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

Behind the Scenes: Collection Management

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.

Historic Maple Grove

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.

Freedom Train Comes to Champaign

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.

A Look Inside the Chanute POW/MIA Collection

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?"

International Women's Day: A Look at Working Women in CU

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

The Map Collection at The Champaign County Historical Archives

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

Robert Allerton: the Man Behind the Gardens

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.

Champaign County Fair Association

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.”