Around 1890, two enterprising teenaged girls from Owaneco, Ida Ramseyer and Laura Fry, came up with an ambitious plan: they would write to the wife of each state’s governor to request swatches of fabric from their ball gowns, then use those swatches to create a crazy quilt.
In the winter of 1910-1911, a drifter named Charles Bosquet stopped at Julian Sprimont’s farmhouse in Will County and requested room and board for the winter. A deal was struck whereby Bosquet promised to create this large cabinet for Sprimont’s battery-operated radio in exchange for his stay. The two men went from tavern to tavern that winter collecting the wooden cigar boxes that Bosquet needed for his work.
Figured cotton gowns such as this were very popular in the 1820s as the cotton economy boomed and advances in dyeing and printing technology made a wide variety of colors and patterns available to middle-class consumers. This dress was made from cotton that was likely grown by enslaved people in the American south, woven into cloth, dyed, and printed in the textile mills of New England or England, and then shipped to Illinois on an expanding network of railroads and steamships.
This rosewood chair was rescued from a fire in former Governor Joel Matteson’s private residence in 1873. Built in 1855, Matteson’s Springfield mansion boasted nineteen rooms filled with elaborate furnishings and was considered “a marvel of architectural beauty” in its day. This chair, which was originally upholstered in brocatelle, likely sat in the oil-frescoed first parlor.
This noiseless carpet sweeper was manufactured by the Prindle Manufactuing Company of Aurora, Illinois, in the 1880s. When pushed along the floor, the brushes would rotate, sweeping dirt and dust from the floor into the dust pan. Devices like these saved homeowners from the laborious process of taking carpets and rugs outside to beat them.
Those who survived the "winter of the deep snow” called themselves snow birds and considered themselves the true original settlers of Illinois. In 1882, a group of male snow birds formed a Snow Bird Club for the purpose of calling on old settler ladies every New Year’s Day. A copy of this photo, depicting the 23 members of the Club, was given to each lady they visited in 1884.
Cornelia Young of Hillsboro purchased these candlesticks from peasants in Sorochinskoye, Russia, after World War I. They were cherished possessions, yet the peasants were desperate to raise money in order to buy warm clothing and food.
This 1807 Spanish Reales (both obverse and reverse sides are shown) was worn as jewelry and found around the neck of a person buried in a Catholic cemetery near Kaskaskia. At the time he was buried, Kaskaskia was on the east side of the Mississippi River, but the river’s course was altered during major flooding in 1881, which destroyed most of the town and exposed the graves.
Early coins were made of precious metals, with the value of the metal being equal to the face value of the coin. Since the value of the metal was key to its worth, no one thought twice about cutting a silver coin into pieces; a rather novel way of making change, one might say. This sliver of a silver dollar coin, eight Spanish reales (royals), was found during an excavation of the Fort Williams site on the Wabash River near its confluence with the Ohio River. A Spanish piece of eight was one-eighth of the eight reales coin.
Miss Fanny Matheny wore this dress when she graduated from the Bettie Stuart Institute in Springfield at age 19. The Bettie was a girls’ school that educated the daughters of some of Springfield’s most prominent families in courses ranging from English and math to art and music. After graduation, Fanny married Dr. John Dixon and played an active role in the city’s cultural and charitable organizations. She was involved in the Humane Society, the Red Cross, and the Home for the Friendless.