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Springfield tourism

Here are listed links to pieces about both the Lincoln and the non-Lincoln tourism businesses in Springfield, including tourism-related sites and issues. Conventioneers, arguably, are tourists, but pieces about the capital city's convention center are listed on the main Springfield topic page. 


Springfield has hosted travelers from a world curious about Abraham Lincoln since his assassination in 1865. With the advent of the automobile and mass tourism, visitors came to the capital in numbers sufficient to constitute a market. To a city suffering from the loss of its smokestack industries, the tourism industry promised to be a godsend.


So it has proved—to people making their livings as tourism promoters. For decades they argued to gullible officials that people who come to see the great man's house and the tomb can be enticed to stay longer and spend more by giving them more. Make history tourism entertaining rather than just informative, they said in effect, and, if necessary, make it entertaining and not informative. More sites (and not only Lincoln sites), more facts, more fun.


Springfield thus has come to remind me of the dinner host who, after you’ve eaten, insists you stay and look at their vacation slides. The result has been the visitor centers that tell tourists what they are about to see, interpretive exhibits, audio-visual extravaganzas—and visitor numbers that, adjusted for population growth, get smaller and smaller by the year.


The tourism industry was a frequent topic of mine mainly because it offered irresistible targets for mockery. But I’d no idea until I prepared this archives just how many time I’d written about it. The explanation is that I care about history and entertain a vain hope that it can be made intelligible and relevant to a wider audience. And it's an easy target.

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Springfield, IL

A jaundiced guide for curious Chicagoans

Reader  June 30, 1989

If You Don’t Market It, Will They Come?

A new study promotes tourism promotion

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times March 31, 2016

Fair to Middling

Springfield Day at the state fair

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 22, 1980

A New Old Street

The NPS plans for the past of the Lincoln Home

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  January 19, 2010 

Bowls on a Stick

Why tourism promises more than it deliver

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times March 9, 2017

A Penny Here, a Penny There . . . 

Will a monumental Lincoln penny bring in tourist dollars?

"Dyspepesiana"  Illinois Times  March 14, 2013

Ghost Houses 

A plan for the Lincoln home neighborhood

"Prejudices" Illinois Times November 11, 1990

Faithful to the Period

The NPS plans the next 20 years at Lincoln’s home

"Dyspepesiana"  Illinois Times  September 2, 2010    

Hat Trick

What lies beneath Abe World’s Lincoln hat?

"Dyspepesiana"  Illinois Times  February 21, 2013

On Tour

My life as a guide at the Lincoln-Herndon law offices

"Dyspepesiana"  Illinois Times  November 5, 2009

Going to Mr. Lincoln's House

Authenticity and the tourist’s Lincoln

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  February 10, 1983

Lincoln’s Springfield House

The Lincoln home for the automobile tourist

Adventure Road September/October 1985

Stay with Me

Enticing tourists to linger an extra night

"Dyspepesiana"  Illinois Times  December 22, 2010

The Old State Capitol: Tarnished Jewel

Springfield squabbles over an inheritance

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  January 30, 1981

The Old Capitol: The Higher Vaudeville

They built it; they didn’t come

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  February 6, 1981


Spring, when the crocus and the tourist bloom

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 8, 1977

Making Lincoln Come Alive

From tiny acorns Presidential libraries grow

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  ca 1990

The Corrugated Lincoln

Our new sculptors don’t do justice to our history

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 12, 1979

Tag-teaming History

Fun and games on Lincoln's birthday

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  March 1, 2012

Safe Passage

Getting tourists off at the Dana-Thomas house

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  April 1, 2010

“A Neat and Appropriate Address”

Lincoln’s farewell to Springfield as a Guinness gag

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  February 24, 2011​

New Life in the Lincoln Depot

Will tourists arrive where Lincoln departed?

Illinois Times  August 4, 1978

A Lively and Active Neighborhood

The NPS's stage-set authenticity at Lincoln's home

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 11, 1982

Sound and Blight

A show bringing Lincoln's capitol to life dies at the box office

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 10, 1978

Remember to Not Forget

The Springfield race riots of 1908 and community memory

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  Oct. 29, 2009

A New Jerusalem

Springfield needs new attractions to draw the tourists

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  January 10, 2013

The Presidential Museum Turns Five
Is the world growing bored with rubber Lincolns?
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  April 29, 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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