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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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." 
New Exhibit: “From Homemaking to Municipal Housekeeping: 20th Century Women’s Clubs in Champaign County”
The Champaign County Historical Archives invites you to explore our new online exhibit, “From Homemaking to Municipal Housekeeping: 20th Century Women’s Clubs in Champaign County,” now online on Local History & Genealogy Digital Exhibits.
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.
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.
On July 5, 1943, Colonel Fay Roscoe Upthegrove (1905-1992) led an Allied air bombardment group in an attack on an enemy Airdrome in Northern Africa. As Upthegrove and his men approached the field, 12 enemy fighters attacked. Colonel Upthegrove evaded enemy attack and pushed his bombardment group to wreak havoc upon enemy installations. In their escape, Upthegrove and his men faced over 100 enemy fighters in a fierce 20-minute air skirmish. Upthegrove skillfully maneuvered his aircraft and unified his bombardment group into a tight defensive formation. With this effort, Upthegrove’s force destroyed 35 enemy aircraft and he escaped alive.
As the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District gears up to celebrate its 50th year of service, riders will notice some changes, including but not limited to: a new logo and slogan (a switch from “Gotta Get There” to “Thrive”), slight changes to routes, and re-designed bus stop signs. Even the buses themselves are sporting a spiffy makeover! As a daily MTD rider, I enjoyed exploring the history of the transportation system I utilize daily.
The LGBTQIA+ community in Champaign-Urbana has a long and vibrant history. In honor of Pride Fest 2020, the Champaign County Historical Archives takes a look at a few of the many newsletters published by queer groups in C-U. These newsletters, many of which are from the 1980s and 1990s, show the strength of a community that has never been afraid to wear its pride and activism on its sleeve.
In the summer of 1776, the Second Continental Congress of the thirteen colonies met in Philadelphia and drafted a document that declared independence from British rule to the world. Following this Declaration of Independence, the new nation quickly prepared for war and named George Washington as commander of the continental army. Still, even before Washington's appointment, local militias formed to protect their communities from British attacks. Within these local militias, small groups were developed to answer the call to arms in emergencies. These minutemen, who were named as such because they were ready in a minute's notice, were a protective force that eased the concerns of continental towns and cities and became symbolic of American protection from aggressive forces.
The early settlers in Illinois had many superstitions and home remedies that seem odd today, including several superstitions based on the zodiac signs. While most people are familiar with the zodiac, we use today, what sets the settlers’ use of it apart is their application of it to the body. It was common for early settlers to assign zodiac signs to different parts of the body.
While newspapers have changed over the years, there is one thing that remains the same, advertisements. Below are ads featured in the Urbana Courier from a hundred years ago.
This Freezone ad is from the August 6, 1920 edition of the Courier.
In the early 1900s, the Burnham-Harris Mansion at the corner of Prospect and Church in Champaign was one of the best addresses in town. Located at 809 W. Church Street, it was the hub of social life in Champaign, and an invitation to an event there was always a coveted ticket.
Chanute Air Force Base offered considerable entertainment for base personnel. Previous blog posts referenced the Chandelle Club and the YMCA/USO on base, but those were only two of the many options young men and women at the base and in Champaign County could choose to enjoy. Another option was Trade Winds, a service club that opened in 1956 and was renovated in 1965. Trade Winds was open seven days a week and entertained an average of 360,000 persons annually. The building itself had 33,574 square feet of floor space. It included a 4,472 square foot dance hall, four record rooms with a library of over 1,000 records, loanable music instruments, a game room with eight pool tables and three ping-pong tables, two TV rooms, one card playing room, a writing room, and an airmen's' lounge. There was also a family lounge and a combo room used for weddings and events.
In 1895, Kuhn & Son organized a baseball team called the Clippers. Playing sixteen games, they won eleven, including a nine-game streak. Their first game was a doubleheader against Danville on the Fourth of July. Despite the luck they would have towards the end of their season, they lost both the doubleheader games.
Anybody who regularly reads my blog posts is aware that I am a huge fan of former base historian Chief Master Sergeant Donald O. Weckhorst. Weckhorst arrived at Chanute in 1952 and dedicated nearly his entire life to the base, including researching and authoring the 75-year pictorial history of Chanute Air Force Base, helping found the Chanute Heritage Foundation, and founding the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum. One of Weckhorst’s pet projects at the base during his final years of active duty was the creation of the non-verbal communication program. According to Weckhorst, “nonverbal communication is sometimes called ‘body language, but that is not entirely accurate---there is more than the body involved.” He described nonverbal communication as the study of body language, also known as kinesics, which Mirriam-Webster’s defined as “a systematic study of the relationship between nonlinguistic body motions (as blushes, shrugs, or eye movement) and communication.