Urbana history

Urbana history

Collection Highlight: Oral Histories

Transcripts of The Urbana Free Library Local History Roundtable discussions

While spending time with your family over the holidays, chances are you heard stories about the “good old days” from your grandparents, aunts or uncles, or parents. Perhaps you can’t get enough of these reminiscences. If that’s the case, check out the Champaign County Historical Archives collection of over 250 oral histories.

The Illustrious Sale Siblings

Champaign-Urbana is no stranger to the entertainment industry: it is the boyhood home of Roger Ebert; the birthplace of music group REO Speedwagon and super-villain computer HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey; and was recently the filming site of a Danny Glover movie. However, in the first half of the twentieth century, Champaign-Urbana’s biggest stars were Charles (known professionally as “Chic”) and Virginia Sale, who grew up on Main Street in Urbana.

Eisner Food Stores

In 1870, 18-year-old Albert Eisner immigrated to the United States from his home in Hungary. Upon his arrival in New York City, he was robbed of his last $20, and so he began work, first at a tailor’s shop and eventually at a dry goods store. During the next 45 years of his life, he would make his way west, settling finally in Champaign, Illinois, where he would launch the multi-generational business that would become one of the largest food sellers in central Illinois.

19th Century Seance in Urbana

In the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, spiritualism, the belief that the dead could communicate with the living, especially through a medium, gained popularity and renown. It was a movement that garnered ardent enthusiasm from its followers, including author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and psychologist William James, among others; and was lambasted by its detractors, such as novelist Mark Twain and magician Harry Houdini.

Internet Archive Book Image of the Davenport Bros. Trumpet Seance

Alien Visitors ... to Urbana?

A sharped eyed staff member spied this image from our collections: 

"UFO" over the home of Don Manning, Urbana, IL, February, 1969

Apparently, sightings of unexplained phenomena and Unidentified Flying Objects are not uncommon here, as this June 6, 1969 article from the front page of the Urbana Courier relates.

Happy New Year, 1913!

From the Urbana Courier-Herald, Thursday, January 2, 1913:

MANY WATCH NEW YEAR COME IN                                                            

 

Parties Are Popular in Urbana on Tuesday Evening — Odd Fellows Have Meeting. — Circle Meets.

How Urbana Got a Hotel

We here at the archives were thrilled to learned of the partial reopening of the Urbana Landmark Hotel (the former Urbana Lincoln Hotel) this weekend. With this new beginning, we thought this would be a good time to recount just how this local landmark came to be.

But will it play in C-U?

As we wind down another contentious campaign season, it's worth remembering that Champaign and Urbana served as campaign stops for several candidates battling for the White House over the years. Here then are just a few images from Champaign-Urbana's political past.