Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Prairie Style House Gets Renamed

This past month North Central College alums celebrated their Homecoming in Naperville, held later in the fall than usual in order to coincide with the college’s 150th Anniversary commemoration. Naperville citizens were invited to join in the party by watching the Homecoming parade or attending musical and theater performances.

Also in honor of the anniversary, new signage was erected recently to identify campus buildings. The Office of International Programs and the Leadership, Ethics and Values Program, which is right across the street from Quigley’s on Jefferson Avenue, not only got a new sign, but also a new name. The college decided to rename the building in honor of NCC alumni and long-time Naperville residents William and Mary Abe.

Before North Central purchased the building, it served as the Law Offices of Knuckles & Jagel. Jeffry and Barbara Knuckles purchased the building in 1985 from Audrey Truitt McCabe whose father had the home built in 1916. McCabe’s father, Dr. Ruliff Lawrence Truitt, commissioned architect Harry Robinson to design the home in the Prairie School style which was popular in the early 1900’s.

Dr. Truitt originally moved to Naperville to assist his half-brother William in his medical practice and Robinson designed the home to include two rooms where the doctor would examine and treat his patients. Robinson was called back into service when the Truitt family needed to enlarge the house, but alterations were also made in later years. The house was granted Historic Landmark status in June of 1990.

The Wright Stuff in the Suburbs

Harry Robinson designed several other houses in Naperville in addition to the Truitt House. After a childhood spent in Mattoon, Illinois, Robinson studied at University of Illinois and worked for prairie-style architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Burley Griffin at different times.

Prairie Style was very popular for homes in the early part of the twentieth century and many of our suburbs still boast some of these houses. Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park offers tours and events throughout the year and you can drive by other houses he designed in Oak Park as well.

Taliesin, Wright’s home in Wisconsin, is actually Taliesin III after the first two homes Wright built on the site burned to the ground.

Wright left his Oak Park home, as well as his wife, to build Taliesin with his new love Mamah Borthwick Cheney. Cheney and her husband had been clients. In the summer of 1914, Wright was working on a project in Chicago. A servant back at the Wisconsin home started a fire at Taliesin and then went after everyone in the house with an axe. Seven people were killed including Borthwick and her two children.

Wright rebuilt Taliesin, but in 1925 a second fire started, possibly due to a lightening storm causing a short in a bedroom telephone.

Visiting Taliesin is a popular vacation event and docents there or at the Oak Park home are happy to tell you more about Wright’s tumultuous life.

Where History Is Happening

Norwood Park Holiday House Tour

Saturday, December 3
11:00am to 4:00pm

The Holiday House Tour features five homes that present a cross-section of the different architecture of the Norwood Park neighborhood. Houses range from the late 1800s to the 1900s, and showcase the many ways homeowners have blended the past and present in their homes. Admission to 5 homes is $20 in advance, or $25 the day of the event. The tour begins at the Norwood Park Senior Center, 5801 N. Natoma Ave., Chicago. Tickets may also be purchased online or in person at Victoria’s Craft Boutique on December 1 or 2.

Legend of St. Nicholas and Holiday Mansion Tour

Sunday, December 11
2:30pm to 5:00pm

Dressed as the English interpretation of St. Nicholas (Father Christmas), Terry Lynch will tell the festive tales and explain the influence this 4th century Bishop has had on the many traditions of the holiday season throughout the world, both religious and secular. (No important secrets revealed!) Enjoy a walk-through tour of the Mansion, decorated for the holidays, hot cider and cookies, and a children’s activity table in the Chapel Lower Level prior to the presentation. $10 per adult, $8 per youth, $5 per Naperville Heritage Society sustaining member and Season Pass holder.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Commemorating the Great Chicago Fire

One hundred and forty years ago this month, Chicago burned. An exceptionally dry autumn and steady, strong winds created a deadly opportunity. The orange glow could be seen from as far away as Naperville, twenty six miles west.

Guy Sabin, a student at Naperville's North Central College wrote about the event in his diary:

Monday, Oct. 9, 1871, 9:00 p.m.
They got a dispatch that a fire had been raging in Chicago since last night, at 9 o’clock. Reports
at dark said it was almost all burnt down, and the fire was still going. The light of the fire can be seen from here.

Tuesday, Oct. 10, 1871
Went in to Chicago at 8:20. Was no school. The Pres. and Professors all went. Most of the city lays in ruins. Amos got a horse and buggy at Salisbury and Mark Castle, Amos and I rode over the ruins. They think it was set afire.

Wednesday, October 11, 1871, 9:45:
Father went in to Chicago at 7. Came home at 6. Mary Rogers came with him. The fire is nearly all put out.

While the Mrs. O'Leary's cow story was later found to be made up by a creative reporter, the fire was determined to have started on DeKoven Street, which was named for John DeKoven. John's wife, Helen Hadduck, was the granddaughter of Dexter Graves who sailed with Joseph Naper from Ohio to start anew in Illinois.

In a largely wooden city, fires were common and both the city and its citizens probably under-reacted to the threat. In fact, the fire department was trying to recover from fighting a fire just the day before. By the time everyone realized how serious the fire was, controlling it was all but impossible.

Reports say more than 100,000 people lost their homes and the death toll was in the hundreds. The fire burned from Sunday until Tuesday, jumping across the river and destroying the water works that supplied water for the fire department. Finally, the winds died down, rain slowed the fire's spread, and the smouldering rubble burned itself out.

Another Great Fire of 1871

The greatest number of fire deaths in United States history occurred on October 8, 1871, but the fire didn't happen in Chicago.

A little to the north in Wisconsin, Peshtigo and surrounding communities also burned that day -- at the same time as the Great Chicago Fire. Estimates of between 1,000 and 2,500 people lost their lives and almost two square miles of homes, farmland and forest. Survivors reported seeing a tornado form from the immense heat and wind generated by the huge fire.

Approximately 300 unidentified victims wound up being buried in a mass grave. You can visit the grave site today, as well as the Peshtigo Fire Museum which is nearby. The museum has a collection of artifacts from the fire, although there wasn't much that remained once the flames finally subsided. Both contemporary accounts and recent publications are also available to learn more about this horrific event that was overshadowed by Chicago's story.

Where History Is Happening

Naper Settlement's All Hallows Eve
Friday and Saturday, October 21 & 22
6:30-10 p.m

Don't miss two of the scariest nights of the year during All Hallows Eve, a unique event based on the darkest literature and events of the 19th century. The usually calm and quaint 12-acre museum village is haunted by a diabolical menagerie of spirits, vampires, werewolves, witches and otherworldly creatures of the night. Joining them are some of the most sinister characters and criminals of the 19th century including Lizzie Borden, Count Dracula, Sweeny Todd and others who roam the grounds or take up residence in the historic houses and businesses.
$15/person. Discounted tickets available online until October 20.

Crime in Chicago Seminar
Wednesday, November 2
7:00 p.m.

Leigh Bienen, Senior Lecturer in the School of Law at Northwestern University is the Director of the Chicago Historical Homicide Project. Working with her research team, Ms. Bienen examined primary source documents and police and court reports to create a compelling database of Chicago murders spanning the Chicago Fire through the first decade of the 20th century. The lecture will focus on the nature of Chicago murder, cases both famous and forgotten, and will juxtapose historic patterns of homicide with the modern day.
Cost: $10, $8 members

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Early Naperville College Days

North Central College celebrates its 150th Anniversary in November. Originally founded as Plainfield College by the regional Evangelical Association, the school moved to Naperville in 1870, attracted by access to the railroad and some funding deals by the city.

Women as well as men were both students and faculty, but there were limits to the college’s progressiveness.

Local young people in those first Naperville classes included Guy Ellis Sabin and Hattie Peaslee. Hattie’s father served as DuPage County Coroner and operated a store on Chicago Avenue in the building just to the east of the old red Rosebud building.

The following are some excerpts from Guy’s diary while he was attending North Central College:

February 28, 1871: Went up to the depot at 2 o’clock to give a letter to Fred. Pres. Smith was there; can’t tell what he will say, as it was in study hours; expect a lecture.

April 5, 1871: Commenced school today in earnest. Prof. gave us 8 pages in Geometry. Smith gave us a lesson in Virgil. My book cost $1.10. Paid for my scholarships this noon, $6.00. Fred B. gave Hattie a cigar. She said she would smoke it.

January 30, 1873: Mary was called up before the “faculty” today for going to a dance last week. They sent away Hattie Peaslee. Prof. Heidner came up this p.m. to see the folks. The Faculty is thinking of expelling her.

The Mary mentioned above was Guy’s sister and her diary completes his college career with this entry:

Next fall he went back to College and boarded at Ellsworth with Wallace Bush. We drove to Naperville first year after leaving, and attended commencement, and had a picnic at Butterfield Lake.

“Studious” Guy married fellow student, Nannie Sevier, but unfortunately was killed at age 35 while responding as a volunteer fireman. “Wild” Hattie settled down enough to marry W.E. Moore and helped him pursue his Regenerator Furnace patent.

Even Earlier College Days

Just after North Central celebrates their 150th birthday, Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois will be celebrating their 175th starting in January. Like North Central College, Knox was built on a religious foundation, in this case Presbyterians and Congregationalists.

George Washington Gale of New York graduated from Union College and was later ordained in the St. Laurence Presbytery, He started as a preacher, but became increasingly interested in higher education. Gale experimented with manual labor training by offering to educate young men in exchange for their labor. The experiment was such a success that he incorporated the Oneida Institute in 1827.

The manual labor training plan was expanded and by 1836, Gale released his "Circular and Plan" for a "prairie college" in Illinois. His town, Galesburg, was built around the college and by 1837, Knox Manual Labor College was admitting its first students.

Sylvanus Ferris was a close friend of Gale and a great supporter of his educational vision, helping to make the college a reality. Syrvanus' grandson, George Washington Gale Ferris, was obviously named after this friend of the family, although he moved from Galesburg by the time he was five years old. George Ferris became pretty well-known himself in later years, debuting an invention of his at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition called the Ferris Wheel.

Where History Is Happening

World War II Days

Saturday, September 24
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday, September 25
11:00 AM - 4:00 PM

A tribute to America's veterans and the largest World War II re-enactment in North America with more than 800 soliders including dozens of tanks and WWII vintage military vehicles. Narrated field battles with pyrotechnics, village skirmishes, demonstrations and displays of 1940s military and civilian life, military vendors and a USO-style dance on Saturday Night. On Saturday Bob Persinger will provide a talk on his eye witness account of the liberation of concentration camps in the Courtyard Room.

Sunday, September 25
11:00 AM - 3:30 PM

An autumn tradition in the Fox Valley, the Society presents the Elgin Cemetery Walk on the fourth Sunday in September. Visitors to scenic Bluff City Cemetery are guided to gravesites of "former" residents, portrayed by actors in period costumes, who share something of their lives and times. Among them may be a founding pioneer or early doctor, a war hero or crafty politician, a teacher or banker. The cast changes each year. These vignettes provide a glimpse of Elgin's rich heritage through the lives of its citizens. Buy tickets online.

Presentation and Needle Felting Workshop at Ellwood House

Saturday, September 24
2:00 PM

Natasha Lehrer will present an engaging talk about the founding of her fiber arts studio, Esther’s Place. The presentation will be followed by a hands-on workshop on needle felting. The lecture is free and open to the public. The cost of the workshop is $10.00 (payable at the time of the workshop—approximately 3:00pm).

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Pioneers of Pioneer Park

While it was hard to get to during the Washington Street construction, Pioneer Park is now back to welcoming visitors for biking, strolling and picnicking.

Even if you’ve only driven by and never stopped to explore, you probably noticed the stone monument commemorating the pioneer on whose land the park is situated.

Bailey Hobson did some farming in Indiana and Kendall County before he moved his young family to the banks of the DuPage River in 1830. They were the first people of European descent to settle in what would later be designated as DuPage County. The Scotts and the Hawleys arrived a little earlier, but their land lay over the border in Will County.

Hobson built a grist mill for grinding flour, which proved so popular, he also wound up running a tavern and inn out of his home. Farmers from all around would drive their oxen carts full of grain to the Hobson farm and line up for their turn to have their grain ground into flour. Waiting made an excellent social occasion as well!

Mills were housed in three story buildings to accommodate the machinery and the process. If you have never seen how a mill works, check out the old Graue Mill which dates from the same era for an in-depth look.

Bailey Hobson died in 1850 and his widow in 1884. The property was later farmed by
other families and eventually acquired by the DuPage County Forest Preserve District due to the efforts of four local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton and Naperville.

In 1929 the park was “dedicated with grateful reverence to the pioneer men and women of DuPage County” with a bronze plaque mounted between Hobson’s mill stones, all that was left of his grist mill. The bronze plaque was stolen during World War II and was replaced at a rededication in 1952.

As Naperville grew, her boundaries were pushed out farther into unincorporated areas and eventually enveloped the old Hobson farm.

Now that Bailey Hobson’s land is within city limits, you could argue that he was actually the first settler of Naperville since he made his home on the DuPage River nearly a year before Joseph Naper arrived!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Naperville 180 Years Ago This Week

While an exact date is not recorded, Joseph Naper most likely arrived at the banks of the DuPage River with his family and friends within a few days of July 15 in the year 1831.

It was a Friday with the new moon approaching its first quarter. Spring had been late, wet and cold, much like this past spring. If you were to walk out onto a bit of prairie right now, you’d see the same kind of flowers blooming that Naper’s settlers saw.

Ice on the Great Lakes that year had broken up later than normal which delayed sailing for several weeks. Naper’s schooner, the Telegraph, didn’t set out from New York until the end of May and didn’t arrive at Fort Dearborn until July.

The previous winter, Joseph and his brother John had contracted to have 10 acres cleared and a log house built so the small band of families, oxen and wagons did have a specific destination as they trekked for three days from the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Naper brought with him the iron works for a sawmill so the community could build proper clapboard houses, but that first house was a more primitive log construction.

Some contemporary sources say it was a double cabin, perhaps the family home attached to a public trading post with a roofed porch shared between them. The Homestead Park now being built on the site will outline the foundations of both the trading post and the original log house.

The park will also show where Naper built his New England-style clapboard house in 1833. That home was torn down fifty years later when his son Mark built a third home on the site, reusing the timbers from the 1833 construction. The foundation of Mark’s house will also be outlined.

The new park will serve as an interpretive center now as well as protection for tomorrow’s archeological treasures. The Heritage Society chose to leave much of the site undisturbed for future Napervillians to explore.

Naperville 150 Years Ago

The longest list of Naperville men who died during military service comes from the Civil War, the 150th anniversary of which we are commemorating this year. While the war was certainly a bloody conflict, many deaths were actually the result of disease, infection and starvation, rather than the battlefield.

Although DuPage County was represented in several companies, the 105th Illinois Volunteers included a large number of local men. That regiment lost 236 men overall, 187 of which died of disease.

The roll call of those who died during the war was read on Memorial Day just before the parade. Naperville residents may have recognized many of the names that are part of our history.

Lieutenant William Porter died in Georgia. Sergeant Samuel Kellogg and DeWitt Stevens were both killed at the battle of Chickasaw Bayou.

Also a casualty of that battle was 2nd Lt. George Naper, the son on John and Betsey Naper. George arrived with original settlers of Naperville in 1831 as a small child. He was a thirty-five year old husband who had already buried a child when he answered the call to serve.

Other local men did return from the War to become pillars of our community, including Adelbert Van Oven, Eli Ditzler, Alex Riddler, Levi Shaeffer, William Fry, Willard Scott, Jr. and Merritt Hobson.

David Givler, who enlisted as “a musician,” returned to start The Clarion newspaper. His brother Solomon, however, died in Kentucky.

John Nelson Naper, George’s twenty-two year old cousin, was discharged with injuries, but he did return to Naperville to marry and father children who gave us the Naper descendents we know today.

Where History Is Happening

Settlement Sundays at Naper Settlement
Summer Sundays
through August
1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Each Sunday, admission to the museum not only includes free sundaes with do-it-yourself toppings and root beer floats, but also a variety of hands-on activities, games, stories, presentations, entertainment and guest presentations. Play old-fashioned games, tour the historic Victorian mansion, see the "Brushstrokes of the Past" exhibit and visit the hands-on activity center, the History Connection.
Free sundaes and root beer floats are served from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm.

Heritage Garden Days at Midway Village

July 30, 2011 - July 31, 2011
Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm
Due to the success of our 2010 Heritage Garden Day event, this event has been expanded to two days for 2011. Enjoy our different Heritage Gardens and Prairies while in full bloom at Midway Village Museum. Join us for two days of tours, presentations, recipes, crafts and plant sales, all centered on historic gardens and landscapes. Make-and-take garden crafts, learn how grandmother made rhubarb wine and get tips on starting your own heirloom garden or prairie...and much more. Activites will be led by local University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners, Midway Village Museum education staff and other area garden experts.
Cost is $8 for adults and $5 for children (3 to 17). Midway Village Museum members are always free.

Antique Tool Show and Sale at Garfield Farm

Sunday, August 7, 2011
9:00 am - 1:00 pm.
Antique Tool Show & Sale
Members of the Midwest Tool Collectors Association and the Early American Industries Association display, trade and sell antique and collectable tools.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Mill on Mill Street

Many of us who live in Naperville don’t give much thought to how Mill Street was named since it seems self-explanatory. On further reflection, however, you start to wonder. What kind of mill? Where exactly was it?

When Joseph Naper headed out to Illinois, he always intended to found a colony rather than a single family homestead. He brought with him on his schooner the iron works for a saw mill and building the mill was one of the settlers’ first projects, completed by the following spring.

Log cabins and log houses were considered temporary dwellings, a quick way to get shelter, but hardly fitting abodes for New Englanders. Proper clapboard houses were planned from the beginning and a saw mill was needed to saw the lumber to build them.

Naper’s home, which was a log house at first, was built on the corner of Jefferson and Mill Streets. It’s an empty lot right now, but soon it will be a park with garden plants indicating where the house, cistern, privy and other features were. Beneath the garden, the land will lie undisturbed for future archeological excavation.

The land slopes away from the home site down to the DuPage River where the mill was built to harness the river for powering the machinery. Folks look at the meandering DuPage today and wonder “how could that little stream cut logs?”

As you can see by the map, the settlers dammed up the river to create a mill pond so they could control the water. The water turned the wheel, the wheel activated belts and gears, the gears operated the saw blade, and lumber was cut to build houses for the settlers.

The few log homes that the pioneers started with were either used as outbuildings or were swallowed up by new construction built around them. When the Naper Settlement outdoor museum wanted to display an early settler’s log home, they couldn’t find one left intact in the area and had to import a log house from another county.

The Other Mill on Mill Street

A grist mill for grinding grain was also constructed in Naper’s Settlement. It was built soon after the saw mill but apparently there was some serious concern as to how they were to create such a thing since they had no mill stones for grinding.

Robert Nelson Murray, who was a teenager at the time, tells us that the grist mill was built due to the efforts of Christopher Paine. Paine, who was homesteading in the area before the Naper group arrived, was apparently a prairie-style MacGyver since “To him the whole settlement looked for devising ways and means to accomplish ends.”

“He laid the case before Mr. Paine. He scratched his head and ‘his jaws wagged with increased rapidity while he kept up an incessant expectoration,’ (says Mr. Murray), and exclaimed ‘By Jinks, I can
make them’(the stones. He then selected two good bowlders from the grove, and hammered and pecked on them till he had fashioned them
into upper and nether mill stones.”

The mill was used communally by all the settlers and was powered not by the river but by each farmer’s oxen, the same ones they used to pull the wagon of wheat or corn to the mill.

What happened to Christopher Paine’s mill stones is unknown, but if you go to Pioneer Park on Washington Streets, you’ll find Bailey Hobson’s stones from his grist mill which was just downriver.

Eventually both grist mills as well as the saw mill ceased operation. The mill pond receded and the DuPage River was allowed to flow naturally again. Its major application now is to support ducks and the occasional canoe!

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming local events:

Annual Fort De Chartres Rendezvous
Saturday and Sunday
June 4 and 5, 2011
9 am - 5 pm
One of the largest in rendezvous events in the country occurs annually at this historic fort. 18th century crafts, food, music, 1000's of historically dressed participants, flintlock musket and rifle competition, cannon and mortar competition, traders and more.
Small parking fee
For more information call 618-284-7230

Passenger Train Historical Society Spring Picnic

June 10, 11 & 12th, 2011
Illinois Railway Museum in Union
Activities include: Passenger train photographs, slide shows on Friday evening, Picnic lunch Saturday afternoon on Museum grounds, Ride and visit the historical cars, exhibits and displays of passenger train history at the Illinois Railway Museum, Attend Railroadiana Train Show in nearby St. Charles, IL on Saturday and Sunday, Field trip via car pool on Saturday afternoon to the BNSF mainline near Naperville, IL for trackside views of the Amtrak’s Southwest Chiefs, California Zephyrs and Metra commuter trains, Historic discussions about passenger trains throughout the event.
RSVP requested

Midsommer Celebration at Erlander Museum
Saturday, June 18, 2011
9:00 am - 4:00 pm.
Location: Erlander Museum, 404 S. Third Street, Rockford, IL
Midsummer FunCome and enjoy a fun filled day with us as we celebrate the Swedish tradition of Midsummer (Midsommar). You will enjoy great foods like open-face and meatball sandwiches, hotdogs, strawberries and ice cream, coffee cake, Swedish pankakes and more. Numerous vendors will be displaying their talents and selling their wares. Our Swedish Historical park across the street from the museum will have continuous activities for children of all ages, including the game of Kubb throughout the day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How to Make History Come to Life

When Kate decided to write a book about the founders of Naperville for children, her first thought was to present the history as a narrative, like a DuPage County, Illinois version of “Little House on the Prairie.”

In fiction, character development, dialog, conflict resolution and narrative arc are all important elements of the story. In history, the facts about dates, places, clothing and customs have to be accurate. To create a successful historical narrative, the writer needs both.

Joseph Naper was the organizing force behind Naperville, bringing several families with him from New York and Ohio. One of those families was that of his sister Amy and her husband John. Ruth by Lake and Prairie is the journey as seen through the eyes of their daughter Ruth.

Trying to discover the personalities of Ruth, Amy and John was difficult. No photographs or paintings have been identified of them, nor did they leave any diaries. John, however, was one of the first settlers of Ashtabula, Ohio and so he is mentioned in the earliest histories of the area.

The 1878 History of Ashtabula, Ohio said said he was a “school teacher and hired man.” In the Portrait and Biographical Record of Cook and DuPage Counties, the entry on Robert Nelson Murray talks says his father was a “a talented man, and taught music, as well as school.”

Kate started with these small details to put together a portrait of John Murray and his times. She researched what a school teacher in 1809 would teach and with what sort of materials, as well as what it meant to teach music at that time. While few of the actual facts wound up being relevant in the book, they did help form the description of John’s character.

Particularly interesting to Kate was learning about Shape Note Singing, a practice that was extremely popular in the early 1800’s and most likely the sort of music that John taught. Shape Note Singing was developed to simplify musical notations to make it easier to sight-read music, with the shape of the note indicating the pitch rather than it’s location on a staff.

Entire congregations could then sing the hymns in four-part harmony rather than just listening to a trained choir. Singers sat in a hollow square formation, each side of the square being one of the voice parts, so they could hear each other harmonizing.

Shape Note Singing continues to this day. While it started in New England, Shape Note Singing lives on most strongly in the Appalachians where the English, Scottish and Irish settlers remained relatively isolated. You can go to several online locations to get an idea of how it may have sounded when John Murray was leading the song.

May Is History Month in Naperville and Kate Will Be Speaking at Library Event

During her book research, Kate gathered up many fun facts like the Shape Note Singing information above. She'll share all the neat things she learned on Wednesday, May 11 illustrated with slides of maps, photos, engravings and other visuals. You are invited to this free event to learn a little about DuPage County's early settlers and what the world was like in Illinois in 1831.

From the Naperville Library website:

Meet Naperville author Kate Gingold as she discusses her children’s book Ruth by Lake and Prairie. This is the true story of the families that settled on the land that would become Naperville, Illinois. The story follows Ruth, Joseph Naper’s niece, as she travels from her home in Ohio to her new home in Illinois. For eighteen months, Kate collected facts from sources all over the world via car, mail, and the Internet to learn more about life in 1831 America, Great Lakes sailing ships, and the families who made the journey.

This presentation will walk through the research process, shows how to make a “story” out of history, and gives factual tidbits about our city. The book won an award from the Illinois State Historical Society in 2008.

No registration is required.
This program is presented in partnership with Kate Gingold.
Wednesday, May 11
7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Nichols Library
Community Room

Where History Is Happening

Links to Upcoming Local Events

Civil War Days
Sat. & Sun., May 21 & 22, 2011
10 a.m.- 4 p.m

More than 300 Civil War re-enactors camp on site, providing a living historical view of the past. When the bugle sounds each day at 2:30 p.m., troops from the North and the South will charge into battle with rifles at the ready and cannons booming. Afterward, you can see the work of the Civil War surgeons as they demonstrate 19th century medical techniques.
Interact with famous personages of the past who step from the pages of history books, such as President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, the Generals and many more.
The family-friendly event features food, fun and shopping on "Sutler's Row" for traditional Civil War-era reproduction products and in the Museum Store for Civil War books and merchandise.
$12 adults, $8 youth (4-17)
Advance tickets: $10 adults, $7 youth are available beginning May 9.

The Civil War and Du Page County: A Local Perspective
April 16, 2011- September 1, 2012.
Weekdays • 8:30 am-4:30 pm
Weekends • Noon-4 pm

This exhibit commemorates the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War by reflecting on the relationship between the soldiers and their families and friends during this time of dramatic change and hardship. Letters, photos and documents from the Museum’s archives are featured as well as many artifacts from the permanent collection.
View a slideshow of the exhibit opening

Naperville Cemetery Walk
Saturday, May 7
2-3:15 p.m.

Learn about 19th century mourning customs and superstitions from Naper Settlement’s Museum Educators. Then walk through Naperville Cemetery to take a glimpse back in time. Learn about some of the early settlers of Naperville, see their headstones and explore the different symbols and their meanings used in the creation of these unique artifacts and, in some cases, works of art. For ages teen to adult. (Some historical material may be too graphic for younger audiences.) The walk begins at the Naper Settlement Visitor Center, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville. Tickets are $10 per person; $8 for Naperville Heritage Society Sustaining members. Call (630) 420-6010.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wisconsin Soldiers at Antietam Creek

Kate recently had the opportunity to visit the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison. Not a huge museum, it’s easily viewed in an hour if you’re only mildly interested in military history, but real aficionados will likely spend much more time.

The displays include photos, weapons, and everyday items used by Wisconsin soldiers starting with the Civil War, including a piece of hard tack that escaped being eaten 150 years ago!

Among the tidbits of historical information Kate learned was that the father of General Douglas “I shall return” MacArthur was living in Wisconsin when the Civil War began. Arthur MacArthur, Jr. immediately joined the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment. His leadership in battle earned him the nickname of The Boy Colonel.

The museum is well laid out with dramatic life-sized scenes from various conflicts. Particularly interesting is that every single mannequin has a unique face. When asked, the gentleman at the front desk revealed that volunteers were used to create life masks to provide the faces and create these memorable tableaus.

No fee is charged, but donations are accepted. The Veterans Museum is directly across the street from the capitol building and kitty-corner to the Historical Museum, a full day of thrills for the true history buff!

A Letter from a Local Civil War Soldier

The Ditzler brothers came to Chicago in 1844 from the east via the Great Lakes. Jonathon Ditzler settled in Naperville where he married and raised his family. His daughter Hannah was a long-time teacher at the Naperville Academy as well as a librarian. Son Eli became a prosperous merchant in Hinsdale after being lucky enough to return from the Civil War. The following is a letter Eli wrote to his sister Hannah after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg, Penn. July 1

Dear Sister-
Hoping that I may get a chance to mail a letter I will drop you a line--

Westminster, Md. July 3

The above lines I wrote at the place dated, but these miserable Rebels never let us to ourselves. The morning of July 1, our Co. was on picket. All was quiet, so I thought I would write. Had just commenced when the picket on post reported the enemy advancing. We mounted and went out to the line. Waited the approach of the Rebels. When they came nigh enough we fired and fell back a ways. Still they advanced -- came in strong force. Our Cav. Div. was drawn up in line of battle and received them. We held them at bay until one Inf. came up. A general battle ensued and was raging all day long.

The enemy had all Inf., and, of course, we Cav. could do little. some of us dismounted and took it infantry style. I was on foot and kept behind fences and trees and fired.

The battle raged all that day as well as yesterday and today. A most terrible battle. Our horses had nothing to eat in four days, so our Div. came to this place yesterday. Are in camp here- once again in America, as the boys say. How different from Va. The people all are Union. As we came along up from the Potomac, each town we passed through had flags flying and citizens crowding the streets. The ladies waved their hankerchiefs, and the air was rent with cheer after cheer. Made me feel homesick to see how happy free people were.

As we advanced on Gettysburg, the Rebels fell back and, oh, how glad the people were! On street corners fair misses collected and sang "Star Spangled Banner" for us as we passed, and there were roaring cheers.

We went in camp a little beyond town and I then went back in town to buy little articles Ladies on the streets with baskets filled would give us all the pies, cakes, and goodies we wanted. I stopped at a house where seminary girls boarded. They gave me a bouquet and sang songs to the accompaniment of the piano -- all for my benefit, dirty and rough as I was. How sweet it sounded!

The tears of joy and gladness of the people of Gettysburg have suddenly turned into tears of sadness. Our lines had to fall back to this side of town, and the Rebs were on the other, so the city was in between two fires. Some of the houses were burned and demolished. The women in town took the wounded in their houses and took care of them. Children walked the streets with pails of water and gave to the boys. This evening I heard that our men drove the Rebs; took lots of artillery and many prisoners. Our loss in officers is heavy and severe.

I am well and in good spirits. Mother do not trouble yourself. Goodbye,

Love, Eli.'

Where History Is Happening

Links to Some Upcoming Events

The Medical Side of the Civil War

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
1 pm
Author and history professor Glenna Schroeder-Lein gives an overview of the development of mass medical care during the American Civil War. The establishment of hospitals, roles of caregivers, and common diseases will be discussed. Refreshments served immediately following in the Glos Mansion in Elmhurst. Free admission, donations appreciated.

Illinois Answers the Call: Boys in Blue
Through Decemberl 30, 2011
9:00 a.m.. - 5:00 p.m. Daily
The Springfield museum has a new exhibit opening that features pictures, letters, sketches and songs from the Illinois men who fought on the side of the Union against Confederate forces during the war. The display includes pictures of the soldiers, diaries and artifacts. Among the featured items is a commission for Illinois native General Benjamin Grierson that was signed by Abraham Lincoln. But that military commission will only be on display until June 1.

The Fiery Trial Exhibit
12:00 am - 5:00 PM
At the Kenosha Civil War Museuam, the Fiery Trial tells the personal stories of the men and women of the Upper MIddle West - specifically Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan. Through state-of-the-art museum technology, life-size dioramas, and interactive engaging exhibits, visitors travel back in history to the social, political, and economic influences that contributed to the Civil War.From the home front, to the railroad and waterways, to the battlefront and back home again, the Civil War is seen through the eyes of soldiers, nurses, spouses, children, clergymen, slaves, tradesmen, and the others who lived it. Experience the battlefront, the incredible logistics and resources that were required to mount the war effort, and the deep emotions that tore families apart.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The American Civil War - 150 Years

Throughout 2011 museums will be observing the anniversary of the Civil War. For some history buffs, that means re-evaluating the politics that triggered the rupture of our young country. Others intently analyze the battles as if the campaigns were real-life chessboards. Still others like to compare our everyday experiences with those of our ancestors 150 years ago to see how things have changed and what has stayed the same.

It’s not so very far back when you think about it. Maudie Hopkins, the woman widely thought of as the last Civil War Widow died in 2008, just three years ago. Of course she didn’t experience the War herself, but she spent several years with a man who did.

Illinois has particularly deep Civil War connections, even though no battles were ever fought on our state’s soil. We are of course the Land of Lincoln, the President forever remembered for his efforts at holding our nation together. The politics of Stephen Douglas fanned the fires of War and Ulysses S. Grant led the Union army into War.

Several prisoner of war camps existed in Illinois including Camp Douglas in Chicago, named after Stephen Douglas and considered the largest mass grave in the western hemisphere. Nearly 6000 Confederate soldiers were buried there at one time. Since then, the remains were moved to Lincoln Park and then on to Oak Woods and Rosehill Cemetery.

An Illinois native also claims to have fired the first shot at Gettysburg. Marcellus Jones of Glen Ellyn and later of Wheaton borrowed a gun from his buddy Levi Shafer, a Naperville native, and is supposed to have fired on advancing Confederate troops. He missed and a couple of other soldiers may have also fired around the same time, but Jones ensured his place in history. He, Shafer and a third friend, Alex Riddler, had a stone marker cut in Naperville commemorating their contribution. Then they dragged it all the way to Pennsylvania, purchased a bit of land from a local farmer, and erected their monument which still stands today.

Whether your interest is in battlefields, photography, recipes or fashion, you’ll no doubt find a Civil War exhibit this year that interests you. Visit one or two. This is your history, too.

Talk Books and History with Kate this Month

Want to hear a little about local history or learn a little about writing books? You’ll have the opportunity to do both this month!

On Saturday, April 16 Kate will be one of more than 25 authors selling, signing and talking books at the gorgeous new Fountaindale Library in Bolingbrook at their Author Fair. To cap off Library Week, authors will be on hand from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm, with some brief presentations and readings planned. You – or your child – are also welcome to stop and chat about what you’re reading or writing and get tips straight from the horse’s mouth.

On Thursday, April 21 Kate will present “Sailing to Will County” at Cedarlake Village in Plainfield. Few people realize how many of our early prairie pioneers arrived by ship! While this presentation is specifically for residents of Cedarlake Village, guests are also welcome.

Where History Is Happening

Links to Some Upcoming Events

The Civil War and DuPage County: A Local Perspective Saturday, April 16, 2011 12 pm - 4 pm Join us for the exhibit opening which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War by reflecting on the relationship between the soldiers and their families and friends during this time of dramatic change and hardship. Letters, photos and documents from the Museum’s archives are featured as well as many artifacts from the permanent collection.

Plant Medicines Past and Present
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 6:00 p.m. Kitchen at Farmhouse Museum, Elk Grove Village Join certified herbalist, Jenny Pawlak, for an informative talk about plant medicines that were used in the 1800's and which herbal remedies are still used today. Refreshments such as tea and lavender cookies will be available. Participants will also create a simple lavender sleep pillow. Suitable for ages 15 and older. Regisration required by April 18th due to limited seating. $3 Historical Society Members/$5 non-members

Sheep Shearng at Kline Creek Farm
Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17 10:00 am - 4:00 PM Watch as sheepdogs herd the flock and farmhands shear sheep. Then, learn how washed wool becomes spun yarn. Activities ongoing. All ages. Free. Registration not required.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stephen Douglas, We Hardly Know Ye

While most folks have heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and some are familiar with “The Little Giant” nickname, that’s usually the extant of their knowledge of Stephen Douglas. Particularly from residents of Illinois, however, Douglas deserves a little more attention.

“The Little Giant” moniker refers to his short stature – he was only five foot four – as well as to his standing in political circles where he was well-respected. Douglas served in the Illinois House of Representatives, the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. He was also States’ Attorney, Illinois Secretary of State and an associate justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. Douglas also ran for President against Abraham Lincoln in 1860, but the famous debates actually occurred in 1858 when the two men were both seeking election to the Senate. Douglas didn’t win the Presidential race, but he did win the Senate seat.

Stephen Douglas and the slavery issue are much discussed. He wrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 which inflamed the Republican Party and helped polarize the northern and southern states. Douglas wasn’t really pro-slavery, but he wasn’t really anti-slavery either. In fact, he was in possession of slaves inherited from his first wife who owned a cotton plantation.

Douglas bought lots of land in Chicago and intended to make a good profit on it once the railroads started reaching across the Mississippi River. For that to happen, he needed to move along the laws that would open up Kansas and Nebraska to settlement. Illinois, whom Douglas represented in Washington, was a slave-free state and so Douglas was expected to prohibit slavery in the new territories. But he needed the support of southern lawmakers to get the bill passed and they of course wanted to allow slavery.

Trying to fill his role as the ultimate compromiser, Douglas proposed that the residents of those territories be given the right to determine whether they would or would not allow slavery. Besides, he figured the climate was such that southern-style plantations would never take hold in Nebraska and so slaves wouldn’t even be needed, making the whole debate moot.

Douglas’s attempts to compromise backfired and the fall-out became more fuel to the fire that was smoldering between the North and the South. By the time President Lincoln took office 150 years this month, the Confederate States had already declared succession.

He may have lost the Presidency to Lincoln, but Douglas wasn’t about to lose the country. He immediately turned all of his considerable energy toward supporting the new President and reconciliation. Unfortunately, he contracted typhoid fever and died just a few weeks after the Civil War began at the age of 48.

Come See the New Library – and Kate’s New Book!

The Fountaindale Library in Bolingbrook is once again hosting a bevy of authors to wrap up their National Library Week celebrations on Saturday, April 16 with an Author Fair.

Kate will be among them, bringing with her newly-released activity book, a companion to Ruth by Lake and Prairie. The book includes puzzles, paper dolls and ships, pioneer recipes and other fun things to do within a simplified summary of Ruth’s story.

Also new is the Fountaindale Library. Long in the preparation, Bolingbrook is cutting the ribbon this Saturday, March 26 on their beautiful new facility. The public is welcome to share the excitement which begins at 12:30pm and includes story-telling, musicians and jugglers.

Of course you can also check out the new library on April 16 during the Author Fair. This year’s theme for Library Week is “Create Your Own Story @ Your Library.” Come on over and chat with Kate about how to create your story!

Where History Is Happening

Women of the Civil War
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

The women of the civil war era did not command on the battlefield yet their participation in the conflict impacted its outcome and radically changed their lives and the future of women in America. Join Jim Weren for this captivating presentation featuring his own illustrations and fascinating narrative, all in honor of Women’s History Month. Bloomingdale Public Library.

Lincoln's Chicago
Now Open
Monday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Sunday, 12:00 noon–5:00 p.m.

Lincoln was a frequent visitor to Chicago; The city became his second home and political headquarters during his rise to prominence. This gallery features portraits of Lincoln’s contemporaries with lithograph views of Chicago created in the 1860s. The pairings provide a glimpse of the city that Lincoln knew—a dynamic young metropolis on the verge of greatness.

Songs of the Civil War
Thursday, April 7, 7:00 PM

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War, the History Singers will perform and discuss the music of the time at the Woodridge Public Library. In those days before electronic forms of communication (except telegraph), music was used to stir patriotic fervor, sustain morale, regulate camp life, and even report news in the midst of the chaos of battle. Registration is requested. You can register online, by phone or in person.For further information call the Adult/Young Adult Department Reference Desk at 630-487-2577or email askus@woodridgelibrary.org

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Museum of Funeral Customs to Live Again!

Actually, just the artifacts will live again, but even that's pretty exciting!

You may remember the Brief History story from last year about the Museum of Funeral Customs being forced to close due to the economy, lowered tourism and greater expenses. The Museum used to be right outside the gates of Oakwood Cemetery where Abraham Lincoln is buried with his family in Springfield. It was a fitting location, not only because of its proximity to a cemetery, but also because the museum held many Lincoln exhibits.

Just this month, the Hancock County Journal-Pilot reported that the entire contents of the Funeral Customs museum has been transferred into the care of the Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum. Kibbe received tables, chairs and display cases in addition to a computer record system, but most importantly, the museum is now the keeper of hundreds of artifacts and research items.

The Museum of Funeral Customs closed their doors in the spring of 2009 and hoped to be able to move all of their collection to one owner rather than see it broken up and scattered. There was no cost to the Kibbe museum, and they are already planning how to best display this wealth of material.

They hope to have the Lincoln exhibits ready by March of 2012 which will include a miniature of Lincoln's funeral train and a replica of his coffin. This spring already the museum will put on view a Victorian embalming room and a selection of unusual caskets.

The Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum is in Carthage, Illinois, not too far from Macomb. The Funeral Museum artifacts will be a great addition to their current collection and it's wonderful to know that someone has taken responsibility to bring those macabre items back to life.

A Not-So-Distant Presidential History

Yesterday was Presidents' day and Caroline Kennedy used the holiday to unveil an interactive online exhibit at the Kennedy Library website. If you missed the news announcement, here's your chance to try it out.

On the website is a wealth of information about John F. Kennedy, including details about his desk in the Oval Office. The new online desk exhibit lets you "sit" at his desk and see all of his personal items displayed there. Some of the items are highlighted when you roll your mouse over them and if you click on those highlighted articles, you will be taken to a new screen with related photos, recordings and film clips

It's a nifty presentation, not necessarily for children, but certainly more accessible than reams of closely-printed text. Believe it or not, many of today's grandparents were too young to remember where they were when JFK was shot, so this website might be a nice shared experience for a grandparent and a grandchild.

Where History Is Happening

Chicago Maritime Festival
February 26
10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Kate will present "13 Families West Across the Lakes" at 2 pm, one of many seminars demonstrations, and lectures offered. See also displays of maritime art, knots, ships and lighthouses. In the evening, enjoy a concert featuring many celebrated maritime music professionals from all over the world singing new and traditional sea shanties.

Maple Sugaring Days at Naper Settlement
Saturday, March 12
10 am -4 pm
Sunday, March 13
1:00- 4:00 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.

A Soldier's Friend : Civil War Nurse Cornelia Hancock
Thursday, March 17
7 - 9 pm
The captivating tale of Civil War Nurse, Cornelia Hancock, will be presented by Naperville historian Georgiann Baldino in commemoration of the launch of the nation's Civil War Sesquicentennial. Letters Hancock wrote during her Civil War nursing career provide the basis around which Baldino has crafted this unforgettable program. The program is presented in conjunction with the Oswego Public Library. Pre-registration through the Oswegoland Park District at 630-554-1010 online is encouraged but walk-ins are always welcome. Admission is FREE.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Winter of the Deep Snow

While we are bemoaning how long it takes to plow the cul de sacs this winter, it might make our dispositions sunnier when we remember how good we have it now in 2011 compared to the early settlers of Illinois.

The winter of 1830-1831 was particularly nasty throughout the state, even in the southern areas. Joseph Naper was planning to bring his friends and family out to the DuPage River during the coming summer, but until then, settlements were few and far between. Fewer than 200 people gathered in the village around Fort Dearborn, a veritable metropolis on the frontier, but the rest of the prairie had only scattered homesteads.

Baily Hobson brought his young family from Indiana to Kendall County during the fall of 1830. Little did they know how long the winter would be! Snow started falling a few days before Christmas, followed by powerful winds and bitter cold that lasted until March. Snow lay three feet deep with drifts up to six feet in places.

Snowbound and running out of provisions, Baily and his brother-in-law fought their way to the nearest settlement to find food, leaving Mrs. Hobson and her three small children in the primitive cabin. The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois picks up the story:

"The night of the terrible blizzard, she heard a footstep at her door, and thinking her loved ones had returned, she opened the door, and their best cow fell dead at her feet, frozen, and she could not close the door, nor could she move the animal. The wind blew and the cold was so intense that they nearly froze before she and her children could push the cow over far enough to enable them to close the door."

Mrs. Hobson thought her husband was frozen as well, but he did return with food after a couple weeks. For decades afterwards settlers would date events by their relation to the Winter of the Deep Snow, including Abraham Lincoln who was also a newcomer to Illinois in the fall of 1830.

By spring the Hobson family moved to DuPage County and their name is still found throughout Naperville. So when you're cursing the snow this winter, remember poor Mrs. Hobson and be grateful for modern conveniences!

Sharing History in the Chicago Area

Kate has several events coming up where she will be sharing her love for local history. On Saturday February 19 she will be attending the 9th Annual Children's Literature Breakfast hosted by Anderson's Bookshops as a guest Illinois author.

Held at the Abbington in Glen Ellyn, this event features a full breakfast, Illinois authors and illustrators, new award-winning and notable books, a book talk by Kathleen March and Jan Dundon, CPDU credits, raffles, door prizes, giveaways, book sales and guest authors. Featured authors include Al Yankovic, best known to millions as "Weird Al" (When I Grow Up), Tim Green (The Big Time: A Football Genius Novel), Kathryn Lasky (Shadow Wolf, Guardians of Ga'Hoole series), Mark Teague (Firehouse!, LaRue Across America) and Trent Reedy (Words in the Dust) .

On the following Saturday, February 26, Kate will be speaking at the Chicago Maritime Festival at the Chicago History Museum. When you think of pioneers, the picture that most of us conjure in our mind is a family in a covered wagon, but some of our earliest settlers arrived in Chicago via schooner across the Great Lakes. One famous settler, Joseph Naper, founder of Naperville, brought thirteen families aboard the Telegraph on his voyage to Fort Dearborn in 1831. Kate tells his story through the eyes of his niece in her book Ruth By Lake and Prairie and will share her research techniques and fascinating findings about some of our earliest settlers in this presentation.

Both of these events are open to the public. Please see their websites for ticket information, locations and times. Hope to see you at one or both!

Where History Is Happening

How Did my Street Get that Name?
Sundays in February
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
P. Seth Magosky Museum Of Victorian Life: How did my street get that name? 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays through February. $10. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays. Tours are $15. The museum is opened other times by appointment and available for private parties and events, groups and clubs, and school groups. Tours are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors. At 206 N. Broadway, Joliet. Call 815-723-3052.

Anne Frank: A History for Today

Tuesday - Sunday
February 1 - March 27
1:00- 5:00 pm
Using historical photos and artifacts, "Anne Frank: A History for Today" at the Elmhurst Historical Museum demonstrates why the Jewish teen's account of Nazi oppression during World War II still resonates with those who read it. Admission is free. Elmhurst Historical Museum, 120 E. Park Ave., Elmhurst,
(630) 833-1457.

Taffy Pulling Party
Saturday, February 19
9:30 am - 3:45 pm
Come on out to Klein Creek Farm.
Tour an 1890s farmhouse, and learn how kids lived more than a century ago. Then, make taffy from molasses to take home during this one-hour program. Also, February is Lambing Time! Come meet the new baby lambs! Ages 6 - 12. $6 per person. Tours start at 9:30am, 10:45am, 1:15pm, 2:30pm and 3:45pm. To register, call (630) 876-5900.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Spoonful of Sugar to Help History Go Down

Kate is always thrilled to find kindred spirits who are as excited about history as she is, so she was intrigued when stumbling across a recent news article about a history teacher in Hawaii who has a particularly fun way to share facts with her students.

Amy Burvall is one of the HistoryTeachers who have become YouTube sensations with well over a million upload views of their videos - on history. Band members "Mrs. B" (presumably Burvall) and "Mr. H" (still unidentified) created 50 videos over the last few years on topics from Prehistoric Man to Martin Luther to Napoleon.

The HistoryTeachers "band" takes popular songs from artists such as Madonna or Brittney Spears, rewrites the lyrics to be a sort of Cliff Notes version of the topic, and then has Burvall sing the new words a la karaoke. She dresses up in costumes and wigs appropriate to the period and adds a few flashy production tricks afterwards to make some very appealing music videos.

Occasionally the lyrics sound a bit contrived, but some are positively catchy, such as the memorable refrain from the Gwen Stefani-influenced Black Plague song. ("Ooh, ooh! Fleas on rats, fleas on rats!") The French Revolution sung to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" is also a favorite and there's even a version with Spanish subtitles to the subtitles!

The HistoryTeachers have their own YouTube channel as well as a Facebook page, but you can just type "HistoryTeachers" into the search box at YouTube to peruse all of the videos.

Teachers across the country have been using the videos in class and some kids are stumbling upon them all by themselves. Obviously music videos will never take the place of actual study and discussion, but like Mary Poppins says "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap! The job's a game!" Or in this case, "Snap! The lesson's a song!"

Landlubbers, Escape to the Maritime Festival!

If you're in the Chicago area in February, turn your bow into the wind and sail on over to the annual Maritime Festival!

Held on Saturday, February 26 at the Chicago History Museum, the Maritime Festival celebrates the Great Lakes as well as the high seas. From 10:00 am until 4:30 pm, workshops, demonstrations, lectures and seminars are offered as well as displays of maritime art, knots, ships and lighthouses. In the evening, enjoy a concert featuring many celebrated maritime music professionals from all over the world singing new and traditional sea shanties.

Hands-on activities for kids like knot tying and boat building as well as performances for younger sailors take place throughout the day. Kate will be presenting "Thirteen Families West Across the Lakes," the story of how the schooner Telegraph brought pioneers to Illinois as told in her book Ruth by Lake and Prairie. You'll find her in the Guild Room at 12:15 pm.

Adult tickets are $14 for all daytime activities and the kids you bring who are 12 and under are admitted free. The evening concert tickets are $20, but if you order online before February 22, daytime activities are also included in the ticket price.

So pull up the anchor and set sail for a full day of nautical fun and history at the Chicago Maritime Festival in February! Hope to see you there!

Where History Is Happening

Ronald Reagan's 100th Birthday Party
Sunday, February 6
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
You are invited to the Birthday Party/Open House honoring President Ronald Reagan's Centennial Birthday celebration at his birthplace in Tampico, IL. Refreshments, including Birthday Cake, will be served.
Admission is free.
Other events including bus tours are available throughout 2011.
For more information: Contact Joan Johnson (815) 622-8705

Bucket Brigades to Tactical Units: Joliet's Fire and Police Departments
Sunday, January 23
4:00- 5:00 pm
On display through June 12, 2011
Discover how technology has improved on-the-job efficiency from common situations to catastrophic emergencies, allowing Joliet's Police and Fire Departments to better serve the public. View dozens of historic items, such as an authentic 1910 "Keystone Cops" police uniform, 1920s Tommy Gun, 1950s inhalator and a polygraph machine from the 1960s.

Fairways, Greens and Clubs

Call for hours
The diverse evolution of golf and its relationship to society comes alive through the unique exhibit, Fairways, Greens & Clubs. Staged in a replica of the interior of a traditional golf clubhouse, the mystique of vintage golf comes alive through displays showing the progression of golf equipment, infiltration of golf clubs, course design and maintenance, along with intriguing stories of men and women closely related to the sport.
Wheaton Center for History Members - Free
Adults - $7.50
Seniors 60 years & up - $6.50
Students 9 years and up - $5.50
8 & younger - Free

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Don't Give up the Ship Story!

Recently the Associated Press reported that a team of divers, Charles Buffum, Craig Harger and Michael Fournier, believe they have discovered the wreck of the USS Revenge off the coast of Rhode Island.

The divers say they have viewed four canons, an anchor, and some other metal objects. Nothing made of wood has survived and they have not yet found a ship's bell or anything else that has a name on it that might identify the wreck, but the objects seem to be from the right time period and no other military ships were reported to have disappeared in that area.

The Revenge sunk while under the command of Oliver Hazard Perry when it hit a reef during a storm in 1811, 200 years ago this week. Perry supposedly was demoted following the event and was sent to sail on Lake Erie, a much smaller sea.

Perry became known as the "Hero of Lake Erie" during the War of 1812 when he became the first US commander to defeat a British squadron. He is also credited with the saying "I have met the enemy and they are ours" and his battle flag's motto "Don't give up the ship" is still symbolic to our Navy.

Once can visit Perry's Victory and Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay in Ohio and a painting, "Perry's Victory on Lake Erie hangs," hangs in the rotunda at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.

The local interest in this story is about a legend that ties Joseph Naper's brother to the Battle of Lake Erie. A book published in 1907 called Concerning the Van Bunschoten or Van Benschoten family in America indicates that Joseph's brother Benjamin Naper served under Perry and is in fact depicted as one of the oarsmen in the painting. An art historian, however, says that the artist, William Henry Powell, used seamen from Brooklyn as his models. Still, the gentleman with the white sidewhiskers sure looks like the only photo surviving of Joseph Naper!

Strolling the Streets of Yesteryear

Today one can "walk" down the street of a town half a world away thanks to Google Maps. While the results are not quite as sophisticated, one can also "walk" many towns from the past thanks to Sanborn Maps.

The Sanborn Maps were drawn starting in 1867 for assessing fire insurance liability in urban areas. Farms and very small towns are not represented, but many, many other areas are. In Illinois, nearly 500 communities are recorded, from Abingdon to Zion City.

Each map shows the streets and the blocks in between, as well as water sources like wells, springs, etc. Buildings are drawn indicating additions and sheds and are labeled as well: Harness Shop, Blacksmith, Candy Shop, Dry Goods.

While it's certainly interesting to see how a familiar street was laid out one hundred years ago, it's also fascinating to learn what sort of businesses thrived then. Drugstores were on every corner - much like they are today!

While the first Sanborn Maps were created in 1867 and the last ones in 1970, they weren't drawn every year and not every town had them. To see what's available, check with your library. You may even be able to access them from your home computer and stroll the streets of yesteryear to your heart's content.
A Reception with Elizabeth Wright at Chicago History Museum
Saturday, January 22
12:30 pm
Join Elizabeth Wright, granddaughter of Frank Lloyd Wright for an exclusive look at her newest book, Dear Bob, Dear Betty: Love and Marriage During the Great Depression. The book examines the witty, sassy, and poignant correspondence between the youngest son of Frank Lloyd Wright and his future wife during their courtship. Mingle with Ms. Wright before the program at the pre-lecture reception for members only. Both events are FREE for members.

Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle
Sunday, January 23
4:00- 5:00 pm
Imagine an evening at London's Royal Geological Society with the affable, young Charles Darwin among friends, telling the stories of his amazing adventure sailing around the world on the HMS Beagle. Storyteller and science teacher Brian "Fox" Ellis steps into Darwin's shoes to model the scientific process and engage listeners in a discussion of the facts so they can draw their own conclusions. Registration Recommended.
Advance: $5/Naperville Heritage Society Sustaining Members and students, $6/non-member
At the Door: $7/adults, $6/youth or student

Civil War Symposium
10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Explore a variety of topics with local historians during the 150th anniversary of the start of America's Civil War. This year's program will feature:
Reflections on Abraham Lincoln, The Wisconsin Grays Go to War,
Civil War Era Music and
Frederick Douglass: Mission of the War...Abolition!
The 2011 Midway Village Museum Civil War Symposium includes all speakers and a box lunch.
The cost is $28 for Adults and $18 for students (3-17)
Advance registration is required by Wednesday, January 19. Call the museum at 815 397-9112 to register.