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Tourism and travel


Here you will find articles about popular tourist destinations in Illinois, guide books about Chicago, and pleasure-based transportation in Illinois, as published mainly in Illinois Times, Chicago's Reader, and the American Automobile Association's Adventure Road and Americana magazines.

Every journalist is a travel writer in a way, insofar as she introduces readers to unfamiliar realms and exotic people. That was especially true about my Illinois work. My first article that deserved to be called journalism and which appeared in a publication that deserved to be called a newspaper was a travel piece—an introduction to the daytripper of my birthplace, Beardstown, Illinois.


Having spent enough time in each to at least pose as an expert, I spent much of my career trying to explain Downstate to Chicago and vice versa. Most of what I wrote on the broader topic was about the economic and cultural aspects of tourism, but now and then I did actually visit Illinois places that people like to  go to. Some of the results appear below. 

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The Presidential Museum Turns Five
Is the world growing bored with rubber Lincolns?
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  April 29, 2010

Springfield, IL

A jaundiced view of the capital city

Reader  June 30, 1989

A New City of Joseph

Mormon Nauvoo, reborn

Americana  April 1980

The Friendly Town of Rushville

An archetypal Downstate small town

Illinois Times  July 1, 1977

Lincoln’s Springfield House

The Lincoln home for the automobile tourist

Adventure Road September/October 1985

Ghost Houses 

A plan for the Lincoln home neighborhood

"Prejudices" Illinois Times November 11, 1990


Poor ­counties into bucolic Disneylands?

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  May 26, 1983

Going to Mr. Lincoln's House

Authenticity and the tourist’s Lincoln

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  February 10, 1983

The State of the Fair

The Illinois State Fair is an exposition of life

Reader  June 30, 1989

Fair to Middling

Springfield Day at the state fair

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 22, 1980

The Alchemy of Galena

A town that turned lead into tourist gold.

Nature of Illinois  Fall 1988

The Old Capitol: The Higher Vaudeville

They built it; they didn’t come

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  February 6, 1981

Susan's House

The state is a poor host at the Dana-Thomas House

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  Undated

Nauvoo, City of Wine and Mormons

Whose town? Whose story?

Illinois Times  May 25, 1979


Spring, when the crocus and the tourist bloom

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  April 8, 1977


Illinois tries to run its landmarks on the cheap

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  April 2, 1992

George Washington’s Ax

When does restoring become destroying?

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  December 14, 1979

Bronze Trousers 

Public statuary on the Illinois statehouse grounds

"Prejudices" Illinois Times  ca 1991  

That toddlin' town

Welcome to Chicago?

A Downstater's view of tourists and tourism

Reader   July 3, 1992

Utopia in Pullman

Paternal capitalism on the South Side

Americana  July-August 1981

How to Run Out of Town on a Rail
Weekending from Chicago on board Amtrak

Reader  May 31, 1991

A Global Welcome Mat

Chicago merges tourism with economic development

Chicago Enterprise  May 1990

What Chicago Would Look Like

Union Station dresses up for company

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  September 23, 1993

Feeling Like a Foreigner

Taking the anthropological view in Chicago

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  May 3, 1990


East-central Illinois’s Grand Prairie

See Illinois (unpublished)  2005

Historic Bishop Hill Looks to the Future

Restoring a Swedish town without embalming it

Illinois Times  October 13, 1978

New Life in the Lincoln Depot

Will tourists arrive where Lincoln departed?

Illinois Times  August 4, 1978

Sound and Blight

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

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 10, 1978

Making Lincoln Come Alive

The seed that grew into a Lincoln Presidential library

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  ca 1990

Galena Reborn

An old lead mining town mines tourists instead

See Illinois  (unpublished) 2002

The Spirit of All Indians

Seeking the eternal Indian in northern Illinois

See Illinois  (unpublished)  2002

Illinois’s Disappearing Frontier

The sun sets on Western Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2002

Sleeping on the Hill

Lessons from the dead in western Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2002

Woman of the Year

Kay Ortman’s love affair with Nauvoo

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 13, 1978

The Tourist’s State Capital

Visiting the statehouse complex in Springfield

See Illinois (unpublished) 2006

Times Square, A.D. 1100

The Indian metropolis at Cahokia

See Illinois (unpublished)  2007

The French Bottom

Civilization came (and went) early in Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2006

Some Books About Illinois the Place

Guidebooks, geographies, gazeteers, and reference books

See Illinois (unpublished)  2016

Stage-set History

Lincoln’s New Salem (we think)

See Illinois (unpublished)  2005


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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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