Mundelein College Remembers Them: Alumnae Files in the Archive

Have you ever wondered what happened to your parents’ college materials, or what could happen to your own file from your undergraduate or graduate career? After working with the vast archival collection of Mundelein College (MC), I’m tempted to call my parents’ universities and see if they have archival records.

The Women and Leadership Archives is built on the collection of MC, which was run by the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In my work at the WLA as a graduate assistant, my assignment these last few months has been to process certain MC collection series, or topic subsets within an archival collection.

Continue reading “Mundelein College Remembers Them: Alumnae Files in the Archive”

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The Chicago Tribune Tower Competition

The Chicago Tribune’s sale of Tribune Tower, the media company’s home for 93 years, has prompted reflections on the meaning of the building and its place in Chicago’s cityscape. Editorials have praised the building for its monumental appearance and Gothic inspired facade, as well as its interior lobby.

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Tribune Tower

But Tribune Tower was not always recognized as a paragon of architectural design. Upon its completion in 1925, the Gothic inspired tower, characterized by long, vertical piers and topped with flying buttresses modeled on Rouen Cathedral’s Tour de Buerre, was not universally praised. In fact Louis Sullivan, the Godfather of Chicago architecture, condemned the building’s design, writing that it was “evolved from dying ideas.”[Louis Sullivan, “The Chicago Tribune Competition,” Architectural Record 53 (February 1923): 153]

A deeper look at the story of Tribune Tower reveals the building as we know it today was the result of a hotly disputed design competition; one which would burst open a debate about the the value of “historical” architectural styles and the very nature of modern design.

On June 10, 1922 the Chicago Tribune announced it would be holding an international competition to choose the design of its new headquarters, the outcome of which would produce “the most beautiful office building in the world.”[Chicago Tribune, November 30, 1922.] The awards jury, firmly under the Tribune’s corporate control, ultimately received over 200 entries from architects on three continents. By November 29th, they had reached a consensus. Unanimously, jurors awarded the winning prize to the Gothic inspired skyscraper of New York-based architects John Howells and Raymond Hood.

However, later that day, a late entry arrived that sent the committee into a frenzy of astonishment and indecision.

Telephones and automobiles got into action and the advisory committee of city officials and citizens – who thought on Wednesday of last week that their work was done – hurriedly responded to consider the new entry…The latest arrival…smote them with its message of silent majesty from a distance of fifty feet. [Chicago Tribune, November 30, 1922.]

This late arrival, No. 187, was the entry of Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen.  Saarinen’s modern, minimalist design, characterized by a tapering tower and vertical lines of fenestration, so impacted the jury members that the awards committee was reformed and deliberations began all over again. After three days of round-the-clock deliberations, the jury reached a final decision at midnight on December 2nd. Their verdict was this: Howells and Hood would retain first place, Saarinen received second, and Chicago firm Holabird and Roche received third.

The decision was not without controversy.

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Eliel Saarinen’s 1922 entry to the Tribune Tower competition. Public Domain, By Eliel Saarinen – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25715974

Continue reading “The Chicago Tribune Tower Competition”

Extended Call for Papers and Posters: Submit to the Loyola HGSA Conference 2017

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Extended​ ​Call​ ​for​ ​Papers
Fourteenth Annual
Loyola University Chicago History Graduate Student Conference:
“Hearing Silences”
November 18, 2017
Loyola University Chicago Lake Shore Campus, Chicago, IL
EXTENDED​ ​deadline:​ ​September​ ​22nd,​ ​2017

Masters and doctoral graduate students in any field of historical study are invited to submit proposals to present individual research papers at Loyola’s Fourteenth Annual History Graduate Student Conference. In keeping with this year’s theme, Hearing Silences​, we solicit presentations that address gaps in the historical record, especially those related to marginalized subjects. We welcome original research on any topic of historical interest, but we encourage presenters to consider the ways in which historical silences hinder, motivate, or inform their scholarship. Potential frameworks may include, but are not limited to: borderlands and transnational studies, urban history, gender history, and public history. We also welcome papers about history projects in the digital humanities. The goal of this conference is to provide an opportunity for students to gain experience presenting original research projects and to receive feedback from their peers on their work. Prizes will be awarded to the top presenters.

Individual proposals should include the submitter’s name, contact information,
institutional affiliation(s), a one page abstract of the paper (with a title), and a sentence listing up to three historical subjects your paper addresses (e.g. French history, sport history, gender). Please also include a brief biographical statement indicating your academic status along with a return address and current email address. Please note that submissions will be accepted as time and space permit.
Email your proposal as a PDF attachment to the HGSA Conference Committee at:
HGSA@luc.edu. Use the subject line Re:​ ​CFPapers​ ​Loyola​ ​History​ ​Grad Conference​.

For more information about the conference, visit
https://loyolahistoryconference.wordpress.com or our department webpage. For
any further questions, contact the HGSA Conference Committee at HGSA@luc.edu.
Sponsored by the History Graduate Student Association, Loyola University Chicago

Call For Papers 2017: Submit to the 14th Annual Loyola HGSA Conference!

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Fourteenth Annual

Loyola University Chicago History Graduate Student Conference:

“Hearing Silences”

November 18, 2017

Loyola University Chicago Lake Shore Campus, Chicago, IL

Masters and doctoral graduate students in any field of historical study are invited to submit proposals to present individual research papers at Loyola’s Fourteenth Annual History Graduate Student Conference. In keeping with this year’s theme, Hearing Silences, we solicit presentations that address gaps in the historical record, especially those related to marginalized subjects. We welcome original research on any topic of historical interest, but encourage presenters to consider the ways in which historical silences hinder, motivate, or  inform their scholarship. Potential frameworks may include, but are not limited to: borderlands and transnational studies, urban history, gender history, and public history. We also welcome papers about history projects in the digital humanities. The goal of this conference is to provide an opportunity for students to gain experience presenting original research projects and to receive feedback from their peers on their work. Certificates will be awarded to the top presenters.

Additionally, graduate and undergraduate students in any field of historical study are invited to submit proposals to present during our morning poster session. Posters may feature original research or showcase public history projects. Presentations related to the conference theme are especially encouraged. Certificates will be awarded to the top graduate and undergraduate poster presenters.

Individual proposals should include the submitter’s name, contact information, institutional affiliation(s), a one page abstract of the paper or poster (with a title), and a sentence listing up to three historical subjects your paper addresses (e.g. French history, sport history, gender). Please also include a brief biographical statement indicating your academic status along with a return address and current e­mail address. Please note that submissions will be accepted as time and space permit.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, September 1, 2017. Please email your proposal to the HGSA Conference Committee at: HGSA@luc.edu. For papers, use the subject line Re: CFPapers Loyola History Grad Conference. For posters, use the subject line Re: CFPosters Loyola History Grad Conference.

For more information about the conference, visit our department webpage. For any further questions, contact the HGSA Conference Committee at ​HGSA@luc.edu​.

Sponsored by the History Graduate Student Association, Loyola University Chicago

Is the City Overdue in Renovating the Library in West Ridge? A Look at the History of the Northtown Library

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of The Historian, the online quarterly published by the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society. All photographs used courtesy of their image database. Matthew Amyx is a History PhD Student at Loyola University Chicago and the Public Media Team Leader for the RPWRHS.

Over the summer of 2015, a Change.org petition to expand or rebuild the Northtown Library collected over 600 signatures from the residents of West Ridge. The one-story building at 6434 N. California Ave. hosts 140,000 visitors each year, but it has not been renovated since opening in 1962. Petition-signers complain that the library, despite its popularity and the hard work of its staff, lacks space, needs more up-to-date technology, and offers community resources insufficient to reflect the diverse demographics of West Ridge. Additionally, they claim the library’s parking situation, practically limited to street parking in a busy neighborhood, severely inconveniences patrons. While the petition has received considerable support and is backed by 50th Ward Alderman Debra Silverman, residents will need to exercise patience. Pamela Stauffer, West Rogers Park Community Organization Chairwoman, anticipates a minimum budget of $6 million for the endeavor, which is still in its planning phase, and recent library projects in Chicago have taken four years or more to complete. The petition signers should not lose hope, however, as very similar grassroots appeals created the very successful previous incarnations of the Northtown Library.

The first Northtown Library opened on July 31, 1939 at 2502 Devon Ave. It had taken seven years of organizing and petitioning by the local Kiwanis Club, Northtown Women’s Club, Northtown Business Men’s Association, and PTA groups. By its one-year anniversary the branch, led by head librarian Marion Smith, had issued 6200 library cards and hosted 145,000 visitors and circulated nearly 200,000 books. The library building, a double storefront, quickly became one of the most popular in the city, attracting patrons from far outside of its district boundaries which ran west from Ridge Ave. to the canal and south from Farwell to Bryn Mawr.

2200 w. Devon Avenue looking east from Bell Avenue
2200 w. Devon Avenue looking east from Bell Avenue

The library’s programs quickly outgrew its space. In January 1942, Smith started a very popular Book Review Club, but it had to meet in clubrooms on Maplewood Avenue. The library offered very strong children’s programs, such as a “Bring Your Dolly” story hour started by Children’s Librarian Bernice Perley in January 1942. Soon the weekly story hours were drawing an average of 233 children, but the space only accommodated 60 chairs. This unacceptable situation led West Ridge community leaders to petition Mayor Kelly for an enlargement. Sponsors included pastors, Boy Scouts, business groups, women’s clubs, Kiwanis, and the American Legion. The city approved the purchase and conversion of the adjacent corner building, a tavern and store, into staff space and a much needed children’s room.

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Girls participating in Doll’s Story Hour, c. 1945.

The Northtown Library made important contributions to community morale during World War II. It provided technical books to educate the defense workers that had flooded to Chicago. Families with members serving abroad checked out books on the countries where their loved ones were stationed. Smith told the Tribune that the library helped residents “take their minds off things for a while… These persons usually ask for mystery books – something which will challenge their brains and keep their minds occupied.” The library also offered avenues for the West Ridge community to aid those affected by the war. In July 1941, the library collected books to donate to locally stationed troops, and Perley organized a Girls’ Club that collected dolls for English war refugee children. In June 1945, the Northtown Library took part in a University of Chicago adult education program based on reading the classics, the first of several very popular Great Books programs that would occur on and off throughout the remainder of the 20th century.

2502 W Devon Avenue, North Town Library -Children with Army Lt. Godlewski.
2502 W Devon Avenue, North Town Library -Children with Army Lt. Godlewski.

In 1946, the library lost its lease on 2502 Devon, and moved two blocks over to 2710 Devon, away from the bustling business district. The library was still outgrowing its space, and in July 1947 the Edgebrook Library opened as a sub-branch of Northtown, with Elizabeth Vieser as assistant librarian under Smith. The space was painted blue and white and contained 3000 books, half for adults and half for children, with Northtown’s children’s librarians conducting the story hour there once a week. (The Edgebrook library has since moved three times and is now its own branch at 5331 W. Devon Ave.) Like today, space was constantly an issue during the period, with staff having to cram patrons in or find venues outside the library for programs. The advent of television dropped circulation some, but a fresh influx of families during West Ridge’s growth in the 1950s and 1960s brought it up again. Many empty-nesters became avid readers and brought their grandchildren to the library, bringing circulation in 1957 to 215,000. The demographics of the neighborhood were also becoming more diverse, and community members began organizing to petition the city for another expansion.

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Women using library materials, c. 1950.

Construction bids began in September 1960 on the library’s current location, 6435 N. California Avenue, which opened January, 1962. 125 feet wide with red brick, the new building included space for 50,000 books (up from 28,000 in the previous location), a multi-purpose room for library-sponsored activities, citizenship and Americanization classes for West Ridge’s growing immigrant population, and air conditioning. This was the first location intended as a permanent space, as the Devon locations had all been rented. Interestingly, the 2710 Devon location suffered a $10,000 fire the week before the move, although most of the books had luckily already been transported. The new library opened with a new Chief Librarian as well, Mrs. Gertrude Gscheidle. Designed by City Architect Paul Gerhardt Jr., the building cost $174,438.00 to construct and $56,490.70 to furnish. Despite the expansion, the Northtown Library still struggled with containing and staffing its programs; by 1965 it had the largest circulation of any library in the north side district, with 272,051 books loaned. The library’s popularity continued throughout the century, claiming the highest circulation of any library in the system in 1986.

The library was an important venue for children's groups, including the Boy Scouts of America.

As the history of the library demonstrates, the Northtown branch has always struggled to find space for its programs. This difficulty is only exacerbated by the growing needs of an increasingly diverse population, and is made considerably worse by the lack of available parking. The library has very few dividing walls, and while this trait gives it an open feel it also prevents the existence of private study space. In the comments section of the Change.org petition page, many of the signers sadly stated that they drove to other libraries in the suburbs because they did not feel the present building could meet their needs. The petitioners can take heart, however, in knowing that the city has listened to West Ridge petitions in the past to expand or renovate the Northtown Library.

Pop History: The Monitor (Part 1)

In Titus Andronicus’s 2010 sophomore release, The Monitor, singer and lyricist Patrick Stickles takes a particularly ambitious tack in crafting a fully-realized concept album centered on a historical metaphor. As the first part of what will hopefully be a short series of posts, I’ll look at the album and consider its utilization of history for dramatic and thematic importance.

Unsurprisingly, a group named after a Shakespeare play tends to be rather lyrically dense. As such, the opening song of the album, “A More Perfect Union,” is laced with references both contemporary and historical. The first verse references Simon and Garfunkel’s “America,” twists lyrics from Billy Bragg, and finishes by inverting Bruce Springsteen: “Tramps like us, baby we were born to die.” A later biblical allusion places the singer as a Christ-figure: “If I come in on a donkey, let me go out on a gurney.” Yet the most consistent thread begins in this song with the heavy usage of lyrics from the “Battle Cry of Freedom” and continues throughout the rest of the album: the metaphor of the Civil War.

Continue reading “Pop History: The Monitor (Part 1)”

2016 HGSA Conference CFP is Here!

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Call for Papers

Thirteenth Annual

Loyola University Chicago History Graduate Student Conference

November 19, 2016

Loyola University Chicago Lake Shore Campus, Chicago, IL


Masters and doctoral graduate students in any field of historical study are invited to submit proposals to present individual research papers at Loyola’s Thirteenth Annual History Graduate Student Conference. Panel applications and individual papers focusing on borderlands or transnational studies, urban history, gender history, and public history are especially encouraged. We also welcome papers about history projects in the digital humanities. The goal of this conference is to provide an opportunity for students to gain experience presenting original research projects and to receive feedback from their peers on their work. Certificates will be awarded to the top three conference presentations.

Individual proposals should include: submitter’s name, contact information, institutional affiliation(s), a one page abstract of the paper (with a title), and a sentence listing up to three historical subjects your paper addresses (e.g. French history, sport history, gender). Please also include a brief biographical statement indicating your academic status along with a return address and current email address. Panel proposals should include the above as well as a brief description of the panel itself. Please note that submissions will be accepted as time and space permit.

Deadline for submissions is Friday, September 2, 2016. Email proposals as an attachment to the HGSA Conference Committee at: HGSA@luc.edu or mail to:

History Graduate Student Association

Attn: Julia Lacher

Loyola University Chicago

Department of History

1032 West Sheridan Road

Chicago, Illinois 60660

For more information about the conference, visit https://loyolahistoryconference.wordpress.com or our department webpage at http://www.luc.edu/history/graduate/conference_test.shtml

Please contact the HGSA Conference Committee at: HGSA@luc.edu with any further questions.

Sponsored by the History Graduate Student Association, Loyola University Chicago

Ambidexterity and Ambition: The Tuskegee Model Legacy

Last year Fazila Kabahita and I decided to nominate the Ambidexter Industrial and Normal Institute in Springfield, Illinois, to the National Register of Historic Places as a part of our Historic Preservation course. Fazila and I learned that the Ambidexter Institute was modeled after Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. Deemed the “Tuskegee of the North,” Ambidexter was a private industrial school intended to teach trades and provide academic education to African American students. It received the name “Ambidexter” because its founder, Springfield clergyman G.H. McDaniel, believed that the students would have to be ‘ambidextrous,’ (in some sense-suggesting that they would have to be doubly as skilled as whites) using both their minds and their might, in order to make it in competition for employment with the white labor force. McDaniel intended to “accomplish for the negroes of the north what Booker T. Washington’s great school is doing for the colored people of the south.” He opened the school in 1901 with funding from prominent Springfield residents.[1] As we continue to work toward nominating the site through the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, I thought I’d share a little about the history of the school and similar institutions that followed the Tuskegee model.

Continue reading “Ambidexterity and Ambition: The Tuskegee Model Legacy”