Alida Cynthia Bowler: Responsibility of Privilege

Alida Bowler, Illio, 1911

By all accounts, Alida Cynthia Bowler, psychology graduate of the University of Illinois in 1910 and 1911, was an extraordinary woman.

Alida Bowler entered the University in 1908 and in doing so became part of a Progressive Era in education that extended from the 1890s-1930s.  To Progressive Era proponents, the purpose of education was not just the acquisition of skills, but the realization of students’ potential and the ability to use those skills for the greater good.  According to education reformer John Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

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Erin go Bragh

Originally a religious holiday to honor St. Patrick, who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century, St. Patrick’s Day has become a celebration for all things Irish, including corned beef, beer, chrysanthemums, and shamrocks. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 34.1 million U.S. residents claimed Irish ancestry in 2012. This number was more than seven times the population of Ireland at 4.6 million people. The world’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade occurred on March 17, 1762, in New York City, featuring Irish soldiers serving in the English military. Congress proclaimed March as Irish-American Heritage Month in 1995, and the President issues a proclamation commemorating the occasion each year. Read More »

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The Electrical Show: Inventions of the Past, Present, and Future Revealed

1928 Electrical Show program, Record Series 11/6/805.

1928 Electrical Show program, Record Series 11/6/805.

In 1907, students from the Department of Electrical Engineering participated in a campaign to raise funds to build a memorial to Robert Fulton in New York City.[1] In order to contribute to this effort, Electrical Engineering students organized exhibition that displayed their work. Attracting 1,600 visitors and raising $250 to contribute to the Fulton memorial, the event would serve as the first Electrical Show. [2] As it expanded each year, the show was soon considered the “acme of development in electrical apparatus and experiments,” with its exhibits ranging from displays of practical items to spectacular and literally shocking devices.[3] While some of the exhibits illustrated futuristic items that could one day transform daily life, others sought to simply demonstrate how such inventions as the telegraph worked or to display new and improved household items. Programs from the 1910 and 1915 Electrical Shows mention exhibits on wireless telegraphy, vacuum cleaners, electric pianos, an “Electric Cafe,” and “the Wonder Tube”–the longest light on the university’s campus. A promotional video for the 1938 Electrical Show also promised to feature “man-made lightning,” “electrons at work” and a “kiss-o-meter”:

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Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day: The Official Story

2014 will be the 20th year of displaced St. Patrick’s Day festivities, and the University Archives blog is marking the occasion by reviewing the official origins of an unofficial celebration.

WPGU staff pose for the camera during the Shamrock Stagger Found in RS 41/8/805, 1996, p. 314

WPGU staff pose during the Shamrock Stagger
Found in RS 41/8/805, 1996, p. 314
(c) 1996 Illini Media Company

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Black Power on Campus, 1968-1969

Despite the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional, de facto segregation persisted without sanction of law.  Throughout the country in the late 1960s and early 1970s, African American college students participated in social movements to influence institutions of higher education that systematically marginalized minorities. Encouraged by Black Power, a political movement that emphasized creating black political and cultural institutions to promote black collective interests and values, students across the country demanded fundamental changes to campus curricula, policies, and structure. Institutions of higher education went through a period of rapid educational reform during this time, not only because of legislative mandates and administrative policies, but as a result of social pressure.

Champaign-Urbana’s attitude towards race in the early and mid-twentieth century had more in common with the south than its northern neighbors: restaurants, barbershops, and theaters remained segregated through the mid-1960s. Conforming with the surrounding culture, University residence hall housing remained unavailable to African Americans until 1945. Of the 30,000 students on campus in 1967, approximately 300 were African American. [1] According to Joy Williamson, “Black students of the Black Power era entered an environment that was at best benign and at worst overtly hostile” at the University of Illinois. [2] 

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The time has come, the Walrus said…

Besides the long-running Daily Illini, the University Archives has numerous lesser-known student newspapers.  Since the early years of the University, students regularly published alternative newspapers and magazines. These short-lived newspapers documented student reactions to University issues as well as larger socio-political events.

Walrus Masthead, October 13, 1972

Alternative newspapers became popular in the 1960s and 70s as the country experienced great social and institutional unrest. Forty-six years ago this month, students dissatisfied with country’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict and the slow pace of institutional change founded the Walrus, an underground newspaper published until 1973. Read More »

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Monument Man: Illinois Professor Saved European Art

February 7 is the release of George Clooney’s The Monuments Men–a story of men and women locating, protecting, and saving art, monuments, and archives during World War II. The University of Illinois’ own Dr. Edwin Carter Rae was a Monument Man, and his story can be found in the University Archives.

box_17_album_lowres_page31

A Disheveled Room with Damaged Art, Edwin C. Rae Papers, Album, Box 17, Record Series 12/03/26.

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A Tributary Runs Through It: Engineering’s Boneyard Creek

"Where the Boneyard Flows," 1905, Record Series  0/1/804.

“Where the Boneyard Flows,” 1905, Record Series 0/1/804.

Just north of Engineering Hall is a 3.9 mile-long creek which has, for better or worse, figured in the lives of students, faculty, and staff at the University of Illinois. Though a familiar site on the Engineering campus, current students may pass by Boneyard Creek giving it little thought. Around the turn of the 20th century, however, freshmen may have looked upon this small tributary of the Salt Fork Vermilion River with a degree of trepidation. A 1905 song parodies some of the anxieties the creek affected on new students at the university:

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Holiday Greetings

Christmas Greeting from Dean Clark, circa 1918
Record Series 41/2/17

Dean of Men Thomas Arkle Clark took active interest in the approximate 3,5000 students and University alumni enlisted in the military during World War I from 1917-1919. Through regular correspondence with each serviceman, he kept meticulous records of their activities and updated them on the activities of the University.

On Christmas Day in 1918, Carleton M. Tower wrote to Dean Clark from France:

This is Christmas day. But one would never suspect it by looking around here. We wear rubber boots when we walk around outside, for everywhere there is mud, “beaucoup” mud! It has rained constantly for several days, and it is cold. With the unpleasant weather and the absolute lack of any sort of amusement, this holiday threatens to be somewhat of a bore. We do our best to pretend it is not an ordinary day, but it is a difficult task.

Barring irregular mail service, Carleton Tower, along with thousands of other servicemen, received the above Christmas Greeting from Dean Clark by Christmas Day featuring Altgeld Hall, constructed in 1896-97 and used as the University Library until 1927.

Best wishes to you this winter holiday from the Student Life & Culture Archives!

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A Poor Defense: Sherman tanks in WW2

Contributed by Nicholas Hopkins

A Glimpse of the lives of American soldiers constructed with materials of the 3rdArmored Division Archives, housed at the University of Illinois Archives Research Center.

“Sherman Tank” RS 26/20/70, MMischnick Sherman, Germany, February, 15-26, 1945.

“Sherman Tank” RS 26/20/70, MMischnick Sherman, Germany, February, 15-26, 1945.

Experiencing WWII from the inside of a M4 Sherman tank was famously dangerous. Henry J. Earl retells his experience with the Sherman in a 1983 letter to Lt Colonel Haynes Dugan, one of the G-2 intelligence officers for the 3rd Armored Division. Read More »

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