Industrializing Illinois (1877-1917)

Following the Civil War, Illinois continued to grow in population, diversity, and complexity. Large-scale heavy manufacturing and a growing commercial sector joined agriculture as major employers of a rapidly growing population. Immigration continued, with African Americans from the South and southern and eastern Europeans joining more established groups. Conflicting interests sometimes led to unrest, strikes, and even violence. During this period, Illinois also became a center of exciting new movements in art, architecture, and literature.

Peanut Roasting Machine

Image of Peanut Roasting Machine
Kerosene and a mechanical crank powered this peanut-roasting machine owned by John Coleman of Mt. Carmel. The kerosene tank provided light to work by and powered the burners under the roasting chamber. A steam jacket under the glass dome kept the peanuts warm.

Taxidermied Canary

This canary’s name is Nicodemus. He belonged to an Illinois woman in the 19th century. Nicodemus was free from his cage and sitting on a window sash one day when someone threw open the sash and smashed him. His owner was so distraught that she had him stuffed and mounted, and he sat on display in the family parlor for the next several decades.

Photoelectric Relay

Image of Photoelectric Relay.

Photoelectric relay made at Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, Wisconsin, with the cooperation of the General Electric Co., and photoelectric cells by R. J. Cashman and W. S. Huxford, 1933.  Courtesy of the Adler Planetarium.

The Chicago Century of Progress Exposition of 1933-34 celebrated the alliance between science and industry, conveying a message of hope for a better future in times of depression. The most dramatic and anticipated moment of the opening ceremony in the evening of May 27, 1933, was when the illumination of the fair was turned on, unfolding as a spectacle of light and color.

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. 

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