Modern Era (1917-present)

The state’s Modern Era has been one of continued growth and change. Following World War I and the nation’s greatest economic collapse, public works projects of the New Deal put people to work on civic projects, such as building roads and infrastructure, and brought history to life by protecting a number of historic places around the state. The Federal Arts Program of the W.P.A. paid artists to create paintings, prints, sculptures, and murals for civic beautification, pride, and capturing the moment. Beginning in 1941, the state’s agricultural and manufacturing sectors and the sacrifices of citizen-soldiers played an important role in making the United States a leader on the world stage.

A Century of Progress International Exposition, 1933-1934

Image of womens bracelet, brass tray, and compact from 1933 Worlds Fair.

Maker unknown
Gift of Sue Price, 2004.25.38
metal, plastic, glass
Gift of Sue Price, 2004.25.187
Maker unknown
metal, plastic
Gift of Sue Price, 2004.25.187

During the depths of the Great Depression in 1933-34, Chicago staged its second world fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition, to celebrate its centennial anniversary. Its purpose was to celebrate the amazing advances in technology during the period 1833-1933 and to inspire fairgoers with the promise of the happier future that scientific innovation promised.

Hand-Painted Bowl

Image of Pickard China bown painted by Ingeborg Klein.
This bowl was painted with a bird of paradise design by Swedish immigrant Ingeborg Klein for the Pickard China Company. Klein worked for Pickard from 1920 until about 1925, when she returned to Sweden.

Fisherman’s Home Liverpool, Ills.

Image of etching "Fisherman's Home, Liverpool, Ills., Lee Sturges, 1917.
Lee Sturges (1865-1954) was a prolific artist and inventor who was born in Chicago and lived in Elmhurst from 1892 until the year before he died in 1954. In his career as a businessman and engineer, he helped found the Illinois Manufacturers Association in 1893. Throughout his life, Sturges was awarded patents for 20 inventions, including a small-scale etching press that led to a revival of the medium.

Typewriter, Underwood No. 5

Image of typewriter owned by Carl Sandburg.
This typewriter belonged to Illinois’ own Carl Sandburg, nationally known author, poet, and journalist, while he lived in Elmhurst from 1919 to 1930. Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1878 and eventually moved to the Chicago area to begin a career in journalism. He wrote for the Chicago Daily News, reviewing movies and covering labor news. The Sandburg family moved to Elmhurst in 1919, the same year he won his first of three Pulitzer Prizes.

Lakeside Classics

Image of Lakeside Classics book series.
Lakeside Classics are books published by R.R. Donnelley & Sons that feature first-person narratives of American history. Since 1903, the books have been released every Christmas, a practice that continues today. However, the books are not sold to the public but instead have been given to employees and others associated with the company.

Ceremonial Mask

Image of carved wood African ceremonial mask.
This beautiful, carved wood ceremonial mask is just over four feet tall and is worn over the head and shoulders. It was acquired by Illinois State University in 1973 and then was transferred to the Illinois State Museum in 2001.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Image of Monarch (left) and Viceroy butterflies.
The colorful Monarch butterfly, the State Insect of Illinois, is widely distributed across eastern and central North America down to Mexico and along the west coast of the United States. Its caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweeds (Asclepias sp.), and the milky sap in the plant leaves gives Monarch caterpillars and adults a bitter taste. The bright colors of the adults and caterpillars serve as a warning to potential predators.

Illinois Greenbrier (Smilax illinoensis)

Image of Illinois Greenbrier plant specimen.
The Illinois Greenbrier (Smilax illinoensis) is a native perennial found throughout the Midwest/Great Lakes Region. In Illinois, it may be found in woodland areas. It reportedly has a faint carrion odor and attracts many types of insects, including moths and flies.

Frank Woodruff's Bird Watching Class Outdoors in Lincoln Park

Image of Chicago Academy of Sciences bird watching class.
The Chicago Academy of Sciences (now housed at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum) offers many outdoor opportunities, including classes like those conducted by Frank Woodruff (1867-1926). This image depicts Woodruff's bird identification class in Lincoln Park, possibly near the Chicago Academy of Sciences’ Laflin Building at Armitage and Clark.

Barrelhead Blazing Star (Liatris cylindracea)

Image of Barrelhead Blazing Star plant specimen.
A native herbaceous plant, the Barrelhead Blazing Star grows tall, with purple tubular blossoms that attract long-tongued bees and butterflies as well as rabbits and deer. Once much more abundant, this plant may still be found in northern Illinois.


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