Greening of the Prairie: Irish Immigration in McLean County
Speaker: Greg Koos
The Irish have long been a part of the McLean County story. From the Scots-Irish who first settled our county to the Irish Famine refugees who came in the 1850s to build the railroads, this program will tell the story of their lives on both the farms and in the factories, as well as some of the 20th century success stories. PowerPoint.
Wet or Dry? - Prohibition in McLean County, 1920-1933
Speaker: Candace Summers
McLean County may not seem like the typical area where bootlegging and rum running flourished in the early 20th century- but it did! This presentation will explore who those law breakers were, how citizens responded to Prohibition, and answer the question why Prohibition ultimately failed.
Learn about how Bloomington's Swedish community was an influential ethnic group in the latter half of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. Discover what occupations they held, where they settled in town, and more. PowerPoint.
On November 13, 1833, the nighttime heavens lit up like a Fourth of July sparkler as tens of thousands of meteors streaked through the darkened sky. Known as the "Night the Stars Fell," it proved to be the greatest meteor shower in U.S. history. What did McLean County residents make of this fantastic and fearful display? How did this event alter our understanding of meteors and meteor showers? Learn the answer to these and other questions in this out-of-this-world talk! PowerPoint.
The Bloomington Bloomers were an inaugural member in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League (1901-1961), one of the nation's oldest professional baseball circuits. In 1935, hall of famer Burleigh Grimes was the manager. Slides.
The Kickapoo, a fiercely independent people, inhabited this stretch of Central Illinois when the first Euro-American settlers arrived in the early 1820s. This talk will include rare 1906 photographs of Kickapoo living in Brown County, Kansas. These photographs were commissioned by Milo Custer, an early curator of the McLean County Historical Society.
Bloomington architect Arthur Pillsbury designed over 800 homes, schools, and businesses in Illinois during his brief, but brilliant career. During this program, participants will learn about his education, career, and his impact on the Bloomington-Normal community.
Learn about some of the more curious chapters of local history, such as the life and times of Leonard "Baby" Bliss, a 500-plus pound Bloomington resident who became a nationally known bicycle showman; the unknown Civil War soldier buried in Saybrook; the 1830-31 "Winter of Deep Snow" that threatened the life and limb of early pioneers; and many others! Think history is boring? Think again! PowerPoint.
Some 7,000 men from McLean County enlisted in the Union Army, and about 700 died during the four-year conflict. In this illustrated talk, learn about the county's role in the Civil War, including its generals, colonels, and enlisted men; leading regiments, campaigns and battles; as well as what happened on the home front. PowerPoint.
Terri Clemens will explain the powerful incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s. Not to be confused with the Civil Rights era Klan, this group was very strong in Central Illinois and was most concerned with prohibition enforcement, the perceived threat of the pope, and immoral modern behavior.
Lou Burk (1845-1914) and Alfred Montgomery (1857-1922) were two of the more important artists who made Bloomington home during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The careers of both men are inextricably linked with the Central Illinois cornbelt—Montgomery primarily painted ear corn and Burk livestock. The rise of folk art as a serious subject matter for scholars and collectors alike has boosted the reputations of both artists. PowerPoint.
The “Great War” involved a host of home front activities, including war bond drives, food conservation efforts, shipments of Red Cross supplies, parades, and public gatherings to sing patriotic songs. There was also a dark side to the war, including the suppression of the large local German community. PowerPoint.
From Jenny to Albert: Pvt. Cashier and the Civil War
Speaker: Bill Kemp
During the Civil War, Pvt. Cashier spent three years on the march through the South with the 95th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, all the while participating in some of the bloodiest campaigns of the Western Theater. Though a true tale of war and woe, this remarkable story becomes even more remarkable when one learns that Cashier was actually a woman named Jennie Hodgers! PowerPoint.
To Be a Writer, One Has To Be a Reader: the Life and Work of Clara Louise Kessler
Speaker: Candace Summers
Clara Louise Kessler was an author, a teacher, and a librarian who had a lifelong interest in books, poetry, songs, and children. She began her career working with children as a kindergarten teacher first, and then embarked on a 33-year long position as the head children's librarian at Withers Public Library (today named Bloomington Public Library). Her mission was not only to present the very best children's literature and encourage its enjoyment, but to create an environment which would stimulate children's imaginations, encourage children to freely express themselves, and help children grow into adults that would help build a better Bloomington. She helped shape the lives of many people, in particular children, in this community through every book she recommended, every poem she encouraged to be written, and every story by her own hand she shared. PowerPoint
Take an illustrated tour through “Forty Acres,” a neighborhood on Bloomington’s northwest side with a colorful history forever linked to the adjacent Chicago & Alton Railroad Shops. Hungarians and other immigrants would later join the Irish in this working class neighborhood.
The ‘Lost Speech’ Found: Abraham Lincoln and the Founding of the Illinois Republican Party
Speaker: Bill Kemp
On May 29, 1856, in Bloomington, Lincoln delivered what’s become known as the “Lost Speech.” Lincoln was one of the leaders organizing a new political party, the Republican Party, to oppose the expansion of slavery. Learn about this momentous event and how the “Lost Speech” isn’t entirely lost!
Bloomington and Normal has been home to a variety of industries throughout its history. One such industry, one which members of this very community may not know about, was that of producing aerialists and circus performers. It could be said that Bloomington-Normal was a factory, churning out internationally renowned performers that would influence and train generations to come. For more than 80 years, spanning the 1870s until the 1950s, countless numbers of individuals left their mark on history. And a significant number of these performers decided to make Bloomington-Normal their final resting place as well. This illustrated program will identify who those individuals are, what cemetery they are buried in, and provide detailed information about the monuments and markers at their final resting place.
See and hear how local residents celebrated the holidays from the pioneer era into the mid-20th century. Learn the important role the German community played in popularizing many Christmas traditions, and travel back to a time when downtown Bloomington was a retail wonderland!
The Monuments Speak: The Art and Architecture of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery
Speaker: Candace Summers
Ever wonder what a tree trunk monument means? Or the symbolism behind a lamb engraved on a tombstone? This program will explore the meanings of the large variety of symbols found on cemetery monuments and markers, what types of materials monuments are made out of, and the evolution of the size and style of monuments, using diverse features and monuments found at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery as examples.
Before the coming of the railroads, McLean County Farmers marched livestock to markets as far away as Chicago and Cincinnati. Can you imagine driving 2,000 hogs 120 miles to Chicago in the wind, ice, and snow of November? Isaac Funk and other area livestock farmers lived to tell the tale! Slides.
This lecture provides a history of land transportation in McLean County from the first pioneer trails to the Interstate Highway System. PowerPoint illustrated with maps and images of roads, vehicles, and places. Q&A is encouraged.
Urban Barns: Livery Stables (and other barn-like buildings) in the Bloomington-Normal Area
Speaker: Bill Kemp
Before the rise of the automobile, horses were indispensable to urban as well as rural communities. Barns and barn-like structures were commonplace in the Twin Cities and included livery stables, carriage houses, and sale and feed barns. There were also barns used by aerialists and acrobats when this area was a wintering home for circus folk. PowerPoint.
Everybody loves barns! Learn about the history of barns in the context of McLean County history—barn styles, construction materials and the ongoing struggle to preserve these silent sentinels of the Cornbelt countryside. This illustrated talk includes plenty of historic images from the mid-19th century to the present. PowerPoint.
Is Bloomington-Normal an exemplar of “white bread America?” Or is there another, surprising side to Central Illinois? Local struggles against oppression are not new. Learn amazing stories about how “BloNo” grappled with slavery, racism, women's equality, workers' struggles, and LGBTQ rights.
An introduction to the past and present buildings of historic downtown Bloomington. Come and learn about the architectural changes that have taken place in a city that was once among the fastest growing in the Midwest.
Learn the history of neighborhoods and industry in Bloomington. The walk starts downtown, continues south through the warehouse district, and ends on the west side at the site of the old Chicago & Alton Railroad passenger station.
A tour of Bloomington’s oldest cemetery featuring information about cemetery art and architecture, the evolution of monument styles and materials, and information about Evergreen Memorial Cemetery’s long history. The tour will also feature information about individuals who have been featured on the McLean County Museum of History’s longest running outreach event, the Evergreen Cemetery Walk.