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Before the Ivy

The Cubs' Golden Age in Pre-Wrigley Chicago

Laurent Pernot

All Cub fans know from heartbreak and curse-toting goats. Fewer know that, prior to moving to the north side in 1916, the team fielded powerhouse nines that regularly claimed the pennant. Before the Ivy offers a grandstand seat to a golden age: - BEHOLD the 1871 team as it plays for the title in nine different borrowed uniforms after losing everything in the Great Chicago Fire - ATTEND West Side Grounds at Polk and Wolcott with its barbershop quartet - MARVEL as superstar Cap Anson hits .399, makes extra cash running a ballpark ice rink, and strikes out as an elected official - WONDER at experiments with square bats and corked balls, the scandal of Sunday games and pre-game booze-ups, the brazen spitters and park dimensions changed to foil Ty Cobb - RAZZ Charles Comiskey as he adopts a Cubs hand-me-down moniker for his team's name - THRILL to the poetic double-play combo of Tinker, Evers, and Chance even as they throw tantrums at umpires and punches at each other - CHEER as Merkle's Boner and the Cubs' ensuing theatrics send the team to the 1908 World Series Rich with Hall of Fame personalities and oddball stories, Before the Ivy opens a door to Chicago's own field of dreams and serves as every Cub fan's guide to a time when thoughts of "next year" filled rival teams with dread.

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The Best Specimen of a Tyrant

The Ambitious Dr. Abraham Van Norstrand and the Wisconsin Insane Hospital

Thomas Doherty

In 1847, young Dr. Abraham Van Norstrand left Vermont to seek his fortune in the West, but in Wisconsin his business ventures failed, and a medical practice among hard-up settlers added little to his pocketbook. During the Civil War he organized and ran one of the army’s biggest hospitals but resigned when dark rumors surfaced about him. Back home, he accepted with mixed feelings the one prestigious position available to him: superintendent of the state’s first hospital for the insane.
            Van Norstrand was a newcomer to the so-called “Hospital Movement,” perhaps the boldest public policy innovation of its time, one whose leaders believed that they could achieve what had long been regarded as impossible, to cure the insane. He was a driven man with scant sympathy for those he considered misfits or malingerers. Even so, early observers were impressed with his energetic, take-charge manner at the hospital. Here at last was a man who stood firm where his predecessors had weakened and foundered. But others began to detect a different side to this tireless ruler and adroit politician. It was said that he assaulted patients and served them tainted food purchased with state money from his own grocery store. Was he exploiting the weak for personal gain or making the best of a thankless situation? Out of this fog of suspicion emerged a moral crusader and—to all appearances—pristine do-gooder named Samuel Hastings, a man whose righteous fury, once aroused, proved equal to Van Norstrand’s own.
            The story of Abraham Van Norstrand’s rise and fall is also the story of the clash between the great expectations and hard choices that have bedeviled public mental hospitals from the beginning. 

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Beyond Cold Blood

The KBI from Ma Barker to BTK

The history of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation from the In Cold Blood killers to the BTK serial killer by the longtime director of the KBI.

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Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities

Across the United States, historic preservation has become a catalyst for urban regeneration. Entrepreneurs, urban pioneers, and veteran city dwellers have refurbished thousands of dilapidated properties and put them to productive use as shops, restaurants, nightclubs, museums, and private residences. As a result, inner-cities, once disparaged as zones of poverty, crime, and decay have been re-branded as historic districts. Although these preservation initiatives, often supported by government tax incentives and rigid architectural controls, deserve credit for bringing people back to the city, raising property values, and generating tourist revenue, they have been less successful in creating stable and harmonious communities.

 

Beyond Preservation proposes a framework for stabilizing and strengthening inner-city neighborhoods through the public interpretation of historic landscapes. Its central argument is that inner-city communities can best turn preserved landscapes into assets by subjecting them to public interpretation at the grass-roots.  Based on an examination of successful projects in St. Louis, Missouri and other U.S. cities, Andrew Hurley demonstrates how rigorous historical analysis can help communities articulate a local identity and plan intelligently on the basis of existing cultural and social assets.    

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Big House on the Prairie

75 Years of the University of Nebraska Press

In 2016 the University of Nebraska Press celebrates its 75th anniversary. Proudly rooted in the Great Plains, the Press has established itself as the largest and most diversified publisher located between Chicago and California. The achievements of a vast network of devoted authors, editors, board members, series editors, and staff, the Press has published more than 4,000 books and more than 30 journals of influential and enduring value.

What started as a one-person operation at a land grant institution on the sparsely populated plains of Nebraska has tenaciously grown into a press that has earned an international reputation for publishing notable works in Native studies, history, anthropology, American studies, sports, cultural criticism, fiction, fiction in translation, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Winning numerous awards through the years, most notably several Nobel Prizes, the Press has contributed richly to the state, the region, and far beyond. The Press’s partnership with the Jewish Publication Society has placed an emphasis on books in Jewish studies and Bible studies, while the acquisition of Potomac Books has expanded the Press’s subject matter to include national and world affairs and more widespread coverage of military history. 

In honor of its 75th anniversary, the Press has produced the publication Big House on the Prairie, which features a narrative of press highlights, profiles of key historical employees, and lists of its 75 most significant books, 30 journals, and 75 most noteworthy book covers. Please join us in celebrating 75 years of publishing excellence.

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Big Marsh

The Story of a Lost Landscape

by Cheri Register

Under the corn and soybean fields of southern Minnesota lies the memory of vast, age-old wetlands, drained away over the last 130 years in the name of agricultural progress. But not everyone saw wetlands as wasteland. Before 1900, Freeborn County’s Big Marsh provided a wealth of resources for the neighboring communities. Families hunted its immense flocks of migrating waterfowl, fished its waters, trapped muskrats and mink, and harvested wood and medicinal plants. As farmland prices rose, however, the value of the land under the water became more attractive to people with capital. While residents fought bitterly, powerful outside investors overrode local opposition and found a way to drain 18,000 acres of wetland at public expense. Author Cheri Register stumbled upon her great-grandfather’s scathing critique of the draining and was intrigued. Following the clues he left, she uncovers the stories of life on the Big Marsh and of the “connivers” who plotted its end: the Minneapolis land developer, his local fixer, an Illinois banker, and the lovelorn local lawyer who did their footwork. The Big Marsh, an environmental history told from a personal point of view, shows the enduring value of wild places and the importance of the fight to preserve them, both then and now.

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The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa

Iowa has been blessed with citizens of strong character who have made invaluable contributions to the state and to the nation. In the 1930s alone, such towering figures as John L. Lewis, Henry A. Wallace, and Herbert Hoover hugely influenced the nation’s affairs. Iowa’s Native Americans, early explorers, inventors, farmers, scholars, baseball players, musicians, artists, writers, politicians, scientists, conservationists, preachers, educators, and activists continue to enrich our lives and inspire our imaginations.
     Written by an impressive team of more than 150 scholars and writers, the readable narratives include each subject’s name, birth and death dates, place of birth, education, and career and contributions. Many of the names will be instantly recognizable to most Iowans; others are largely forgotten but deserve to be remembered. Beyond the distinctive lives and times captured in the individual biographies, readers of the dictionary will gain an appreciation for how the character of the state has been shaped by the character of the individuals who have inhabited it.
     From Dudley Warren Adams, fruit grower and Grange leader, to the Younker brothers, founders of one of Iowa’s most successful department stores, The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa is peopled with the rewarding lives of more than four hundred notable citizens of the Hawkeye State. The histories contained in this essential reference work should be eagerly read by anyone who cares about Iowa and its citizens.

Entries include Cap Anson, Bix Beiderbecke, Black Hawk, Amelia Jenks Bloomer, William Carpenter, Philip Greeley Clapp, Gardner Cowles Sr., Samuel Ryan Curtis, Jay Norwood Darling, Grenville Dodge, Julien Dubuque, August S. Duesenberg, Paul Engle, Phyllis L. Propp Fowle, George Gallup, Hamlin Garland, Susan Glaspell, Josiah Grinnell, Charles Hearst, Josephine Herbst, Herbert Hoover, Inkpaduta, Louis Jolliet, MacKinlay Kantor, Keokuk, Aldo Leopold, John L. Lewis, Marquette, Elmer Maytag, Christian Metz, Bertha Shambaugh, Ruth Suckow, Billy Sunday, Henry Wallace, and Grant Wood.

Excerpt from the entry on:
Gallup, George Horace (November 19, 1901–July 26, 1984)—founder of the American Institute of Public Opinion, better known as the Gallup Poll, whose name was synonymous with public opinion polling around the world—was born in Jefferson, Iowa. . . . . A New Yorker article would later speculate that it was Gallup’s background in “utterly normal Iowa” that enabled him to find “nothing odd in the idea that one man might represent, statistically, ten thousand or more of his own kind.” . . . In 1935 Gallup partnered with Harry Anderson to found the American Institute of Public Opinion, based in Princeton, New Jersey, an opinion polling firm that included a syndicated newspaper column called “America Speaks.” The reputation of the organization was made when Gallup publicly challenged the polling techniques of The Literary Digest, the best-known political straw poll of the day. Calculating that the Digest would wrongly predict that Kansas Republican Alf Landon would win the presidential election, Gallup offered newspapers a money-back guarantee if his prediction that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would win wasn’t more accurate. Gallup believed that public opinion polls served an important function in a democracy: “If govern¬ment is supposed to be based on the will of the people, somebody ought to go and find what that will is,” Gallup explained.

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Birch Coulie

The Epic Battle of the Dakota War

John Christgau

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Black Eden

the Idlewild community

Lewis Walker

Black Eden chronicles the history of Idlewild, a Michigan black community founded during the aftermath of the Civil War. As one of the nation’s most popular black resorts, Idlewild functioned as a gathering place for African Americans, and more importantly as a touchstone of black identity and culture. Benjamin C. Wilson and Lewis Walker examine Idlewild’s significance within a historical context, as well as the town’s revitalization efforts and the need for comprehensive planning in future development. In a segregated America, Idlewild became a place where black audiences could see rising black entertainers.
     Profusely illustrated with photos from the authors’ personal collections, Black Eden provides a lengthy discussion about the crucial role that Idlewild played in the careers of artists such as Louis Armstrong, B. B. King, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, and Della Reese. Fundamentally, the book explores issues involved in living in a segregated society, the consequences of the civil rights movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent integration, and the consequences of integration vs. racial solidarity. The authors ask: Did integration kill Idlewild? suggesting rather that other factors contributed to its decline.

 

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