The reconstruction of the log village
now known as Lincoln's New Salem, near Petersburg, is the subject of
the first article, which is the second of two written about the
subject (the first appeared in the autumn 2004 issue).
The site of New Salem, where Abraham
Lincoln lived as a young man, became a state park in 1919, at which
time the state promised to reconstruct the entire village as a
tourist attraction and memorial to Lincoln. In the 1920s the site's
popularity grew, but tangible results were not seen until the 1930s,
when local boosters were able to successfully get New Deal
government involved in reconstructing the 1830s log village.
The focus moved away from presenting
New Salem as a recreational park and toward a recreation of the
original village. Log buildings were reconstructed on or near
original foundations, but in some cases it was not possible to
confirm that a particular building was reconstructed in the same
configuration, or even the same location, as the original.
Nevertheless, the log village that
now operates as Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site is a
recreation of an era and is visited by more than half a million
The article was written by Richard
S. Taylor, Ph.D., chief of technical services for the Illinois
Historic Preservation Agency's Historic Sites Division, and Mark L.
Johnson, Ph.D., a historian with the agency.
* * *
The cover article features "Spoon
River Anthology" author Edgar Lee Masters, who in the early 1930s
began work on biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Vachel Lindsay. He
used the two biographies to present his views on the state of
America, but his studies of the men revealed much more about Masters
than they did about Lincoln or Lindsay.
In Masters' opinion, the wrong sort
of historical mythmaking, the most popular type of history, was both
unpatriotic and dangerous, and the true heroes were "honest"
biographers who told the whole, unvarnished truth about their
Ironically, Masters, who lived as a
child just a few miles from the log village where Lincoln lived,
detested Lincoln and did not present a balanced view of the 16th
president, choosing instead to blame him solely for the Civil War.
As he would later do in his biography of fellow poet Vachel Lindsay,
Masters suggested that if he had been around to show Lincoln the
way, things might have turned out better. The Lindsay biography that
Masters wrote ranged from protective to overly flattering to
condescending. Both books do serve, however, as interesting
snapshots of Masters' evolving mind.
The article was written by Roland R.
Cross, current president of the Vachel Lindsay Association in
[to top of second column in this article]
The city of Mattoon's free street
fairs from 1897 to 1903 are the subject of another article, written
by Andrew Stupperich, associate curator of collections at the New
York State Historical Association and The Farmers' Museum in
For six years Mattoon's business
community held a series of highly successful free street fairs that
furthered the community's economic progress and national reputation,
but at the same time caused some to question the appropriateness of
the entertainment offered there. It became business versus morality,
as many from the community objected to the gambling that occurred at
the fair, and one outraged eyewitness told a meeting of concerned
citizens, "I cannot in this presence tell all we saw; it must
suffice to say that some of the women were absolutely naked,
excepting a very thin flesh-colored gauze tights, and the attitudes
and gestures were all studiedly suggestive."
Moral indignation increased every
year as fair organizers tried to mesh the spirit of economic
progress with the entertainment value needed to draw people, and
money, to their city. Morality and its accompanying political
pressure won in the end, as the 1903 Mattoon Free Street Fair was
planned but never held.
Illinois History is the foremost publication for readers who
value documented research on the state's history. The journal
features articles, book reviews, essays and bibliographies that have
been reviewed by some of the country's leading historians.
Preservation Agency publishes the journal. Subscriptions are $18
per year for four issues. To obtain a sample copy, contact Illinois
Historic Preservation Agency, Publications Section, 1 Old State
Capitol Plaza, Springfield, IL 62701; or call (217) 524-6045.
Historic Preservation Agency news release]