200 North Main Street | Bloomington, Illinois | 309-827-0428

People and Culture

Photo of Daniel
  • 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. Fee: $100
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Email
McLean County sheriff and deputies with a successful haul, 1926
  • 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. Overhead projector.
  • Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
Photo of A. G. Erickson, Mayor of Bloomington 1806-07
  • The Swedish Community in Bloomington
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
John Wesley Powell
  • John Wesley Powell
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • In 1869, this one-armed Civil War veteran and Illinois Wesleyan instructor led the first expedition through the Grand Canyon. Slides.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
Wood block engraving of the November 13, 1833 meteor shower.  Courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History
  • The Night the Stars Fell
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
Old Three Eye
  • The Old Three Eye
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
Photo of Kickapoo
  • The Unconquerable: Kickapoo of Central Illinois
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • 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. PowerPoint.
  • Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
Bloomington High School, ca 1940s
  • The Architecture of A. L. Pillsbury
  • Speaker:
    Susan Hartzold
  • 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. PowerPoint
  • Time: 30 to 40 minutes
  • Email
Great Fire, 1900
  • McLean County Stories
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
Sacking of the Times
  • McLean County in the Civil War
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
Mayfield Family
  • 1920s Ku Klux Klan in Central Illinois
  • Speaker:
    Terri Clemens
  • 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.
  • Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
Haynes Model 19 Automobile
  • Early Automobiling in McLean County
  • Speaker:
    Greg Koos
  • Explore the first twenty years of automobiling in McLean County. Fee: $100
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Email
Burk
  • Artists of the Corn Belt
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
Danvers War Garden Club 1918
  • McLean County Home Front during World War I
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
Albert Cashier
  • Woman in Blue: Civil War Soldier Albert D.J. Cashier
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 min to 1 hour
  • Email
Clara Louise Kessler and children in the library
  • 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
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Email
photo of plat map showing 40 acres
  • “Forty Acres:” Bloomington’s Irish Railroad Neighborhood
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 minutes - 1 hour
  • Email
The Lost Speech FOund
  • 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!
  • Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email

Guides and Interests

Stevenson House, ca 1900
  • How to Research Your Historic Home
  • Speaker:
    Greg Koos
  • Get the tips you need to tackle history of your home. Slides. Fee: $100
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Email
Genealogy for Kids
  • Genealogy for Kids
  • Speaker:
    Candace Summers
  • Ever wonder how to get your children or grandchildren interested in genealogy? This presentation will give you the tools and resources to help get young people interested in genealogy.
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Email
Bloomington Vault and Weed Family Crypt, 1889
  • A History of the Evergreen Cemetery Walk
  • Speaker:
    Candace Summers
  • Learn about the past characters, burial customs, cemetery history and architecture, and more.
  • Time: 30 to 45 minutes
  • Email
Christmas Stories
  • McLean County Christmas Stories
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • See and hear how local residents celebrated the holidays from the pioneer era into mid-20th century. Learn the important role the German community played in popularizing many Christmas traditions. And travel back in time when downtown Bloomington was a retail wonderland! PowerPoint.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email

Labor, Industry, Farming

Tryner & Richardson Cigar Makers, 1894
  • McLean County Workers
  • Speaker:
    Mike Matejka
  • A visit to McLean County's past through vintage photos showing a variety of local historic occupations from cigar makers to railroad workers. Slides.
  • Time: 45 minutes, adaptable to audience time
  • Email
Landpike
  • Pioneer Cattle and Hog Droving
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email
McLean Co Home Bureau Transportation
  • Grids: Travel in a Prairie Place
  • Speaker:
    Greg Koos
  • 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. Fee: $100
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Email
C & A Train near Lexington, IL
  • What's Coming Down the Line? The Railroad in the American Mind
  • Speaker:
    Mike Matejka
  • A look at the railroad's impact on the nation's economy, culture, folklore, and children. Slides.
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Email
Corn Farming, Funk Heritage Trust
  • Corn and Illinois
  • Speaker:
    Greg Koos
  • The growth of the Midwest is closely tied with the growth of the almighty crop; corn. Hear the "amaizing" story of the people who grew corn; from Native Americans to today's farmers. Fee: $100
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Email
Urban Barns
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hours
  • Email
Barns of McLean County
  • Barns of McLean County
  • Speaker:
    Bill Kemp
  • 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.
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Email

Walking Tours

Old McLean County Courthouse
  • Old McLean County Courthouse
  • Speaker:
    Candace Summers
  • Tour the old McLean County Courthouse and learn about its history and architecture.
  • Time: 30 or 45 minutes
  • Maximum of 20 people, minimum of 10
  • Email
Illinois House, ca 1960
  • Downtown Bloomington Architectural Tour
  • Speaker:
    Greg Koos
  • 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. Fee: $100
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Maximum of 30 people, minimum of 10
  • Email
Lincoln
  • Lincoln in Downtown Walking Tour
  • Speaker:
    Greg Koos
  • One hour tour of sites associated with Abraham Lincoln. Learn about the people and the town where Lincoln spent more time than any other place outside Springfield. Fee: $100
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Maximum of 30 people, minimum of 10, weather permitting
  • Email
Streetcar Strike, 1917
  • A Social History of Bloomington Walking Tour
  • Speaker:
    Mike Matejka and Bill Kemp
  • 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.
  • Time: 2 hours minimum
  • Email
Jesse Fell plot
  • Step On Tour of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery
  • Speaker:
    Judith Myers
  • 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.
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Maximum of 20 passenger bus
  • Email

Cost

Fees for speaking engagements are determined by the speaker.

Booking a Program

Contact the McLean County Museum of History by phone and ask for the education department at (309) 827-0428 or email at education@mchistory.org. You can also contact individual speakers, via their email address listed with each program above.