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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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The UMW Battlefield Moves Beyond  the Coal Field

A feature article about one of Illinois labor's lost causes

Illinois Issues April 1980

The Government's Uneven Hand

Private vs. public in the transportation marketplace

Illinois Issues October 1981

Passing on Pride of Craft

Chicago’s steel-making Finkls

Family Business Spring 1993

Illinois: The Land of Ethanol

On converting Illinois corn to motor fuel

Illinois Issues January 1981

The Family Farmer: An Endangered Species?

A “typical” family farmer of central Illinois in the 1970s

Across the Board  September 1978

Edifice Complex for Architecture

Designing buildings for fun and not much profit

Crain's Chicago Business  June 14, 1993

Rookery a Rare Roost Indeed

Applauding the 1990s restoration of Chicago’s Rookery building

Crain’s Chicago Business August 3, 1992

Sears, Roebuck, and Co.

Why Did Sears Spurn the Tower?

  Small-town America's retailer goes home again

Chicago Times  September/October 1989

Searsmen Marching to a Different Drummer

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

Such a Deal

The State of Illinois makes a bad bet on Sears
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times January 26, 2012

Sears Moves to Beijing

Paying Sears to move is a bad deal for Illinois

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 17, 1989

The Man With the Plan

A lengthy reconsideration of the man and his plan

Reader  June 18, 1993

Infidels at the Water's Edge

 How—gasp!—development might save Chicago's lakefront

Chicago Enterprise  March 1990

Manna from Decatur

On the fraud of corn-based motor fuels

Illinois Issues  October 2007

The Atrium as Field Daze

Field’s flagship store unveils a new old feature

Crain’s Chicago Business  August 5, 1991

Farmers' Welfare

The baleful effects of federal ag subsidies

Illinois Issues  November 2001

Nature's Metropolis

Chicago's economic and environmental past, synthesized

Illinois Times  December 11, 1991

I Think Icon, I Think Icon, I Think Icon

The iconography of building decoration explained, sort of

Crain's Chicago Business  April 5, 1993 

Strange Bedfellows

Designing a better Illinois economy

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  October 8, 1992

Homage to the Barons Who Built Chicago

Great buildings need great developers

Chicago Enterprise  November 1992

How Chicago Became the Gateway to the West

A review of Cronon’s Nature's Metropolis

Chicago Enterprise  October 1991

Mined Land Reclamation: Ends and Means

How to heal a scarred landscape

Illinois Issues  December 1984

World Class

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

Cafe au Lait

Marshal Field’s fading glory

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  December 7, 1990

Family Business

Planting a global seed corn business

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 14, 1990

Craig Findley of the Gazette-Times

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

Beyond Parochialism in Economic Planning

It's every town for itself in this fight

“Politics & Policy”  Chicago Enterprise  June 1991

A Global Welcome Mat

Chicago merges tourism with economic development

Chicago Enterprise  May 1990

The Public Enterprise System

Of the developers, by the developers, and for the developers

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 11, 1980

A Problem of Scale

The interests of a City and a city often are at odds

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 25, 1977

The Boys in the Pits

Bare-knuckled capitalism on LaSalle Street

Reader  July 5, 1985

The Rise and Fall of Michigan Avenue

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

Over Regulation

Local entrepreneurs bite the hand that feeds them

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times   December 26, 2013

​Barns Full of Machines
Tinkerers make Illinois safe for farming
See Illinois  (unpublished) 2002


The economics of risk

Illinois Issues  June [?] 1986

Midnight at Noon

A history of coal mining in Sangamon County

Sangamon County Historical Society  1975

Illinois Crude

What are those things in the cornfields?

See Illinois (unpublished)  2006

Money Machines

Business in Chicagoland

See Illinois  (unpublished)  2008​

Synfuels from Coal
What went wrong?
Illinois Issues  April 1982


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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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