The Man Himself: Octave Chanute

When we talk about the Chanute Air Force Base, we really should start with the man behind the name: Octave Chanute. Octave Chanute was an engineer, a pioneer of modern aviation, and the focus of the Subject Files: Octave Chanute collection. In the Subject Files: Octave Chanute collection, you can find information that celebrates one of the first men in the sky. Photographs and diagrams of his gliders accompany newspaper clippings, correspondence, and information about his life and work. There is even material about Chanute, Kansas, the town named for Octave, in the collection.

A high-flying historical figure you many not have heard of!

Medicinal Advertisements

Ailments are a fact of life. They happen to all of us at some point. Whether it is a headache, a sore throat, or a stomach ache, a wide variety of products are available to treat what ails us. What better way to advertise to potential customers than to place an ad in the paper? Unfortunately, many past medicinal ads and the products they were designed to sell were often questionable. Despite that, they were featured in the newspapers of yesteryear. Here is an assortment of ads for medicinal products.

Where's Walter? Searching for Clues in Obituaries

A Dillman family researcher recently wrote to the Archives with a question about his ancestor, Walter Dillman. He wanted to know where and when Walter died. The researcher already had some family background information and a transcription he made of an obituary from the Find a Grave website. The transcription stated that Walter Dillman (1881-1946), was buried in Yearsley Cemetery in Champaign County, IL. He stated that the name and date of the newspaper were not given. *Some assumptions were made when he transcribed the article, one that was incorrect and the other that was at least partly correct.

Walter Dillman's obituary from Find a Grave

A Winter Treat for the Summer Heat

We may be in the heat of the summer, but that does not mean you cannot enjoy some local history inspired by the winter holiday season. Over the last few months, I began to digitize the archives' Fred and Betty Turner Woodblock Print Christmas Card exhibit done by Erica Stark on our Local History & Genealogy Digital Exhibits website. To add a little more context to the former exhibit, I expanded upon the previous content by selecting a sample of six Turner prints and writing histories about the subject matter represented. My goal is to offer our readers a glimpse into why these parts of our history likely caught the eye of and inspired Fred and Betty Turner. Of the six prints I chose, three are of Champaign County structures, one is from Vermilion County, and the other two from Prairie du Rocher and Chicago. 

Fred Turner Etching Print

Cemetery, Funeral Home, and Death Records in Champaign County

Every day genealogists use our cemetery books, funeral home records, and death records. They sift through their family legacies, write books, study history, or just try to understand everything they can about how burials were handled in the past. This blog highlights the different types of death records available at the Champaign County Historical Archives. 

Cemetery Books

21-Cent International Airmail Stamps Featuring Octave Chanute & His Biplane Hang Glider

In 1896, Octave Chanute, namesake of Chanute Air Force Base, designed his famous biplane hang glider. This design became the standard for future gliders. To show appreciation for his influence on aeronautics, two 21-cent international airmail stamps were released depicting Octave Chanute and his biplane hang glider. These stamps were first sold on March 29, 1979 in Chanute, Kansas. Chanute served as the first day city (where a new stamp is first sold). The release of the stamps was accompanied by a ceremony in the city of Chanute.

Early Criminal Cases in Urbana

When Americans reached the western frontier in the early 19th century and founded towns, they brought family, friends, culture, and new customs. Schools were built, churches erected, streets laid, and government buildings constructed to create an infrastructure akin to their former homes in the eastern U.S. As towns went up, populations grew, and laws were implemented to maintain perceived societal norms. Breaking those laws meant you had to answer to local law enforcement.

Champaign 2060

In 2010, the City of Champaign celebrated its 150th birthday. One of the ways they chose to mark this special occasion was to have local residents, mainly youth, write letters for residents 50 years into the future. These letters, addressed to those who will reside in Champaign in 2060, tell us a lot about what life was like in Champaign in 2010. The letters include city traditions, best places to go, memories, and hopes and dreams for the future. What they all share is the spirit of those who live in Champaign. Featured here are a couple of the letters from the book. One of the letters is from a student, and the other is from former mayor, Dan McCollum, who served as mayor from 1987 to 1999.

Behind the Scenes: Collection Management, part 3

Follow along with Mary Pedraza, Archives Apprentice, as she tackles rearranging the special collections storage space at the Library Annex.

April was the last month of my apprenticeship with the Champaign County Historical Archives. And it was a month of wrapping up projects. My biggest contribution was finally moving the most extensive collection in our holdings onto a new set of shelves where it better fits.

Most of our collections are held in half-size or full-size Hollinger boxes. Imagine the traditional banker's box you see depicted in movies whenever someone gets fired. The box they fill with their desk belongings. These are the boxes that archives typically use for holding their material, acid-free, archival quality versions, of course. Our storage shelves are mainly designed to fit these sizes of boxes, height-wise.


Behind the Scenes: Collection Management, part 2

Follow along with Mary Pedraza, Archives Apprentice, as she tackles rearranging the special collections storage space at the Library Annex. 

Last month, I gave a preview of the project I planned for my independent study at the Champaign County Historical Archives. I am seeking to position my work with the collections storage plans among standards within the archives field, and even in our community. Two months have passed and let’s see what I have done.

Small Town Histories

Do you want to learn more about the history of the towns in Champaign County or elsewhere?

Numerous histories have been written for town centennial celebrations, the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial, or just because someone wanted to share information on the history of their town.

The Chanute Base Histories Collection

To welcome a brand new finding aid, I have been tasked to tell you about the Base Histories collection in the Chanute Archives. The Base Histories collection is a twenty-four box collection detailing the yearly administrative history of Chanute Air Force Base, looking at the base's history, the courses students took, food served in the cafeteria, and personnel, etc. Basically, anything that you would want to learn about the administration of the base is in this collection! These histories were compiled by base historians and cover everything from the mess hall to nuclear training. They are arranged into chronological books and often span many volumes per year. The Base Histories collection covers the entirety of the Chanute Air Force Base (1917-1993), with the bulk of the histories falling from 1944-1993.

C-U's Historic Buildings and the Preservation and Conservation Association

Historic buildings contain a rich array of information about the past. And just like manuscripts, photographs, or books, these structures must be preserved. Otherwise, the stories they tell about those who lived or worked inside could be lost. In Champaign County, the important work of protecting the historic built environment is undertaken by the Preservation and Conservation Association, also known as PACA.

The Greek Revival Cottage

Old Advertisements: Food Edition

The newspaper has always been a great place to put advertisements. Especially if the advertisements pertain to vital products, like food. Check out this collection of food ads from the papers of the past.

Here is an ad for a product that can still be found in stores today. Found in the July 3, 1920 News-Gazette, it’s everybody’s favorite: the super healthy Grape-Nuts!


Air Power or Airpower? Chanute Air Force Base and the USAF Editorial Style Guide

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.

From Tragedy to Attraction: Local Reactions to the Sinking of the Titanic

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