Chanute Spotlight: Commanding Officer Fay R. Upthegrove

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.

Ride Down Memory Lane with C-U MTD

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.

Pride Fest 2020: The Archives Looks Back at the LGBTQIA+ community in C-U

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.

Rantoul's Minuteman Missile Saved at the Last Minute

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.

Superstitions of Early Illinois Settlers

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.

Household Products from 100 Years Ago

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.

From Mansion to Medicine

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 Spotlight: The Trade Winds Service Club

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. 


Summer of Baseball, 1895 edition

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.

Greetings from Chanute!: Donald O. Weckhorst and Non-Verbal Communication

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.

As Seen in the Courier: Squirrel Chases Man

Sometimes, weird things happen in life. If it is funny enough, it might be featured in the news. Here in Champaign County, a lot of things have happened that were considered newsworthy. One individual who would know about this is Oliver Sayles. Back in the sixties, Mr. Sayles was the victim of a rather quirky series of events.

Intern Reflection: Working with the Chanute Collection

Greetings from Chanute Field postcard

Hi, I'm Rosemary Froeliger 2019-2020 Archives intern, and I have been asked by the Director of the Champaign County Historical Archive (CCHA) to reflect on my time working on the Chanute Collection. I have enjoyed reviewing all the work that my fellow intern Kevin and I have accomplished in what feels like a very short school year.

From the Mailbox: How did Race Street Get its Name? (Otherwise known as a Day in an Archivist's Life)

So, what do archivists do? Here at the CCHA, we have a clever meme in our office that explains how the different people in our lives imagine our occupation. It suggests our friends believe we are surrounded by a mess of old books in stuffy stacks, that our family sees us as old curmudgeons browsing through dusty tomes, and that society sees us as genealogical wizards. While some of these characteristics are true to some extent, what we actually do is more nuanced, varied, and interesting.

Update! Digitally Accessible Chanute Collection Finding Aids

The interns that worked on the Chanute Collection over the course of 2019-2020 are happy to present digitally accessible finding aids for the collections that have been processed since the collection was obtained in 2016. These collections will be accessible to the public. If you are interested in viewing these materials, please contact the archives staff at least 48 hours ahead of time. You can digitally access the finding aids here: Chanute Collection Finding Aids.

Chanute Spotlight: Octave Chanute, “The God-father of Aviation”

We have talked about the many different men and women who have passed through Chanute Air Force Base and all of the great things they have accomplished. However, the man whose name the base carries is not as widely known. A renowned engineer, who would spend his later years working with notable figures like the Wright brothers, Octave Chanute's early work helped lay the foundation for human flight and the technical training that would later be achieved at Chanute Air Force Base. 

Tuskegee Airmen: Colonel George “Spanky” Roberts

In honor of Black History Month, we want to celebrate and recognize one of the individuals who shaped Chanute Air Force Base and paved the way for future generations of African American service people in the Air Force.

Digital Sanborn Maps

The Champaign County Historical Archives holds over 500 historical and current local maps, plat books, and atlases.