Category Archives: Amusements

‘Hammock parties,’ 1890s

“Hammock parties” were a way for young people to get together in the 1890s. The problem was how to prevent hammock hanky-panky. The Illinois State Journal outlined the rules in July 1890. The equipment was simple: enough hammocks to hold … Continue reading

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The Oak Ridge Park pagoda

In the 19th century, the Oak Ridge Pagoda drew merrymakers, thrill-seekers, and sometimes street gangs to what now is Lincoln Park. But the building’s last users were a few pitiful victims of what might have been smallpox. Oak Ridge Park, … Continue reading

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Christmas at the Wonder Store, 1881

Frank Myers was no relation to Springfield’s later department store dynasty, the Myers Brothers, but he apparently had some of the same merchandising instincts – down to the monkeys both used as advertising gimmicks. From the 1870s to 1904, Myers’ … Continue reading

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Early movie theaters in Springfield

Motion picture exhibition in Springfield began in earnest around 1905. That year, four local theaters were screening short silent films in addition to presenting live vaudeville acts. Nickelodeon theaters, where movies were the prime attraction instead of a sideshow, became popular … Continue reading

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First moving picture/first full-time movie theater

It’s impossible to know for sure when Springfield residents saw their first “moving picture,” but the likely dates are Jan. 1-2, 1897, when the Stephenson Post of the Grand Army of the Republic held a fundraiser at the Central Music … Continue reading

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First talking movie

Harry T. Loper (1860-1948), historically linked to Springfield’s race riot of 1908, also introduced talking movies to Springfield. Loper went into the restaurant business when he moved to Springfield from Greenfield in 1883, and Loper’s Restaurant at 223 S. Fifth … Continue reading

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Springfield, “The Flower City”

Springfield’s sometime-nickname, “The Flower City,” apparently originated with a Chicago newspaper story published in 1857. But it didn’t catch on for another 20 years, at first mainly when local improvement advocates complained that the city – particularly its muddy streets … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Celebrations, Illinois State Fair, Local government, Spectacles, Women | 2 Comments

‘The Big O’ fire, 1908

The Olympic theater – better known as “the Big O” – advertised “strictly refined vaudeville.” But newspaper reporters and state regulators suspected patrons got a bit more for their 15 cents. So the Illinois State Journal saw some justice in … Continue reading

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“The Gay ’90s” in Springfield

In 1943, V.Y. Dallman, longtime editor and columnist for the Illinois State Register, published a three-part reminiscence of the “Gay ‘90s” – at least, as they were experienced by Springfield’s upper crust. The series was written by a certified member … Continue reading

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Springfield hotels turn away Black singing group, 1881

Springfield hotels refused to house America’s best-known Black choral group in 1881. The result was nationwide condemnation, a rebuke from President James A. Garfield, and a scramble by embarrassed local residents to repair the city’s reputation. The group was the … Continue reading

Posted in Abolitionism, African Americans, Amusements, Arts and letters, Hotels & taverns, Presidential candidates, Prominent figures, Social life | 3 Comments