Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Seventy Year Old Surprise

Recently the city of Naperville refurbished a park monument that commemorated the centennial celebration of DuPage County in 1939. When they removed the brass plaque from a large granite boulder, they discovered a compartment hollowed into the stone. Inside the hollow was a sealed metal box. Mayor A. George Pradel, assisted by curators from the Naper Settlement, opened the box in the council chambers in front of a gathering of citizens. Kate was among those who eagerly watched as Mayor Pradel lifted out one historical tidbit after another. While the mayor joked that maybe there might be something in there worth enough to balance next year's city budget, the items were of historical rather than monetary value. Included were newspaper from several DuPage Towns, letters from residents and a couple of coins from the 1830's. The contents are on display at the Naper Settlement Museum until the end of the year but you can also see a list of the items as well as some photos from the opening event at the city's web site.
The Centennial Committee apparently intended to have the time capsule opened in 2039 for DuPage County's Bicentennial, but it was a good thing the workmen stumbled across it early. The box had some water damage and a couple of photos inside were completely destroyed. Who knows if anything would have been left to see in another thirty years? DuPage County was carved out of Cook County in 1838 principally through the political activities of Joseph Naper who founded Naperville in 1831. Tradition has it that Naper and Abraham Lincoln, who was also serving in the Illinois General Assembly at that time, swapped support to help pass their pet proposals. Naper wanted the new county and Lincoln wanted to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield. Both men were successful.

Illinois Agricultural History

The Illinois State Museum and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library recently completed a two-year project that culminated in the Audio-Video Barn web site.

Chock-full of stories and histories of rural life in Illinois, the Audio-Video Barn has so much to browse, you could spend months going through it all. Included is more than 300 hours of interviews with people who farmed our area since the 1950's.

The niftiest part of this web site is how you can search it. Instead of having to listen to all 300 hours, you can search for a particular county, time period or topic and just find clips that have to do with your search term.

There are also lesson plans to help bring this information into the classroom, so get your children or grandchildren to tell their teachers about this fascinating web site. They might get extra credit points!

Let's Hear It for Independent Booksellers!

Local history is often under-represented in bookstores because there just isn't enough money in it for publishers and booksellers. Obviously, the local history market is limited, but of extreme importance to those who live in that location.

Independent booksellers have the freedom to carry local books that your average bookstore chain won't bother with, and for that we local authors are extremely grateful!

Becky Anderson Wilkins is the co-owner of the two Anderson's Bookshops and was just honored with the Heartland Award from from the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association.

Becky gave Kate the opportunity to hold her first ever author event at Anderson's right after Ruth by Lake and Prairie was published several years ago, so we couldn't agree more with the Great Lakes Independent Bookseller Association's choice!

To learn more about GLiBA and find a map of independent booksellers near you, see
their website.

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

Candlelight Walk in Oregon

November 28

Luminary candles will light up the town as you and your family enjoy an evening of good old fashioned fun, refreshments, shopping, horse drawn carriage rides, Santa's arrival by fire truck, a festival of trees, Scrooge the comedy, and live musical entertainment in picturesque Oregon, Illinois beginning at 5:00 pm

Christmas on the Prairie in St. Charles

Saturday, December 12
Sunday, December 13

19th century-style holiday cheer will prevail at the 1843 Durant House Museum's Candle-Light Open House from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. each afternoon. Celebrate the season and make-merry while discovering the many charms of local history.

Authentically-costumed docents will welcome visitors into the enchanting, candle-lit prairie homestead adorned in authentic period décor- complete with hot cider and baked treats aplenty; including ginger cakes made from a c. 1840 Illinois recipe.

Christmas and Holiday Traditions at the Ethnic Heritage Museum in Rockford

Saturday, December 5
Sunday, December 6

Decorated Trees and /Displays in each ethnic gallery
Noon to 4:00 p.m. each day.

Local history lives on in this quaint home built in 1850. Here, you will find six fascinating galleries devoted to the primary immigrant groups that settled in southwest Rockford, IL. African-American, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian and Polish.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Even More Winners!

During the school year, Kate speaks to students as an author more often than as an historian. So most of the costuming gets packed away until the summer festival season.

While packing up a couple of weeks ago, Kate discovered a plastic baggie of names that had been collected during the Boone County Pioneer Festival in late September. Apparently they had been carefully protected from the wet weather and never made it into the general pot for the drawing.

Feeling awful that these folks missed the drawing earlier, Kate decided to hold a second drawing and give away yet another family pass to the Naper Settlement Living History Museum. We are proud to announce Loretta as our new winner. Her family pass is in the mail. Congratulations, Loretta!

Abraham Lincoln and Benito Juárez

Last time we mentioned that Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln would be greeting guests at the Chicago History Museum's member night. The presidential couple were quite sociable and pleasant during the event while members enjoyed a special preview of two new exhibits: "Abraham Lincoln Transformed" and "Benito Juárez and the Making of Modern Mexico."

While the Lincoln exhibit was an interesting continuation of their previous exhibit, learning about Juárez was more of an eye-opener. Juárez and Lincoln were both leaders of their countries at similar times in history. Yet being of the "land of Lincoln," we in Illinois know little of Juárez's life.

Kate's first book "Ruth by Lake and Prairie" tells the story of the settling of Naperville, Illinois. Joseph Naper, the founder, served in the Mexican - American War as a quarter master at the same time Juárez was fighting for leadership of his country. Too often we see history from only "our" side, whatever side that may be. It's always enlightening to get a more global view of world history.

If you are in Chicago, both exhibits are worth seeing and are available until April. For more information, see the Chicago History Museum website at

Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Historian!

When Kate was writing her first book on local history, she contacted long-time DuPage County historian Leone Schmidt for direction. Leone has written six books, the latest of which was released for Warrenville's 175th anniversary last year.

A curator of the Warrenville Historical Museum and officially named Warrenville's historian in 1977, Leone knows more about DuPage Country than nearly anyone.She was very gracious in looking through her notes when newcomer Kate had questions about DuPage in the 1830's.

Just a couple of weeks ago Leone received the Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the Illinois Association of Museums. It certainly was an apt award for a truly deserving individual.

Congratulations, Leone!

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

Naper Settlement Time Capsule

November through December

On October 26 Mayor Pradel opened a time capsule that was hidden away in 1939, the anniversary of the creation of DuPage County. The contents are on display until the end of the year

Victorian Christmas at Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum

November 28 - December 23, 2009

Tours of the decorated Cottage will take place at 1, 2 and 3 pm. Holiday music and other events will also take place each weekend.

Depot Museum of Batavia Historical Society

Until Thanksgiving

Mary Todd Lincoln's bedroom furniture from her stay at Bellevue Place Sanitarium are on display in Batavia until Thanksgiving when the museum closes for the season.

Boone County Historical Museum

Free through 2009

Don't forget that the museum's many exhibits are free for your perusal for the remainder of the year.