Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More Winners from April's Author Events

With National Library Week occurring this month, Kate's been busy at several events meeting readers and writers of all ages. Many of those readers and writers dropped their name into the basket for a chance to win a family pass to the Naper Settlement living history museum and we have winners!

Congratulations to Helen of Bolingbrook and Jovanka of Chicago! Your family passes are in the mail so you can take advantage of this gorgeous spring weather to walk around the Naper Settlement grounds.

Highlights of this month's author events included:
  • A stretch limo which ferried the authors from a satellite parking lot to the Fountaindale Library making every author feel like JK Rowling!
  • Meeting another author who went to the same parties Kate went to while in college
  • Meeting other writers and illustrators at the Creative Chicago Expo
  • Hearing fellow authors read from their works at the Bellwood Library
While many schools, libraries and community groups don't schedule author events over the summer, fall will inevitably come again. If your group is looking for a presentation on Illinois history or the writing process, consider Kate as your next speaker. For topics and availability, see Kate's presentation web page.

Abraham Lincoln's Funeral 145 Years Ago Today

John Wilkes Booth shot the President on the evening of April 14 and on April 15 Lincoln died. That was just six days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate army to General Grant. Preparations began for an elaborate funeral demanded by a grieving country, a sort of national expression of all the personal griefs caused by the Civil War.

The President's body was embalmed, a procedure that had advanced considerably in technique during the War Between the States when so many bodies of soldiers were being sent home. Still, an embalmer traveled with the body all the way to Springfield, Illinois and frequently applied chalk dust and rouge to Lincoln's face and hands in an effort to mask the signs of decay.

25,000 people walked through the East Room where President Lincoln lay in state, standing in line for six hours to do so. The actual funeral service was held on Wednesday, April 19 and was attended by approximately 600 guests.

Platforms had been built in the East Room: one, a heavily draped bier supported and protected the coffin, and another large, stepped stage filled most of the rest of the room for the standing mourners. The mirrors were all shrouded, as was the custom, and white flowers sent by groups and individuals surrounded the bier, which was a somewhat new custom.

The darkened room was lit only by candlelight and "at the head and foot and on each side of the casket of their dead chief stood the motionless figures of his armed warriors," according to Noah Brooks, a contemporary journalist.

Following the funeral, the casket was taken to the the Capitol Building in a hearse pulled by six white horses and followed by thousands and thousands of dignitaries, Union soldiers and freed blacks. The procession was led by a platoon of black soldiers who had arrived a little too late to join the end of the line and simply turned around to become its head.

Another 25,000 or so filed into the Capitol to pay their respects 145 years ago today, April 20. Then on April 21, the bodies of the President and his beloved son Willie began the long train journey back to Springfield.

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

Cuneo Mansion and Gardens
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season
10am until 5pm
Cuneo Mansion & Gardens is now open to the general public. Ticket sales end at 4 p.m. The mansion and gardens are open for self-guided tours Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Guided tours take place Friday, Saturday & Sunday at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and are led by Cuneo docents.

Admission to the Mansion & Gardens is $10 for adults, $9 for students and seniors.

Ellwood House, Victorian Mansion
Tours begin:
1 & 3pm
Tuesday through Friday
1, 2 & 3pm
Saturday through Sunday
A visit to this elegant home located in a lovely park in the heart of DeKalb, Illinois brings the past to life! Inside, crystal chandeliers sparkle, gilt mirrors shine, and antique woodwork gleams.
Built by barbed wire millionaire Isaac L. Ellwood in 1879, the mansion remains with its original furnishings just as when the Ellwood family lived there decades ago.
The 1 hour guided tour includes all four floors of the Ellwood mansion, as well as the "Little House", a charming 1891 playhouse on the grounds.
Adults: $8.00
Youth 6-17: $3.00
Under age 6: free
Visitor Center exhibits: free
The museum's Visitor Center includes the Barbed Wire History Gallery, the Carriage Gallery and the Special Exhibits Gallery.

Forgotten Chicago
Saturday, May 8
Join Forgotten Chicago for a free presentation at the McKinley Park Library. Part of the ongoing series on Chicago industry, focusing on industrial development and its influence on the growth of the McKinley Park area. Plenty of historic photos and maps will be used to illustrate the history of the area and its industries.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rockin' Out with the Revolution Patriots

"Don't know much about history" Sam Cooke warbled and everyone understood him to mean that he didn't care much for his history classes. Or as the Talking Barbie Doll might have said: "History is hard!" And now we have unpopular Ben from the "Lost" television show as a history teacher in the alternate universe! No wonder it's hard to get folks excited about history!

But "Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration" certainly makes history look cool. Released a few weeks ago, the video by Soomo Publishing has America's founding fathers working on the Declaration of Independence in what one reviewer called "an '80's hair band music video."

Based on the 2007 song and video "Apologize" by One Republic, featuring Timbaland, "Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration" is catchy and fun and proves that history can be presented in an interesting way.

Soomo Publishing is a forward-thinking company with creative "new media" ideas on changing how students and professors use college textbooks. Normally Soomo provides quite serious information using web technology to gather and present the curriculum in a way that may be engaging young people as never before.

They offer programs including World History, Government, International Relations and a few others. The curriculum can be augmented by each individual teacher and it works with the brand-new iPad. This may be the way our next generation learns.

While many of us still prefer a musty old book, you have to admit that the music video grabs your attention!

Remembering the Alamo and General Santa Anna's Leg

Several journalists recently reported on Santa Anna's leg, apparently in response to renewed interest in the General following an episode of the "King of the Hill" cartoon.

Santa Anna is most known for ordering the attack on the Alamo in which Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie died. He's also been recently cited in connection with the Benito Juarez exhibit that ends this weekend at the Chicago History Museum. Juarez was exiled during Santa Anna's dictatorship, returned after Santa Anna resigned and served as Mexico's President from 1858 until 1872.

One local connection to the Santa Anna is that Uncle Joseph Naper, from Kate's book "Ruth by Lake and Prairie," served as a quartermaster during the Mexican-American war during Santa Anna's time.

But back to Santa Anna's leg. Apparently the General lost his leg to a cannon ball during a battle with the French in 1838. He was fitted with a fake leg and continued his military career.

In 1847, during a battle with the United States, Santa Anna's camp was surprised by a squad of soldiers from the 4th Illinois Infantry. Santa Anna escaped in the nick of time, but left behind his artificial leg which was duly captured by the Illinois soldiers. The leg today is displayed at the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield if you are interested in ogling it.

At the time of writing, the web site of the Illinois State Military Museum was experiencing difficulties, but you can see a photo of the leg display at RoadsideAmerica.com.

If you are not able to make it to the Chicago History Museum before the Juarez exhibit closes on April 12, you can see highlights of the exhibit online and listen to the curator commentary.

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

Appraisal Fair in Aurora
Sunday, April 18
11am until 3pm
Aurora Historical Society presents "What's It Worth?" antique and collectible appraisal fair.
Verbal Appraisals
at Gray's Mill, 210 River Street, Montgomery, IL
$5 for one item,
$10 for three
For more information, call 630.906.0650 or visit our website

Heirloom-Gardening Class
Saturday, April 17,
9:30am-11:30 am
Kline Creek Farm offers tips for planting an heirloom-vegetable garden, including how to use compost, build hotbeds, rotate crops and find seeds. $25 per person. To register, call (630) 876-5900..

Foutaindale Library Author Fair 2010
Saturday, April 10
Kate will be one of more than 25 authors kicking off National Library Week in Bolingbrook. Come by to chat about history, books and writing.

Bellwood Public Library Author Reading and Signing
Tuesday, April 13
Join us for a special literary celebration for National Library Week! Eight local authors will discuss their work and sign their books for the audience. Kate will be on of the authors reading from their work.