Tread Carefully

We may have made it safely out of winter, but here in the Midwest, unpredictable winters are a fact of life. There is one thing you can be sure of. When the roads are bad, it is important to drive safe, and driving safe is easier when your tires are in good shape. Speaking of tires, here is a collection of tire ads from the 1920’s.

It's Syllabus Day! Instructors and Students at the NCO Leadership School

The Chanute Air Force Base was home to non-commissioned officers. These officers rose through the ranks of their respective units and were not commissioned outside of that unit. As such, these officers were especially hard-working and dedicated. However, even the best leaders can improve their skills. The NCO Leadership School was a place where they could learn more about leadership and how to adapt their skills for their new roles.

Down the Archives Rabbit Hole

Merriam Webster defines rabbit hole as “one in which the pursuit of something (such as an answer or solution) leads to other questions, problems, or pursuits.” If you ask me, one of the best things about working in the Champaign County Historical Archives is the archives rabbit hole. One thing can, and usually does, lead to another. I had that very experience just this week and thought I’d document it here so you can see how it goes.

Chanute Snapshot: A Look at 1972

Part of the Chanute Collection contains the yearly written histories of the base. The staff of Chanute began writing down their histories beginning in 1917 and continued every year until the base’s closure in 1993. Let’s take a look back at what was happening on the base 50 years ago, in 1972.

Chanute Air Force Base’s Resident Clothing Historian: Master Sergeant Gary T. Alstrand

I found this wonderful photograph in the Chanute Collection when I first began interning on the collection in the summer of 2018. The lighthearted nature of the image delighted my fellow intern and me, but we had no identifying information about the individual, so we laid the mystery to rest. However, as I began to process the photograph collection, a few more photographs of the unnamed man wearing different uniforms popped up.

Illinois Times, a Newspaper for the Black C-U Community

Husband-wife duo, Edger and Blanche Harris founded the Illinois Times, a newspaper created to give voice and build community within the Black citizens of Champaign-Urbana. Established in 1939, the paper was first published in Danville, Illinois, when the Harrises transferred the publication to 202 Ellis Ave, Champaign. Edgar was editor and publisher, and Blanche was circulation manager and city editor. They ran the newspaper out of their house for thirty-six years.

Patches, Patches, and Patches: Processing the Chanute Heritage Committee Collection

In June, I began working on what I thought would be a small collection called the “Chanute Heritage Committee USAF Display.” This collection consisted of various patches and histories of squadrons, wings, and bases throughout the world. These were collected in 1986 and 1987 by the Chanute Heritage Committee on the base. The collection was originally housed in four file cabinet drawers.

Grateful Dead Descend on Assembly Hall

For just three special cosmic nights in Champaign County history, the Grateful Dead brought the eyes of the world onto Assembly Hall. After years of rumors, the Dead would play in Champaign. They finally made their first visit for a two-night run of concerts on February 21st and 22nd, 1973.

Negatives of the Grateful Dead at Assembly Hall in 1973. The Grateful Dead Archive, University of California at Santa Barbara

Alberta Claire: The Girl from Wyoming

Throughout American history one of our nation’s strongest assets has been our entertainment industry. From the celebrity of Benjamin Franklin wooing the French court to support the American Revolution to the modern world of social media, Americans have traded on their ability to entertain for nearly two and a half centuries.

WWII Office of Price Administration Tokens

The Archives recently received a donation that included 67 very interesting World War II OPA tokens. At first glance, I wasn’t sure what they were. They are slightly smaller than a dime and appear to be made out of wood and paper (it turns out they are made out of vulcanized fiber). The only variation among the tokens is two small letters surrounding the one in the center. After a little research, I found out that these are Office of Price Administration (OPA) tokens.

Where on Earth in Champaign County: Township Numbers, Ranges, and Directions

When looking at a Title Abstract or the Grantor/Grantee index, one can find the legal description of a piece of land along with its location. For example, The Urbana Free Library is located in Section 17 of Township 19 north, Range 9 east. This refers to the Library’s location on a plat map.

Huey's Store: What's Not on the Shelves...Is on the Floor

When Huey Rasner opened his new variety store in Urbana in October 1957, he modeled it after the “general store” concept where everything was available at a discount price. He called his new concept “Huey’s Store” and it was located at 105 ½ E. University Avenue in Urbana. Huey laid claim to having the first discount store in Champaign-Urbana.

Documenting the Chanute Experience: The Collection of Leo W. Streff

Before the Champaign County Historical Archives became the home of the Chanute Collection, the records lived at the Chanute Aerospace Museum. The Chanute Aerospace Museum benefitted from the donations of many Chanute alumni. These donations often show a different side of life on the base. One of these donations, from the family of LT. Col. Leo W. Streff, consists of photographs, scrapbook pages, letters, and event pamphlets, just to name a few items.

News-Gazette Collection Update

On June 15, 2020, the Champaign County Historical Archives of The Urbana Free Library became the new home for the News-Gazette’s archival holdings. Over 1,000 square feet of materials were transferred to the Library in a semi-truck packed to capacity. The collection is currently housed on the lower level of the Lincoln Square Mall, across the street from the Library.

Holiday Gift Guide

The gift-giving season is upon us! However, it is often hard to come up with ideas of what to give your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Worry not. This handy gift guide comes packed with ideas. Gathered from advertisements found in old newspapers, this guide is sure to help you find gifts for everyone on your list.

This idea from a Sholem Shoe Store ad in the August 5, 1920, Courier is for the shoe lovers in your life.

Exploring Title Abstracts

Title abstracts can be great sources of information for people looking for the history of a property or subdivision. Title abstracts follow the chain of ownership, usually from the original sale by the government or other agency, through to the date of the most recent abstract. The abstract is a packet that includes legal documents pertaining to the property, notably the deed records and mortgages, and list where those documents are recorded. Each abstract is different but may include documents such as mortgage releases, tax sales, easements, surveys, land plats, annexations, and subdivision plats. They can also contain restrictions, lawsuits, liens, wills, special taxes, or utility assessments. If your property is located where coal, oil, natural gas, or another mineral deposit has been found, the abstract may also contain information about mineral rights.