Springfield

I lived in the state capital for the first 40 years of my life, and observed it for more than a half-century.  Here you will find many of those articles about my home town—its culture and history, its social life and government, its tourist sites and notable residents as they appeared mainly in Focus, Atlantis, The Phoenix, Illinois Times, and The Reader of Chicago.

There are of course two Springfields, as there are two Albanies or two Sacramentos. Because it is the state capital, "Springfield" to Illinoisans means state government. The other Springfield, the mid-sized Midwestern backwater that hosts state government, was described by Andrew Ferguson in his 2007 book Land of Lincoln as “a clapped out old burg." Us natives protested that this was inaccurate, Springfield being not all that old. I recently found an undated manuscript in my files, probably from 1975, in which I averred, "My perspective on Springfield history can be stated as follows: the study of Springfield’s past is fueled by the same curiosity that causes a pathologist, when confronted by a corpse, to wonder how it died." Yes, imitation Mencken, but no less true for that.

 

Posting every Springfield title on a single page would make it unwieldy, so links have been grouped by topic, which lists appear on their own pages. (To return to this page after visiting one of the subtopic pages, use your browser's return button.) All other Springfield pieces are listed individually below, in no particular order. 

 

Articles about the city-within-the-city that is the State of Illinois appear here;  articles whose principal focus is the man who made Springfield famous appear here. See also Springfield boy for articles about Springfield as it was experienced by this Springfieldian.

Missing is a chapter I co-wrote in 1980 with Cullom David titled "Springfield: An Evolving Capital," which appeared in The Middle-size Cities of Illinois: Their People, Politics, and Quality of Life, edited by Daniel Milo Johnson and Rebecca Monroe Veach and published by Sangamon State University. I remember almost nothing about it, and doubt that it is something that the serious student of Springfield needs to read.

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To leave an article and return to this page, click on your browser's back button or on "Springfield" in the topics menu

In a Can

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

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  December 2, 1982

Of Birthdays, Gracie Allen, and Exiles

Baby steps at Illinois Times

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  September 18, 1980

Still Alternative After All These Years

Springfield and Illinois Times after 35 years

""Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  September 30, 2010

Dodge-bashing Downtown

Springfield tries to have fun. It isn’t pretty

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 10, 1981

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

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  August 12, 2010

Dull Springfield

Springfield is hardly alone in being just the tiniest bit sensitive about how outsiders see it. (One of my favorite books is Chicago: The History of Its Reputation by Lloyd Lewis and Henry Justin Smith, Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1929.) It might have better reasons for its sensitivity  than most places. 

Home Sweet Home

Springfield—unlovely and unloved

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 14, 1977

Provincials Again

Springfield's not so bad. Honest.

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 31, 1978

Speak No Evil?

From Springfield's literature of abuse

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  May 23, 1980

A Stiller Quietude

When the statehouse sleeps, Springfield snores

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  April 9, 1981

Stripsters

Springfield's youths cruise for a bruisin'

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 4, 1979

I’m Proud to Be a North Ender

Springfield's most Springfield neighborhood

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  September 5, 1980

Why I Live Downtown

A paean to the crowded life

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 5, 1979

Social issues

Race, demographics, poverty, public health, class divisions, immigration, and kindred topics as disputed in the state capital

Boundaries

Race and friendship in 1960s Springfield

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 26, 1977

Black and White and Green

Racial change in 1970s Springfield

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  May 8, 1981

Fair Is Not Easy

Making fair housing fairer for the poor

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 6, 1981

Comas

What riot? Springfield still won’t talk about race

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  September 20, 1990

Aurora Uber Alles

Downstate's flagging population growth

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  March 31, 1994

Fountain of Death

Sangamon County shows the nation how to die young

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times May 17, 2012

Living Too High Off the Hog
Springfield can’t keep living like this
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  March 3, 2011

With 772 You Get Eggroll

The immigration issue in 1980s Springfield

Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times January 28, 2016​

Three Strikes and You're In

Immigrants as the solution, not the problem

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times November 10, 2011

Invasions

Economic colonization and the loss of the local

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 13, 1979

Bravo! Bravo!

Springfield’s city band marches into Salzburg

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 23, 1990

Breakfast of a Champion

Charlie Parker’s winning way to disguise English muffins

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times November 5, 2015

Off the Menu

The classic American diner is dying

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  September 10, 2015

That's Entertainment!

Organized fun in Springfield. In Springfield?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 15, 1980

Name-calling

What do you call Springfield residents?

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times February 13, 2014

Big Deals About Little Games

Looking back on high school sports rivalries

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  March 31, 2011

Scrounges

Springfield considers municipal prudery

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 28, 1980

"Hello, Herbert"

How to part us swells from our cash

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  November 11, 1982

The Wandering Whistler in White

Springfield’s abundance of eccentricity

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 18, 1977

Bouncing Back

A dumb old fad gets—a little—smarter

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times August 11, 2016

Down on the Levee

A Springfield developer floats a casino plan

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  April 28, 1994

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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."

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.

Chicagology

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.)

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 

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.

Contact James Krohe Jr. at CornLatitudes@outlook.com

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