Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Roadside History of Illinois

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Roadside History of Illinois

Article excerpt

Roadside History of Illinois. By Stan Banash. (Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2013. Pp. 496. Paper, $20.00.)

Part history book and part travel guide this work seeks to guide readers to discover and savor the history, culture, and natural beauty of Illinois. In this quest author Stan Banash has surely succeeded. Roadside History of Illinois relates layers of Illinois stories and facts that historians, casual students of history, and, especially, visitors to the Prairie State will find to be both useful and informative.

Beginning with a detailed and comprehensive chronology, Banash sets the stage by outlining native cultures, French influences, and the struggle between France and Britain for colonial supremacy. Subsequent British and American struggles are also noted as are later events, such as the Tri-State Tornado of 1925 and the completion of the Sears Tower in 1973. The chronology ends with the year 2011.

In addition, various "Illinois Facts" (e.g., state symbols) and statistics are provided as well as the various verses to the State Song "Illinois." Another short section, "Illinois Originals," contains over forty "firsts" and inventions. Here readers learn that the First Dairy Queen ice cream shop was established in Joliet in 1940 and that Decatur resident Robert R. Montgomery invented the fly swatter in 1900. All of the above will be especially useful to visitors to Illinois.

The main focus of the guide, however, is to relate stories. By dividing Illinois into seven geographic sections (Southern, Western, Central, Eastern, and Northern Illinois, in addition to Metropolitan Chicago and Chicago neighborhoods), the author describes each region via roadways. Using this approach the layers of stories appear along interstate highways, county roads, and scenic country lanes. Noting the ever-changing landscape in Illinois this narrative device blends history with many diverse attractions. Readers will encounter such notable historical figures as Civil War General John A. Logan and outlaw Charlie Birger along with information on the coal industry and on local wineries. One of the most important contributions for visitors is this book's emphasis on Illinois museums as centers of learning and entertainment. …

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