Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves:

Odds & Ends

Any author makes mistakes, and careful readers will find some in this book. (Someday I might post the errors I’m aware of.) One of my mistakes was fundamental—the title. The book is a seriously intended work of history, but I thought I ought to choose a title that would not sound too academic; I did not want to put off non-specialist readers and I did want to deflect charges that I was posing as a credentialed historian. 


The title, I now believe, fails to do what a title must do, which is to accurately suggest the book inside. When he was asked to review it, David Joens, the director of the Illinois State Archives, admitted he expected a collection of anecdotes. How many other browsers chose not to pick it up for the same reason?

Rejected cover designs. The background image that appears in the covers left and center is an 1884 bird's-eye map of Mattoon, Illinois, that I found in the Library of Congress collection. The foregrounded corn plants are a survivor of the cover on the right, the initial design that I rejected on grounds that another photo of ripening corn is the last thing that will excite mid-Illinoisans to buy a book.

Among the titles I considered and rejected were: 

North of Egypt, South of Gomorrah


Adrift in the Corn Latitudes


The Corn Latitudes: A Plain-Spoken History Of Illinois’s Midsection


In the Middle of Everywhere


Cornland Chronicles


Flatville Annals: An Interesting History of an Uninteresting Place

Oh well. At least I spelled my own name right on the cover.



To my regret, I did not include an acknowledgement page. Jeffrey Quilter, of late the director of Harvard's Peabody Museum, is owed a thank you for his review of my drafts about presettlement peoples; Jeff made it a better book and me a wiser author.

Karl Kageff, top editor at Southern Illinois University Press, was sage enough to see a book where other academic press editors did not, and SIUP's Wayne Larsen improved the manuscript in every way.

Mainly, I owe thanks to the taxpayers of Illinois, Oregon, and California for their  support for public libraries, and to the members of the Illinois State Historical society past and present, for their support for the society's scholarly journal.



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." 




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 

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.

Click  here 

to buy the book 

Contact James Krohe Jr. at

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