Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who's Been Working on the Railroad?

"Trunks Through Time" sounds like a fascinating way for students from kindergarten through eighth grade to explore the railway history of our country. While currently on display at the Buchanan Center for the Arts in Monmouth, Illinois, these four trunks will be made available for teachers to bring into their classrooms in the near future.

The premise is that students are workers at the Lost and Found department of a large railway station. The station manager hopes to return the trunks to their owners and asks the students to go through the trunks' contents to learn more about the rightful owners.

Inside each trunk are photos, replicated artifacts and actual antiques that represent specific groups of people who make up America's railway history: the Chinese immigrants who built the rail lines, "Harvey Girls" who worked in railroad restaurants, African-American Pullman Porters, and Latino "boxcar children" who lived in surplus rail cars with their families.

Sponsored by a grant from the Galesburg Community Foundation and designed by BRC Imagination Arts, Knox College students and faculty worked together to put assemble the trunk contents and write the accompanying lesson plans.

Galesburg is a big railroad town with a Railroad Museum and a two-day festival called Railroad Days in June, so it's no surprise that Knox College would embrace a project like this. Kate well remembers the wails of train horns at all hours of the day and night when she was studying for her creative writing degree there!
"Trunks Through Time" should provide a wonderful hands-on and rich experience for children to learn history. Lucky kids!

A Plethora of Local Authors

If lions come in "prides," do authors come in "plethoras?" They will on Saturday, March 13 at the Joliet Public Libary -- Black Road Branch when the library welcomes thirty local authors from 9am until 4pm to answer questions, autograph books and take pictures.

This event is free and open to everyone. Authors of all kinds of books will be on hand to chat with including those who write picture books for children, those who write adult non-fiction and genres in-between.

Children get a kick out of meeting the people who make the books they enjoy, but for adults who harbor a story within them this can also be a great experience.

The atmosphere is friendly and warm and the authors are eager to talk about their writing and publishing experience. Tell your writers' group or your teen-aged blogger or anyone who would like a one-on-one experience with an author.

Kate will be attending this event again this year and looks forward to meeting friends old and new. Come on down and say hello!

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

Maple Sugaring Days
March 13 & 14
Saturday 10 am-4 pm Sunday 1-4 pm See the time-honored method of collecting sap the old-fashioned way and visit historic building activity stations. Sample the pleasing taste of maple syrup and take home tasty recipes to make and enjoy. This is a memorable event that the whole family will savor.
$9 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $6.50 youth (4-17)
Naperville Heritage Society members and Season Pass Holders receive free admission.
Antique Apple Tree Grafting Seminar at Garfield Farm Museum

Antique Apple Tree Grafting Seminar at Garfield Farm Museum
March 7 1:30 pm
Make three grafts of antique apple trees to take home for planting. Reservations required. $30 fee. In LaFox, Illinois, near Geneva.
Spring Jubilee at Bishop Hill

Spring Jubilee at Bishop Hill
March 27 & March 28 10am - 5pm
Village of Swedish immigrants who built a commune in 1846.
Enjoy coffee and cookies in shops and museums as historic Bishop Hill opens for the season. Discover what is new. Delight in the familiar.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Celebrating Naperville Business

In the fall of 1915, the Naperville Association of Commerce resolved to “appoint and promote a civic event of welcome to our friends abroad, under the suggestive name of a “Home Coming Celebration.”

Recent city-wide progress was “such as to warrant the feeling of pride among the people within and to challenge the attention and admiration of the people without,” which they felt was in “striking contrast” with its “self-satisfied earlier years.” Sounds much like today’s Naperville!

The event was planned for the summer of 1917. Each of the four days of the celebration had a theme: Old Citizens Day, Patriotic Day, School and Church Day and Community Day.

The last day started with “a complimentary automobile tour through the delightful June dressed streets and avenues of our city,.” Later there were “five minute addresses by men and women from home and abroad—all for Naperville—”as well as a pageant. The celebrations concluded with music and fireworks.

Praise was heaped on the event’s sponsors: “The modern spirit of co-operation is best typified in the work of the Naperville Association of Commerce which has drawn together the business men of the city in team-work as never before.”

The Naperville Association of Commerce was only two years old when they started planning the Home Coming celebration. “Barely fifty members” launched the Association in July of 1913.

That means we’ll be celebrating our First Century of Commerce in 2013. Is it time to start planning the party yet? 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Slavery in Illinois?

Friday is Abraham Lincoln's two hundred and first birthday. That probably signals the end of an entire year of celebrating our sixteenth President. Museums, libraries, schools, books, television shows -- all have been showcasing him more than usual even here in the Land of Lincoln.

The state of Illinois is a few years younger than Mr. Lincoln. We won't be celebrating its 200th birthday until 2018, which is not that far off. Most folks know that Illinois was admitted to the union as a free state. But did you know that slavery was in fact practiced here?

Slavery was permitted for owners of salt mines so that they could continue to operate with this cheap labor source. How many times have you heard someone complain that they had to "go back to the salt mine?" Grueling toil under horrendous working conditions only begins to express how awful existence was for a salt mine slave.

Those who owned slaves before Illinois joined the Union were also allowed to keep their slaves, even though the state was technically "free." Indentured servitude was allowed as well, which basically enslaved all kinds of people for a large portion of their lives. When we bemoan today's injustices, it's interesting to remember how far we've come in a just a couple of centuries.

For more details on slavery in Illinois, a "free" state, see the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency web site.

Celebrating Lincoln's Birthday

Kate will be visiting with the residents of Westminster Place, a retirement community in Evanston, on Friday, the day of Lincoln's birthday. It seems like the perfect time for her program "Six Degrees of Abraham Lincoln!"

The PowerPoint presentation tells of little-known connections between the President and the Chicagoland area, "history lite" illustrated with photos and maps.

If you know any schools or community groups who would enjoy this program, feel free to send them to the Six Degrees of Abraham Lincoln web site or contact Kate directly.

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

Chicago Tunnel Presentation at Norwood Park Historical Society

February 24
A free presentation about the history of the forgotten railroads that operated beneath downtown Chicago.
Bruce Moffat will give an oral and visual presentation on the history of Chicago's long-forgotten railroad that operated beneath the streets of downtown Chicago for more 50 years.
All are welcome.

Adlai Stevenson Exhibit

Through August 28
An exhibit of artifacts of Adlai Ewing Stevenson II and his family opened Friday, February 5 on his 110th birthday. At the McLean County Museum of History, 200 N. Main St., Bloomington
Cost: Regular museum admission: adults, $5; senior citizens, $4; children and students, free.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Spring Luncheon

April 11
1:00 - 5:00 pm
Take a trip down the yellow brick road through the Joliet Area Historical Museum as you make your way to the Emerald City. Don't forget to bring your camera! The event will be held right here in the Museum located at Cass & Ottawa next to the JJC Renaissance Center.