This Day in Illinois History

By Joens, David | Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

This Day in Illinois History


Joens, David, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society


This Day in Illinois History. By Jeff Ruetsche. (Cincinnati: Emmis Books, 2005). pp. 399. $17.95

This Day in Illinois History is a book whose title explains everything. Author Jeff Ruetsche goes through each day of the year, finds one memorable event in Illinois' past that occurred on that date, and writes a one-page description of that event. Ruetsche does not claim to have written a history of Illinois, but instead he has penned a light-hearted book of trivia with perhaps a little historical context thrown in. However, poor writing, typographical errors, and numerous factual errors, some of them glaring to the point of embarrassment, ruin even a light-hearted take on Illinois history.

Among the glaring factual errors, two stand out. First, the author spends the April 18 date recounting General Ulysses S. Grant's 1865 return to Galena following the Civil War. Actually, Grant returned to Galena on August 18, 1865, not April 18. Writing about Abraham Lincoln, the author states that from 1831 to 1837 the future president lived in Salem, in Marion County. Well, close. Actually, during those years, Lincoln lived in New Salem, which at the time was in Sangamon County, some one-hundred miles north of Salem.

While these are major errors, the book contains so many minor errors as to make it too questionable to use as a source of reference. General George Rogers Clark was the older, not the younger brother of William Clark (February 25), Lyman Trumbull was not elected to the Senate in 1855 as a Democrat (March 3), Otto Kerner did not serve as governor from 1961 to 1969, having resigned in 1968 (April 9), Adlai Stevenson II was not a three - time vice presidential candidate, although his grandfather ran for the office twice (May 8), and William Jennings Bryan was the Democrat nominee for president three times, not four QuIy 10). The list goes on and on.

The author made several recognizable typos in dates, thus making Ninian Edwards territorial governor in 1909, rather than 1809, having Robert Ingersoll passing the bar in 1954, rather than 1854, having James Thompson defeat Adlai Stevenson III for governor in 1988, rather than 1986, having Lottie Holman born in 1978, rather than 1878 and having Ernie Banks hit his 500th home run in 1960, rather than 1970. Again, and unfortunately, the list goes on and on.

Numbers are not the only problem with this book. Ruetsche displays a lack of basic knowledge about political terminology.

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