Category Archives: Arts and letters

Joey Mack, dance man

Perhaps the most famous Lithuanian-American in Springfield in the 1940s was in show business: Joey Yanaitis (Janaitis or Jonaitis) Mack. Famous in Boston, Rockford, Cleveland, Augusta, Ga., and dozens of places in between from the late 1930s through the 1940s, … Continue reading

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Sangamon County Historical Society

Historic preservation was the impetus for the founding of the Sangamon County Historical Society more than 50 years ago. Specifically, the founders wanted to preserve the Old State Capitol. The impetus came from members of the Springfield Historic Monuments Commission … Continue reading

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Lincoln Tomb: Statuary and symbolism

This entry is a lightly edited version of a presentation given by Mark Johnson, historian for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, to the 2014 volunteer dinner hosted by the Lincoln Monument Association, a non-profit support group for the Lincoln Tomb.  … Continue reading

Posted in Architecture, Arts and letters, Historic Sites, Lincoln Tomb, Lincoln, Abraham, Military, National Register | 3 Comments

Artie Matthews (ragtime composer)

Acclaimed ragtime composer Artie Matthews apparently got his start as a musician in the bars and bordellos of Springfield’s old Levee district. After composing such ragtime classics as Weary Blues — later recorded by, among others, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver … Continue reading

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Jessie Mae Finley (African-American history interviews)

Born in Springfield, Danville (see below — ed.), Jessie Mae Finley (1906-2006) was a talented musician and founder of the Voices of Love, Joy and Peace. She also worked for the state of Illinois. Finley was named Springfield’s First Citizen in 1976. In … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Arts and letters, Ethnic groups, First Citizens, Prominent figures | 7 Comments

John Crisp (African-American history interviews)

John Crisp, a Springfield artist and jazz musician, discussed growing up in the John Hay Homes housing project, performing as a musician, and teaching music and art to youth in an interview for the Springfield African-American History Foundation series. 

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Adelaide O’Brien Rentschler (aviator)

Adelaide O’Brien (1915-99) of Springfield was the first licensed woman pilot in downstate Illinois. During World War II, O’Brien was a local ground instructor for U.S. Army Air Corps flight cadets. O’Brien also was widely known in central Illinois for … Continue reading

Posted in Air travel, Airport, Arts and letters, Military, Women | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Virginia Eifert

Virginia Eifert (1911-66) was a self-taught naturalist, artist and newspaper columnist and the founding editor of The Living Museum, published by the Illinois State Museum, which she oversaw from 1939 until her death in 1966. She also was the author … Continue reading

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Duncan McDonald

Duncan McDonald (1873-1965), while not as well-known as John L. Lewis, was almost certainly more principled as both a United Mine Workers leader and a politician. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library’s Chronicling Illinois collection characterizes McDonald’s labor career this way: … Continue reading

Posted in Arts and letters, Business, Coal mines and mining, Lincoln, Abraham, Politics, Presidential candidates, Prominent figures, Springfield Survey | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Illinois State Museum

The Illinois State Museum began, unlikely as it seems, in New Harmony, Ind. Former museum director R. Bruce McMillan described the quandary that faced Illinois’ first state geologist in his article on the museum’s centennial , “The First Century,” published … Continue reading

Posted in Arts and letters, Buildings, Illinois capital, Museums, Prominent figures, State government | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment