Early Statehood (1818-1848)

On December 3, 1818, Illinois became the twenty-first state of the Union. Ostensibly a free state, slavery was “grandfathered” in to the constitution for existing colonial slaveholders, and all citizens were permitted to keep indentured servants. Over the next thirty years, the state experienced a transition from an American frontier to a settled and rapidly developing agricultural state. Technology changed agriculture and expanded markets. It also fostered changes in government, legal, and educational institutions.

In 1832, Black Sparrow Hawk, a Sauk warrior, and more than 1,000 Sauk and Fox, attempted to return to their principal community of Saukenuk, present-day Rock Island. Conflict soon followed, and warriors fought a series of battles with Federal troops and Illinois militia in Illinois and Wisconsin. Decimated in a final fight at Bad Axe in Wisconsin, the Sauk and Fox, along with other tribes once resident in Illinois, signed a treaty reaffirming their land cessions and moved to reservations west of the Mississippi River.

Watch Chain

Image of watch chain.
This watch chain was made by James M. Daigh of Perry, Illinois, when he was mining gold in California in 1849. Daigh, a native of Virginia, had settled in Illinois during the 1820s and amassed more than 200 acres of land in Pike County.

Rocking Chair

Image of Windsor-style rocking chair that belonged to Conrad Will, namesake of Will County.
This Windsor-style rocking chair belonged to Conrad Will, a co-author of Illinois’ 1818 constitution and the namesake of Will County.

Grease Bucket

Image of wooden grease bucket.

1829
Illinois Legacy Collection, Illinois State Museum
Gift of the descendants of John Quincy Foster, 1994.61

This bucket contained animal fat or tar used to grease the wheels of the ox-drawn wagon that transported John Ivins Foster and his family to Illinois from Kentucky in November 1829. Foster, a gunsmith and farmer by trade, settled in Curran township, Sangamon County, where he eventually amassed more than 360 acres.

Kirtland’s Water Snake (Clonophis kirtlandii)

Image of Kirtlands Water Snake model.
The Kirtland’s Water Snake shares some similar habitats and habits as the Massasauga Rattlesnake and is also under scrutiny as its numbers continue to decline. It is not venomous, but it uses crayfish burrows like the Massasauga and spends most of its life underground. Biologists hoping to survey the secretive snake often will use a cover board, a corrugated sheet of aluminum that is placed over a crayfish burrow.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)

Image of Massasauga Rattlesnake model.
The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake is a small, venomous snake recently listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It persists in only a few locations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The Fish and Wildlife Service describes the Massasauga as “a small snake with a thick body, heart-shaped head and vertical pupils.”

Hand-Colored “Frolics of Youth” Plate

Image of hand-colored "Frolics of Youth" plate.
The scene in this child’s plate may have been hand colored by a child of less than 10 years old. Children typically started working at the potteries in Staffordshire, England, by the age eight, but some started as young as five or six years old.

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.

Portrait of Mr. S. Vaughan

Image of portrait of Mr. S. Vaughan, oil painting, Sheldon Peck, ca. 1845
Sheldon Peck
(1797-1868, b. Cornwall VT, d. Lombard IL)
Portrait of Mr. S. Vaughan
ca. 1845
oil on canvas
framed and glazed 1967.68/106, Museum purchase
Sheldon Peck moved from upstate New York to Babcock's Grove (present day Lombard, Illinois) in 1837, living with his wife, Harriet, in a covered wagon while he built his farm house. He farmed and raised sheep while also traveling the Illinois countryside painting portraits. Peck was a self-taught artist. His portraits follow many of the conventions of the 19th century, with broad flat areas of color and a stiff and starched formality. Peck would paint his sitter’s face in person and then finish the clothing and backgrounds at his home.

Miniature Portrait of Isaac V. W. Dutcher

Image of miniature portrait of Isaac V.W. Ducher, watercolor on ivory in engraved gold case, Phillip Oscar Jenkins, 1841
Phillip Oscar Jenkins
(1819-1982, b. Hardin, Kentucky, d. Washington DC)
Miniature Portrait of Isaac V. W. Dutcher
1841
watercolor on ivory in engraved gold case height
1998.96, Illinois State Museum Society purchase 
This very fine miniature portrait is an example of a personal keepsake that could be carried or worn as jewelry as a memento of a friend or loved one in the days prior to photography. The artist, Philip Jenkins, was living in Kentucky at the time this portrait was thought to have been painted. The sitter, Isaac Dutcher, had recently moved to Quincy, Illinois, in 1838 from New York. 

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