Beware the Ides of March – Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

For the ancient Romans, the Ides functioned as one of three fixed points occurring each month that helped them keep track of the current date in the Roman calendar. The Ides landed around the 13th day in most months, but took place on the 15th day in a few months of the year such as March. The Ides of March is particularly infamous due to its association with the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE by Roman senators. Marking the end of the Roman Republic, Caesar’s downfall during the Ides of March would be chronicled by Greek-Roman writer Plutarch in his work Parallel Lives, eventually inspiring a number of adaptations and artworks over the centuries depicting this historical event.

One of the more well-known adaptations of Plutarch’s writing on Julius Caesar is William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. First produced in 1599, perhaps for the opening of the Globe Theatre that same year, Shakespeare dramatizes the events surrounding Caesar’s assassination to pose questions about authority, political power, and fate. The tragedy play has had a varied production history over the last 423 years, as political regimes and movements have found the work’s themes sympathetic or contrary to their cause. Illinois theatres have hosted a number of historic productions of the piece, including a three-week run in 1888 at the Chicago Opera House featuring in the lead role of Brutus the actor Edwin Booth, brother of actor John Wilkes Booth infamous for assassinating Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Though during his attack John Wilkes Booth credits himself as shouting “Sic semper tyrannis!” — a phrase which his brother Edwin would cry in his role as Brutus — it is the words the soothsayer character uses to warn Caesar that we repeat today: “Beware the Ides of March.”

Below are a few of our favorite items featuring Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

Chicago Opera House, Julius Caesar (September 24, 1888). September 24, 1888. Chicago Public Library. Chicago Theater Collection-Historic Programs. Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library.
Grand Opera House, Julius Caesar (February 28, 1892). February 28, 1892. Chicago Public Library. Chicago Theater Collection-Historic Programs. Courtesy of the Chicago Public Library.
Scene from ‘Julius Caesar’. March 18, 1937. Photographed by Harold E. Way. Knox College. Harold Way Photograph Collection. Courtesy of Knox College.
James Prescott Warde as Brutus in a scene from “Julius Caesar”. n.d. Engraved by [George Henry] Adcock. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Portraits of Actors, 1720-1920. Courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library.
Robert Downing as Marc Antony in “Julius Caesar”. 1889. Created by Gebbie & Husson. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Portraits of Actors, 1720-1920. Courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library.
Caesar. n.d. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Motley Collection of Theatre and Costume Design. Courtesy of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Murder of Caesar. n.d. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Motley Collection of Theatre and Costume Design. Courtesy of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Want to see more? 

Visit the IDHH to view even more items related to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Ice, Ice, Skating – Gliding into the New Year

As a native Texan, I have always regarded winter sports with a healthy amount of both respect and fear. However, an exception to this innate mindset was made every four years with the performance of the Winter Olympics. For those few weeks, I was awed by the grace of the figure skaters, the fearlessness of the luge racers, and the gravity-defying feats of snowboarders in the half-pipe. With the winter season in full swing here in Illinois, and the 2022 Winter Olympics just around the corner, the IDHH would like to feature a staple winter sport: ice skating. 

Ice skating is believed to have developed in Scandinavia as early as 1000 BCE, using skates initially made from the bones of elk, oxen, reindeer, and other animals. While it is not exactly known when metal blades were introduced in the construction of ice skates , Dutch paintings from the 17th century clearly depict skaters gliding along on metal blades. Gaining in popularity as a recreational pastime in the 1800s, the activity eventually reached North America and a number of skating clubs were established in major cities in the Northern Hemisphere. Toward the end of the century, the sport would be indelibly changed in 1876 with the creation of the first rink using artificially frozen ice –  the Glaciarium in London. The artificial ice rink in Madison Square Gardens opened soon after in 1879 and the innovation of creating artificial rinks led to the rise of various skating sports and a desire for ice shows as popular entertainment. Eventually, ice skating would make its debut in the 1908 Summer Olympics, with speed skating to follow as an event at the first official winter games in 1924. 

Whether a newcomer to skating or a veteran of the ice, please enjoy a few of our favorite ice skating items from the collection:

Ice skating rink. 1960. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College.
Al Sherer, ice skating, Bloomington-Normal, IL, 1944. February 17, 1944. Photographed by Gladys Mittelbrusher. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection, 1940-1945. Courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History.
Flooding skating rink, 1946. December 17, 1946. Photographed by Phyllis Lathrop. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection, 1946 – 1949. Courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History.
Ice-Skating Line – 1937. 1937. University of St. Francis. Sharing Our Past, A Visual History. Courtesy of University of St. Francis.
Slough. 1920. Benedictine University. John Jochman Album. Courtesy of Benedictine University.

Want to see more?

Visit the IDHH to explore other items related to ice skating.

The Great IDHH Baking Blog: Pies

“As American as apple pie.” While the first recorded recipe for apple pie was written in England in 1381, this quotation has become synonymous with Americana and speaks to a country’s love of the versatile baked dish. Centuries before this catchy phrase was featured in advertisements of the Roaring Twenties, colonists of the fledgling United States found their wheat from England unsuited to North American soil and instead channeled their small amount of grain for use in pies rather than bread. With their flourishing New England apple orchards, this environment sowed the seeds for a nation’s embrace of the pie as a culinary favorite and cultural signifier. 

From springtime fairs to end-of-the-year holidays and festivals, it’s difficult to think of an event or season in which some kind of pie would not be welcome. The dessert is so ubiquitous that ten U.S. states claim a pie as their “official” state dessert, state treat, or state pie. Maine even lists two iconic pies for the state, claiming blueberry pie as the state dessert and whoopie pie as the state treat (though the whoopie pie is not quite a pie and more a type of soft cookie). The IDHH’s own state of Illinois proudly lists the pumpkin pie as the state pie and today produces the most pumpkins used for processed pie filling.  

While eating pies may be the more traditional way to enjoy the classic American dessert, some of our favorite items from the collection below show more inventive uses of the dish, from thrown projectile to animal treat:

Campus Photograph Collection: Campus Life. circa 1972-1976. University of Illinois Springfield. Campus Archival Documents. Courtesy of the University of Illinois Springfield.
Student Life. 1978. Illinois Wesleyan University. IWU Historical Collections. Courtesy of Illinois Wesleyan University.
Hog gets pie, 1947. January 22, 1947. Photograph by Frank Bill. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection, 1946 – 1949. Courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History.
Eureka Pumpkin Festival Queen Serves Pie to Attendants, 1955. September 15, 1955. Eureka Public Library District. Pumpkins, Parades and Pies- Eureka’s Pumpkin Festival Past, 1939-1961. Courtesy of the Eureka Public Library District.
Flunk Day pie. circa 1980’s. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College.

Want to see more? 

View more items related to pies on the IDHH.  

View Illinois Highlights blog posts published in 2019 and 2017 featuring the Eureka Pumpkin Festival items from the Eureka Public Library district.

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.