Category Archives: Social life

First wedding (1820)

The first marriage ever performed in Sangamon County took place in a log cabin near Cantrall on Nov. 2, 1820. In a pioneer community, the event required some improvisation, including a legless piano and a fake wedding cake. The happy … Continue reading

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‘Bock Beer Day’, 1870s-’80s

“Today is Bock Beer Day, and the boys will all imbibe freely of the foaming extract of hops,” the Illinois State Journal predicted the morning of May 1, 1882. It didn’t always end happily for “the boys.” Bock beer is … 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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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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‘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

‘A Palatial Barroom’ (1898)

When Harry Lane opened his new saloon at 415 E. Washington St. in 1898, he wanted you to know: It was no bucket of blood. Rough-and-tumble tipplers patronized the workingmen’s bars (and worse) that lined the streets of “the Levee” … Continue reading

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