Happy Father’s Day

The IDHH celebrates Father’s Day by highlighting families of performers from Illinois State University’s Passion for Circus collection. Captured by photographer, Sverre “Bex” Braathen, the photographs are from a collection of nearly 10,000 that includes thousands of black and white photographs from the 1930s and thousands more color photos from the 1940s and 1950s from circuses all around the United States.

Below is a selection of several father-daughter and father-son acts, Alfred, Sr. and Alfred, Jr. Burton from the Ringling Barnum Circus, the Naitto family, Ala and his daughters, Nio and Margie, also of Ringling, and Ernest and Ernestine Clarke of the Tom Mix Circus. The Burtons performed balancing acts on high pedestals. The Naittos were high wire and tightrope performers. The Clarkes performed floor routines. Ernest was famous as a somersaulting leaper in his own Clarkonian Flying act of the Ringling Brothers circus.

Finally, several images capture Astrid and Ernst “Franklin” Schlichting of the Ringling Barnum Circus. Astrid, thirteen years old, performs hand balancing routines with her father, acts that require tremendous strength and concentration.

For more Father’s Day-themed items, take a look at all items among Illinois State University’s collections, including from the International Collection of Children’s Art.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day to remember the U.S. military personnel who have died in the line of duty and also a time to reflect on the soldiers and civilians whose lives were forever changed by U.S.-involved conflicts around the world. With a mind toward examining U.S. military history while wishing for world peace and a peaceful memorial day for veterans, military personnel, and people everywhere, the IDHH highlights collections from across Illinois that evince this history, remember veterans, and memorialize soldiers and civilians touched by war.

The state and its residents have a long history of involvement in most of the U.S.’s major conflicts, from the Civil War to present day. The IDHH’s numerous military history collections are particularly focused on the Civil War, World War I, and World War II, including the materials highlighted here. While there are dozens of institutions contributing invaluable content, the focus is on museums, following up last week’s post on International Museum Day:  Veterans Memorial Hall and Museum and the Midway Village and Museum Center and the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County.

Veterans Memorial Hall and Museum’s collection includes photographic portraits of more than 70 Civil War veterans from the Rockford Area. The collection was previously curated and digitized by the Midway Village and Museum Center. The men in the photographs below represent just three of a small but nonetheless indispensable number of the more than 8,000 Illinoisans who served in the Civil War. Photographs were taken years to decades after the conflict, archived in 1968, and digitized only within the last few years, indicating a long remembrance of the Civil War and its impact on Illinois and its people.

The Bess Bower Dunn Museum features photographs, artifacts, and postcards pertaining to life at what was once a major U.S. Army post in the Fort Sheridan collection. The collection includes photographs of men and women posted at Fort Sheridan from the Spanish American War through the Vietnam War era. In addition to providing a record of everything from the most mundane to the most unusual aspects of life at Fort Sheridan, the collection is especially focused on the Women’s Army Corp (WAC) of Fort Sheridan from its beginnings during World War II until the integration of men and women units in the late 1970s

There are many other collections in the IDHH that commemorate veterans and evince the state’s military history, including the Pritzker Military Museum and Library’s  Music of the First World War. There are also several collections provided by the Illinois State Library, including the Veterans History Project and the World War II Posters collections, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s Boys in Blue collection of photographs Civil War soldiers. There are several collections documenting the service of residents of particular towns and regions in Illinois, such as the Coal City Public Library District’s World War II – From Homefront to Warfront collection, the Arlington Heights Memorial Library and Arlington Heights Historical Society’s Military History Collection, the Mel Tierney Post Servicemen File collection from the Park Ridge Public Library, digitized issues of the Melrose Park local newspaper, The Herald, from World War II provided by the Melrose Park Public Library, and Illinois State University Archive’s A University Goes to War, documenting women from the university’s involvement in World War I. For a complete list of collections provided by Illinois Digital Archive (IDA) contributing institutions, most of which are also in the DPLA, see IDA’s Military History page.

Spotlight on Illinois Museums

May 18 is International Museum Day and to celebrate, the IDHH highlights collections from museums across the state of Illinois. Currently, nine museums contribute their materials to the IDHH. Today’s post will take a look at two of these institutions which we have not recently highlighted, the Elgin History Museum and the Illinois State Museum. Several other museums will likely be featured in a forthcoming Memorial Day post.

The Elgin History Museum opened in the mid-1980s, though its founders, the Elgin Historical Society, had been collaborating to remember and preserve Elgin area history since 1961. The museum houses a number of exhibitions, featuring artifacts pertaining to the Elgin Road Race, the Elgin National Watch Company, and the manufacturing industry’s role in the the city. The museum also houses the Gylleck Photo Collection, documenting more than a hundred years of history from 1847-1960, featuring cityscapes, views of buildings, and many facets of life in Elgin, such as sports, industry, schools, and homes.


The Illinois State Museum is one of the oldest institutions in the state, bringing together collections and providing exhibitions of artifacts from across Illinois. Items from the Story of the Illinois State Museum collection are featured below, including photographs of founders and and museum staff who helped shape the institution in its early days, to some of its most notable exhibits, to views of the museum’s exterior and interior throughout the years. The Illinois State Museum also publishes a quarterly, The Living Museum, some issues of which are are available in the DPLA.


Check out the collections of some of the other museums that contribute to the Illinois Digital Heritage Hub, including the Henderson County Historical Society Museum of Raritan, Illinois, the the Illinois State Fair Museum, and, of course, the Chicago History Museum, whose collections we have featured in several recent posts.

International Workers’ Day: Honoring Labor

May 1 marks International Workers’ Day and the first week of May a significant time period in the history of labor and labor organization. May 4 is the 133rd anniversary of the Haymarket Affair in Chicago, an event in city and state history that resounded around the world and it, along with the events leading up to the Affair, are widely cited as the inspiration for International Workers’ Day. The IDHH highlights items from the Chicago History Museum relevant to the Haymarket Affair, workers’ rights, and labor organization across the state of Illinois.

The Chicago History Museum’s Prints and Photographs Collection includes prints and photographs that picture Haymarket Square, the location of a workers’ rally held as part of efforts to instate the eight-hour work day as a national standard and in response to the killing of several protestors on the previous day by police. The rally was initially peaceful but ended in the explosion of a homemade bomb, seen rendered in the print below by the artist, Paul J. Morand, that killed seven police officers. Police veterans of the Haymarket Affair were honored by their department and by local and municipal leaders, as evinced by the banner in an 1895 parade. Organizers, including those killed by police in the aftermath of the bomb and those wrongly accused in the fury of investigations and trials following the bombing were commemorated mainly by labor organizations.

Check out more items that relate to the Haymarket Affair, and workers’ rights and labor in Illinois. There are also many collections with items pertaining to labor, such as the Pullman State Historic Site’s Southeast Chicago Historical Society collection. To learn more about the Haymarket Affair, check out this article from the Encyclopedia of Chicago. For a timeline of events, search strategies, and a sampling of newspaper articles contemporaneous to the Haymarket Affair, see the Library of Congress webpage on the event.

National Guitar Month

April is National Guitar Month and to celebrate, the IDHH spotlights items from two collections from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Library: the Sousa Archives Music Instrument Digital Image and 3D Model Collection and the John Starr Stewart Ex Libris Collection.

The John Starr Stewart Collection comprises more than 1500 book plates, book stamps, and spine labels from the late 19th century and earlier. Among these is a stamp from Leipsig, Germany that features a guitarist identified as Agnes Drobner.

Poster with illustration of woman playing guitar.
Horst-Schulze. Drobner, Agnes. 1900. UIUC Library. John Starr Stewart Ex Libris Collection. Permission to display was given by UIUC Library.

The Sousa Archives houses thousands of pages of sheet music, musical instruments, and other historical artifacts pertaining to America’s diverse music heritage. Among these is a fascinating collection of early and experimental guitars, including some of the first electric Hawaiian guitars produced. Included below are an assortment of these unique guitars, including table and lap-style guitars developed by Eddie Alkire and produced by the Rickenbacker and Epiphone guitar companies, as well as Alkire’s modified 12-string acoustic Oahu GUITAR.

Electro A-22
Rickenbacker. Steel guitar. ca 1932. UIUC Library. Sousa Archives Music Instrument Digital Image and 3D Model Collection. Permission to display was given by UIUC Library.
Oahu Jumbo 68B model acoustic guitar
Hawaiian guitar. Date unknown. UIUC Library. Sousa Archives Music Instrument Digital Image and 3D Model Collection. Permission to display was given by UIUC Library.
Ten-string lap-style electric guitar
Epiphone. Eharp-Lap Model Guitar. Date unknown. UIUC Library. Sousa Archives Music Instrument Digital Image and 3D Model Collection. Permission to display was given by UIUC Library.
Table electric guitar
Epiphone. Eharp. Date unknown. UIUC Library. Sousa Archives Music Instrument Digital Image and 3D Model Collection. Permission to display was given by UIUC Library.

Celebrating Spring with the Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden

There is still a nip in the air across Illinois but this week marks the calendar’s first week of Spring. To celebrate Spring and to turn our minds toward warmer weather, the IDHH highlights the Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s collection in the Illinois Digital Archive. The collection features more than 100 digitized books, postcards, and photography. These digital items represent a tiny fraction of the Lenhardt Library’s rare book collection, which provides 500 years of research on nearly all things related to botany, horticulture, agriculture, gardening, landscaping, and botanical art.

The first three items below are postcards featuring photomechanical prints of original photographs and paintings of botanical landmarks in Lincoln Park, Jackson Park, and Washington Park. All of these places, the Conservatories in Lincoln Park and Washington Park and the Japanese Garden in Jackson Park are still extant.

The last items are photographs from the 1965 Chicago World Flower and Garden Show. First held in 1847, the tradition continues to this day.

Thanks to our contributor, the Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Gardens. See all of their items in the DPLA or check out all IDHH items with the subject, “Spring.”

St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The Illinois Digital Heritage Hub celebrates by highlighting collections at the Lake Forest Academy and the Quincy Public Library.

Lake Forest Academy has a long and fascinating legacy that encompasses the history of Ferry Hall, which merged with the Academy in the 1970s. In the image below, students in costume gather for a St. Patrick’s Day dinner and festivities.

Ferry Hall Students and Faculty gather around a table for dinner on the Feast of Saint Patrick.
Saint Patrick’s Day Dinner, Ferry Hall, circa 1895. Lake Forest Academy. Lake Forest Academy and Ferry Hall Archives. Permission to display was given by the Lake Forest Academy.

The Quincy Public Library has long been a cornerstone of its town and community. The images below capture the library’s participation in Quincy’s celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in the early 1990s.

In addition to the Quincy Public Library and the Lake Forest Academy, check out other St. Patrick’s Day themed items contributed by IDHH institutions, including a rich set of items provided by the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Welcome, Madison Historical!

This post was co-written by Ben Ostermeier, developer for Madison Historical.

The IDHH thanks Madison Historical, a collaboration of Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, and 26 local Madison County institutions, for sharing their collections with the DPLA. Madison County, home to Edwardsville, Granite City, Alton, and Madison, was the place of residence of abolitionist, Elijah Lovejoy, whose murder by pro-slavery sympathizers in 1837 inspired anti-slavery activists and militants, including John Brown. Historically, Madison county was a much larger and once occupied land from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the northern two thirds of Illinois.

Madison County is well known as a seat of industry in the state of Illinois. One of the oldest and longest enduring is agriculture, including wheat, corn, soy, and horseradish. Pictured below are some early tractors from the turn of the 20th century, often assisted by horses.

Madison County was also home to the Illinois Glass Company, based in Alton. The company merged with the Owens Bottle Machine Company in 1923 to become the Owens-Illinois Glass Company and the largest glass bottle producer in the world. Their largest factory was in Alton until it closed in 1983.

Coal mining was another leading industry through the mid-20th century, though mines are now abandoned. Below are pictures of the people and equipment that made Madison County one of the leading coal-producing regions in the country.

A major industry still active in Madison County is oil refining, with John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil establishing a refinery in 1908 in Wood River, and Shell Oil establishing another in Roxana in 1918. The Shell Oil refinery is now operated by Phillips 66.

Finally, the railroad industry played a huge role in the development of Madison County, tying into both agriculture, mining, as well as petroleum. Trains made commerce across Illinois and throughout the country more efficient, transporting Madison County’s products throughout the U.S.

Another collection belonging to Madison Historical are a series of high school newspapers from Granite City High School from the 1930s to the 1950s. Spanning the Great Depression, World War II, and the early years of the Cold War, the newspapers offer fascinating insight into adolescent reactions to major world events of the 20th century.

Front page of a high school newspaper, Granite High World
“Granite High World” School Newspapers for the 1945-46 School Year. 1945-10-04. Madison Historical – Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Permission to display was given by Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.

See all of the Madison Historical Items in the DPLA.
See other items contributed by Southern Illinois Edwardsville.

Celebrating Black History

The IDHH celebrates Black History Month with collections remembering African American cultural heritage,communities, and Black-owned businesses in Illinois. We highlight two collections, the McLean County Historical Society’s Bloomington-Normal Black History Project and Elgin Community College’s Elgin Community College History collection.

The Elgin Community College History collection includes images from Elgin-area Black History Month celebrations often involving prominent figures in African American history and culture. In particular, Tuskegee Airman Andrew Lane met with Larkin High School students for Black History Month in 1994.

The McLean County Historical Society’s collection chronicles African American communities and notable residents as well as Black-owned businesses in the Bloomington-Normal area from the turn of the 20th century through the 1990s. Featured below are, clockwise, beginning in the top right, photos of Ike and Lue Anna Brown Sanders’ Working Men’s Club, Harry Bell’s Tailor Shop, Robert Gaston’s Upper Cut Barbershop and Richard Bell’s amusement park.

See all items in the IDHH relating to Black History Month.

Remembering the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the activism for justice and equality that his work is a part of and continues to be exigent to this day. The IDHH highlights collections from the Chicago History Museum that include photographs by DC-area journalist, Declan Haun, as well as an interview with an activist who participated in protests in Chicago in response to King’s assassination in 1968.

The Chicago History Museum’s Prints and Photographs Collection includes photographs from King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech on August 28,1963 (the first image below on the left), his involvement in the March 1965 protests against police brutality in Montgomery, Alabama (top right), and images from King’s Chicago Freedom Movement, including a march in 1966 (bottom right). King was a powerful voice in Civil Rights and inspired many others to stand up for equality for African Americans and all People of Color.

The Chicago History Museum’s Oral History Collection includes transcripts and audio from interviews conducted by the Museum’s Studs Terkel Center for Oral History. Hear from Marilyn Katz who was involved in protests in Chicago in the wake of King’s assassination. Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, ideas, and the people he inspires live on to work toward social justice.

Several IDHH Institutions have put together exhibits in honor of Dr. King, including the Chicago History Museum’s Remembering Dr. King, which focuses on King’s work in Chicago. Some of the exhibit’s images are online in the Chicago History Museum’s Digital Library and in the DPLA. See all of the Chicago History Museum’s materials relating to Dr. King. See all of the Illinois Digital Heritage hub’s items on King here.