The Chicago Blues Sound of the Maxwell Street Market

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In recognition of Black History Month, the IDHH would like to highlight the vibrant history of the black musicians of the historic Maxwell Street Market, the birthplace of Chicago blues. Between 1916 and 1970, six million African Americans moved from the rural Southern United States to the more urban Northeast, Midwest, and West in the Great Migration. Bringing new life to industrial cities like Chicago, one of the many areas in which these new Chicagoans landed was that of Maxwell Street, part of the Near West Side of the city. A bustling residential district, Maxwell Street first appeared on a city map in 1847 and over the next 75 years would become an increasingly diverse neighborhood, earning itself the nickname “Ellis Island of the Midwest”. By the 1920s, the area’s residents were predominantly African American, and these new migrants brought with them the sound of blues music. 

In the 1930s and ‘40s, Maxwell Street became known as a place where black musicians could be heard by the greatest number of people as shoppers browsed the wares in the open-air market or inside stores. These street musicians played the acoustic blues of the South, but soon realized that amplification was needed so that they could be heard above the din of the noisy market. Setting up near storefronts, they began to play a blues music using electric guitar and the harmonica, both heavily amplified, often to the point of distortion. Over several decades, the featuring of these instruments and the blending of musical genres gave birth to an electrified, industrial blues, later coined, “Chicago Blues.” Made famous by black musicians on Maxwell Street such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Bo Diddley, Chicago blues would find mass appeal through Chicago blues record labels like Chess Records and have a significant influence on early rock musicians like The Rolling Stones. 

Here are a few of our favorite items from IDHH collections featuring the music of the famous Maxwell Street Market:

Maxwell Street Market. August 1915. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.
Aerial view of the Maxwell Street Market. July 1945. Photographed by Americo Grasso. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.
Jazz with junk. 1959. Photographed by Clarence W. Hines. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.
Magic show on Maxwell street near Newberry Street. Man pointing in forground. 1966. Photographed by James Newberry. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.
African American man in straw boater hat on Peoria Street, east of Maxwell Street. 1966. Photographed by James Newberry. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.
Gospel musicians near Maxwell Street. circa 1971. Photographed by James Newberry. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.
Woman in white playing the tambourine, on Peoria Street east of Maxwell Street. n.d. Photographed by James Newberry. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

Want to see more?

Visit the IDHH to view even more images of the Maxwell Street Market and explore items related to African American history and culture.

Togetherness at the End of the Year

As another year comes to a close and 2022 looms large on the horizon, the IDHH would like to devote a post to the ways in which we reconnect, recharge, and renew ourselves during these busy holiday weeks. As a nod to the ways in which we all might choose to close out this year, we have featured a few forms of togetherness and entertainment from years past.

Entertainment, Fun in the snow. circa 1900. Arthur Public Library. Arthur, Once Upon a Time – Local History Images of Arthur. Courtesy of the Arthur Public Library.

Invented by American Thomas Edison in 1877, the phonograph was the first sound machine that could both record and reproduce sound. The earliest “record player”, these devices consisted of a stylus or needle which traced the grooves etched upon a rotating cylinder and then amplified the sound waves through a flared horn. By 1890, record manufacturers had begun to mass-produce their product, allowing consumers to assemble their own record collections and share their favorite music with friends and family.

Entertainment, Family listening to Victrola. circa 1900. Arthur Public Library. Arthur, Once Upon a Time – Local History Images of Arthur. Courtesy of the Arthur Public Library.

While previous generations may not have had the ability to binge-watch an entire season of TV together over the course of a weekend, they could enjoy dazzling depictions of scenes and far-off places from the comfort of their very own homes using a magic lantern. Widely accepted to have been invented by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens in the 17th century, the magic lantern created large-scale projections from images on transparent glass plates by manipulating one or more lenses and a light source. With these larger images, a magic lantern was preferable for large groups of viewers and was commonly used for entertainment purposes from the 18th century until the mid-20th century.

Magic Lantern, circa 1890s. circa 1890s. Bensenville Community Public Library. Bensenville Historical Collection. Courtesy of the Bensenville Community Public Library.
Churches and winter scenes in the mountains. [n.d.] Bensenville Community Public Library. Bensenville Historical Collection. Courtesy of the Bensenville Community Public Library.

However we choose to spend these last moments of 2021 together – whether that’s listening to music, dancing with our favorite dance partner, or watching a feel-good movie – the IDHH wishes everyone a joyous holiday season and a wonderful New Year!

Music and dancing with Lil’ Pat. circa 1971. Photographed by James Newberry. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.
Man and woman dancing on Peoria Street. 1970. Photographed by James Newberry. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

Want to see more? 

Visit the IDHH to explore other items related to togetherness and entertainment

Find even more examples of magic lanterns, phonographs, and dancing on the IDHH.

Baseball at the IDHH

Tonight is Game Three of the World Series. To celebrate we’re highlighting a few pictures of baseball in Illinois.

There is a rich debate about the origins of baseball, both in terms of its evolution- and place, but we know that by the mid-19th century, baseball was already ingrained into American life and community. Both Union and Confederate soldiers documented baseball games in their diaries, including games played as prisoners of war. After the war communities formed clubs of their own, making baseball one of the first instances of communities establishing their own identities.  

In Illinois, as early as 1869 the Cairo Bulletin was reporting on games in bordering Missouri. By 1870, the Cairo Deltas and Egyptians were playing in Missouri, Kentucky, and Illinois as clubs and regional leagues began to form across the state.

Below are some of the greatest hits from Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County, Cherry Valley Historical Society, Chicago History Museum, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showing how the game was played in our communities from the 1880’s onward, and became an international phenomenon in the early 20th century.

The Dunn Museum’s Fort Sheridan Collection includes several images of baseball as a part of life on the Fort.

Woman_Playing_Baseball
Woman Playing shortstop, C.1945. Unknown Photographer. Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County (IL). Fort Sheridan collection. Permission to display was provided by the Bess Bower Dunn Museum.

 

Men_Shaking_Hands_Fort_Sheridan
Man in Army Uniform Shaking Hands, Exchanging Baseball Bat, C. 1920. Unknown Photographer. Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County (IL). Fort Sheridan. Permission to display was provided by the Bess Bower Dunn Museum.

The Cherry Valley Historical Society Cherry Valley Local History Collection includes team portraits of Cherry Valley Wildcats, and little leaguers from the first half of the century, showing what community sports looked like and how communities supported teams during baseball’s most nostalgic moment.

Baseball_team
Cherry Valley Baseball Team, C. 1916. Unknown Photographer. Cherry Valley Historical Society. Cherry Valley Local History Collection. Permission to display was provided by the Cherry Valley Public Library District.

Cherry Valley Baseball Team, C. 1916. Unknown Photographer. Cherry Valley Historical Society. Cherry Valley Local History Collection.

Meanwhile, the Chicago History Museum’s Museum Collection and Prints and Photographs Collection includes artifacts and photographs from Chicago’s MLB teams, the Cubs and the White Sox:

Chicago_Cubs_baseball_player_Ron_Santo_catching_a_foul_ball_at_Wrigley_Field
Chicago Cub Ron Santo catching a foul ball at Wrigley Field, 1969. Jack Lenahan, photographer, Chicago Daily News Inc. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Permission to display was provided by the Chicago History Museum.

Exterior_view_of_Wrigley_Field
Wrigley Field from Sheffield and Waveland avenues, 1964. F.S. Dauwalter, Photographer. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Permission to display was provided by the Chicago History Museum.


And lastly, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Picture Chicago Collection includes this great picture of the Chicago White Sox and New York Giant’s in front of The Great Sphinx during their 1913-1914 world tour:

Whitesox
Chicago White Sox and New York Giants in front of the Sphinx during their World Tour 1913-1914, 1914. Unknown Photographer. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Picture Chicago.

For more fall ball, or if you’re still daydreaming of summer, check out our contributor’s collections on the Illinois Digital Heritage Hub Website .

Celebrating Illinois Writers

July 21 marks the 120th birthday of Illinois-born, internationally-acclaimed author, Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). To celebrate, the IDHH highlights collections that include materials on several Illinois literary giants, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Carl Sandburg, and Hemingway himself.

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000) is one of the most celebrated U.S. poets, poet laureate of Illinois, and longtime Chicago resident. In 1949, She became the first African American writer to win a Pulitzer Prize. Brooks has a deep connection to African American history and culture, public life, and academics in Illinois. Throughout her life, Brooks spoke at libraries and campuses throughout the state, as demonstrated below in the photographs from the Lake Forest Academy and Ferry Hall Archives collection and Elgin Community College’s campus history collection. Gwendolyn Brooks came to Ferry Hall in 1969 and Lake Forest Academy in May of 1994 to speak to classes and give a reading of her poems. She visited Elgin Community College in 1995 to speak to high school and college English students. Brooks has perhaps the strongest connection to Illinois Wesleyan University, visiting the campus five times from 1972-1999, receiving an honorary doctorate there in 1973. See materials from her visits to Wesleyan here. See all of material in the IDHH on Brooks here.

Coincidentally, July also marks the death of another of the most celebrated writers in the state and the U.S., Carl Sandburg (1878-1967). Though best known for his poetry, especially his breathtaking naturalist and modernist pieces on urban life in Chicago, he was also a musician, editor, and prose author. One of his three Pulitzers was awarded for a biography on Lincoln. Sandburg was an advocate for civil rights and received an award from the NAACP in 1965. In the photo below from the Chicago History Museum’s Prints and Photographs Collection, Sandburg sits with his biographer, Harry Golden. Sandburg lived most of his life outside of Illinois but occasionally returned to his home state, including a visit to Knox College in 1958. Search all of the materials in the IDHH relating to Sandburg here.

Writers Carl Sandburg (left) and Harry Golden sit in Golden's office following the publication of his biography of the poet titled Carl Sandburg
Haun, Declan, 1937-1994 (photographer). Carl Sandburg and Harry Golden in Golden’s office. 1961. Chicago History Museum. Prints and Photographs Collection. Permission to display was given by Chicago History Museum.

Finally, the remarkable photographs below from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, digitized by the Oak Park Library collection in the Illinois Digital Archive, showcase the early life of the author and his family in his hometown, a suburb of Chicago. Hemingway authored more than a dozen novels and short story collections throughout his life, receiving a Pulitzer for The Old Man and the Sea in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.  He is pictured below with his siblings, two of whom, Marcelline and Leicester, also became talented writers. Check out all of the IDHH materials on Hemingway here.

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.

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.