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Illinois life


A grab bag of pieces from profiles to perorations about day-to-day life in Illinois and about being Illinoisan. Most are exasperated and sardonic in tone—not commentaries, exactly, and not exactly humor pieces either, although comment and humor figure in a lot of them.

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 . . . And a Shovel

Illinois—the land of brown-water rafting

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  June 30, 1983

This Old Town Is Going to the Dogs

In Oak Park, even the dogs have agendas

Wednesday Journal  July 29, 1992

A Civic Fussbudget Meets His Match in Oak Park's Mean Streets

Suburban tidiness meets urban realities

Wednesday Journal  June 24, 1992

Dead Horses

On the open burning of tree leaves

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  December 6, 1990

Return of the Bastard Toadflax

Putting the prairie back into the Prairie State

Illinois Issues  April 1996

Playing to the Crowd

Art fights audience and manages a draw

Wednesday Journal  ca 1993


City living explained to Downstaters

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  January 12, 1991

The Zone of Indifference

Wilbur Zelinsky—yes, him—on America’s vernacular regions

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  September 2, 1981

Illinois State Fair

Fair to Middling

Springfield Day at the state fair

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 22, 1980

The State of the Fair

Life as it is lived at the Illinois State Fair

Reader  June 30, 1989

Parade Unrest

State fair week reminds me again why I hate a parade

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 20, 1987

Fair Deal
Turning the state fair into an expo of real rural life
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois  Times September 8, 2016

Charlie Boon, Logger, of Goofy Ridge

A tinkering entrepreneur in the old Illinois style

Illinois Times  November 24, 1978

In a Can

In which Springfield’s canned “chillis” pass a test

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  December 2, 1982


The bane of banal Illinois roadscapes

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  May 4, 1989 

House Hunting
Meditations on the suburban dream, Chicago-style

Reader March 29, 1991

Truer Countryside

Backward countryside, forward-looking state

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 19, 1990

Down on the Farm

The world through the eyes of Farm Week

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 3, 1983

Reflections on a Howling Mob

U of I football fans flag the Big Ten

Illinois Times  May 15, 1981


Ethnic ghosts in the closet

Illinois Times  August 28, 1986

Cyprinus to You, Too

The fishy cousin to the gnu and the aardvark

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 21, 1978

Dodge-bashing Downtown

Springfield tries to have fun. It wasn’t pretty

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 10, 1981

A Forbidding Prospect

Ill at ease in Illinois’s wide open spaces

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  November 16, 1979

Merge, Right?

Too many Illinoisans don’t know how to behave on the road

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times August 21, 2014

Not Nice in Nice

Illinois once was French—not that you’d notice

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  May 21, 1992

Family feud: Chicago vs. Downstate

Pots and Kettles

Downstate-Chicago enmity explained

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 5, 1981

Chicagoland, Chicagoland 
The rise of the Chicago city-state
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  March 17, 2011

Making Noises in Civic Class
Splitting Cook County from Illinois is an old bad idea 
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  ​December 15, 2011

Kumabaya Around the Campfire

Jim Edgar tries to bridge the Chicago-Downstate divide

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times July 5, 2012


A guide to Illinois history

See Illinois (unpublished)  June 2003

Feeling Like a Foreigner

Taking the anthropological view in Chicago

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  May 3, 1990

In Illinois But Not of It

Chicago, meet Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2006


The foreign languages of Illinois

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 26, 1984


Downstate cities are neighbors, not friends

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 21, 1980


Illinois: Country-fied city or city-fied country?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  No date

It's Not the Heat, It's the Corn

Are row crops making summers unbearable?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  July 12, 2011

Quackscam and Cockatiels

Libertarians limber up their guns along the Illinois

“Prejudices” Illinois Times  January 2, 1981

Paving Over Oxfordshire

The demise of the Illinois countryside

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 10, 1979

Sex and the LPGA

Several games are played on the women's tour

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 10, 1981

Truer Countryside

Whence Illinois’s wide empty spaces?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 19, 1990

That's Entertainment!

Organized fun in Springfield. In Springfield?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 15, 1980

Virginia Makes the Big Time

A Cass County town goes dry; the world notices

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 22, 1977

God Lets Bob Ingersoll Off
The legend of the statehouse cornerstone
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  January 16, 2014

Woman of the Year

Kay Ortman’s love affair with Nauvoo

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 13, 1978

Honest, Officer, I Didn’t See It Coming

How to make Illinois drivers better drivers

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times November 26, 2014

Missing Links

Even Illinois golf courses are not up to par

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times June 8, 2017

Everybody Join In

Illinois needs a new state song for a new era

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times July 7, 2016

Mis-say It Loud, Mis-Say It Proud

Save Illinois? We can’t even pronounce it

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times April 21, 2016

Deer Me

The annual deer kill is underway – hooray!

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times Dec. 11, 2014

Living in Three Dimensions

Seeking the scenic in central Illinois

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times August 19, 2010

Latitude for Error

A new map charts the Cubs-Cards divide

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times May 8, 2014

Stuck in Illinois . . .

. . .with the Indiana blues again

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times May 22, 2014

Where’s Illinois?

Finding ourselves gets harder all the time

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times September 25, 2014

No Stickers
Seeing the universe in the sand burr
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  May 2, 2011

Illinois Firsts, Mosts, and Onlys

Dubious distinctions and proud boasts

See Illinois (unpublished)  2008

Missing Links

Illinois roads are not demanding. Neither are its driving laws.

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 7, 1980

The Price of Doing Business

When a man's home is his office

Wednesday Journal July 15, 1992

Craig Findley of the Gazette-Times

Trying to make a good country weekly very good

Illinois Times  August 12, 1977

On the Essence of Illinois-ness

An introduction to a book

See Illinois  (unpublished) 2003

"Is Your Flag Showing?"

Downstaters are patriotic. Who knew?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 4, 1980

Delightful, De-lovely, Decatur

A Springfield looks down his nose and sees Decatur

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  November 3, 1978

I Go To a Parade

Springfield turns out to cheer itself on the Fourth

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 14, 1978

Thinking About Farming

Planting new questions about Illinois ag

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 12, 1984

The Blossomy Haw, Remembered

Natural beauty and politics

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times    June 9, 2016


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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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