A Reunion at Chanute

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's Contributions to Braille Music Transcription

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.

Dorothy Gertrude Bentley and the 1918 Flu


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.

Greetings from Chanute! The Envelope Art of Ladd Canney

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. 

Another Installment of "Newspapers, Get Your Newspapers Here!"

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.

In Memoriam: Robert K. McCandless (1928-2020) and Raymond Bial (1948-2021)

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.

The Battle of Seattle and Founding of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center

On the morning of November 30, 1999, an estimated 10,000 protesters gathered around the Paramount Theatre and Convention Center in Seattle, Washington.[1] 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. 

Retiree Activities Program at Chanute Air Force Base

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.

First commercial airline delivery of clothes

In 1919, Isaac Kuhn took a risky decision and became the first retailer to receive a shipment of clothing via commercial airplane. In 1919, passenger planes had only been invented eleven years earlier, and commercial airlines were just beginning to establish themselves. These planes flew without air routes, ground navigation, or regulated licensing.

Soldiers Monument in Mt. Hope Cemetery, Sidney, IL

The Soldiers Monument in Mt. Hope Cemetery, Sidney, Illinois, is just one of many memorials erected by city, township, county, and state governments or organizations in the latter part of the 1890s and early 1900s. The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) and the Woman's Relief Corps (W.R.C.) were behind many of the efforts to raise money and erect the monuments that served as memorials to the men who fought for the Union during the Civil War.

Changing the Code on Campus Affairs

The body of the letter sent by Diana Lenik, Chair of the CCWPC, in support of a new University of Illinois nondiscrimination policy. Champaign County Women’s Political Caucus Collection 276, Box 1, Folder 3.

Those who have conducted archival research before know that it can be a winding, circuitous process. It is all too easy to get diverted by the information that catches your eye but is unrelated to your true research goal. However, these research rabbit holes may ultimately lead to a brand new perspective  - or a blog post! One such sidetrack happened to me as I investigated the Champaign County Women’s Political Caucus for the CCHA’s’ new exhibit, “From Homemaking to Municipal Housekeeping: 20th Century Women’s Clubs in Champaign County.

Car Ads from 100 Years Ago

A lot of items that we use today are technological advances from years past. Take, for example, the automobile. In 1920, you might not have been able to buy an SUV with rearview cameras and a collision-avoidance system, but you could still buy an automobile. In this post, I have collected some car advertisemetns that were featured 100 years ago.

One option available for sale was the Paige Light Six, which was dubbed “The Most Beautiful Car in America.”

Chanute Spotlight: Mark A. Greene

On January 25th, 1935, Mark A. Greene graduated from the Air Supply and Technical Clerks course at Chanute Field. This course covered clerical subjects like typewriting, shorthand, organization, office machines, operations, business arithmetic, bookkeeping, military correspondence, and more. Greene described Chanute as “rundown buildings, many leftover from World War I.” According to Greene, “As a private, I was too poor in those days to afford a camera, but I don’t recall much that was worth photographing anyway.”

Newspapers! Get Your Newspapers Here!

When you think of the Champaign County Historical Archives (and we hope you do!), do you think of newspapers? Some folks might, if they are doing specific research or if they are interested in genealogy. But I want to let everyone know about the rich trove of newspapers we have here in the Archives, newspapers that you might remember and ones that are not so memorable. Over the next few months, I will be here to talk about our newspaper collection and how you can access the photos and stories that make up the rich history of Champaign County.

Lincoln's "Mad" Couch

While researching early newspaper articles about the Urbana Lincoln Hotel, I stumbled upon a small piece in the Urbana Daily Courier from August 6, 1934, regarding Abraham Lincoln's "mad" couch. The author discussed how travelers regularly used this "mad" couch in the Maplewood Hotel's lobby in Berlin, Wisconsin. Made specifically for Lincoln, as it is six feet, six inches long, the couch was reportedly from his office in Springfield. The provenance of the couch is recounted in the article. It was first left with General Brayman, "a close friend" of Lincoln's who acquired it presumably when Lincoln died. Though the article says when [he] did not return to Springfield," a much more polite way to say they took a dead president's furniture. After coming to Wisconsin, the couch was given to Dr. Victor Kutchin, who owned it at the time of the article's writing. The ownership story ends there at the end of a tiny, two-paragraph article placed among the "Evening Courier's Page of Interpretation and Opinion." [1]

Uncovered Gravestones in Leal Park

During recent park improvements, undertaken in 2020, portions of ten gravestones from the Old Urbana Burying Ground were unearthed in Leal Park. Work ceased on the project to add additional parking spaces and an accessible path to the administration building, while the Public Service Archaeology & Architecture Program from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign assisted the Urbana Park District in complying with the State of Illinois laws regarding the protection of cemeteries. Work on the park improvements resumed, and the Public Service Archaeology & Architecture Program provided the Archives with information and digitally enhanced photographs from the project.

Recently Processed: Orphan Train Collection

In the second half of the 19th century, welfare organizations on the East Coast were looking for ways to find homes for orphaned and homeless children. Their solution, beginning in 1854, was to send children to rural areas across the country, primarily the Midwest. Organizations such as the Children’s Aid Society and the New York Juvenile Asylum sent children by train to these areas, where they were placed in homes to work, often on farms, and to receive an education. These trains have since been labeled “Orphan Trains,” and many traveled to Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities.