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. 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.  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. 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”:
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.
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.  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. 
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.
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…”
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.
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:
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!
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.
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. Continue reading “A Poor Defense: Sherman tanks in WW2”
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.”
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”
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. Continue reading “Why Home Accounts Count, 1936”