Professional Wrestling in Champaign-Urbana, Part 2

PART 1 looks at the early history (1926-1979) of professional wrestling in Champaign-Urbana. 

National wrestling took hold in the 1980s under the influence of Vincent Kennedy McMahon Jr. and Champaign started to hold shows in Assembly Hall. The first World Wrestling Federation (WWF now the WWE) live event held at Assembly Hall occurred November 5, 1988 with a near sell-out crowd of 14,000 fans. Attendees witnessed epic brawls from some of the periods most iconic professional wrestlers. The Tag Team Champions Demolition successfully retained over The British Bulldogs, Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid. Intercontinental Champion the Ultimate Warrior also retained his title after a 3-min disqualification victory over the Honky Tonk Man, most likely the result of a smashed guitar on an opponent. The main event featured Hulk Hogan taking on the Big Bossman. This bout ended in a count out. This is the most successful live event in the history of Champaign in terms of attendance.

John Nathan Beers

The photograph of the gentleman in the snappy hat above is John Nathan Beers. Beers was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 24, 1849. In 1876, he married Izora Nebaker from Mahomet and had two children, Susan and Harry. Beers and his family came to Champaign in 1889, where he opened Beers and Davidson Real Estate and Insurance with James Wilson Davidson.

Chanute Spotlight: The Braun Family

Joseph F. Braun (1897-1962) and Bertha Hill (1901-????) moved to Rantoul, IL in the early 1920s. Joseph started his career in 1917 in the Eighth Balloon Company and was discharged in 1919. He re-enlisted two years later and moved to Chanute Field, where he remained stationed with Bertha until 1938. During their tenure at the base, Joseph and Bertha built an impressive family. From 1923 to 1940, they had seven boys, five of which were born at Chanute.

Professional Wrestling in Champaign-Urbana, Part 1

On March 1, 1926, a proposal was put forth to the Urbana City Council and Mayor concerning boxing, sparring, and professional wrestling in the city. Major cities like New York already established licensing systems to regulate combat sports, but other parts of the country still deemed them dangerous and immoral, and they remained unregulated. The Urbana proposal was presented as a local petition signed by hundreds of Urbana citizens. The proposal aligned with similar proposals made in Normal, Rockford, and Chicago to permit combat sports. Local news outlets felt that if Chicago passed the proposal, Urbana would as well. On April 20th, the ballot measure was presented as a simple yes/no measure to the people and barely passed with 1,952 votes for and 1,864 against. Although boxing and wrestling were very popular in the area for some time, they were now regulated sports that provided tax money to support the state. With a slim 86 vote margin, regulated professional wrestling was born in Urbana.

Fashion for Education: Champaign County Urban League Scholarship Fund

The Urban League of Champaign County (1961-2008) worked to improve the quality of black life in Champaign County for 47 years. Placing an emphasis on education, scholarship assistance was an ongoing activity of the organization since its earliest days. One way the Urban League raised funds was through the annual Ebony Fashion Fair.

Illinois Central Railroad Employment Cards

Illinois Central Railroad’s (ICR) history began in the 1830s with a series of federal land grant programs for economic improvement across the state of Illinois. The programs were supposed to expand the market for Illinois agricultural produce, but in reality, the state was left nearly bankrupt. One of these programs, the Land Grant Act of 1850, led to Illinois Central Railroad’s charter in February 1851. The original goal for ICR was to build a north-south rail line from Chicago to Cairo, Illinois with a total of 704 miles of track. After the initial railway was completed in 1856, the railroad’s expansion continued through 1882, at which time ICR provided a direct route from Chicago to New Orleans and was dubbed the “Main Line of Mid-America.”

Greetings from Chanute!: Thank You Donald O. Weckhorst

On May 30, 1946, fourteen-year-old Donald O. Weckhorst (1932-2015) attended his first Memorial Day celebration in his hometown of Appleton, Minnesota. The little town of Appleton was a proud and patriotic community.

Finding Photographs

Our Photographs Collection contains over one million photographs of local people and locations, dating from the mid-19th century to the present. So, how does one go about finding a specific photograph in a collection so vast? Here are some tips.

Recently Processed Women's Groups (Part 3)

Seven collections of women’s groups have recently been processed by Archives staff and are now available for researchers.

Part 3 highlights Fortnightly Club Records and Carley Friendship Club Records.

Part 1 introduced W.I.R.E. Records, Daughters of Union Veterans Records, and the Near O’Kin Bridge Group. Part 2 featured the National Council of Negro Women and the Medra Club.

Recently Processed Women's Groups (Part 2)

Seven collections of women’s groups have recently been processed by Archives staff and are now available for researchers.

Part 2 highlights the National Council of Negro Women and the Medra Club.

Part 1 introduced W.I.R.E. Records, Daughters of Union Veterans Records, and the Near O’Kin Bridge Group.

The next and final part will feature Fortnightly Club Records and Carley Friendship Club Records.

Heart of Urbana Gremlin

“Roses are red, violets are blue;A peek onto Main Street,Will provide a story for you.”                                                           - The Heart of Urbana Gremlin

The Morning Courier awoke to that mysterious greeting on their doorstep, February 14, 1979. Looking down the street, Courier reporters discovered that parking meters and store and office doors in the downtown Urbana area were festooned with Valentine’s greetings of red ribbon apparently the work of Urbana’s ‘Gremlin.’

Recently Processed Women's Groups (Part 1)

Seven collections of women’s groups have recently been processed by Archives staff and are now available for researchers.

Part 1 highlights W.I.R.E. Records, Daughters of Union Veterans Records, and the Near O’Kin Bridge Group.

Later blog posts will highlight the National Council of Negro Women, the Medra Club, Fortnightly Club Records, and Carley Friendship Club Records.

Famous People from C-U: The Time Has Come

Christopher Brian Bridges, son of Roberta Shields and Wayne Brian Bridges, was born in Champaign, Illinois on September 11th, 1977. Christopher spent his early years in the Champaign-Urbana area. At nine years old, Christopher moved to Chicago with his mother after his parents divorced. In Chicago, he attended Oak Park & River Forest High School. Christopher and his mother then relocated to Atlanta, Georgia where he finished high school and attended Georgia State University studying music management.

Interesting Ordinances from Urbana, 1916

Our first post about Urbana City Codes was from 1954. After seeing some of the interestingly worded codes from that year what will Ordinances of City of Urbana Illinois of 1916 have in store? Read on to find out.

For those ordinances that still exist in some form, the current code will be listed. The current Code of Ordinances City of Urbana, Illinois can be found on Municode.

Fred Turner Woodblock Prints

Every Christmas from 1946-1974, friends of Fred and Betty Turner received an original woodblock-printed card. Soon after Christmas, planning for the next year, the couple would choose a historical Illinois building or structure, take a photograph, then design, carve and print the image by hand. Their theme was “Illinois History through Woodblock Prints.”