502 South Spring Springfield, IL
In the early 1800s, potteries in the Staffordshire region of England were becoming more and more dependent on the American market at a time when relations between the two nations were sliding towards war. In the months leading up to the War of 1812, trade was suspended, and a financial crisis ensued that, according to pottery owner Ralph Stevenson, left one-third of pottery workers unemployed and 35 businesses shuttered. His business had just opened in 1810.
After thousands of years of using stone, and to a lesser extent mussel shell digging tools, some Native people transformed the bison’s shoulder blade, or scapula, into digging tools to tend their gardens.
This sculpture is an example of Social Realism, a style of art that emphasized depictions of contemporary life as a means of social or political commentary. The artist, ‘Si’ Gordon, was employed in the sculpture division of the Federal Art Project (1935-43), a Works Project Administration program that employed artists on a monthly stipend. The Federal Art Project established more than 100 community art centers throughout the country, researched and documented American design, commissioned murals and sculptures for public buildings, and sustained some 10,000 artists and craft workers during the Great Depression.
These terracotta sculptures were produced in 1929-1930 by Charles L. Morgan, cast from the original plaster models sculpted by Frank Lloyd Wright. The figures represented Wright’s designs for proposed monumental entry figures to the Community of Nakoma Country Club in Madison, Wisconsin, which were never ultimately completed. These designs were likely the last figurative sculptural works created by Wright, his interest in exploring natural themes and material taking priority in his later designs.
In 1914, artist and sculptor Alfonso Iannelli came to Chicago from Los Angeles to work on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Midway Gardens. Iannelli created the famous Sprite figures, the angular, column-like figures that graced Midway’s three-acre beer garden. Iannelli and his artist wife, Margaret, moved to Chicago in 1915 and eventually settled in Park Ridge in 1920, where they maintained a studio workshop.
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.
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.