Langston Hughes at the University of Illinois

Langston Hughes, circa 1942


The poetry of Langston Hughes has been widely published and analyzed by critics, academics, and students, and it is no surprise that Hughes enjoyed a good relationship with American colleges and universities.  Hughes made a side career of speaking engagements at schools, and the University of Illinois was no exception.  Hughes made multiple visits to the Urbana campus, including a well-documented trip in 1957.

The exhibit “Dream Singer and Story Teller” explores the background and events related to this visit through historical documents and contemporary accounts.

Enter Exhibit

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

Continue reading “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day: The Official Story”

University of Illinois Fun Facts

Welcome, Archives blog enthusiasts and Urbana Sweetcorn Festival attendees! Below are the questions printed on the rally fans given away by the University Archives at the Festival this year, along with links to the answers. Enjoy!

Corn Maidens
Corn Maidens at the May Fete, 1915
Found in RS 39/2/20, ACT-7, May Fetes 1915

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Getting the Hat Right: The Untold Origin of Smokey Bear

Aside from records related to the University and surrounding communities, the University of Illinois Archives is also custodian of the records of many outside associations. Among these are the records of the Ad Council, a long-running non-profit organization that works with advertising agencies, media companies, and private businesses to produce and distribute public service advertising. The Ad Council is directly or indirectly responsible for many memorable public service campaigns in print, radio, and television media. The longest-running of these is their Forest Fire Prevention campaign, featuring the well-known spokescharacter Smokey Bear.  But do you know how this public safety icon came to be? Continue reading “Getting the Hat Right: The Untold Origin of Smokey Bear”

Lorado Taft’s Unusual Requests

Lorado Taft in Studio
Lorado Taft in studio with figures from the Fountain of Time, ca. 1920
from RS 26/20/16, Box 25, “Photographs of the Midway Studios”, University of Illinois Archives

Sculptor and U of I alumnus Lorado Taft had made quite a name for himself in American art circles by the late 1920s.  His sculptures and statues, designed in his Chicago studio, had been installed in Chicago, Denver, Washington D.C., and other places around the country.

However, as many of the rich and famous with a listed mailing address probably do, Taft received requests of all different varieties.  Some requests were more commonplace:  autographs; personal appearances; quotations, recipes, or anecdotes for publication.  Some requests were…less commonplace. Continue reading “Lorado Taft’s Unusual Requests”