Author Archives: editor

The Majestic theatre, 1907-35

“Springfield society assembled en masse on the evening of May 23, 1907, when the Majestic Theatre opened its doors for the first time”, the Illinois State Register reported in 1935. By then, the Majestic, 415-21 S. Fifth St., was no … Continue reading

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The ‘Tournament of the Big Snow’, 1931

“(W)hen coaches, players or spectators recall 1931 to their grandchildren, they’ll call it the Tournament of the Big Snow,” Illinois State Journal sports editor Bob Drysdale wrote of the 1931 boys district basketball championships. A blizzard – 14 inches of … Continue reading

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W.W. Watts, theater impresario

William Walter “W.W.” Watts flopped the first time he opened a theater in Springfield. But his stepson-in-law persuaded Watts to try again, saying there was “big money in 5-cent picture shows.” The younger man was right. Watts (1868-1937), an Ohio … Continue reading

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Pekin Theatre

In segregated Springfield, the Pekin Theatre was the only movie house that not only catered specifically to African-Americans, but was managed by African-Americans as well. The Pekin was at 811-15 E. Washington St. The block, the site of both Black- … Continue reading

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Roxy theater

“One of the city’s oldest, largest and most reliable babysitters, the Roxy Theater, will fall to the state of Illinois headache ball.” So wrote State-Journal Register critic Paul Povse in September 1978. Indeed, the demise of the Roxy was a … Continue reading

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Jake Wexler murder, 1935

Jake Wexler was a jeweler in downtown Springfield for 15 years. But when he was gunned down gangland-style in 1935, newspaper stories revealed he had a sideline: slot machines. And, unwisely, he apparently refused to sell his devices and get … Continue reading

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Three killed in saloon shootout, 1905

A drunken shootout in a Springfield saloon in 1905 left three men dead and two brothers charged with murder. The cause was a previous fistfight, followed by a series of telephoned challenges, newspaper articles reported. Those killed were all from … Continue reading

Posted in Communications, Crime and vice, Hotels & taverns, Journalism, Law enforcement | 3 Comments

The “divine healer” sensation, 1896

August Schrader, “the divine healer,” set up shop in Springfield for 10 days in 1896. Thousands of people, complaining of maladies ranging from arthritis to kidney disease to blindness, sought treatment. Crowds blocked downtown streets, and trains brought people to … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Journalism, Medicine, Spectacles | 2 Comments

First Civil War combat death

Updated: See “The case for Elmer Ellsworth,” below. The first Sangamon County resident to die as a result of combat in the Civil War was a carpenter from Springfield. Heaton Hill, about 28, was shot during the siege of Lexington, … Continue reading

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Edward Maisel

Edward H. Maisel, whose home was bombed in 1932 in what police believed was an outgrowth of labor troubles at local movie houses, had a well-earned reputation for defending himself. See Theater bombings, 1931-32.

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