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.

Artistry, Labor Strife, and Cutthroat Competition

Image of Refined Earthenware Plate: Cobridge, Staffordshire, England. Ca. 1823-1835
The transfer plate process allowed producers of Staffordshire earthenware plates to produce ever-more detailed works of art, but that was not enough to stay ahead of the competition. The business was rife with labor strife, cutthroat competition, and theft of artwork and designs. This plate was made by the pottery of brothers James and Ralph Clews, located in Staffordshire, England. Opened at about the time Illinois became a state, the Clews continued in operation until 1835. The Clews pottery was a major exporter to the United States, and its ceramics were a familiar sight in Illinois homes.

The Finer Things

Image of Refined Earthenware Plate from Staffordshire, England
Even in frontier Illinois, families sought out nice things for their homes. This plate is typical of those used on the Illinois frontier in the 1830s. It was produced by the pottery of brothers Job and John Jackson, located in Staffordshire, England. Operating their pottery from 1831–1835, the Jacksons produced a large amount of pottery for export to the United States, and pottery from the Staffordshire region dominated the Amerian market at the time. Fragments of their wares have been found at archaeological sites across Illinois, including Woodlawn Farm outside Jacksonville.

Moldboard Plow

Image of Moldboard plow

Moldboard plow (c. 1830 -1834), made in Connecticut. Illinois Legacy Collection, Gift of the Alan R. Smith family.

This iron moldboard plow was brought to LaSalle County from Connecticut by the Smith family in 1834. It was used to break the prairie on the Smith’s farm, twelve miles north of Ottawa.

The Rise of Corn

Image of ancient corn cob and modern-day corn.

Compare the size of ancient corn cob with modern-day corn.

Pictured here is a vial containing a corncob that was found in a fire pit at Cahokia Mounds. The pit and its contents are about 800 years old.  Note the size difference between the ancient specimen and the modern sweet corn purchased from a local grocer. 

Brass Tomahawk Pipe

Image of Brass Tomahawk Pipe
As European and Native American cultures mingled, new technologies blended with tradition to create new uses for everyday objects. The brass tomahawk pipe became a popular accessory, as it was useful in the field as a tool or as a weapon of war. During ceremonies, it was used as a pipe to smoke with friends or to cement agreements. Tobacco would be added to the metal bowl (opposite the blade) and smoked through the hardwood handle. Many similar tomahawks were manufactured by Europeans, cast of metals like brass or hammered out of old rifle barrels.

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