Do you know the way to Bean Town?

This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in January 2014 before the launch of this weblog.

Do you know the way to Bean Town?

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The city of Pekin has seen vast changes since its birth as a pioneer town in 1830 and its incorporation as a city in 1849. Old maps and atlases show the city’s growth, as it spread out to the east, south and north from the original town (now the old downtown area of Pekin) and new sections and streets were laid out.

The maps give the names of the new subdivisions – Cincinnati Addition, Broadway Addition, Colts Addition, Leonard Addition, Edds Addition, Casey’s Addition, etc. However, there is one part of Pekin that had a unique name which does not appear on the old maps, because it wasn’t an “official” name.

That section was popularly known as “Bean Town.” It was the old northeast quarter of Pekin, bounded on the south by Broadway and on the north by Willow, with George Street (today called Eighth Street) as its western boundary. In the days when “Bean Town” got its name, the neighborhoods north of Willow and east of 14th Street did not yet exist.

Shown is a detail from the map of Pekin found in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” The northeast quarter of Pekin, indicated by the box, and areas adjacent to it were heavily settled by German immigrants beginning about the mid-1800s. Because the Germans living there usually maintained gardens in which they grew beans, the quarter came to be known as “Bean Town” (“Bohnen Fertel”).

Why was Pekin’s old northeast quarter called “Bean Town”? It got its name as a result of the very great numbers of German immigrants who arrived in Pekin during the middle and latter half of the 1800s. “Bean Town” was Pekin’s German quarter. It was in that quarter, at 1100 Hamilton St., where the parents of U.S Senator Everett M. Dirksen lived, and where Dirsken and his twin brother Thomas lived as children.

An indication of the heavy immigration could be seen when there was an ice jam in the river at Cairo in January of 1854. It held up 14 steam boats loaded with some 2,000 German immigrants,” says the 1949 Pekin Centenary on page 15.

Continuing, the Centenary says, “The Germans built neat homes, and were enthusiastic gardeners. They located in large numbers in the northeast part of Pekin. Their gardens gave that part of the city a character all its own, and it came to be called ‘Bohnen Fertel’ in German, later called ‘Bean Town’, for the same reason; and with the passage of years ‘Bohnen Fertel’ became corrupted into Bonshe-fiddle.

Though the gardens are long since gone, Pekinites still refer to ‘bonshe-fiddle’ and ‘bean town’ in speaking of that part of the city.”

As the Centenary says, “Bohnen” is the German word for “beans.” The word “Fertel” is an old variant form of the German word “viertel,” meaning a fourth or a quarter. (“Fertl” also means “quarter” in Yiddish.) Because the German immigrants liked to plant their gardens with beans, the neighborhood came to be called Bean Town.

For a while in the latter 1800s, the majority of Pekin residents were German, and the German language could be heard here almost as commonly as English. With World War I, however, came a reaction against all things German. As a result, the children of German immigrants hastened to assimilate into American culture, and Pekin businesses began to take down their “Wir sprechen hier Deutsch” signs.

The name “Bohnen Fertel” or “Bean Town” has long since fallen into disuse. The only visible trace of that place-name today is in the name of Bean Town Antiques, a former market at the corner of 14th and Catherine streets.

Bean Town Antiques, a structure that formerly was a market at the corner of 14th and Catherine streets, is shown in this Google Street View image from 2011.

#bean-town, #bean-town-antiques, #bohnen-fertel, #everett-mckinley-dirksen, #germans-in-pekin, #preblog-columns, #thomas-dirksen

William Gaither, Tazewell County treasurer

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in August 2014 before the launch of this weblog.

William Gaither, Tazewell County treasurer

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The Gaither surname occupies a special place in the history of Pekin and Tazewell County, chiefly due to the central role played by Mary Elizabeth Gaither (1852-1945) in the planning and construction of the Pekin Carnegie Library in 1902. She also compiled and wrote the early history of the library up to 1902.

Having devoted much of her years to the public library, Miss Gaither, as she was usually known (never having married), later moved to California, where she lived her remaining years in the home of her older brother Otho, outliving him by a few months and dying in Lindsay, Calif., on Jan. 11, 1945. Her obituary, published on the front page of the Jan. 13, 1945 Pekin Daily Times, surprisingly is silent about her involvement in the library, but offers these remarks on the decades-old ties of Miss Gaither and her family to Pekin:

“The news carries oldtimers down a long memory lane to Civil War days in Pekin. At the turn of the year, word came of the death of Mrs. Margaretha Neef, whose memory also included Civil War and Abraham Lincoln days in Pekin. Still living of that day and almost the same age is Mrs. Anna Schipper, now in Florida for the winter.

“The old Gaither home in Pekin was the house that now is the Congressman Dirksen home. Many remember old Mr. Gaither because of the shawl he wore. Miss Gaither is best remembered here as a music teacher – but that was long, long ago.”

Shown is a drawing of William Gaither’s home on Buena Vista Avenue in Pekin that was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” The house is more usually remembered today as the home of U.S. Senator Everett M. Dirksen and his wife Louella, but formerly was the residence of Mary E. Gaither who played a chief role in the plans to build the 1902 Pekin Carnegie Library. The house still stands today and is located at 335 Buena Vista Ave.

“Mr. Gaither” was William Gaither, Esq., who held a number of public offices in Tazewell County, including that of county treasurer. His social prominence and political activities earned him a place in the 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County, which also includes numerous biographies of the “Old Settlers of Tazewell County.” Gaither’s biography is on page 42 of the atlas, and an engraving of his residence on Buena Vista Street is found on page 124.

William Gaither was born April 8, 1813, in Hagerstown, Maryland, the son of Zachariah Gaither (1782-1834) and Elizabeth Garver (1786-1827). The biography says William became a cabinet-maker’s apprentice at the age of 17. “After completing his apprenticeship, and business not being very brisk in his native state, he was desirous of trying his fortunes in a new country, and with that intention he started westward, and traveled overland to the Ohio river, then by steamer, landing in Pekin, Illinois, in October, 1836. He remained here but a short time, then went to Tremont, which was then the county seat of Tazewell county. He there resumed his trade, which he carried on for a number of years,” the biography says.

In 1844, he married Ann Eliza Coleman Garrett, and together they had seven children, three of whom died in childhood – William, Otho, Martha, Mary, Charles, Samuel and Lincoln. He and his family moved back to Pekin in 1863.

The biography continues, “In the year 1850 he was lured from the quiet walks of life, and was in the fall of that year elected sheriff of Tazewell county, as the candidate of the Whig party. Under the then existing constitution of the state, a sheriff was not eligible for reelection for the succeeding term. After the expiration of his term of office, Mr. Gaither turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, and to his trade, which claimed his attention for several years. In 1862 he was appointed by Sheriff Williamson, his deputy. During that year he did most of the business of the office. In the fall of 1862, Mr. Gaither was nominated by the Republican party, for sheriff, but of course was defeated, as the Democrats at that time were largely in the ascendancy in Tazewell county.

The biography goes on to tell of Gaither’s subsequent involvement in public affairs: appointed by President Lincoln a federal inspector of revenue for the Eighth District (encompassing Tazewell County), removed from that office by President Johnson over policy differences, appointed assistant county treasurer and collector in the fall of 1867, appointed county treasurer in September 1869 to fill the vacancy created by the death of County Treasurer Barber, then elected county treasurer in November 1869.

At the time of the publication of the 1873 Atlas Map, Gaither was serving a second elected term as treasurer. He died in Pekin on Jan. 11, 1892 – coincidentally the same day and month that his daughter Mary died in 1945. His widow Ann Eliza died in 1912.

Among the records and mementos preserved in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room archives is a collection of papers and letters of William Gaither, many of them associated with his activities as treasurer and collector for the county. The collection, formerly in the possession of Miss Gaither, was donated to the library in 1970 by Miss Gaither’s niece (Otho’s daughter), Nellie Gaither Urling-Smith.

#anna-eliza-coleman-garrett, #anna-eliza-gaither, #anna-schipper, #carnegie-library, #dirksen-home, #everett-mckinley-dirksen, #louella-dirksen, #margaretha-neef, #mary-elizabeth-gaither, #miss-gaither, #nellie-gaither-urling-smith, #otho-gaither, #pekin-public-library, #preblog-columns, #william-gaither

A Second Reformed Church retrospective

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

As announced in the Pekin Daily Times last month, Pekin’s historic Second Reformed Church will hold its last worship service this Sunday, Nov. 24, due to dwindling membership. This week’s “From the Local History Room” will look into the standard works on Pekin’s past for a retrospective on the church’s history.

Starting out 145 years ago, in the 20th century Second Reformed Church became known as “the Dirksen church” because Pekin’s hometown U.S. Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen and his family were members. Though Second Reformed’s church building, at 600 State St., has had numerous renovations, remodelings, and additions, the original church building of 1876 remains intact.

Founded early in the heyday of Pekin’s German “Bean Town,” the church was born from the great influx of German immigrants who arrived in Pekin about the third quarter of the 19th century. While most Germans are Lutheran or Catholic, the Dutch Reformed (Calvinist) religion gained a foothold along the North Sea coasts of Germany – the area known as Ostfriesland, “land of the East Frisians.” The Dutch people are akin to the neighboring Ostfriesland Germans, and many of Second Reformed’s families, such as the Dirksens, have been descendants of immigrants from Ostfriesland.

Second Reformed Church was founded early enough in Pekin’s history that it merited a paragraph in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 592-593. This is how Chapman summarized the church’s first few years:

“Second Dutch Reformed Church was organized July 26, 1876 (sic – 1874), by Revs. K. B. Wieland, John Miller, and E. P. Livingston, with fifteen members. The building was erected the same year. It is a good frame, 35 by 55 feet in size, and cost $2,500. It was dedicated the first Sunday in October, 1876, and since has made great advances, and the pastorate of Rev. P. F. Schuelke, the present pastor, has been especially blessed, and the membership increased to 80. Rev. K. B. Wieland preceded Rev. Schuelke, who came in May, 1876, and was the first pastor. The Elders are U. B. Johnson, and W. Dickman. Deacons; D. Greon, and D. Klok. The Sunday-school was organized with two teachers and twelve scholars. It now numbers 125 to 150 scholars in attendance, Henry Ploepot, Superintendent. Contribution, $75 per year. Salary of pastor, $700.”

Chapman’s account misstates the year of the church’s organization, probably mistaking the year of Schuelke’s arrival and the construction of the church building for the year of organization. The church’s official website also states that Second Reformed Church began with 56 charter members, not 15. In the two years prior to the construction of the church, the members under Rev. Klaus Wieland’s pastoral care met in various homes and buildings.

This 19th century photograph from the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection shows Second Reformed Church of Pekin as the structure appeared during the first two or three decades of its existence. The church building remains to this day, but now has wooden siding and some additions on the west side, and the steeple has been removed.

Ben C. Allensworth’s updated 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” page 921, adds the comment that Rev. Schuelke “filled the pastorate for eighteen years, being succeeded in 1903 by Rev. John De Beer, the present pastor. The church is in a highly prosperous condition. The church membership consists of fifty families and the Sunday school has 140 members.”

The 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial volume, pages 16-17, offered this account of the church:

“This year marks the 100th anniversary of Pekin’s Second Reformed Church, organized July 26, 1874, by a group of German immigrants. The first and only building for this congregation was constructed on the corner of State and Sixth Streets in 1876. Faced with the decision of whether to remodel or construct a new building, the congregation has recently undertaken a major renovation of the old church, thus preserving one of Pekin’s oldest landmarks.

“To many Pekin residents, Second Reformed is known as the Dirksen Church, because the late Senator Everett M. Dirksen attended its services during his youth. His twin brother Tom recalls that when he and Everett were about 16, it was their responsibility to pump up the air for the organ and also stoke the two coal stoves that stood on either side of the sanctuary. The stoves are gone now, and the organ has been replaced, but the congregation of 230, led by Reverend Ralph Cordes, still meets in the same building.”

The Sesquicentennial also includes this caption under a recent photograph of the church: “The Second Reformed Church celebrated its 100th anniversary this year with a major renovation of the building which was constructed in 1876.

Second Reformed Church of Pekin as shown in a photograph reproduced in the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial volume.

Finally, “Pekin: A Pictorial History” (1998, 2004), page 183, provides these details:

“Conceptualized by a committee of three, organized for low and high German immigrants, Second Reformed Church of Pekin built its first building in 1876 after two years of meeting in homes and small buildings.

“Initial early improvements consisted of oil stoves replaced by a gas heating plant and kerosene lights replaced by electric ones.

“More current improvements include the Hinners’ pipe organ replaced by a new organ, augmented with an electronic keyboard and updating of the building interior and exterior.

“The church facility has modernized with additions of an annex and educational wing. The first parsonage was sold in 1973 and replaced with a newly constructed four-bedroom home to the west of the church.

“Things have been changed, but the message is the same: Jesus Christ is Lord and this is His House.

“The church building has been remodeled several times, most recently in 1978, but the original bell with its German inscription, ‘THE LORD IS SUN AND SHIELD’ still peals from the new bell tower regularly.”

#bean-town, #beantown, #everett-mckinley-dirksen, #pekin-churches, #rev-john-de-beer, #rev-klaus-b-wieland, #rev-p-f-schuelke, #rev-ralph-cordes, #second-reformed-church, #thomas-dirksen

Hubert Ropp: ‘born genius,’ ‘celebrated man’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

An accomplished and talented artist’s framed watercolor that was donated recently to the Pekin Public Library – a maritime scene of sailboats offshore – bears the artist’s signature in the bottom right corner: “C. H. Ropp.”

This watercolor was donated by David and Connie Perkins of Pekin, who had purchased it in June 2013 at a yard sale held by Gene and Joan Goodale, also of Pekin. The Ropp watercolor was one of several items that had been left in the Goodales’ attic by Mr. Velde, the former owner of their house.

This watercolor by accomplished artist Hubert Ropp, a native son of Pekin who went on to become Dean of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, recently was donated to the Pekin Public Library.

This watercolor by accomplished artist Hubert Ropp, a native son of Pekin who went on to become Dean of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, recently was donated to the Pekin Public Library.

The artist’s name in full was Clarence Hubert Ropp (1894-1973), but his friend and fellow member of Pekin High School’s Class of 1913 Everett McKinley Dirksen recalled that Ropp dropped the “Clarence” and went by his middle name instead. Throughout his career in the art world, he was usually known as Hubert Ropp or C. H. Ropp. The son of Aaron and Catherine (Schrock) Ropp, he was born on a farm two miles east of Pekin on Allentown Road. Hubert Ropp’s obituary in the Pekin Daily Times reports that the old Ropp home, “the first house on the north side of the road, east of the railroad tracks crossing Allentown road,” had been torn down some years before Ropp’s death.

It’s fitting that Ropp and Dirksen were friends. They are the best remembered members of their graduating class, and even in high school it became clear that fate held good things in store for them. The 1913 Pekinian shows that Ropp was president of his class and Dirksen was vice president. A short but glowing comment at the end of the list of Ropp’s high school activities says, “He has more nicknames than any other student in High School. This goes to show that he is very popular. As an artist he is superb; as a musician, nothing is beyond him. Verily, he is a born genius and will some day become a celebrated man. Here’s to him.”

This is the senior picture of C. H. Ropp from the 1913 Pekinian yearbook

This is the senior picture of C. H. Ropp from the 1913 Pekinian yearbook

Ropp was editor-in-chief and illustrator of the Pekinian that year, but it would have been most unseemly for him to have written the words of praise in his yearbook. (A Chicago Tribune story at the time of Ropp’s retirement in 1959 calls him “as modest as he is great.”) Most likely it was another member of the yearbook staff who had the task of penning the memorials of the senior class. In any event, the words of high praise in the yearbook were a faithful portrait and would prove to be a true prophecy of his life.

During their high school years, Ropp and Dirksen showed an interest in the theater, both having roles in “The Colonel’s Maid,” the high school play, during their junior year. After graduation, Dirksen tried his hand as a playwright and wished to become an actor, but his mother regarded the theater as a wicked line of work and dissuaded him from that career path. Still feeling an attraction to the theater, however, Dirksen collaborated with Ropp on a production for Pekin’s Centennial celebrations in 1924, a pageant called “1,000 Years Ago.” Dirksen and his future wife Louella Carver were the stars of the show, which was directed by Ropp, who also painted the scenery. Publications on Dirksen’s life characterize the show as “more noted for bringing Dirksen together with the future Mrs. Dirksen than for the quality of the show.” In his later years, Ropp did an oil painting of his old friend Dirksen.

After the death of Ropp’s father, he and his mother moved to Chicago, where he attended the Art Institute of Chicago. According to a biographical sketch by Bruce Allen at, after graduating from the institute, Ropp studied in Paris and Vienna. Returning to Chicago, Ropp became Dean of the National Academy of Art, and then in 1942 he was named Dean of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. According to Allen, Ropp was an innovator in his field. “As a dean,” Allen writes, “Mr. Ropp expanded the curriculum of the school by adding more contemporary design classes, as well as a variety of courses that catered primarily to war veterans who were enrolled in great numbers under the GI Bill.”

During his tenure as Dean, the school became the largest of its kind in the U.S. When he retired from his position in 1959, the school had a student enrollment of 4,908 and a staff of 101, according to a Chicago Tribune report dated Aug. 17, 1959, entitled, “Hubert Ropp Ending Art Institute Career,” by Edith Weigle.

“Each year, as the students’ own show is staged in the east wing galleries,” Weigle wrote, “Dean Ropp’s creative mind has made it tick. It is he who has arranged the artistic and highly original decorative accents in the galleries, backgrounds against which each student’s work is shown to best advantage, and it is he who personally had added the finished touches that give the exhibition a professional air.”

After retirement, Ropp painted and worked in artistic crafts from a studio near Libertyville, Ill. At the end of his life, Ropp lived in Lake Bluff, Ill. He died June 22, 1973. His obituary in the Pekin Daily Times that day observed that he died “the same day that President Nixon came to Pekin on the invitation of Louella Carver Dirksen to honor the memory of her husband.” Ropp’s aunt, Mrs. Barbara (Schrock) Heisel of Pekin, received word of his death just as she was about to send him clippings about the laying of the Pekin Public Library’s cornerstone.

#c-h-ropp, #chicago-art-institute, #everett-mckinley-dirksen, #hubert-ropp, #louella-dirksen, #pekin-history

First flowering of Pekin’s Marigold Festival

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The 44th Annual Pekin Marigold Festival, scheduled to run from Thursday, Sept. 8, through Sunday, Sept. 11, is less than two weeks away. However, since this weekend in fact falls within the anniversary of the very first Marigold Festival, which ran for 10 days from Aug. 24 to Sept. 2, 1973, now is an ideal time to refresh our memories of the festival’s first flowering.

After almost a year in which the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce worked hard to fertilize and cultivate the ground for the first Marigold Festival, the festivities opened with the coronation of Cynthia Xanos as Marigold Queen at the Pekin riverfront, followed by the arrival at the foot of Court Street of a group of Voyageur canoeists who were reenacting the expeditions of French explorers Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette through the states of Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin that summer. The festival also featured the now traditional Marigold Parade and a carnival, along with dinners, music festivals, an art fair, and a visit from the King Brothers Circus.

Since the festival was conceived by members of the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce as a way to honor the memory of Pekin’s late Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896-1969), the first festival’s committee scheduled public readings from Dirksen’s speeches and writings on the first three days of the festival, along with a special reception for Dirksen’s widow Louella at the Pekin Country Club on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 26, 1973. An invitation-only benefit ball for the Dirksen Library (originally located at the Pekin Public Library, now in its own building on the east end of town on Broadway) took place on Saturday, Aug. 25.

In this Pekin Daily Times photograph, Pekin's first Marigold Queen Cynthia Xanos, right, chats with Mrs. Everett M. Dirksen and Mrs. Dirksen's daughter, Mrs. Howard Baker, during the Marigold Ball at the Pekin Country Club, Saturday, Aug. 25, 1973, one of the main events of the First Annual Marigold Festival.

In this Pekin Daily Times photograph, Pekin’s first Marigold Queen Cynthia Xanos, right, chats with Mrs. Everett M. Dirksen and Mrs. Dirksen’s daughter, Mrs. Howard Baker, during the Marigold Ball at the Pekin Country Club, Saturday, Aug. 25, 1973, one of the main events of the First Annual Marigold Festival.

To promote the late Senator’s favorite flower – and bolster Pekin’s self-bestowed title of “Marigold Capital of the World” – the planning committee not only organized a flower show and contest at the Pekin Mall on Thursday, Aug. 30, but in the months leading up to the festival also strongly encouraged Pekinites to plant marigolds.

In a 1973 promotional advertisement expressing hope for the blooming of 250,000 to 300,000 marigolds, the planners stated, “We take this opportunity to encourage your youth groups, men’s club, and other church organizations to participate in this festival by planting your grounds with as many marigolds as possible. . . There are seven varieties of marigolds the committee has chosen for their ease in planting and growing, as well as for their abundance of bloom. They are: Lemon Drop, Aquarius, King Tut, Mediterranean Moon, Bolero, Sparky, and First Lady. . . . We want each block in Pekin alive with MARI-GOLD. Our major planting weekend will be May 24th through May 27.”

The Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection maintains archival folders for each year’s Marigold Festival. Included in the 1973 Marigold Festival folder is a copy of the minutes from the Oct. 2, 1972 planning committee meeting at the Chamber of Commerce offices. From those minutes, we learn that the committee members were Dorothy Doan, Elaine Jefferson, Tom Hallett, Gene Sangalli, John Turnell, Lee Williams, Julian Smith, John Walker, and Henry VanderHeyden (who was absent from the Oct. 2 meeting).

“Meeting was called to order at 4:05 p.m. John Turnell was appointed Treasurer of the Committee. Mark Heine was appointed to Publicity. Lee Williams was appointed as Secretary,” the minutes say. Turnell served as the festival’s general chairman.

Tasks and duties were then assigned to each committee member, with local horticulturalist Sangalli naturally being given the role of Grower’s Coordinator – “To designate five types of Marigolds to be promoted. To discuss the promotion with the growers solicitating (sic) their cooperation. To provide Mark Heine with mats. To assist in the development of planning planting designs.” Hallett was named Retailer’s Coordinator, Heine was in charge of the publicity campaign, Williams was Industry/Business Coordinator, VanderHeyden was Governmental Coordinator, Walker was Special Events Coordinator, and Jefferson and Doan were Service Club Coordinators.

The committee’s hard work was deemed to have paid off: after the festival, the Pekin Daily Times reported that the 10-day event was a “tremendous success,” and the planning committee immediately began to solicit ideas from the public in preparation for the 2nd Annual Marigold Festival. A few years later, the ever-popular Marigold Medallion Hunt was added, and the event was fixed for the weekend following Labor Day in September. The festival no longer extends over a 10-day period, but still carries on the essential traditions of the original celebration in 1973.

#everett-mckinley-dirksen, #howard-baker, #marigold-festival, #pekin-history

Obama historical materials and memorabilia donated

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

This week’s “From the Local History Room” column spotlights a recent addition to the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection (previously announced here).

The library last month received a donation of an impressive collection of materials and memorabilia from the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of Barack Obama as well as some historical materials from Obama’s time as a U.S. Senator for Illinois from 2004 to 2008.

These materials, which include numerous U.S., European, and Canadian newspapers, magazines, and assorted political campaign and convention memorabilia, were donated by Amy and Mark Werner of Pekin. Amy Werner was the first director of Pekin Main Street, and she and her husband are active in Democratic Party politics.

Obama’s chief place in history is as the first African-American to be elected president of the United States. Notably, one of the articles in the Werners’ collection is a Peoria Journal Star opinion column by James Unland, formerly of Pekin, which recalls the link between Obama’s historic election in 2008 and perhaps the most important achievement of U.S. Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen of Pekin.

“As President-elect Obama prepares to enter the White House,” Unland wrote in the Jan. 4, 2009 Journal Star, “it is worth remembering that it was central Illinois’ own Senator Everett Dirksen who orchestrated what has been called the single most important congressional vote of the 20th century, the U.S. Senate’s vote to close off the civil rights debate on June 10, 1964.

“That vote, which ended a 12-week filibuster by southern Democratic senators, paved the way for the final passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The move was significant enough that it landed Dirksen on the cover of Time magazine on June 19, 1964.

“Without the support of Dirksen and Republican senators, who were in the minority, this landmark legislation would have been dead at the starting line . . .”

As it happens, the Werners until recently owned and lived in Dirksen’s former home. Obama’s own direct link to Pekin is a visit to the Pekin Public Library during his time in the U.S. Senate.

The Werners’ donated materials are available for researchers in two archival boxes in the wide storage cabinet in the back corner of the Local History Room.

#amy-werner, #barack-obama, #everett-mckinley-dirksen, #political-memorabilia

Donation of Barack Obama historical materials

The newest addition to our Local History Room collection is a donation of materials from the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of Barack Obama. These materials, which include numerous U.S., European, and Canadian newspapers, magazines, and assorted political memorabilia, were donated to the library earlier this month by Amy and Mark Werner of Pekin, who until recently owned and lived in the former home of Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen. The Werners’ donated materials are available for researchers in two archival boxes in the wide storage cabinet in the back corner of the Local History Room.

Shown here is a sample article highlighting some Dirksen history from the Werner collection of Obama materials.


#amy-werner, #barack-obama, #everett-mckinley-dirksen, #political-memorabilia