Bees and Butterflies and Bats, Oh My!

As temperatures warm and days get ever longer, the sounds of bees buzzing past and birds chirping in the trees indicate not only the arrival of summer, but also the height of the plant pollination period. June 1st marked the beginning of National Pollinators Month, recognizing these creatures and the crucial role they play in the larger system of plant reproduction and proliferation. Pollinators come in all shapes and sizes, encompassing such diverse animals as insects, birds, and even some mammals. These animals travel from one flower or plant to another, carrying pollen as they go, and fertilizing flora with each new plant they visit. The symbiotic dynamic between these plants and pollinators is vital to both groups, as pollinators eat the pollen or nectar for its nutritional content, while the plants rely on the pollinators to spread their pollen, aiding in reproduction.  

The importance of this intricate process and the players within it has captivated human populations for centuries as butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators have been ascribed cultural significance and symbolism in various communities around the world. Such cultural significance persists today as we create entertainment like The Bee Movie that foregrounds pollinators, hold events such as the Aurora Pollinator Festival that highlight the role of pollinators, and design outdoor environments that offer ideal conditions for these animals. Indeed, as our climate changes there is a greater need than ever to create pollinator-friendly landscapes using pollinator-friendly practices. By providing habitats conducive to pollinator animals, we can simultaneously safeguard this essential process and beautify the natural world around us. 

Below are a few of our favorite items featuring one of the most popular pollinators – the honey bee:

Governor Green at Bee Exhibit — State Fair. August 1946. Illinois State Archives. Eddie Winfred “Doc” Helm Photograph Collection. Courtesy of the Illinois State Archives.
Honey bees, Chenoa, IL 1948. April 1, 1948. Photographed by Stanley Lantz. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection, 1946 – 1949. Courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History.
Young, Benjamin Percy; Young, Nola Ayers. 1949. Designed by F. Botel. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. John Starr Stewart Ex Libris Collection. Courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library.
Margaret M. McPherson. n.d. Designed by Julius J. Lankes. West Chicago Public Library District. Cornelia Neltnor Anthony and Frank D. Anthony Book Plate Collection. Courtesy of the West Chicago Public Library District.
Roberts, IL beekeeper, 1941. September 10, 1941. Photographed by Charles Menees. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negatives Collection 1940 – 1945. Courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History.

Want to see more? 

Visit the IDHH to view even more items related to bees.

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.

Introducing the Pantagraph Negative Collections

Alfalfa Show. 1937. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection (1930-1939). Photograph by Olin Piercy. Permission to display given by McLean County Museum of History.

Now included in the IDHH are two collections from the McLean County Museum of History. The Pantagraph Negative Collection 1930-1939 and 1940-1945 include roughly 48,000 scanned negatives from the Pantagraph, a newspaper headquartered in Bloomington. The collections include scans of negatives created by photographer-reporters between 1932 and 1945. The Pantagraph’s origins date back to 1846 and was known for its coverage of regional agricultural concerns, local sports, and community social events in 10 counties surrounding McLean County.  

Family Circle (Pantagraph In House News).1938. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection (1930-1939). Photograph by Charles A. Mercier. Permission to display given by McLean County Museum of History.

The collection, donated to Mclean County Museum of History by the Pantagraph, preserves vivid images of the early and mid 20th century, including the rise of industrial agriculture and the Great Depression in Central Illinois. Here’s a few of the gems from their collection: 

YWCA Swim Meet. 1938. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection (1930-1939). Photograph by John S. Bowman. Permission to display given by McLean County Museum of History.
Cornhusking Contests. 1938. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection (1930-1939). Photograph by Frank Bill. Permission to display given by McLean County Museum of History.
Danvers, IL pet squirrel. 1940. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection (1940-1945). Photograph by Harlan Stranger. Permission to display given by McLean County Museum of History.
Along the Road, Chenoa. 1941. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection (1940-1945). Photograph by Glenn Steeleye. Permission to display given by McLean County Museum of History.
Boxing, Moline vs. Bloomington, Illinois. 1938.McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection (1930-1939). Photograph by Percy Olin. Permission to display given by McLean County Museum of History.
Fifth Columnists. 1942. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection (1940-1945). Photograph by Ralph O. Baird Jr. Permission to display given by McLean County Museum of History.

For more of these two collections, visit the IDHH.