Illinois history

Here are works about people and events from the history of Illinois published in virtually every publication I ever wrote for—history-related magazine features, opinion pieces, book reviews, a government report or two, pamphlets, excerpts from works in progress, and a never-used book preface that explains how I came to be interested in Illinois history. The pieces take in everything from the Woodland period until the 1960s or so, and their topics include frontier Illinois, architectural antiques, ecosystem change, culture high and low, social antagonisms—pretty much everything. 

Please note that works on Abraham Lincoln appear on the "Lincoln" page here. Click here for more information and excerpts from my book-length history of mid-Illinois, Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves.

 

I was surprised, reviewing 40 years of work, to realize how much of it is about Illinois history, broadly defined. I knew the archive was crammed with stuff about Lincoln—every Springfield writer must take up Lincoln as a subject—and I always tried to find markets for reviews of Illinois history books that I was reading for other projects.  What struck me was how many of my pieces—on government operations, child welfare, on the likely return of cougars to Illinois—have an historical dimension.

 

It got me to wondering why I was drawn to explore that dimension. The past is a very interesting place to visit, of course, and as a young man I read history as if it was travel writing. I do not consider myself an historian in the narrow sense, being uncredentialled and untrained; rather, I am a journalist who writes about history.  Most of the works linked here were merely attempts to satisfy my own curiosity about how things became the way they are.

 

Historic preservationists use a 50-year rule to demark which buildings and other sites can be officially considered “historic.” In a very few years my own work will be old enough to qualify as historical. Indeed one of my hopes for this archives (stated on the Home page) is to make that work available to historians seeking raw material for new accounts of modern Illinois.

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The Man with the Plan

A reconsideration of Burnham and his plan

Reader  June 18, 1993

Altoona, Natrona, Hike!

An exploration of Illinois place names

Illinois Times  September 5, 1978

How I Became an Historian

Unpublished essay  2016

Broadacre City

Basic introduction to Wright's dispersed utopia

Planning December 1999

Chicago Resurrection

The city's late 20th century rebirth, explained

Illinois Issues November 1995

The Clout of the Irish

Review of The Irish in Chicago

Reader April 3, 1987

Currents of History

Illinois River books by Gray and Masters

Reader April 13, 1990

Saving History from the Wrecking Ball

Richard Nickel and Louis Sullivan's legacy

Illinois Issues October 1986

How the Lakefront Was Won

Why private enterprise fought for public access 

Reader November 8, 1991

A Forward Thinker from Yesteryear

An appreciation of Gov. Thomas Ford

Illinois Issues February 2010

Utopia in Pullman

A rail magnate's worker paradise in Chicago

Americana  July–August 1981

Sweden on the Prairie

Bishop Hill, back from the dead

 Americana   March–April 1981

Nom de Plume

A digression on Illinois Place names

Illinois Issues  July/August 1997

What to Do With Troubled Kids

Illinois's troubled past with dependent children

Illinois Issues  March 1995

A New City of Joseph

Mormon Nauvoo, reborn

Americana  April 1980

Forgotten Canon

Illinois literature re-examined

Illinois Issues  March 2004

The Man with the Plan

Burnham explained, again

Illinois Issues  June 2009

Exterior Decoration
Books about public sculpture in Chicago

Reader  August 12, 1988

Lorado Taft: Chicago's Public Sculptor

How Taft carved a future for himself

Illinois Issues  January 1989

Waves of Change

Illinois's unnatural natural systems

Illinois Department of Natural Resources  1994

Springfield race riots of 1908

Remember to Not Forget

The Springfield riots and community memory

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  October 29, 2009

Summer of Rage

The Springfield Race Riot of 1980

Sangamon County Historical Society  1973

Amnesia

Unforgetting the Springfield race riots of 1908

"Prejudices,"  Illinois Times  August 14, 1980

A Sorry Tale, Well Told

The best account of the 1908 riots reviewed

Illinois Times  September 27, 1990

Not Guilty!

Springfield’s 1908 race rioters beat the rap

Illinois Times  August 11, 1978

Suggestions for the Curious Reader

An annotated list of works on mid-Illinois history

Unpublished2014

Shoulder to the Wheel

History of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce

Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce  1976

Chicago's Women Take Charge of Change

Another female new dawn is breaking in Illinois

Chicago Enterprise  May 1992

Institutional Amnesia

How government forgets what works and what doesn’t

Illinois Issues  November 2006

Searsmen Marching to a Different Drummer

A history of Sears, Roebuck as big as a catalog

Across the Board  December 1987

Nature's Metropolis

A masterful econo-environmental history of Chicago

Illinois Times December 11, 1991

Touring Springfield As It Was 150 Years Ago

The Town Branch of Spring Creek, rediscovered

Illinois Times  December 24, 1976

Ancient peoples

Stone Magic 

A trek across a cornfield and hundreds of years  "Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times November 13, 2014  

Oh, For a Prairie Thucydides   

People shaped Illinois, and vice versa

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  May 18, 2017           

In the Place of the Dead

A young author, Dickson Mounds, and the past

Focus  March 11, 1971

Dealing with the Dead

Learning respect at Dickson Mounds

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  1999

Guilty Consciences
The fantasy of the innocent Native American Eden

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  May 19, 1994

Because We're Curious

Illinois history did not begin with the whites

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  October 5, 1983

Old Bones

Sacrilege and science at Dickson Mounds

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  May 23, 1990

Coming or Going

Reinventing Illinois passenger rail

Illinois Issues  October 2005

George Washington’s Ax

When does restoring become destroying?

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  December 14, 1979

Positive Incentives

Springfield’s lazy, hazy, razing days of summer

"Prejudices" Illinois Times July 24, 1981

The Alchemy of Galena

A town that turned lead into tourist gold.

Nature of Illinois  Fall 1988

John L. Lewis—A Most Peculiar Man

The legendary UMW chief explained

Illinois Times  September 23, 1977

Shape Shifting

A new assessment of urban sprawl

Illinois Issues  September 2006

The Old State Capitol: Tarnished Jewel

Springfield squabbles over an inheritance

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  January 30, 1981

Archaeology Anyone?

Springfield’s “throwaway mentality”

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  July 8, 1982

Midnight at Noon

A history of coal mining in Sangamon County

Sangamon County Historical Society  1975

Politics of Necessity
Mayor Richard J. Daley reconsidered

Reader  January 16, 1998

13 Mayors of Chicago
What a show. What a cast.

Reader  July 17, 1987

Energy for Illinois

A big-picture summary

Illinois Issues  August 1980

An 1843 Guidebook to Illinois

A frontier-era Baedeker

Illinois Times  November 17, 1978

Tales of Adlai

Books about Illinois’s nearly President

Illinois Times  April 8, 1976

Advice for the Old Country

Pioneers travel to Illinois’s new Switzerland

Illinois Times  December 11, 1986

A Graceful History of Illinois

The new Illinois that emerged from the Civil War

Illinois Times  December 23, 1977

A New Picture of Illinois’s Past

A new and controversial history of Illinois

Illinois Times  August 18, 1978

Nauvoo, City of Wine and Mormons

Whose town? Whose story?

Illinois Times  May 25, 1979

How the Illinois Was Settled

In a word, “steamboats”

Illinois Times  November 18, 1977

Saving the “Castle,” Monument to the American Dream

Springfield’s Brinkerhoff House makes new friends

Illinois Times  January 13, 1978

The Sangamon

The life and times of Lincoln's river

Illinois Times  June 4 and June 11, 1976

Historic Bishop Hill Looks to the Future

Restoring a Swedish town without embalming it

Illinois Times  October 13, 1978

The Sangamon Valley Collection

History finds a home at Springfield’s public library

Illinois Times  February 11, 1977

Taking the Christian Out of Christianity
The YMCA picks up a new name but sells an old idea

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  August 12, 2010

Re-inventing the Past
Springfield’s tradition of industrial invention
"Dyspapsiana"  Illinois Times  June 24, 2010    

Something About a Man in Uniform
Rep. Mark Kirk suffers a self-inflicted battle wound
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  June 17, 2010 

Ghosts of the Sangamon Bomb Factories

. . . where worked 12,000 WWII shell-stuffers

Illinois Times  November 26, 1976

The Corrugated Lincoln

Our new sculptors don’t do justice to our history

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 12, 1979

Introduction

Looking for Illinois

June 2003

Preface

Looking for Illinois

Unpublished  ca 2005

The Sauk in Illinois

Chief Black Hawk in life and legend

from Looking for Illinois  ca 2008

Vachel’s House

A house, a poet, a parody in 1,000 words

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 22, 1990

Jigsaw Puzzle

A plea for public history, not just Lincoln history

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 29, 1980

How Chicago Became the Gateway to the West

A review of Cronon’s Nature's Metropolis

Chicago Enterprise  October 1991

New Life in the Lincoln Depot

Will tourists arrive where Lincoln departed?

Illinois Times  August 4, 1978

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Drawing the Line
Springfield as a border town on the North-South divide
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  March 11, 2010

SITES

OF INTEREST

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."

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.

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.

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.

[STILL A-BUILDING]

BOOKS

 OF INTEREST

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

Contact James Krohe Jr. at CornLatitudes@outlook.com

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