Over 100 Years Putting Learning into Practice: Millikin University

As students return to campus and the Fall academic semester begins, the IDHH is featuring Millikin University, one of our many academic partners. Millikin University is located in Decatur, Illinois, along the Sangamon River and Lake Decatur in Central Illinois, and was founded by businessman James Millikin. Born in 1827, James Millikin grew up the son of a moderately wealthy farmer in Pennsylvania, helping to drive cattle to New York City as a child. While attending Washington College, Millikin vowed to establish a center of learning himself, though this ambition would not become a reality for another 55 years. Known at one point as “the cattle king of the Prairie State” due to his sizeable herds of livestock, James Millikin settled in Decatur in 1856, eventually transitioning into the banking business in 1860. In the last decade of his life James Millikin would finally realize his long-held desire to found an institution of higher education, founding Millikin University in 1901. 

From the start, Millikin University operated under the philosophy of providing an education that combines theory with practice, embracing James Millikin’s wish for a university that would emphasize the practical side of learning. Today, this approach is embodied in Millikin University’s rich tradition of Performance Learning. Through various hands-on, real-world experiences, Performance Learning prepares students for life post-graduation, honoring James Millikin’s vision of students living out their learning. Digital collections shared with the IDHH of the university’s student-run newspaper, The Decaturian, and of select School of Music Programs illustrate just a few of the many unique ways in which Millikin University students perform their knowledge, while the Big Blue Photograph Collection offers snapshots of the history of the university.

Here are a few of our favorite Millikin University items from their collections (including a delightful April Fool’s issue of The Decaturian):

Lantern Parade – 1950s-1960s. 1950–1960. Millikin University. Big Blue Photograph Collection. Courtesy of Millikin University.
Tennis – Men’s & Women’s – Players – Unidentified. circa 1910. Millikin University. Big Blue Photograph Collection. Courtesy of Millikin University.
Homecoming – 1911. May 12, 1911. Millikin University. Big Blue Photograph Collection. Courtesy of Millikin University.
Maypole Festivals – 1909. May 1909. Millikin University. Big Blue Photograph Collection. Courtesy of Millikin University.
Bookstore – 1912. 1912. Millikin University. Big Blue Photograph Collection. Courtesy of Millikin University.
The Decaturian, 1951-03-30. March 30, 1951. Millikin University. The Decaturian. Courtesy of Millikin University.
Illinois Independent Telephone Association Convention: Concert by members of the James Millikin University School of Music; assisted by the School of Music Students’ Violin Quartet, and Miss Allie V. Richmond, Reader, of Champaign, Illinois. November 10, 1909. Millikin University. School of Music Programs. Courtesy of Millikin University.

Want to see more? 

Visit the IDHH to view even more items from Millikin University.

A Classic No Matter How You Slice It: The Sandwich

A staple lunchbox food, picnic addition, or food on the go, the sandwich is so ubiquitous these days that we might eat or make one without ever stopping to wonder about the history of this versatile dish. With August as National Sandwich Month, the IDHH would like to highlight this humble entrée and the many ways it’s permeated our everyday culture. While something resembling the sandwich has most likely existed since the consumption of meat and bread began, legend has it that John Montagu, 4th earl of Sandwich, once dined on sliced meat and bread while playing at a gaming table so that he could continue to play as he ate. Indeed, the name was adopted in the 18th century for the earl, but probably due to his requests for the dish in London society or perhaps from a penchant of his to eat sandwiches while working at his desk. Regardless, Montagu’s social status lent the food credibility, and the sandwich soon became fashionable fare on the European continent. 

The food item’s simplicity and versatility allow it to be a suitable choice in a variety of environments. Just as welcome in the lunchbox of an elementary school student as a busy professional, the sandwich can be arrayed in a myriad of ways, dressed up for foodies or made as plainly as possible. The World War II poster featuring the character “Jenny on the job” illustrates how the sandwich was used as part of an appeal to a sense of manliness and competence for female workers stepping into roles traditionally filled by men, who were overseas fighting in the war. As versatile as the food itself, the word “sandwich” may also refer to non-food items as well, such as the town of Sandwich, Illinois, the Sandwich Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, or the sandwich mathematical theorem. 

Have are a few of our favorite sandwich-related items from the collection:

A nurse prepares a tall tower of sandwiches at a table. Stacks of ready sandwiches are on the table as well.
Nurse Making Sandwiches, Fort Sheridan. circa 1920. Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County. Fort Sheridan. Courtesy of the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County.
A two-story brick building façade. It includes tall white pillars near the entrance with steps leading up to the front doors.
Sandwich Public Library, Sandwich, Illinois. n.d. Eastern Illinois University. Booth Library Postcard Collection. Courtesy of Eastern Illinois University.
Black and red geological survey map for the area of Sandwich, Illinois. Illustrates physical topography of the area.
Sandwich quadrangle, Illinois: 15 minute series. 1950. Created by U.S. Geological Survey. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Historical Maps Online. Courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library.
Woman holding a sandwich while sitting on the ground. Food and a picnic blanket are around her.
Warnecke friend holds a sandwich at a picnic, circa 1910s. circa 1910s. Bensenville Community Public Library. Bensenville Historical Collection. Courtesy of Bensenville Community Public Library.
Poster of a woman in a work uniform eating a lunch at a table. The lunch consists of a sandwich, fruits, veggies, and milk.
Jenny on the job eats man size meals. 1943. Created by Kula Robbins, for the U.S. Public Health Service. Illinois State University. Propaganda on All Fronts – United States & International World War II Era Posters. Courtesy of Illinois State University.
A crowd of children surround a very large square ham sandwich as two adults offer cut sections from the sandwich.
Children feasting on the world’s largest ham sandwich. 1933 – 1934. Photographed by Kaufmann & Fabry Co. University of Illinois Chicago. Century of Progress World’s Fair, 1933-1934. Courtesy of the University of Illinois Chicago.

Want to see more? 

View even more items related to sandwiches on the IDHH.