Here are links to articles about Illinois businesses and industries, about the people who run and regulate them, about the relationship between business and labor, about the economic aspects of production, pollution, and regulation, about the business aspects of broader topics from energy and agriculture to urban development and government regulation, and commentaries and reviews of books about the same as they affected mainly Springfield and Chicago.
I worked for more than thirty years as a contributing editor to the fine monthly magazine published by The Conference Board, the New York-based information organization that was an intellectual servant to the nation’s Fortune 100 companies. I did a little of this for them and a little of that, but mainly I supplied feature stories (usually covers) in which I tried to elucidate the mysteries of the world to the men and (a few) women who ran our nation's biggest companies.
For all that, I never considered myself a business reporter. Only a series of editors at the Conference Board—Lewis Bergman, Howard Muson, Al Vogl, and Matthew Budman—who took the wide view of their magazine’s responsibilities to its readers (and to its patron organization) would have allowed me onto their pages. Only two of those many piece appear in this archives, none of the rest of them having an Illinois focus. The work did however give me a grounding in business issues.
During my Chicago years I wrote regularly for a similar magazine, a monthly titled Chicago Enterprise, which was published by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, another (albeit local) big-company voluntary organization. (See Publications for more about Chicago Enterprise.) There again I wrote less about businesses and businesspeople than I did about the conditions—economic, social, and geographical—that affected business, this time in and around Chicago. Several of those pieces appear here.
Of course, business intrudes on the life of the commonwealth in a hundred ways, and while I only occasionally wrote about business per se for my other publications, business was an aspect of a great many Illinois topics, and thus of the articles listed below.
Interested readers also should know that I devoted a chapter in my history of mid-Illinois—"Growing Factories"—to industry as it affected that part of the state. See Corn Kings & One-Horse Thieves. See also "Public enterprise: Development and relocation incentives" on the Politics & government page.
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A feature article about one of Illinois labor's lost causes
Illinois Issues April 1980
Private vs. public in the transportation marketplace
Illinois Issues October 1981
Chicago’s steel-making Finkls
Family Business Spring 1993
On converting Illinois corn to motor fuel
Illinois Issues January 1981
A “typical” family farmer of central Illinois in the 1970s
Across the Board September 1978
Designing buildings for fun and not much profit
Crain's Chicago Business June 14, 1993
Applauding the 1990s restoration of Chicago’s Rookery building
Crain’s Chicago Business August 3, 1992
Sears, Roebuck, and Co.
Small-town America's retailer goes home again
Chicago Times September/October 1989
A history of Sears, Roebuck as big as a catalog
Across the Board December 1987
Local Boys Make Good
Why Sears became America’s corner store
Reader November 13, 1987
The State of Illinois makes a bad bet on Sears
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times January 26, 2012
Paying Sears to move is a bad deal for Illinois
“Prejudices” Illinois Times August 17, 1989
A lengthy reconsideration of the man and his plan
Reader June 18, 1993
How—gasp!—development might save Chicago's lakefront
Chicago Enterprise March 1990
On the fraud of corn-based motor fuels
Illinois Issues October 2007
Field’s flagship store unveils a new old feature
Crain’s Chicago Business August 5, 1991
The baleful effects of federal ag subsidies
Illinois Issues November 2001
Chicago's economic and environmental past, synthesized
Illinois Times December 11, 1991
The iconography of building decoration explained, sort of
Crain's Chicago Business April 5, 1993
Designing a better Illinois economy
"Prejudices" Illinois Times October 8, 1992
Great buildings need great developers
Chicago Enterprise November 1992
A review of Cronon’s Nature's Metropolis
Chicago Enterprise October 1991
How to heal a scarred landscape
Illinois Issues December 1984
Can Chicago become a global city—again?
Illinois Issues February 1997
How state government devours the capital city
"Prejudices" Illinois Times February 22, 1980
Science for public interest, private profit
“Prejudices” Illinois Times May 19, 1983
Marshal Field’s fading glory
“Prejudices” Illinois Times December 7, 1990
Planting a global seed corn business
“Prejudices” Illinois Times June 14, 1990
Trying to make a good country weekly very good
Illinois Times August 12, 1977
Economic colonization and the loss of the local
“Prejudices” Illinois Times July 13, 1979
It's every town for itself in this fight
“Politics & Policy” Chicago Enterprise June 1991
Chicago merges tourism with economic development
Chicago Enterprise May 1990
Of the developers, by the developers, and for the developers
“Prejudices” Illinois Times January 11, 1980
The interests of a City and a city often are at odds
“Prejudices” Illinois Times February 25, 1977
Bare-knuckled capitalism on LaSalle Street
Reader July 5, 1985
Too much of a good thing on Chicago's Miracle Mile
Reader September 27, 1991
Pennies and Nickels
ADM is asking a broke Illinois for money
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times October 10, 2013
Local entrepreneurs bite the hand that feeds them
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times December 26, 2013
Tinkerers make Illinois safe for farming
See Illinois (unpublished) 2002
The economics of risk
Illinois Issues June [?] 1986
A history of coal mining in Sangamon County
Sangamon County Historical Society 1975
What are those things in the cornfields?
See Illinois (unpublished) 2006
Business in Chicagoland
See Illinois (unpublished) 2008
Synfuels from Coal
What went wrong?
Illinois Issues April 1982
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Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.
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.