This Week in Illinois History

This Week in Illinois History provides a 90-second snapshot of an event significant to Illinois history.

Join Host Clint Cargile as he covers big events while also exposing little-known pieces of Illinois history. Topics range from pivotal moments to obscure oddities that listeners will find informative, engaging, possibly disturbing, and sometimes amusing.

Airing Mondays in 2021 on WNIJ at 12:31 p.m. (during Here and Now) and 6:18 p.m. (during All Things Considered).

Theme music by Southern Belle.

This Week in Illinois History is made possible by Ken Spears Construction

Courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

William H. Bissell was Illinois’ 11th governor, elected in 1856 and endorsed by Abraham Lincoln. He is known for many Illinois firsts: first Catholic governor, first Republican governor  -- the party was only two years old at the time of his election -- and first governor to die in office.

Wikipedia user Jscott (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Great Blizzard of 1978 was one of the worst storms in Illinois’ history. One-hundred-mile-an-hour winds whipped up snow drifts as high as 12 feet. Wind chills were so low they caused railroad tracks to buckle and break. Northern Illinois, especially Chicago, ground to a halt. And a couple of snowed-in computer nerds created a major technological achievement.

Flickr User Joseph Gage (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Illinoisans have bet on horseracing since 1927, purchased Lottery tickets since 1974 and gambled for non-profit charities since 1986.

But on Feb. 7, 1990, Gov. James Thompson signed the Riverboat Gambling Act, laying odds on economic development and tourism.

One hundred and eighty-eight years ago, Illinois’s nascent anti-slavery movement began to pick up steam. On Feb. 1, 1833, eleven men who shared a fierce loathing of America’s peculiar institution banded together and established the Putnam County Anti-Slavery Society, the first anti-slavery society in Illinois, and one of the first in the western United States.

Library of Congress (LC-DIG-fsa-8a13112)

They call it black gold. Texas tea. But Texas wasn’t the only state to dominate America’s oil industry. Illinois was once one of the highest oil-producing states in the country, and, for a time, the world.

Oil speculators looked to Illinois as early as the 1860s and found some success in the early 1900s. But the real boom began Jan. 27, 1937, when the Adams Oil and Gas company struck oil on Glenn Merryman’s farm in Marion County, setting off a southern Illinois oil boom that lasted half a century.

Library of Congress (88715937)

One hundred and one years ago, America’s non-drinkers really hornswoggled everyone who loved their booze. Prohibition began at midnight, January 17, 1920, a Saturday. Americans had one last Friday to imbibe or sock away their sauce.

In a state known for bootleggers and violence, the transition actually happened without much fanfare.

Winston1085, via Wikimedia Commons

When we think of Illinois, we think of Abraham Lincoln, flat farmland and Chicago. But maybe someday our state will be associated with… sandwiches?

It was this week 37 years ago that the first Jimmy John's opened in Charleston, Illinois. Its founder, Jimmy John Liautaud, had just turned nineteen.

Before they trotted the globe or dropped in on Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, the Harlem Globetrotters made their traveling debut in the small farming village of Hinckley, Illinois.

It was January 7, 1927. The all-Black basketball team from Chicago’s south side traveled 60 miles west into the cornfields to challenge the Hinckley Merchants.