The Chanute Air Force Base Subject Files: Historiography Collection was created by the History Office at Chanute Air Force Base. This collection documents the historiography (the study of history) done by base historians. Among the correspondence files, ephemera, and newsletters, the Historiography Collection also has a few examples of United States Air Force (USAF) historiography!
The Air Force published different works, which now live in the Historiography Collection. While there are lots of interesting facts and finds in this collection, I wanted to briefly highlight the official publications of the USAF. These publications dive into what it takes to run an Air Force Base, from details about activities, base closure, and my personal favorite, how to properly format official Air Force publications. These are fun finds because they provide good information for the Air Force’s operations as a whole and some of the more “nit-picky” information that editors would love.
On the night of April 14, 1912, eighteen-year-old Englishman Edward “Ed” Arthur Dorkings was enjoying a game of cards with some friends in the third-class passenger general room of the RMS Titanic. The Olympic-Class ocean liner was at sea four days at this point after leaving the port at Southampton, England on April 10th. At approximately 11:40pm, Dorkings and his fellow card players were thrown from their benches and heard a loud grinding noise that reverberated through the entire ship. Dorkings went to the deck to discover that the Titanic hit an iceberg that damaged the port-side of the vessel. Despite the damage from the massive iceberg, there was no sign of panic, so Dorkings returned to his card game.
The RMS Titanic
Hello! My name is Mary Pedraza, and I am the apprentice at the Champaign County Historical Archives (CCHA) of The Urbana Free Library. I am in my final semester at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois.
When many people hear the words “maple syrup making,” they probably think of the northeast United States or Canada. They may remember school textbooks showing snow-covered ground and wooden buckets hanging from tapped trees collecting the maple sap. There were also large metal pans over burning fires with steam rising over the top as the water was evaporated from the sap to produce the syrup. They may also remember the nostalgic paintings of Grandma Moses, showing scenes of the “Sugar Camp.” Scenes of horse-drawn sleds, people carrying buckets, large kettles hanging over log fires, and lots of busy people. Few people probably think of Champaign County as a maple syrup producer, but in the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s, those same scenes occurred on family farms and maple groves in the county. Most of the maple syrup was for family use, but the remnants of one grove used for commercial production remain within the Salt Fork Forest Preserve, aka Homer Lake Forest Preserve.
On September 17, 1947, a 7-car train left Philadelphia to embark on a 37,000-mile trip. The train, painted white with red and blue horizontal stripes, carried 133 historical documents and artifacts of United States history. The historic cargo ranged from a 15th-century Christopher Columbus letter to Germany's 1945 letter of surrender signed just a few years before the train's departure.
The Chanute Airforce Base's POW/MIA collection reveals the events and programs that helped bring home and honor the POWs held during World War II and the Vietnam War. These events and programs began at Chanute Air Force Base in the early 1970s and continued until the early 1990s. The records include correspondence, event pamphlets, flyers, posters, images of paintings, photographs, presidential proclamations, newspaper clippings, event agendas, maps, and more. The image below and the materials mentioned above can be found in the Chanute Airforce Base's POW/MIA collection.
A photograph of a painting by Maxine McCaffrey, titled "At the Hanoi Hilton," depicts POWs' realistic experiences during the Vietnam War. The inscription reads: "At the Hanoi Hilton. Over 400 American pilots are held incommunicado in Communist prisons in North Vietnam subjected to physical and mental abuse contrary to Geneva Convention. How many Americans besides their own families voice concern about these courageous airmen?"
As a new intern in the Archives, I was overwhelmed when asked to write a blog post. CCHA has loads of interesting content bursting at the seams. It would take me a lifetime to try and wade through all the goods to find an interesting topic. I was ultimately inspired by International Women’s Day. Since International Women’s Day also goes by International Working Women’s Day, I figured that I could write about women, specifically working women in the Champaign-Urbana area, as an homage to strong women everywhere.
International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8th and is an official holiday in many countries…except the United States. On March 8, 1917, Russian women held a mass strike for Peace and Bread. In 1922, Lenin declared that March 8th should be designated as women's day. The United Nations adopted it as an official day in 1977. Each year has a theme. This year's theme is "Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World."
Burnham City Hospital nurses, 1946
Merriam-Webster defines a map as "a diagram or other visual representation that shows the relative position of the parts of something." Here at the Champaign County Historical Archives, we like to think there is a whole lot more to maps than that.
Our map collection covers a lot of ground. The staff in the Archives spends a lot of time pouring over maps every day trying to unravel various patron requests, such as, "Do you have a map of the Boneyard Creek before the City of Champaign made improvements?" Why, yes, we do! Or, "Do you have a map of the original Country Fair Mall and what stores were there?" Of course! A lot of map questions that Archives staff members get are about original streets and roads in the county, where they were, what they were called, and when they were platted. We have maps that can show all of that.
1914 Newcomb Township Map
Who is Robert Allerton? Many of us know him as a philanthropist, a wealthy bachelor, a world traveler, an art collector, and owner of what we know today as Allerton Park, a National Natural Landmark also recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.
Allerton was a private man. Much of what we know about him comes from correspondence saved in archives from those who knew him and what he allowed the public to see. This can make it hard to think of the mansion, gardens and surrounding woods as one gentleman’s private home and estate, but up until 1946, Robert Allerton’s estate, or “The Farm” as it was once known, was primarily for his enjoyment.
The Allerton family from Robert Allerton: The Private Man.
Though the first Champaign County Fair was held in the early 1850s, beginning with informal gatherings of families and first organized in 1852, it was disbanded in the early 1920s. In 1939, a new bandstand was acquired, replacing one that was destroyed in a fire years earlier and allowing the fair to return to Champaign County under the direction of the Champaign County Fair Association. In the first few years of the fair’s return, it grew rapidly, despite challenges caused by World War II.
A 1942 newspaper article announced that the Champaign County Fair Association still intended to hold the fair that year, despite difficult war conditions, remarking that it would be even more important for residents due to other fair and vacation cancellations. The next year, there was no question the fair would go on, and it turned out to be “one of the best years since its revival in 1939.”
On August 16, 1984, Chanute Air Force Base was selected, thanks to its central geographic location, as the venue for reuniting the 714th Bomb Squadron’s Crew 66. The reunion brought together nine out of ten of the original members. Crew members traveled to Chanute from Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Champaign, Illinois. Eldon “Red” Preisel of Champaign was a technical sergeant at the time of the crew’s combat missions and served as a point person for planning the reunion at the base.
Bettye Krolick transcribing music. Photo by Robert K. O’Daniell for The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, August 30th, 1976.
Bettye Krolick (1926-2011) changed the world from her home in Champaign through her service to the national and international blind and visually impaired community - effects of which are still felt today.
I came across Krolick’s story as I researched The Tuesday Morning Musical Club (TMMC), a women’s-only music recital club in Champaign-Urbana. (You can learn more about this club in the archives’ new exhibit, “From Homemaking to Municipal Housekeeping: Twentieth-Century Women’s Clubs in Champaign County.”) Krolick was very involved in the C-U music community even beyond the TMMC. A violinist by study, she played with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony (where she was first violinist) with her husband Edward Krolick and worked with multiple orchestras, including as “concert master of the Danville Symphony” as stated by the News-Gazette. Krolick eventually moved to Colorado after living in the Champaign-Urbana community for many years, continuing to play music there.
A recent donation to the Champaign County Historical Archives is this picture of Dorothy Bentley. She was a junior at Sidney High School when she died in 1918, from pneumonia after having influenza.Small snippets of information can be found about her life and her death by searching newspapers in the Illinois Digital Newspaper collection. Some of these include her 1st place standing on school examinations, performing a duet for a program, moves made to attend school in Sidney, a bout with typhoid fever and various moves and business undertakings of her father, H. M. Bentley. Small articles on her death and funeral, that appeared in various Champaign and Urbana newspapers can also be found online. However, the most glowing tribute is not online but can be found on the Sidney Times microfilm at the Champaign County Historical Archives.
In 1983, Chanute Commanding Officer Major General J.D. Moore hired Chief Master Sergeant and Chanute alum Donald O. Weckhorst to be the Chanute Air Force Base historian. Moore’s first order to Weckhorst was to create a pictorial history book of the base and Weckhorst immediately went to work on the project. From 1983-1992, Weckhorst contacted former and active Chanute students, instructors, civilians, and more from throughout the entirety of the base’s history seeking sources for the book. In his efforts, he contacted over 1,000 former Chanuters and received donations from approximately 300 people in the form of photographs, documents, maps, and other materials. Our collections at the CCHA not only include these donations, but also the correspondence between Weckhorst and former Chanute personnel concerning these donations. The correspondence often included information about the records being donated, stories from the base, updates on life after Chanute, and personal stories unrelated to Chanute. Weckhorst made personal connections with the people he contacted and developed friendships with them through the records they donated and their shared experience as Chanuters.
In our last newspaper post, we presented you with some exciting and off-beat campus area newspapers from the 1970s and 1980s. There are more of those to examine, and we'll get to those in upcoming blog posts but for now, let's look at some of the early small-town papers, starting with the August 28, 1908, Sidney Times. This edition of the Sidney Times is ten pages long and has a LOT of information packed into those ten pages. The front page starts right off with advertising, perhaps not much different than newspapers of today. The remainder of the front page provides commentary on weddings, social club events, funerals, stories about the Sidney Horse Show and Corn Carnival, and the Illinois State Fair. This publication came out in the morning and cost a reasonable 5 cents. There is a pleasant announcement right on the title banner that you should get one of your own if you are reading a borrowed copy of this paper, no word on whether the good citizens of Sidney heeded this demand.
Champaign County lost two prominent community photographers over the holiday season, Robert K. McCandless and Raymond Bial.
Robert (Bob) K. McCandless was the owner and photographer of McCandless Photography, a studio in Urbana and Champaign, Illinois, specializing in portraits. Born in Hershey, Pennsylvania, McCandless worked at the Evening Standard in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and in the Air Force from 1951-1953 (in Korea from 1952-1953) as a public information officer. In April 1956, he joined the Urbana Courier as a photographer. In 1965, McCandless left the Courier and opened his own photography studio at Washington and Race Streets in Urbana. He moved the studio to 113 W. University Avenue in Champaign in 1974 - 1975 and moved to Lincoln Square Mall in 1983. He closed the studio in 2011.
On the morning of November 30, 1999, an estimated 10,000 protesters gathered around the Paramount Theatre and Convention Center in Seattle, Washington. They were protesting the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Ministerial Conference. They were a small part of approximately 40,000-60,000 protesters gathered in Seattle, along with another 400,000 online, from November 28 to December 3. The 10,000 protesters at the Paramount Theatre were engaging in peaceful protest, which ultimately resulted in the cancellation of WTO events. Seattle police responded with tear gas and other riot gear, while a larger crowd of 25,000 marched toward the Convention Center from the Memorial Stadium, creating a massive conflict. The Seattle Protests of 1999, also known as the Battle of Seattle, concluded after the WTO decided to end the conference early in lieu of the backlash.
Chanute Air Force Base was the key starting point for many service members' careers throughout its 75 years of existence. Men and women began their education, professions, and families at the base and were supported by the Chanute and Rantoul communities. The Chanute Collection has many examples of community groups coming together to help one another and positively impact the Rantoul area. From the Officer's Wives Club that supported the local nursing homes to the YMCA's children programs, there was a place and activities for all.