History

Telegraph Instruments

Image of telegraph instruments, telegraphy bay at the railway depot in Elizabeth, Illinois.

Installed by the Minnesota & Northwestern Railroad in 1888, which became the Chicago Great Western Railway in 1892, then the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad in 1968, abandoned in 1972

The telegraph, invented by Samuel F.B Morse in 1844, opened nearly instant communication with the wider world, and railroads quickly lined their tracks with telegraph poles, continuing to use this infrastructure long after later inventions such as the telephone were commonplace. Today, a train's diesel horn still sounds the letter 'Q' in Morse code at all grade crossings: dash, dash, dot, dash.

National Cash Register

Image of brass National Cash Register used in "Bishop's Busy Big Store", Elizabeth, Illinois.
From its opening in 1905, O.M. Bishop called his store "The Busy Big Store," advertising five departments (clothing, shoes, groceries, variety, and dishes) under one roof. On the second floor, the biggest theater in the county at its opening, the Lyric Theater, showed movies from 1916-1931. This space also served as a community meeting house where dances, suppers, vaudeville shows, graduations, and even roller skating took place.

Prisoner of War Documents

Image of prisoner of war documents.

Prisoner of war documents
Wartime nightmare
1942
Illinois State Museum, Illinois Legacy Collection
Gift of Nancy Batchelder Fryxell, 2013.77

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.

Conch Shell

Image of conch shell slave call.
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. 

Naturalization Papers

Image of naturalization papers of German native Pangratz Boll.
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.

Broadwell Pharmaceutical Bottle

Image of Broadwell Pharmaceutical bottle.

“Meet me at Broadwell’s.”

They said this in “Young Mr. Lincoln’s” time – and they say it today.

~“Young Mr. Lincoln” was a theater production advertised in 1939.

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.

Bressmer Pharmaceutical Bottle

Image of Bressmer Pharmaceutical bottle.

Ca. 1889-1914

Embossed “THE John Bressmer/ Co./ SPRINGFIELD, ILL” and “C.L.G. CO”

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.

New Philadelphia Plate Fragment

Image of plate fragment recovered from excavations at New Philadelphia, an African-American settlement in western Illinois.
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.”

New Philadelphia Plate Fragment

Image of plate fragment recovered from excavations at New Philadelphia, an African-American settlement in western Illinois.
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.

Wood Club with Brass Studs

Image of Wood Club
Chief Aptakisic, or Half Day, presented this ceremonial war club to Stephen F. Gale, an early settler, before leaving Chicago with a band of Potawatomi Indians for a reservation in Iowa.

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