Local History and Genealogy Blog

Happy and safe Memorial Day everyone.

Dick Stillwell decorating graves of veterans in Mount Hope Cemetery, News-Gazette 30 May 1993

#TBT "Dick Stillwell, 58, of American Legion Post 24 in Champaign, has been helping decorate graves of veterans with American flags since he was a junior in high school helping his father, who was a veteran of World War I and II."

Here he is decorating graves in Mount Hope Cemetery, Champaign, IL for Memorial Day in 1993.  News-Gazette, 30 May 1993 page D-1, photographer Curt Beamer.   

The Benefits of Fresh Air in Education

The open air school movement was based on the concept that fresh air, good ventilation and exposure to the outside contributed to good health. Originating in Europe, the model was quickly adopted by the United States as a way to provide care and education for children who were anemic, malnourished, or who had been exposed to tuberculosis. The first open air school in the United States was located in Providence, Rhode Island (1908).

While in Europe the schools were usually conducted in forests or rural compounds, the open air schools in the United States were often placed in unused school buildings, ferryboats, roofs, porches, or tents [1]. The first open air school in Chicago was conducted by the Chicago Tuberculosis Institute in cooperation with the school board during the summer of 1909. It was so successful that a year-round school was opened on the roof of the Mary Crane Nursery located in Chicago’s city center [2]. In addition to the benefits of fresh air, hygiene and nutrition were also emphasized. Students were fed a morning snack, a hot dinner, and a glass of milk if possible [3].

Open Air School #1 and #2 - On roof of Mary Crane Nursery, Chicago, IL

Open Air School #1 and #2 - On roof of Mary Crane Nursery, Courtesy of The Library of Congress


Mothers, Sisters, Aunts, and other Feisty Female Ancestors

Anyone who has conducted genealogical research knows that sometimes finding female ancestors can be a tricky business.


Pictured are (from left): Katie Springer, Ann Springer, Elsie Cora Springer, Georgia Springer


Sometimes women can be found by searching a husband's name. For example, this photograph of the Springer family is located ithe "Springer, William L." Photographs envelope at the Champaign County Historical Archives. 



Historical May Day demonstrations, parties and festivals

May 1st is a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Often referred to as May Day, May 1st represents one of the most popular secular celebration days in the world.

Maypole dancers and May Queen, University of Illinois, 1912

Maypole celebration at the University of Illinois, 1912


Make way for the Hose Company!

Below, the Tolono Fire Department's hose company poses before the Tolono Fire Station with their firefighting equipment in 1901. 

Tolono Fire Department, Hose Company, 1901

Baseball---Champaign's Pastime

Spring is in the air and professional baseball teams are having their season openers all across the country. Here is a peek at Champaign County baseball teams from years past.            

  Tolono, IL Baseball Club, 1925

Tolono, IL Baseball Club, 1925

Today in C-U History: Theodore Roosevelt visits West Side Park

Theodore Roosevelt delivers campaign speech at West Side Park, Champaign, April 8, 1912

On April 8, 1912, President Theodore Roosevelt, Progressive Republican candidate for the 1912 presidential election, visited West Side Park in Champaign to deliver a campaign speech from the park's bandstand. 

Urbana Bicycle Shops

Spring has finally sprung in Champaign County.  With this warmer weather I'm itching to hit the trails and put some rubber to the road. So for this #TBT here are some Urbana bicycle shops from the early 1900s.

Kuhl & Loehr Bicycles and Repair, Urbana, 111 [?]

Kuhl & Loehr Bicycles and Repair, located at 105 W Elm St. (Urbana), 1911. Albert "Red" Saltsgaver was the manager circa 1914. 

Champaign-Urbana Soap Box Derby

The New-Gazette would have you believe that all the boys in Champaign-Urbana had visions of race cars in their heads during the heyday of the All-American Soap Box Derby.  The city race ran for 5 years, 1939-1941, 1946-1947, and served as the qualifier for the national finals held in Akron, Ohio.

Soap Box Derby Dreaming, July 21, 1939  News-Gazette derby racer

Penny Grocery Co.

March 26, 1915 advertisement from Penny Grocery Co. #tbt

Penny Grocery Co. advertisement, March 26, 1915


- Marnie H., Archives Assistant