Research sources

While this list includes some of the more useful local history resources, it is by no means a complete catalog. Additional suggestions are welcome.

Offline

 Sangamon Valley Collection, third floor, Lincoln Library, Springfield. Vertical files organized topically, past city directories, local histories in print, thousands of public domain photos, access to newspaper microfilm and other research materials (see outline here), and most of all, expert guidance from Curtis Mann and the library staff. In general: If you don’t know where to start, start here.

Microfilm of local newspapers, also on the third floor of Lincoln Library, Springfield (but separate from the Sangamon Valley Collection). Contemporary reports of history events, though the researcher needs to know the approximate dates.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Sixth and Jefferson streets. Editions of more than 100 Springfield newspapers available on microfilm (although many were short-lived or have few extant copies). The Illinois State Journal and its predecessors are indexed through 1860.  The presidential library’s collection of Sangamon County newspapers also includes publications from Auburn, Buffalo, Chatham, Divernon, Illiopolis, Mechanicsburg, New Berlin, Pawnee, Pleasant Plains, Riverton, Rochester and  Williamsville. Please review the presidential library’s policy on use and reproduction.

Books and pamphlets (on- and offline)

Here I Have Lived: A History of Lincoln’s Springfield, Paul Angle, 1935. Full text available online.

A New Eden: The Pioneer Era in Sangamon County, Robert Howard, 1974. Short history of the early county published by the Sangamon County Historical Society. Full text available online.

Sugar Creek: Life on the Illinois PrairieJohn Mack Faragher, 1986. Partially readable online.

The Sangamo Frontier: History & Archaeology in the Shadow of Lincoln, Robert Mazrim, 2007. Partially readable online.

The Sangamon Saga, Bruce Campbell, 1976. Chronologically based episodic history of the county up to 1976; events largely organized by decade. Although Campbell’s chronology is not always totally accurate, it’s usually close enough that a researcher can pin down when an event occurred and then, in turn, check newspaper files or other records to fill in details. The Saga is not available online, but the Lincoln Library catalog lists eight copies, both circulating and (in the Sangamon Valley and juvenile reference sections) non-circulating. The Saga also is available from online booksellers.

Sangamon County Historical Society publications 
The Sangamon County Historical Society has published 36 books, pamphlets and program booklets since 1965, on subjects ranging from Abraham Lincoln sculpture to the local chili culture to Springfield’s most powerful crime boss. Most of the publications remain in print and are available through the historical society. Some also can be read online. A full list of SCHS publications is available here.

Online

Early histories

History of Springfield, Illinois, its attractions as a home and advantage for business, manufacturing, etc., by John Carroll Power. Published for the city Board of Trade, 1871. Readable online or as a downloadable PDF. (Editor: In general, downloaded PDFs allow much easier and faster searches and copying.)

History of the early settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois by John Carroll Power, assisted by his wife, Mrs. S.A. Power. Published 1876, 797 pages. Readable online or as downloadable PDF.

History of Sangamon County, IllinoisTogether with Sketches of Its Cities, Villages and Townships, anonymous, Inter-State Publishing Co., 1881. Readable online or as downloadable PDF. The Sangamon County Historical Society calls this “the first real county history,” compiled by “a corps of experienced historians with instructions to prepare a faithful and reliable history of the County.”

Souvenir of Springfield, Published by H. E. Barker, Art Dealer, 1890. Drawings of 89 homes, businesses, churches and other institutions in 1890. Viewable online, images can be saved.

Portrait & Biographical Album of Sangamon County, Chapman Bros., Chicago, 1891. Although the text is florid, lithograph plates in the Biographical Album include portraits of various dignitaries and illustrate dozens of Sangamon County farms prior to the turn of the century.

Historical Encyclopedia Of  Illinois and History of Sangamon County, Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, 1912. Two volumes, both available online, but separately. The first volume is general history; Volume II is made up of biographical sketches. Researchers may have to check both volumes to find references. (These can be slow to load.)
Vol. 1: https://archive.org/details/historicalencycloisc01bate
Vol. 2: https://archive.org/details/historicalencyclv2bate

Newspaper articles

Newsbank (available free to anyone with a card from Springfield’s Lincoln Library) is a searchable database of The State Journal-Register and its predecessors covering the period from 1831 through 1947. (Researchers should read Newsbank’s terms of use prior to publishing material from the database.)

The State Journal-Register’s computer archives can be used to access news stories after July 1, 1985; Lincoln Library card holders also may do that for free.

At this writing (early 2014), no index existed to any Sangamon County newspapers for the period from 1947 to July 1, 1985. In announcing the Newsbank project, however, Lincoln Library officials said they expected to close the gap in 2014.  In the meantime, if you know approximate dates, both Lincoln Library and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library have microfilm of local newspapers.  (See list of newspapers available at the presidential library under Offline resources above.)

Genealogybank, related to Newsbank, provides similar online access to archives of more than 6,100 newspapers throughout the country; final available dates vary. There is no need for a library card, but there is a fee to subscribe. (Genealogybank’s terms of use are similar to Newsbank’s.)

General resources

Illinois Digital Archives, maintained by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. The Digital Archives, while not the easiest site to search, contain an enormous amount of information. A search engine (i.e., Google) is often the best way to locate Digital Archives material.

Oral history interviews, available online both through the Illinois Digital Archives and via the University of Illinois Springfield. The interviews — hundreds of them, most (though not all) directly related to central Illinois — were originally done under the aegis of UIS’s predecessor, Sangamon State University. Interviews are indexed both by interviewee and by subject.

Specialty resources

Illinois African-American Resource Guide, part of the Illinois Digital Archives (below). Guide to Springfield resource material relating to or compiled by African Americans. Springfield is covered on pages 44-48. Compiled in 1999, so not all information is current. Does not include, for instance, the Springfield African American History Museum.

Directory of Sangamon County’s Colored Citizens, Springfield Directory Co., 1926-29. Apparently lists all black residents of Springfield in the mid- to late 1920s. The directory’s advertisements also help illuminate black life in the city during the period and suggest that the buying power of  the local African American community was significant.

Fever River Research. The firm “specializes in cultural resource management projects that are associated with historic properties that date to the recent past.  We conduct a variety of projects that include historical archaeology, architectural studies, National Register of Historic Places nominations, and traditional history.” Fever River has performed several very detailed studies of Springfield neighborhoods (see Index to Entries).

The Springfield Survey: Groundbreaking in-depth examination of social services available in Springfield in 1914 and where they were succeeding or falling short. See the encyclopedia entry for individual reports.

The Illinois State Capitol, privately produced, but well-researched and illustrated website with information on the construction, history and artwork inside and outside the Statehouse. Also covers some related topics, including news stories about events in Springfield history.

Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Diamond Jubilee History, Joseph J. Thompson, 1928. Readable online or as downloadable PDF.

This entry was posted in Histories, Resources. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *