WILL - Focus - June 27, 2013

Images of America: Monticello and Remembering Champaign County

Monticello been called “the patent medicine capital of the world,” and is home to the famous Allerton Park. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk with author Maureen Holtz about the town’s history…in pictures. Then, we’ll talk with former Mayor Dannel McCollum about his book “Remembering Champaign County.”


(Duration: 51:34)

Two men stand in front of the Pepin Syrup Company in the 1920’s.

This hour on Focus, we’ll take a look through into history through the lens of a camera. Maureen Holtz, author of the new book “Images of America: Monticello” joins us to talk about some of the things that make Monticello’s history so rich. We’ll talk with her about the pepsin syrup factory that earned the town the title “patent medicine capital of the world,” and how she went about compiling the town’s history dating back to the 1800’s in authentic photos.

Then during the second half of this hour on Focus, Dannel McCollum, former Mayor of Champaign and author of “Remembering Champaign County” joins us. We’ll talk with him about March Madness on campus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Benjamin Franklin Harris, entrepreneur extraordinaire. Host Jim Meadows also talks with Dannel about the county’s first convicted murderer who was defended by Abraham Lincoln.

Categories: Community, History

WILL - Focus - June 17, 2013

For God, Country and Coca-Cola

“Ahhh…” We’re all familiar with the sound of the cap being popped off a bottle of coke, but how did Coca-Cola evolve to one of the more recognized brands in American history? We’ll find out this hour on Focus.


(Duration: 51:29)

Coca-Cola bottles

This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with journalist and author Mark Pendergrast about his book, now out in paperback, “For God, Country and  Coca-Cola.” Pendergrast tells us about the now famous soft drink that started as an obscure patent medicine created by a small family owned business.

In his book, Pendergrast shares the guarded secret recipe for the cola…. We’ll hear about what ingredients comprise America’s beloved soft drink and if it’s true whether or not Coke actually contained cocaine in the early 1900’s.

So…coke or pepsi? We want to hear from you this hour on Focus!

Categories: Food, History

WILL - Focus - May 28, 2013

Uncle Joe Cannon

Many consider Joseph Gurney Cannon one of the most dominant speakers of the House of Representatives in U.S. history. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about the life and legacy of Uncle Joe Cannon.


(Duration: 51:42)

A painted mural of "Uncle Joe" Cannon on the side of a building in downtown Danville at the corner of Harrison and Vermilion streets depicts the Time Magazine cover he was featured on.

Uncle Joe Cannon served in the U.S. House of Representatives as speaker from 1903 to 1911 and is considered the second longest serving Republican speaker in history. He was featured on the first cover of Time Magazine and is remembered as one of the more colorful members of Congress.

This hour on Focus, we’ll remember Joe, his Illinois roots, and some of his more notorious moments as speaker in Washington D.C. Host Jim Meadows talks with Matt Wasniewski, a historian for the House of Representatives and Timothy Smith, an amateur historian and long-time Danville resident who is working on a biography about Joe.

Categories: Biography, Government, History

WILL - Focus - March 05, 2013

Curating Local History

Are you intrigued by the past? Do you have a favorite factoid about Champaign-Urbana history? Today on Focus, we talked about curating local history.


(Duration: 49:57)

Early American Museum, Museum of the Grand Prairie, Mahomet IL

During this hour on Focus, we’ll start by looking at history through the lens of a comic book. Amateur historian, artist and Associate Professor of New Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Kevin Hamilton has just published the comic titled, “A Place in Time, Two Paths to a Television Broadcast.” It chronicles a national television broadcast by Public Broadcasting Lab, the show that later turned into 60 Minutes, which originated in Urbana in 1968. He'll join us to talk about the comic book, what inspired it and why he thinks chronicling events like it give us unique perspective.

Timothy Cain who co-directs the UIUC’s Ethnography of the University Initiative, also joins the conversation. He’ll tell us about the project, how it archives hundreds of research projects every year and provides undergraduates the chance to research university history. We’ll talk about research that has uncovered facts about student sub-cultures and their influence on campus and community life and how displaying history can work to influence a sense of community. Barb Garvey, Assistant Director of the Museum of the Grand Prairie, also joins the conversation to talk about other local history projects and why they’re important.

Categories: Community, History

WILL - Focus - January 28, 2013

Christian America and the Kingdom of God


(Duration: 50:48)

book jacket of the Christian America book

This hour on Focus, we’ll consider the notion of America as a Christian nation, as we talk with Dr. Richard Hughes, a Professor of Religion at Messiah College. He explores this concept in his book Christian America and the Kingdom of God. In it, Hughes considers how religious and political leaders have historically used this belief to reinforce a sort of messianic nationalism, characterizing the United States as God’s “chosen nation” – a view Hughes holds has led to an increase in power and influence among fundamentalist Christians, but has ironically led to unchristian behavior.

WILL - Focus - December 18, 2012

A Disability History of the United States


(Duration: 51:22)

An estimated one out of every five Americans has been diagnosed with one or more psychological or physical disabilities. That makes disabled Americans one of our largest minorities. And yet, most of our history books pay little notice to the role the disabled have played in our nation’s past. We’ll discuss the contributions of the disabled to our laws, policies, economics, popular culture, and collective identity, with Kim Nielsen, author of A Disability History of the United States.

WILL - Focus - December 12, 2012

Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan


(Duration: 51:18)

Portrait of Tamim Ansary and Book Jacket for Games Without Rules

Born in 1948, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tamim Ansary is a writer, lecturer, editor, and teacher based in San Francisco.  He directs the San Francisco Writer’s Workshop, teaches through the Osher Institute, and writes fiction and nonfiction about Afghanistan, Islam-and-the-West, democracy, current events, social issues, and as he says, "my cat, and other topics as they come up."

WILL - Focus - December 07, 2012

This Indian Country: American Indian Activists and the Place They Made


(Duration: 50:30)

For years, Frederick Hoxie asked students to name three American Indians and almost universally, the names mentioned were the same: Geronimo, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Many Americans see Indians as occupying a position outside the central narrative of American history. It’s almost a given that Native history has no particular relationship to the conventional story of America. Indian history may be seen as short and sad, one that ended a long time ago.

In This Indian Country, Hoxie creates a counter-narrative; Native American history is also a story of political activism, with victories in courts and campaigns rather than on the battlefield. For more than two hundred years, Indian activists have sought to bridge the distance between their cultures and the republican democracy of the United States through legal and political debate. Over time their struggle defined a new language of “Indian rights” and created a vision of American Indian identity, engendering a dialogue with other activist movements.

Among the people discussed in “This Indian Country” is Sarah Winnemucca, who was the first American Indian woman to publish a book in the U-S. Follow the link below to read Winnemucca’s “Life Among the Piutes.”

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