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Friday, January 28, 2011

The NASA Connection

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy on January 28, 1986, I thought I'd reflect on the museum's NASA related collections.

You may wonder why a local history museum in Illinois would have NASA materials in its permanent collection. Well, there are at least two good reasons—James Lovell, and the Curt Teich Postcard Archives.

The former NASA astronaut, James "Jim" Lovell, Jr., (born March 25, 1928), moved to Lake Forest, Illinois after retiring.

Lovell is most famous as the commander of the Apollo 13 mission, which suffered a critical failure en route to the Moon, but was brought back safely to Earth by the efforts of the crew and mission control. In 1994, he published a book about the mission, "Lost Moon," and the film version followed with Tom Hanks as Commander Lovell. Over a decade ago, Lovell with his family opened up Lovells of Lake Forest, a fine dining restaurant.

In 2010, the Lake County Discovery Museum received information that NASA was deaccessioning items through US General Services Administration program. The NASA Space Program artifacts can be acquired by non-profit museums, universities, and schools.

With James Lovell's connection to Lake County in mind, the museum pursued the acquisition of any items pertaining to the Apollo missions.

The process involved lots of paperwork, but through much diligence the museum received a ballpoint pen that had gone into space on an Apollo mission.

Staff fondly refer to the NASA pen as the "moon pen." Though it never was on the moon, the pen orbited the Earth on one of the Apollo space missions. LCDM 2010.29

This color postcard was donated to the museum in 1975, probably a souvenir purchased by the donor (from Mundelein) while visiting the Kennedy Space Center. LCDM 75.16.37

The card's caption reads: "The original 7 Astronauts selected by N.A.S.A. From left to right: Navy Lt. Comm. Malcolm Scott Carpenter, Air Force Capt. Leroy Cooper Jr., Marine Lt. Col. John Glenn. Jr., Air Force Capt. Virgil Grissom, Navy Lt. Comm. Walter Schirra, Jr., Navy Lt. Comm. Alan Shephard, Jr., Air Force Major Donald Slayton."

The museum's other connection to NASA are postcards held in the collections of the Curt Teich Postcard Archives. The archive of the Teich Company of Chicago was donated to the museum in 1982, and among the hundreds of thousands of postcards are 106 related to NASA.

"The Flight of the First Saturn C-1 Space Vehicle." Curt Teich postcard, 1961 (1DK-1981)

"U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr." Curt Teich postcard, 1962 (2DK-1506)

"NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, NASA's Saturn Undergoes Pre-Launch Check-out." Curt Teich postcard, 1964 (4DK-1641).

For more fun with postcards from the Teich Postcard Archives, check out the blog Life in a Postcard Mirror written by my colleague Debra Gust.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lake County's Gridiron History

I'm on the fence about this Sunday's big game between the Chicago Bears and Greenbay Packers. Actually, on the fence. I live on the Illinois Stateline, and Wisconsin is across the street.

To keep things nice and neutral, I thought I'd share some football images from the Lake County History Archives.

Lake Forest College football team, circa 1899. LCDM

"Illinois Foot Ball Eleven - 1899" LCDM

"6th Corps Area Championship Game, November 29, 1925" Fort Sheridan - 41, Jefferson Barracks - 0 LCDM 92.24.566

A great view of the sidelines at the Fort Sheridan game, 1925. LCDM 92.24.560

Deerfield High School football schedule for 1932. LCDM 2007.17.61

Women's Army Corps member, Technician 5th Grade, Mary Boyd, with part of the Fort Sheridan football team, 1944. LCDM 92.24.1884

Lake County Rifles, circa 1965. Bob Amann is seated front row far right. LCDM 2010.28.202

Bob Amann, a lifelong Lake County resident and newspaperman, co-founded the Lake County Rifles, a semi-professional Central States Football League that played from 1965 to 1972. Thanks to a generous donation by Amann's children, the museum now has an extensive collection of Lake County Rifles photographs, programs, newsclippings, trophies, and memorabilia.

You may have seen the Rifles play at Weiss Field in Waukegan or Carmel High School in Mundelein. Rifles' program, 1973. LCDM 2010.28.14

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bess Bower Dunn (1877 - 1959)

Bess Bower Dunn has made appearances in previous posts, but I've never featured her until now. And she is so deserving of her own post!

Bess, also known as Bessie, was a woman of firsts. She was one of the first women in motion pictures, the county's first woman historian, the county's first assistant probate clerk, and one of the county's earliest genealogists.

About 1896, Bess (at right) and her friend, Isabelle Spoor, were asked by local inventor, Edward Amet, to help him with his new invention. When the women arrived at the inventor’s home on North Avenue in Waukegan, Amet handed each a pair of boxing gloves. Bess recalled, “We whipped those long skirts out of the way and had a fine old time.” For several historic minutes, the girlfriends punched each other while Amet filmed. The stars of Amet's film titled, "Morning Exercise," became the first women in motion pictures.

In 1899, Bess was hired as the county's assistant probate clerk, and in her spare time assisted people with their family research. If you happened into the probate office at the first half of the 20th century, Bess would  happily assist you in your research by looking in county records, and offering to visit local cemeteries to verify the correct spelling of surnames and dates of birth and death. 

Bess was one of the founders of the Lake County Historical Society (now defunct, but the Society's collections are held by the Lake County Discovery Museum and Lake Forest College). In 1909, the  Society placed a 7-ton memorial rock near the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue (Route 21) and Aptakisic Road just west of the Des Plaines River to commemorate the county's first permanent non-native settler, Daniel Wright.  Bess standing next to the Wright Memorial Rock, 1909. 

Bess promoted Lake County history by giving lectures and through the efforts of the Lake County Historical Society, and also preserved the history with her own documentation of the county's heritage. She was an avid photographer, and traveled throughout the county looking for historic sites to capture on film, and meeting early settlers. 

Bess sitting near an unidentified lake with her box
camera on her lap, circa 1905.
Bess posing with Native trail marker tree in
Lake Bluff, circa 1910. 
After several years of courtship, on November 21, 1918, Bess married Roland R. Dunn, who became the advertising manager of the Globe Department Store in Waukegan. Roland was the son of Byron A. Dunn (1842-1926), historian, author, Civil War veteran, and newspaper man. Sadly, just ten years into their marriage, Roland died following an appendicitis operation. Bess never remarried. 

This photograph is believed to be a gathering of the Lake County Historical Society, circa 1930. The location is unknown, but may be Lake Forest. Pictured are: (back row) Josephine Aiken, Betty Rice, Jannette Aiken, Elizabeth Osgood, Barbara Lindsay; (front row seated) Bess Dunn, Mrs. Zoehler, Mrs. E. Herberger, Mrs. Jannette Aiken, Mrs. Leary, Mr. William Whigam, Mrs. M.J. Fleming, unidentified, Mrs. John Bohn, Mrs. Sarah Hall, Mrs. Tyler Gilbert. 

You may have noticed that there is only one man present in the photo—William Whigam. He was the grandson of Daniel Wright, the county's first non-native settler. Mr. Whigham also attended the Wright memorial rock dedication in 1909, and passed away in 1933. 

Just before her death in 1959, Bess was awarded the title of Lake County Historian by the Lake County Board of Commissioners. She is the first person in the county's history to have the title. She was also honored for her 60 years of service as an employee of the county from 1899 to 1959, which made her the longest county employee on record.

The day after her passing, the courthouse flags were at half mast in memory of Bess and the County Recorder of Deeds Gustaf H. Fredbeck, who had also passed away.

Bessie with Millburn friends, Florence Stewart, Mrs. White, Maud White, Mrs. Stewart, Mrs. Armbruster, and Mrs. Strang, pictured on July 12, 1897. 

Bess is one of my most admired Lake County citizens. Without having met her, all I have are photographs and articles to tell me about her, and from those items it's apparent her life was full of joy and purpose. I think she'd be pleased that her efforts in preservation are appreciated to this day. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Adlai E. Stevenson II

Lake County resident, Adlai E. Stevenson II (1900-1965) was one of the most important statesmen of the 20th century.

Stevenson was a popular and effective governor of Illinois from 1948 to 1952, before running twice unsuccessfully for president against Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. He was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations from 1960 to 1965.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1961, Stevenson famously confronted Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin in an emergency meeting of the Security Council. He provoked Zorin to admit that offensive weapons had been placed in Cuba and declared that he would wait "until Hell freezes over" for Zorin's response.

Presidential campaign button for Stevenson and Sparkman, 1952. Senator John Sparkman was a conservative Democrat from Alabama. (LCDM 2009.5)

In 1937, Stevenson purchased property in Libertyville Township along today's St. Mary's Road south of Route 60. For this reason, he was known as "the man from Libertyville." Since 1960 the property has been part of the Village of Mettawa.

Stevenson loved this property and called it "the farm." He hired Frank Holland to be the farm manager and caretaker. Holland worked for the Stevensons from 1937 to 1963 and again from 1965 to 1970. Guests to "the farm" included Eleanor Roosevelt, a close friend of Stevenson's, and John F. Kennedy.

Adlai Stevenson with his farm manager, Frank Holland, on "the farm," 1948. Stevenson would share in the sheep shearing and other farm tasks. Photo courtesy of Jim Holland.

Stevenson had a remarkable political pedigree. His grandfather, Adlai E. Stevenson I, was Vice President under U.S. President Grover Cleveland from 1893-1897. His maternal great-grandfather, Jesse W. Fell, was a close friend and campaign manager for Abraham Lincoln.

There was a great sense of loss when Stevenson died suddenly of a heart attack in London, England in 1965. He was an eloquent speaker and was enormously informed in national and world affairs, working tirelessly to raise the level of the public's awareness about the world and America's place in it.

Cover of Life Magazine from 1965 in memory of Stevenson, showing him at home at "the farm." Copyright Getty Images.

In 1969, most of the property was sold to Edison Dick, a longtime friend of Stevenson. In 1974 the Dick family donated the estate to the Lake County Forest Preserves. The property has since been designated an Illinois Historic Site and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Through a generous grant from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the Stevenson Historic Home has been restored, and is open for tours. The 40-acre site is open daily for self-guided tours of the grounds. Tours of the home and exhibit gallery are by appointment and can be arranged through the Lake County Discovery Museum at 847-968-3381.

Presidential campaign slogan for Stevenson.(right)

The Stevenson Historic Home is also the site of the Stevenson Center on Democracy. The Center is a newly organized non-profit corporation which seeks to enhance the global understanding and practice of democracy, and continue Adlai E. Stevenson II's legacy. Learn more about upcoming events sponsored by the Center at the Stevenson Historic Home: