Sirius-ly Scorching Dog Days of Summer

As the weather and humidity in central Illinois make it feel more and more like the temperature is over 100°F outside, the IDHH is highlighting the proverbial “dog days” of summer. While the phrase “dog days” or “dog days of summer” might be somewhat familiar, just what are these days and how did this expression enter our cultural lexicon? From an astronomical point of view, the phrase refers to the annual phenomenon in which the bright star Sirius rises into the sky at the same time as the Sun. This heliacal rising allows viewers to see both the Sun and the Sirius star simultaneously, leading to the belief that Sirius intensified or added to the Sun’s heat. In the Northern Hemisphere, this simultaneous rising may be seen during the hottest months of the year, in July and August. 

Hellenistic astrologers in the Mediterranean were aware of the star Sirius, calling it the “Dog Star” due to the way it followed the constellation Orion into the night sky. The sweltering and humid weather in the Mediterranean during these months would often cause people to fall ill, and so the connection was made between Sirius’ heliacal rising and its effect on the populations below. A variety of detrimental effects to human activities were attributed with Sirius’ rising such as lethargy, fever, and bad luck, as well as the belief that this hot period brought out madness in dogs, further reinforcing the notion of the “dog days”. While we may no longer blame a summer fever on the “dog days of summer”, there is no denying the potent influence of a heat wave in July to inspire lazy dreams of a nice afternoon spent on the water. Between numerous lakes and ponds, miles of river, and spots like Navy Pier on the shores of Lake Michigan, Illinoisians have plenty of ways to cool down during the hot summer. 

Below are a few of our favorite items highlighting ways to enjoy the “dog days of summer” and beat the heat:

A Summer Afternoon – Long Lake, Illinois, P.O. Ingleside. M86.1.426. 1938. Created by C.R. Childs. Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County. Lake County History in Postcards. Courtesy of the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County.
Drinks on the Quad – 1936. June 1936. University of St. Francis. Sharing Our Past, A Visual History. Courtesy of the University of St. Francis.
Men and Women swimming in Lamoine River early 1900s. n.d. Western Illinois University. Digital Image Collection. Courtesy of Western Illinois University.
Fire Department Early Water Fights. circa 1915. Huntley Area Public Library. Huntley Area History. Courtesy of the Huntley Area Public Library.
Looking south on Quiver Beach Summer Resort, Havana, Ill. n.d. Published by Tarbill and Ermeling. Eastern Illinois University. Booth Library Postcard Collection. Courtesy of Eastern Illinois University.
Fine Arts Summer Concerts. n.d. Park Ridge Public Library. Pieces of Park Ridge. Courtesy of the Park Ridge Public Library.

Want to see more? 

Visit the IDHH to view even more items related to the dog days of summer.

Unearthing the Roots of Earth Day

On January 28, 1969, an underwater oil well drilled off the coast of Santa Barbara, California suffered a blowout six miles from the coastline. Oil seeped out of the ocean floor bedrock at a rapid rate, creating an oil slick that would extend across dozens of square miles. The largest oil spill in American waters at the time, an estimated 3 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Santa Barbara Channel over the course of the next month. The impact on the local marine environment was extreme as thousands of sea birds and marine animals were killed, and the clean-up efforts took months to address the damage of the spill. The enormity of this environmental disaster, and the increased awareness among Americans in the 60’s of environmental concerns generally, would prompt President Nixon to sign the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969 and inspire the creation of an annual Earth Day. 

Held on April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was conceived as an “environmental teach-in” that would educate citizens about the importance of environmental conservation. The product of collaboration between Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelsen and activist Denis Hayes, the day eventually abandoned the “teach-in” model and saw numerous demonstrations and protests across the United States as more than 20 million people organized in city streets, which is still the largest organized demonstration in American history today. Over fifty years later, Earth Day is an annual reminder on April 22 to support efforts protecting our ever-changing environment and to contribute to a more sustainable world. 

Below are a few of our favorite items featuring early Earth Day celebrations in Illinois as well as the beautiful nature of Illinois:

Student Life, Protests and activism. April 21, 1970. Illinois Wesleyan University. IWU Historical Collections. Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Des Plaines River, Libertyville, Ill. n.d. Cook Memorial Public Library District. Libertyville History. Courtesy of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society.
The Wishing Tree – Round Lake Beach, Round Lake, Illinois. 1933. Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County. Lake County History in Postcards. Courtesy of the Lake County Forest Preserves, Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County.
Lincoln School, Sterling, Illinois. 1970. Sterling Public Library. Sterling and Rock Falls Local History Collection. Courtesy of the Sterling Public Library.
Analyzing Nature. circa 1981. University of St. Francis. Sharing Our Past, A Visual History. Courtesy of the University of St. Francis.
Spoon feeding bird. n.d. Photographed by George Day. Bradley University. The Jack Bradley Photojournalism Collection. George Day of the Peoria Journal Star and Jack L. Bradley Photojournalism Collection, Virginius H. Chase Special Collections Center, Bradley University, Peoria, IL.
Pond, flowers, trees. 1916. Photographed by John H. Hauberg. Augustana College. From MSS 27 John Henry Hauberg papers, Special Collections, Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Want to see more? 

Visit the IDHH to view even more items related to the environmental observances of Earth Day and Arbor Day.

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.