Category Archives: Business

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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Theater bombings, 1931-32

Unhappy theater workers were the immediate suspects in 1931, when bombs – both explosives and stink bombs – went off in three local cinemas. A few months later, another bomb wrecked the home of a theater manager. Members of Springfield … Continue reading

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New Year’s 1921

What was on the minds of Sangamon County residents for New Year’s 1921? Potholes. For its special New Year’s coverage on Sunday, Jan. 2, 1921, the Illinois State Journal asked 47 “prominent citizens” (not surprisingly for the time, all were … Continue reading

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Brown’s Business College (1864-1994)

In 1864, Washington Rutledge, a relative of Abraham Lincoln’s reputed love Ann Rutledge, opened Rutledge & Davidson’s Commercial College in Springfield. Over the next 130 years, Rutledge & Davidson’s and its descendants provided what an early advertisement called “passports to … Continue reading

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Bluford Wilson (lawyer, corruption fighter)

In his later years, Maj. Bluford Wilson was a railroad lawyer in Springfield. His spare time was consumed with church work, politics and, apparently, cultivating a luxuriant mustache. But as a young man, Wilson helped break up the Whiskey Ring, … Continue reading

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Shadid’s Book Mart

Shadid’s Book Mart began business at 322 S. Sixth St. on Aug. 4, 1958, after Mitchell, Woodrow and Phillip Shadid bought out the stock of a defunct book store downtown. The brothers at first called their shop the “Mag & … Continue reading

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Newcomer-Bell Mill

The Newcomer-Bell Mill was on Sugar Creek in Woodside Township, on a site that today is covered by Lake Springfield south of Lindsay Bridge. William Southwick (1805-83)purchased the property on Dec. 6, 1830 and formed a partnership with Armon Lathrop … Continue reading

Posted in Business, Early residents, Industry, Mills | 5 Comments

Fishman Sporting Goods

Fishman Sporting Goods was an institution for 99 years in downtown Springfield. Founder Louis Fishman emigrated to Springfield in 1887, fleeing anti-Jewish pogroms in his native Russia. He went into business on the smallest of scales, as the Illinois State … Continue reading

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First computer (1954)

The Franklin Life Insurance Co. had to tear out windows and walls to accommodate Springfield’s first computer. Then it had to hire a derrick to hoist the “electronic brain” five floors up. Franklin Life ordered the $1 million Univac from … Continue reading

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Good Will Girls (1920s)

The Good Will Girls were the brainchild of a convicted con man, but they became the stars of a Springfield Chamber of Commerce bid to attract out-of-town shoppers in the 1920s. The chamber periodically sponsored car caravans to outlying communities … Continue reading

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