Illinois History Minutes

As WILL-AM celebrates a century of being on the air, we are sharing a minute-long snippet of Illinois history every weekday in 2022. This daily feature includes memorable people, places and events of that helped shape the prairie state.

Hosted by Illinois Public Media reporter Jim Meadows, the minute of Illinois History will air on WILL-AM/FM at 7:42 a.m. during Morning Edition and 5:32 p.m. during All Things Considered; as well as on WILL-AM in the 1 o'clock hour of Here & Now and at 8 o'clock in the evening. We've also made them available below for all of you history buffs!

December 30 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 30, and the new year is approaching. On New Year’s Day in 1886, Chicago department store magnate Marshall Field held a Japanese-themed Mikado ball, inspired by the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, for his teen-aged son and daughter and about 400 of their young friends. Cost: a reported 75-thousand dollars.

December 29 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 29th, and the Chicago Bears won the NFL Championship on this day in 1963, beating the New York Giants 14 to 10 at Wrigley Field in single-digit temperatures. It was the Bears’ first championship victory since 1946, when fullback Bill Osmanski was part of the team.

December 28 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 28th, the day in 1886 that Josephine Garis Cochrane of Shelbyville and later Chicago received a patent for what’s considered the first commercially viable automatic dishwasher. She built the first one in the shed behind her home, with the help of mechanic George Butters, her first employee. The dishwasher was initially marketed to restaurants and hotels. But it wasn’t until the 1950s, years after Cochrane’s death, when her dishwasher, now made by KitchenAid, started to become a fixture in people’s homes.

December 27 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 27th, the day that abolitionist Hiram Rutherford was born in 1815. His home and doctor’s office in the Coles County town of Oakland are open to the public as a historic site. He built the house in 1847, the year he was involved in the Matson trial.

December 26 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 26th. And in 1830, it was still snowing in Illinois. It was a snowfall that had started on Christmas Eve, and was remembered for years afterwards as simply the “Deep Snow”. Deep snowdrifts became encrusted with ice from freezing rain, often trapping livestock, wild game and people. Some who were trapped that way became easy prey for wolves. Others who perished in subzero temperatures were not found until spring.

December 23 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 23rd, and Christmas is coming. The holiday wasn’t always the big deal it is today. 18th century journals from the French settlement of Kaskaskia --- later the first Illinois capital --- show that people attended church on Christmas Eve, and perhaps gave small gifts to their children.

December 22 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 22nd, the day of the 1910 Chicago Union Stock Yards fire. The fire started before dawn in a warehouse. 50 fire engine companies and seven hook and ladder companies were called to the scene during the course of the fire. They were hampered by fire hydrants which had been turned off to prevent freezing. The collapse of a blazing building at the stockyards killed three civilians and 21 firefighters, including Chicago Fire Chief James Horan.

December 21 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 21st, the day in 1932 when the University of Illinois and University of Missouri men’s basketball teams played each other for the first time. The Fighting Illini beat the Tigers 36 to 24 that year. In 1980, Illinois and Missouri’s basketball rivalry was formalized in the annual Braggin’ Rights game. So far, Illinois has won the majority of the matchups.

December 20 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 20th. The day of the “sudden freeze that rolled through the United States, including central Illinois, in 1836. Freezing temperatures were first reported on the Illinois-Iowa border around 10 A.M., and spread eastward to the Indiana border by 6 P.M. They were accompanied by strong winds and dark clouds, with temperatures falling below zero the next day in much of the Midwest. Many people caught unprepared for the sudden temperature dip froze to death, and there were reports of livestock frozen in their tracks.

December 19 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 19th, and the formation of Jasper County in southeast Illinois was finalized on this day in 1834. The rural county is named after Sergeant William Jasper, a hero of the Revolutionary War. Jasper County is the birthplace of Young Adult novelist Irene Hunt, who used it as the setting for her Civil War novel, Across Five Aprils.