Journal of Illinois History features
Paul Simon's newspaper career, agitating for
women's rights, memoir and photos of southern Illinois prison
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[MAY 23, 2005]
SPRINGFIELD -- The newspaper career of the late U.S. Sen.
Paul Simon, agitating for women's rights in 19th-century Illinois, and a memoir
and photos that show life at the prison in Chester in the late 1800s are
featured in the latest issue of the Journal of Illinois History, a scholarly
publication about the state's history.
At the age of 19, Paul Simon purchased a defunct newspaper in
southern Illinois and renamed it the Troy Tribune, beginning
publication on June 24, 1948. He immediately began to use his
newspaper for public crusades, urging residents to pay for an
improved sewer system and taking on Madison County officials like
the state's attorney and sheriff. In mid-1949 Simon took his local
anticrime crusade to the highest level, getting Gov. Adlai Stevenson
directly involved in the Madison County gambling problem.
mantle of crusader Simon earned while a young newspaper editor
served him well during his decades as an elected official. Nearly 50
years later, he reflected on these heady times: "A newspaper can be
a powerful force for good, even when operated by someone with almost
The article was written by Robert E. Hartley, who worked as a
journalist in Illinois from 1962 to 1979 and has written books about
Simon, Lewis and Clark, Charles H. Percy, James R. Thompson, and
Another article was written by Wendy Hamand Venet, associate
professor of history at Georgia State University in Atlanta and
author of several books about women abolitionists, workers and
On March 13, 1869, a weekly newspaper called the Agitator debuted
in Chicago. Carrying the subheading "Devoted to the Interests of
Woman," the Agitator was owned and edited by Mary Livermore. In the
coming months the publication would play an important role in
launching the post-Civil War women's rights movement in Illinois and
the Midwest. Disseminating information and encouraging incipient
activism, the Agitator also helped create a sense of respectability
among the general public for what had been considered radical
ideology before the war.
[to top of second column in this article]
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library recently received from the
descendants of a former prison warden secretary a photographic album
containing 50 images of the Southern Illinois Penitentiary at
Chester. These have been combined in an article with a typewritten
memoir from one of the prison's former wardens to paint a picture of
Illinois prison life around the turn of the century.
The memoir speaks of the daily operation of the facility and the
politics involved in every aspect of its operation, from hiring
staff to awarding contracts. The photos show, among other things,
the prison's blacksmith shop; warden's office; inmates working in
the prison's stone quarry; molds stacked in the foundry; prisoners
laboring in the knitting factory; and inmates proudly displaying
potted plants, caged birds and a pet cat.
The article was written by two staff members of the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library: Mary Michals, audio-visual curator,
and Thomas F. Schwartz, state historian and manager of collections
The Journal of Illinois History, the foremost publication for
readers who value documented research on the state's history,
features articles, book reviews, essays and bibliographies that have
been reviewed by some of the country's leading historians.
The journal is published by the
Preservation Agency. 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]