First Ladies of the University of Illinois

As part of the centennial celebration of the University of Illinois, the Mothers Association planned a tribute to the twelve First Ladies of its one hundred year history (1867-1967) during Mother’s Day Week.  After much research and planning on the part of the Mothers Association, Illini Notes, the Courier, and the News-Gazette ran articles in April, 1967 “in appreciation for their contributions in furthering and enhancing the worthwhile purposes and goals of the University of Illinois.”[1] Lincoln Square then hosted an exhibit from May 5-13 that included a photographic biography and gowns representing the 25 year periods in the centennial. Read More »

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Prairie Alliance: Nuclear Power? No Thanks

In 1975, students of Lachlan F. Blair’s Environmental Planning Workshop wrote three working papers on the impact of a proposed Clinton, Illinois nuclear power plant. As Professor of Urbana Planning at the University, Blair’s workshop participants had the opportunity to work with the DeWitt County Regional Planning Commission to study particular aspects of the proposed site. These papers addressed the impact that the cancellation of the Clinton Power Plant would have on DeWitt County and was the impetus of a grass-roots organization opposing nuclear power in Central Illinois.

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The Educational Agricultural Trolley, 1911

If people don’t flock to the agricultural college, take the agricultural college to the people.

In February and March of 1911, the College of Agriculture Extension Service operated two special cars furnished by the Illinois Traction system, sharing knowledge about cultivating soil and raising agricultural products in the state of Illinois. Professor Fred L. Charles, University specialist in teaching agriculture, directed the program. He was joined by Professor J.P. Gilbert of the School of Education, L.R. Lang of the dairy department, L.D. Hall of animal husbandry, Professor D.O. Barto who specialized in poultry, and J.E. Whitechurch of the soils division.[1] Read More »

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Engineering Materials Digitized and Online

Civil Engineering PhotographsSince December 2012, the University Archives has acquired over 50 new accessions of materials which have augmented the Archives’ holdings that document the College of Engineering’s rich institutional memory. These acquisitions have revealed new sources and insights into the establishment and development of Engineering’s curriculum from the University’s founding in 1867, as well as faculty research and the creation of new research programs and laboratories and their affect on scientific and technological innovations. In addition to being arranged and described, Engineering administrative records and faculty papers have received advanced conservation and preservation treatment, and many records series have been digitized by the Library’s Digital Content Creation Unit. These newly-digitized materials facilitate greater access to the history of science and technology at the University of Illinois. Recently digitized administrative materials include Faculty Minutes, 1897-1902, 1918-2008 and Annual Reports, 1903-1959, 1970-1971, 1987-1988 .These records capture the work of committees, administrators, departments, and laboratories, including Engineering’s unique documentation of its own history through its Historical File, 1908-1996.

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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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