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.
The first and largest meteorite ever to strike Illinois (at least in recorded history) fell to Earth in three large pieces near the town of Tilden in southwest Illinois 91 years ago. About 1 p.m. on July 13, 1927, witnesses reported a sound like an airplane passing overhead and backfiring. In fact, a large meteorite exploded three times as it streaked through the sky, rattling windows and shaking dishes.
The fabled highway, U.S. Route 66, which stretched from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, revolutionized transportation and the relationship Americans had with their cars. Several segments of the original highway can still be found in Illinois. One such section of original pavement was sampled by the Illinois Department of Transportation in Macoupin County, where the old road intersects a new high-speed rail crossing. The pavement core can inform materials engineers about the historic concrete used in its construction and its present condition. It can also help guide preservation and restoration efforts of remaining segments of the historic roadway.
When American forces joined World War I, Kent Hagler of Springfield, Illinois, was desperate to join the military, but a childhood injury prevented him from serving. Undeterred, he joined the American Field Service in France as a volunteer ambulance driver on July 17, 1917. He wore this helmet throughout his time in France.
This axe was used by a Civilian Conservation Corps laborer working at Pere Marquette State Park between 1933 and 1940, one of more than a dozen state parks that were developed or improved with CCC labor.