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Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 12:01 am


I had a few more thoughts on the subject of town histories. (“What they had to do,” Nov. 27, 2013.) I noted in that piece that the story of any of Springfield civic siblings –Decatur, Champaign and Urbana, Bloomington-Normal -- would make a lively book, yet none has one.

For example, Bloomington is, with Peoria, probably the most interesting city among those that span the middle third of the state, and its past is amply documented; the library maintained by the McLean County Historical Society contains more than 13,000 books and periodicals. Nevertheless, it lacks a book of the quality of, say, Earnest Elmo Calkins’ fine 1937 history of Galesburg, They Broke the Prairie. Calkins’ book was reprinted in 1971, and in 1989 the University of Illinois Press brought out a new edition with an introduction by Rodney O. Davis.

As for Peoria, for so long the Downstate Chicago, it never attracted a decent author while Chicago – which we could call Upstate’s Peoria – has attracted too many mediocre ones. Is a puzzlement.

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