Richard Lawson was serving a sentence for marijuana possession in 1969 when he was assigned to serve as an inmate photographer at the Joliet Stateville Prison. During this time, he discovered a cache of glass plate negatives produced by inmates at about the turn of the century. Years later, when he became a professor at Southern Illinois University, he conserved and put together an exhibition of the images in 1981. So far, more than 100 images have been preserved and printed.
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.
On May 8, 1942, Roland and Lydia Batchelder of Peru, Illinois, received the telegram that all soldiers’ parents dread. It informed them that their son, Walter, had been reported missing in action. Walter was a Marine with the 4th Regiment, deployed to Corregidor in Manila Bay. Almost one year later, his parents learned that Walter had been captured at the Battle of Corregidor and was being held as a prisoner of war in Tokyo.
This queen conch shell’s tip was cut off to turn it into a horn. It was used to call slaves in from the fields of a plantation outside Memphis, Tennessee. Private James H. Williams, of Petersburg, Illinois, acquired this shell at the close of the Civil War when he was serving in Company A of the 152nd Illinois Infantry.
These naturalization papers were issued to German native Pangratz Boll in 1860, granting him American citizenship. Boll immigrated to the United States in 1854 at age 28 with his wife and three children, one of whom died at sea on the voyage over. He eventually settled in Greenville, where he worked for a boot manufacturer until he was appointed postman in 1870 by President Grant.
Close inspection of a bottle produced for sale at the Stuart Broadwell Drug Store in Springfield, Illinois, shows the minor imperfections and bubbles in the handmade blown glass. Whitall, Tatum Co., of Millville, New Jersey, manufactured the bottles with the druggist’s name embossed on the side.
John Bressmer’s dry goods business remained at the same location in downtown Springfield, Illinois, for his entire 54-year career. Whitall, Tatum Co., of Millville, New Jersey, produced this embossed, blown glass bottle for Bressmer’s store.
This plate fragment came from the home site of Alexander Clark, an African American blacksmith living in New Philadelphia, Illinois, in the mid-1800s. It shows a portion of a bridge and person bridling a horse, an image that can also be found near the center of a transfer print plate with the image “Rural Scenery.”
Rarely are completely intact artifacts found during archaeological explorations. It is up to archaeologists and anthropologists to use their knowledge and skill to find the missing pieces in order to tell the rest of the story. This plate fragment was recovered from excavations at New Philadelphia, an African American settlement in western Illinois founded by Free Frank McWhorter, a former slave.
Well before Illinois became a state, Native American tribes (the Sac and Fox) living in the area mined galena ore (lead sulfide), the source of lead. Pioneer settlers also exploited the area’s lead resources, eventually displacing the Native Americans who first mined here. In the 1820s, galena ore became the focus of the first major “mineral rush” in the United States. By the end of the 1820s, the city of Galena rivaled Chicago in size.