Welcome to Dixon, the Petunia Capitol of Illinois

Nestled along the picturesque Rock River in northwestern Illinois, the city of Dixon bears a fascinating history in the early nineteenth century as a fledgling outpost in the newly incorporated state of Illinois. Established in 1828 by Joseph Ogee, who operated a ferry along the banks of the Rock River, the city would take its name from a “Father” John Dixon after coming to the area in 1830 and purchasing the ferry operation from Ogee. With its advantageous position on the Rock River for trade and commerce, the settlement prospered from the abundance of the significant waterway and quickly grew into a thriving community. 

Fifty years later, the thriving city of Dixon saw the creation of Dixon College, a private college that operated with a teacher-training institution, the Northern Illinois Normal School. Dixon College advertised itself as an institution that taught “practically everything” and offered courses in such subjects as civil and electrical engineering, typewriting, and law. Though Dixon College closed around 1914 after only 35 years, the city of Dixon has a number of attractions that keep visitors coming to the area year after year. Designated the “Petunia Capital of Illinois” by the Illinois General Assembly in 1999, the city holds an annual Petunia Festival every summer featuring a parade, carnival, and fireworks show. In preparation for the festival, volunteers and citizens plant thousands of pink petunias along main streets, such as Galena Avenue with its iconic Dixon Arch. 

The IDHH is pleased to welcome the Dixon Public Library to the IDHH and feature their collections with this Highlights post. Here are a few of our favorite items:

Beautiful Galena Avenue Dixon, (the petunia city), Illinois. 1960. Photograph by Ralph-Lois Pierce Studio. Dixon Public Library. Dixon History Documents and Photographs. Courtesy of the Dixon Public Library.
Petunia lined Galena Avenue. 1980. Photograph by Ralph-Lois Pierce Studio. Dixon Public Library. Dixon History Documents and Photographs. Courtesy of the Dixon Public Library.
Dixon Theatre. 1922. Photograph by Brooks Photo. Dixon Public Library. Dixon History Documents and Photographs. Courtesy of the Dixon Public Library.
Dixon College Main Building sepia photograph. n.d. Dixon Public Library. Dixon College. Courtesy of the Dixon Public Library.
Eighth Annual Commencement of the Scientific Class 1889. 1889. Dixon Public Library. Dixon College. Courtesy of the Dixon Public Library.
Dixon College Staff. 1881. Dixon Public Library. Dixon College. Courtesy of the Dixon Public Library.
Illinois Central crossing Rock River, Dixon, Ill. 1907. Photograph by E.C. Kropp. Dixon Public Library. Dixon History Documents and Photographs. Courtesy of the Dixon Public Library.

Want to see more? 

Visit the IDHH to explore even more items from the Dixon Public Library.

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.