Student Military Training and the Great War

The third of four posts written for “WWI and Champaign County” of the Town & Gown Speaker Series, a collaboration between the Student Life & Culture Archives and the Champaign County Historical Archives.

Research for this post contributed by Maggie Cornelius.

America’s entry into World War I required the mobilization of the country’s brightest minds and ablest bodies for military training and leadership. The War Department looked to American universities to recruit capable men for its military departments. These recruitment efforts prompted the establishment of two prominent military organizations at the University of Illinois, both of which served as the foundation for the current Illini Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. Cadet George Wellington Rider, 1915

Prior to ROTC, the 1862 Morrill Act obligated land-grant universities to instruct its male students in “military tactics.”[1] Anticipating the American entrance into the war, the National Defense Act of 1916 established the ROTC as part of its reorganization of the American military. Illinois created its ROTC chapter in 1917 and fundamentally changed how the University fulfilled its Morrill Act obligation.  ROTC’s primary purpose was to train and enroll men into the Reserved Officers’ Corps who were qualified to be “captains or lieutenants of volunteer organizations in times of war.”[2] In its early days, ROTC was divided into seven units: medical corps, signal corps, engineers, cavalry, field artillery, coast artillery, and infantry.[3] Continue reading “Student Military Training and the Great War”

The Women Behind the Men Behind the Guns

The second of four posts written for “WWI and Champaign County” of the Town & Gown Speaker Series, a collaboration between the Student Life & Culture Archives and the Champaign County Historical Archives.

Research for this post contributed by Maggie Cornelius.

The United States government asked Americans to knit socks, sweaters, and other garments for soldiers during World War I. Most of this knitting was produced by volunteers working under the auspices of the American Red Cross. Illini women, like many women during the war, devoted their free time and money to contribute necessities and luxuries to the war effort. The former provided subsistence and the latter provided morale. Continue reading “The Women Behind the Men Behind the Guns”

Remembering Dora-Mittelbau

This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Normandy. Memorial services for the war’s causalities are taking place around the world. These services commemorate the dead and also attest to the scope and ferocity of the Second World War. Those who liberated concentration camps felt it was of utmost importance to ensure that this history was kept alive.

In the early morning of April 11th 1945, the Third Armored Division, specifically Task Force Welborn from the north and Task Force Loveday from the south, led the capture of what they thought was a prisoner-of-war camp.[1] After a few light skirmishes the nearby town of Nordhausen (in Northern-Central Germany) was secured. Once Nordhausen was seized 3AD units investigated rumors of a prisoner camp on the outskirts of the town. First person accounts note the bewilderment and nausea that the soldiers experienced upon finding the concentration camp. James D. Mathews recounted his own experiences: Continue reading “Remembering Dora-Mittelbau”

Illini Ambulance Volunteers, 1917

One of four posts written for “WWI and Champaign County” of the Town & Gown Speaker Series, a collaboration between the Student Life & Culture Archives and the Champaign County Historical Archives.

Research for this post contributed by Maggie Cornelius.

University of Illinois students found multiple ways to aid the Allies in Europe prior to the U.S. entry in April of 1917. Among the students who traveled to war zones was a committee of volunteer ambulance drivers. On May 15, 1917, over twenty Illini men set sail for France to help deliver the wounded from the front to military hospitals.[1] The chairman of this Ambulance Committee was Christian “Chris” Gross. An agriculture student and a member of the Daily Illini editorial board, Sigma Delta Chi, Alpha Gamma Rho, and Psi Upsilon,[2] Gross organized and sent volunteer ambulance drivers to Europe for a six-month stint. Continue reading “Illini Ambulance Volunteers, 1917”

Halfway House

Observant pedestrians on Mathews Street may have noticed an absence on campus since early summer. Halfway House, the little waiting station that has been a campus landmark since at least 1884, has been temporarily relocated because of construction at the Natural History Building.

Halfway House illustration used in the Daily Illini in the 1960s.
Halfway House illustration used in the Daily Illini in the 1960s.

Originally, the landmark stood where the street car track turned into Wright Street, but there is little information about the structure during its early years. One of the earliest substantive references to the Halfway House on campus was an 1894 observation by the Daily Illini. “Although the street car company [Urbana and Champaign Electric Street Railway] has reaped abundant harvests from the pocket-books of the students and professors of the University, it has not deemed it necessary in the least to arrange for their comfort, having provided no protection from storms for persons waiting for the cars at the University stopping place.”[1] In response, Trustees voted to reconstruct the Halfway House at the north entrance of the main grounds (now the front of the Illini Union). The railroad stopped service in 1908, but the shelter remained.

Continue reading “Halfway House”

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. Continue reading “First Ladies of the University of Illinois”

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.

Continue reading “Prairie Alliance: Nuclear Power? No Thanks”

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] Continue reading “The Educational Agricultural Trolley, 1911”

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.”

Continue reading “Alida Cynthia Bowler: Responsibility of Privilege”

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”