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Springfield arts & culture

It is no accident that many of my reflections on the arts and culture of Springfield were about people—Vachel Lindsay and Susan Lawrence Dana, to name two—that the old town once regarded as half loony. The city still produces such people, of course, but they seldom show up here. (For example, I see that in more than a thousand commentaries I somehow failed to note the career of noted Springfield sculptor Michael Dunbar.)


Nor was I ever generous enough to the people who worked very hard to enrich life in what is otherwise a provincial, get-ahead kind of place that remains venal and unimaginative. My belated apologies to them, and to my readers. 

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A More Complicated Experience

About the furnishings of Springfield's Dana-Thomas House

Chicago Times  March/April 1990

Bronze Trousers 

Public statuary on the Illinois statehouse grounds

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  ca 1991

“Corn-fed Pious Howler”

Springfield's house poet Vachel Lindsay

“Prejudices," Illinois Times  February 13, 1981

The Itch to Leave

Robert Fitzgerald, translator, teacher, Springfieldian

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 23, 1994

Shadid's Book Mart

For a fine account of the Book Mart and the Shadids, visit "Shadid's Book Mart" at the Sangamon County Historical Society's web encyclopedia. 

Shadid’s Book Mart

The story of an essential Springfield institution

Illinois Times  January 21, 1977

Making Springfield a Better Place    

Readers recall Shadid’s Book Mart      

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  May 27, 2010        

Treasures from Faraway Seas    

Attending Springfield's "University of Shadid" in the ‘60s

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  June 2, 2010         

Woodrow J. Shadid, Jr.
A bookseller who outdid expectations
Illinois Times  December 27, 2018

A Fate Worse Than Death

Springfield’s provincialism in a connected age

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 14, 1982

The Band in the Park on a Summer Night

Springfield’s Municipal Band plays on

Illinois Times  August 11, 1978

A Nest of Singing Birds

Two Springfield English teachers raise a flock

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 8, 1978


A loss to the arts—but oh, the banking convenience!

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  December 16, 1977

Markable Authors

Which Springfield writers deserve commemoration?

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  December 16, 2010

Discount-price Cultural Life

Barnes & Noble is poorly. What mean for Springfield?

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  January 27, 2011

Springfield Visited

Novelist Evelyn Waugh lectures the capital in 1949

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  April 26, 2012

A New Dawn at the Statehouse?

What are the statues on the capitol lawn for?

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  January 23, 2014

Through a Glass Beautifully

Contemplating antique glass paperweights

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  April 2, 2015

Tell Me, Adrian

A rock star guitarist in Springfield? Really?

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  February 25, 2016

Vachel Lindsay and Springfield, Illinois, U.S.A.

A first try at understanding Harris understanding Lindsay

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 5, 1979

Mounting Ambition

Banding together to make music

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 17, 1980

Plates and the PAC

Springfield gets a very Springfield arts hall

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 2, 1984

Slack the Knife

Local arts critics show courage under fire

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 10, 1981

Sugar Plum Ball

Springfield society celebrates itself

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 21, 1979

New York, New York
Gotham has always drawn Springfieldians to the bright lights
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  September 18, 2014

No Business Like Show Business

Springfield arts critics get panned—again

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 28, 1978

All Is Not Well Forever
Robert Fitzgerald’s youth in Springfield

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times November 19, 2009

Backstage at the Muni

Springfield thespians tackle West Side Story

Illinois Times  August 5, 1977

Stirring Up the Arts at the PAC

Looking for an arts audience in Springfield

Illinois Times  February 2, 1984

Dodge-bashing Downtown

Springfield tries to have fun. It wasn’t pretty

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 10, 1981

The World’s Worst Poet

. . . is not an Illinoisan but only just

Illinois Times  May 1, 1981

Monument to a Dead Building

The “lost” lintel from the old Lincoln Library

“Dyspepsiana”  Illinois Times  November 24, 2010


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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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