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. Continue reading “Erin go Bragh”

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] 

Continue reading “Black Power on Campus, 1968-1969”

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. Continue reading “The time has come, the Walrus said…”

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!

Students to Servicemen, 1917-1919

Nearly a century ago, the Great War drastically changed the lives of servicemen and their families.  Over 3,000 University of Illinois alumni and students joined the military and Dean Thomas Arkle Clark faithfully corresponded with many students, alumni, and parents about military service, war experiences, and potential University admissions.  Servicemen and their families appreciated Dean Clark’s concern, for in the words of Edmund Allen, “It surely helps a lot to know that the folks at college haven’t forgotten, and it keeps the ties that hold us to the best things in life a little tighter around us.”[1]

Below are letter excerpts from University of Illinois servicemen during the Great War found in War Service Records, 1917-19. Continue reading “Students to Servicemen, 1917-1919”

Why Home Accounts Count, 1936

McLean County Store, Illinois, 1936

In 1936, as part of the College of Agriculture Extension Service, Ruth C. Freeman from the Home Economics Department prepared the presentation Why Home Accounts Count for McLean County, in cooperation with the McLean County Home Adviser Clara Brian and account-keeping families in McLean County.[1] Continue reading “Why Home Accounts Count, 1936”

Glee and Mandolin Clubs, 1889-1921

This post is based on the “University of Illinois Glee and Mandolin Clubs, 1889-1921” exhibit currently installed at the Urbana Free Library for the 5th annual C-U Folk & Roots Festival, November 1-2, 2013.

Mandolin and Guitar Clubs, Illio, 1898

Mandolin, banjo, and guitar clubs were wildly popular beginning in the late 1880s. They sprang up across the country and quickly became trendy with college students.  The Mandolin and Guitar Club at the University of Illinois–alternately known as the Mandolin and Banjo Club, and the Mandolin Club over the years–organized in 1889 and was one of the oldest university musical organizations, outranked only by the Band and Glee Clubs.  From its inception, the Mandolin and Guitar Club united with the Glee Club in one management association for concerts. These clubs constituted a central part of student life and served as the musical representatives of the University of Illinois.  The whole group frequently spent university vacations on the road performing, meeting alumni, and raising funds. Continue reading “Glee and Mandolin Clubs, 1889-1921”

Personal Reflections on September 11, 2001

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, nineteen hijackers took control of four passenger airliners in a coordinated suicide attack against the United States.  In total, almost 3,000 people died, including 227 civilians and 19 hijackers aboard the four planes.  Across the nation, immediate responses included mixtures of horror, fear, anger, and sorrow.

Shortly after September 11, the Illini Union provided a space for the University community to express their thoughts about the event.  They hoped to promote dialogue in a civil and supportive atmosphere for the entire campus.  Less than a month later, this collection made its way to the University Archives.

This compilation of papers gives insight into the thoughts and emotions of the campus community during a historic national tragedy.  Below are six of hundreds of slips of paper now housed at the Archives Research Center.[1]

Personal Reflections on September 11, 2001, Record Series 37/7/4

Note: the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the author or the University Archives.


[1] Reflections on September 11, 2001 Disasters, Record Series 37/7/4, University of Illinois Archives.


Ellnora Guitar Festival

The annual Ellnora Guitar Festival begins today at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

In 1964, Illinois engineering alumnus Herman Krannert and his wife Ellnora announced plans for the University of Illinois’ Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.  Herman,  a successful entrepreneur in the corrugated fiber products industry, made generous contributions to education and the arts in the Midwest in part because of Ellnora’s appreciation for the arts.  After five years of planning and labor, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts became a reality.

Continue reading “Ellnora Guitar Festival”

Smallpox Outbreak, 1938

This post is part five of the exhibit “Epidemic! Disease on Campus, 1918-1938.”


Smallpox Notice
February 25, 1938
Record Series 33/1/806

In late February of 1938,  cities and towns across the state of Illinois showed a marked increase in diagnosed smallpox cases.  Ten victims appeared in the Twin Cities and the Director of the State Department of Health A.C. Baxter indicated an impending epidemic for Champaign-Urbana as a result of the new cases.  Upon Baxter’s advice, President A.C. Willard directed that all students, faculty, and staff receive vaccination or remain away from campus for 16 days.  Notices like the poster located to the right were placed throughout campus. Continue reading “Smallpox Outbreak, 1938”