital by the editor.” Those eight pieces were original, all right, but I'm not sure they offered enough beyond newness to stand alone so I don’t reproduce them here.
Used copies of the book can still be purchased. The anthology has good stuff in it to anyone interested in the town, and in a better world it would be reprinted. Springfield realtors still show houses to buyers new to the city, and they would be wise to follow the example of their predecessors from the 1970s.
Here is the table of contents, if you're curious.
The City of Springfield
Removal of the State Capital
History of Sangamon County
A New Epoch
Illinois State Register
Building Lake Springfield
An All America City
“THE MOST DURABLE GHOST”
Lincoln the Log Roller
Abe Lincoln in Springfield
A. J. Liebling
The Business of Selling Mr. Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln and Springfield
Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight
Republicans Elect a President
Paul M. Angle
A Prairie City Grows Up
Helen Van Cleave Blankmeyer
Triumph and Defeat
Kenneth S. Davis
The Illinois House Elects a Speaker
DeWitt W. Smith
Francis J. O’Brien
The Old Mill
Louis Obed Renne
The Story of Coal
Frank R. Fisher
Fifty Years of Growth
Illinois State Journal
Forty Years of Sangamo
Robert C. Lanphier
Helen Van Cleave Blankmeyer
A HOUSE DIVIDED
Race War in the North
William English Walling
Hell at Midnight
William Lloyd Clark
The Illinois Miners’ War Goes On
The Bumpy Freedom Road
EVERLASTINGLY AT IT
History of Sangamon County
A Bit of Ancient History
Milton F. Simmons
Wet Oasis in a Dry Desert
On the Building of Springfield
Vache l Lindsay
In Lincoln’s Home Town
Shelby M. Harrison
Many Things Are Getting Done
DREAMERS AND DOERS
Illinois State Journal-Register
Navigation of the Sangamon
History of Sangamon County
The Woman Who Lived in a Fabulous Home
For the Honor of the Family
V. Y. Dallman
Susan E. Wilcox, Educator
Illinois State Register
Walter S. J. Swanson
The Village of Springfield
John Todd Stuart
John Lewis Peyton
Glimpses of Springfield
Waldo Story Reed
What Really Upsets the Midwest
The design was crudely done using press-on type for the cover and chapter title pages and graphics done up using the Xerox machine at Lincoln Library. Seeing it today, I feel like I did in my 50s when I opened an old box and found a clay ash tray that I’d made in kindergarten.
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One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.
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 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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.
“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered."
The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like.
The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly.
An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than
Southern Illinois University Press 2017
A work of solid history, entertainingly told.
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.
The Annals of Iowa
A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians
as well as local historians generally.
Journal of Illinois HIstory
A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.
A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.
Journal of the Illinois
State Historical Society
to read about
to buy the book
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.
The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more. Of particular note are its Prairie State Books, quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.
The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to
The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.
Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order
by book title.
Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.
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