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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 those newcomers 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. 

Sadly, A Springfield Reader itself seems to be available these days only from the forty or libraries that own it and possibly in a few used book shops. I'm not certain it deserves to be reprinted and almost certainly it won't be. 

Here is the table of contents, if you're curious.



The City of Springfield 

Joseph Wallace


Removal of the State Capital

History of Sangamon County


A New Epoch

Illinois State Register


Building Lake Springfield 

Jim Lukas


An All America City

Cue Magazine




Lincoln the Log Roller 

Paul Simon


Abe Lincoln in Springfield 

A. J. Liebling


The Business of Selling Mr. Lincoln 

Anthony Monahan


Abraham Lincoln and Springfield 

Nelson Howarth


Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight 

Vachel Lindsay




Republicans Elect a President

Paul M. Angle



Springfield Illustrated 


A Prairie City Grows Up

Helen Van Cleave Blankmeyer 


Triumph and Defeat 

Kenneth S. Davis


The Illinois House Elects a Speaker 

Michael Kilian




Pioneer Agriculture 

DeWitt W. Smith


Modest Beginnings 

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 


Streetcar War

Helen Van Cleave Blankmeyer 




Race War in the North 

William English Walling 


Hell at Midnight 

William Lloyd Clark


The Illinois Miners’ War Goes On 

Louis Adamic


The Bumpy Freedom Road

Mike Clark


Treating Symptoms?

Jerry Wallace




The Washingtonians

History of Sangamon County


A Bit of Ancient History

Milton F. Simmons


Wet Oasis in a Dry Desert

Virgil Tipton


On the Building of Springfield

Vache l Lindsay


In Lincoln’s Home Town

Shelby M. Harrison


Many Things Are Getting Done

Robert Irwin




Elijah Iles

Illinois State Journal-Register


Navigation of the Sangamon

History of Sangamon County


The Woman Who Lived in a Fabulous Home

Joan Muraro


Vachel Lindsay

Mark Harris


For the Honor of the Family

Literary Digest


Willis Spaulding

V.  Y. Dallman


Susan E. Wilcox, Educator

Illinois State Register


Colonel Copley

Walter S.  J. Swanson


The Village of Springfield

John Todd Stuart


Out West

John Lewis Peyton


Glimpses of Springfield 

Waldo Story Reed


Springfield, Illinois 

Elise Morrow


What Really Upsets the Midwest

Jane Howard


Springfield Magical 

Vachel Lindsay

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.





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."

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.

The Illinois State Museum


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

“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." 

Illinois Labor History Society

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. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

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. 

History on the Fox

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

2,000 words.)




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 


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.

University of

Illinois Press

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.

University of

Chicago Press

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

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

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. 


Illinois Center for the Book

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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