Illinois Public Media News
The only known signed photo of Jesse James, the notorious outlaw from Missouri, will go to auction next week in Chicago.
The photo shows James with slicked back hair and gazing away from the camera at an angle. It's signed J.W. James. (His middle name was Woodson).
Mary Williams with Leslie Hindman Auctioneers says she was skeptical until she saw the signature first-hand and noted its similarity to a letter James is said to have signed.
"It's incredibly similar to an item being offered by History for Sale. It's a two-page letter from Jesse James where he signs on the front with his full name, Jesse James, and on the back he signs J.W. James like on our photograph, and the two are extremely similar," Williams said.
The photo is expected to sell at the auction next Tuesday for at least $20,000.
Not everyone is sold on its authenticity.
Gary Chilcote, the director of the Jesse James Home Museum in St. Joseph, says the outlaw rarely signed anything, because there was a reward on his head.
"What do we compare it with? That's the problem in determining the authenticity of a signature," Chilcote said. "You have to have something to compare it with that you know is correct, and it's pinning that down that is the hard part."
Chilcote says a letter James signed under the pseudonym Thomas Howard was sold several years ago.
Jesse James was shot in his home on April 3, 1882 at the age of 34.
(Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers)
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
Archaeologists have hard evidence that humans lived in North America much earlier than previously thought, and an Illinois researcher played a key role in nailing down the dates.
The earliest North Americans were long thought to be the Clovis people. Now archaeologists have dug up stone tools and debris from underneath a Clovis site in central Texas. The findings were discovered by researchers led by Michael R. Waters of Texas A&M University.
It was "like finding the Holy Grail," Waters said in a telephone interview. To find what appears to be a large open-air campsite "is really gratifying. Lucky and gratifying."
The trove of 15,528 artifacts included chipping debris from working stones and 56 tools such as blades, scrapers and choppers. The archaeologists sent samples to Steven Forman's lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he determined when the sediment around the objects was last exposed to sunlight.
The artifacts turn out to be about 15,000 years old - from millennia before the Clovis people. It's not the first evidence of cultures older than Clovis, but Forman says it may be the strongest.
"It appears to be that this might be kind of watershed piece of science in which people say, yes, there is really compelling evidence for pre-Clovis occupation in North America," Forman said. "It's no longer a red herring."
The small tools were "a mobile tool kit," Waters said, and of the type that could have led to the later development of the fluted points that trademark Clovis technology.
While there are other pre-Clovis sites across the country, Waters said the new find included significantly more artifacts than the others.
Anthropologist Tom D. Dillehay of Vanderbilt University, who was not part of the research team, said he is concerned that the separation of layers at the site "appears not to be as clear as the authors would have us believe."
University of Oregon archaeologist Dennis L. Jenkins said he was also initially skeptical of the find, commenting "it would have been a hard sell" from many other researchers.
Jenkins, who three years ago reported discovery of 14,000-year-old evidence of human DNA in a cave in Oregon, said he was concerned that settling or rodents had mixed up the specimens in Texas.
But, he said, Waters' team had done "incredible, meticulous scientific work." "I believe he's made the case," he said.
Jenkins said he would have preferred carbon-dating of the specimens, but that couldn't be done because there was no organic material to be tested in the newly found layer.
Steven L. Forman, of the University of Illinois, Chicago, a co-author of the paper, said the team used luminescence dating which can determine when the material was last exposed to light. They took samples by hammering black, sealed copper pipe into the layers. In a separate paper in the journal, researchers report evidence of early humans in south India more than a million years ago.
Researchers discovered more than 3,500 quartzite tools of the distinct Acheulian design used by the earliest humans in Africa starting more than 1.5 million years ago. They dated the tools to at least 1.07 million years old and some possibly 1.51 million years old.
The discovery at a site called Attirampakkam in the Kortallayar river basin helps anthropologists understand the spread of ancient people from Africa into Asia. Leading the research team was Shanti Pappu of the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education in Tamil Nadu, India.
The find is unprecedented for archaeological studies in India, said archaeologist Michael Petraglia of the University of Oxford, England, who was not part of the research team.
He said it could mean that early humans migrated out of Africa earlier than the oft-cited 1.4 million years ago, carrying the tools to southern Asia.
"The suggestion that this occurred at around 1.5 million years ago is simply staggering," he said.
The new find will likely overturn the history of ancient humans in North America. The results are out in the journal Science.
(Photo courtesy of Michael R. Waters/The Associated Press)
The foundation for many of the world's most powerful computers is housed at the University of Illinois. The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) started 25 years ago using computer systems like the Cray X-MP/24. Back then it was an industry standard, but it doesn't even come close to the processing speeds of today's models. The center set another world standard by releasing Mosaic, a pre-cursor to the web browser. The NCSA marks its 25th anniversary this year, and Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers spoke to the center's director Thom Dunning about the organization's contributions to science and technology.
(Photo courtesy of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications)
Buck O'Neil is regarded today as an ambassador to baseball history, particularly that of the Negro Leagues.
The 16-year veteran with the Kansas City Monarchs went on to become the first black coach in the major leagues, joining the Chicago Cubs organization in the early 60's, but he also was a Negro League manager and big league scout.
A documentary by a Champaign physician sheds new light on the legend's contributions to Chicago's rich baseball history. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talks with Dr. David Fletcher, the man behind plans for a Chicago Baseball Museum, about how Buck O'Neil's contributions to the game are helping that effort.
Abraham Lincoln fans have failed, again, to set a new world record.
State officials had hoped to break the record for the most people reading aloud at the same time. They organized a mass reading of Lincoln's Farewell Address two weeks ago, with people across the country taking part.
But as numbers come in, it's clear the event drew only a fraction of the people needed. Organizers tell The (Springfield) State Journal-Register that the total so far is about 13,000, while the world record is 223,363.
An attempt to break the record last year by reading the Gettysburg Address out loud also failed to set a record, but it came much closer. That event had about 180,000 people.
For nearly 150 years, a largely black private university in Nashville has prided itself on its liberal arts studies and its music. Vocal ensembles at Fisk University have been there about as long as the campus itself, but as Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert reports for NPR, the songs performed there could have sounded very different if it had not been for the efforts of one of the school's first music directors.
(Photo courtesy of Doug Seroff)
A group dedicated to documenting Illinois' legal history will tell the story of some of the first women to enter the profession.
A three-month exhibit on some of the state's first female attorneys opens Monday at the University of Illinois' College of Law.
The exhibit developed by the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission serves two purposes. It tells the stories of women who paved the way for many others in the courtroom. But it's also aimed at helping the public understand similar issues today. And Commission Executive Director William Wheeler hopes those touring the exhibit can add to it.
"We're trying to reach out to people and tell them what we know, but perhaps as important or more important is to find out what people in the community know, certainly the legal community," he said. "There are the family members of Supreme Court justices or judges who served for a long time. They have stores they could share with us. We'd like to hear those."
The stories will include that of Ada Kepley. In 1870, she became the first American woman to graduate from law school, earning her degree at Northwestern, which was then known as Union College of Law. Her favorite causes were women's suffrage and temperance, or the reduced consumption of alcohol. Kepley made her home in Effingham. Florence Kelley became Illinois' first female factory inspector in 1890, while Catherine McCulloch was the first woman to serve as justice of the peace.
The state's Supreme Court historic preservation commission, which was started in 2007, will work with other Illinois law schools over the next two years to host similar exhibits. Opening ceremonies for the women's legal history exhibit are Monday afternoon at 3 at the U of I College of Law. It will remain open through May 12th.
(Photo courtesy of William Wheeler, Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission)
Abraham Lincoln delivered his farewell address in Springfield 150 years ago as he was about to leave for Washington, D.C., and three months later, the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
To mark the anniversary of the start of the war, communities from all over the country simultaneously read the former president's farewell address on Friday in an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Record for simultaneous reading of a single document. The reigning world record was set in 2006 when more than 223,000 people read from "Charlotte's Web."
The Guinness Book of World Records requires the reading to last five minutes, so people had to recite the brief speech three times. Don Owen, the assistant superintendent for Urbana School District 116, was among the nearly 50 people who participated in the mass reading at the Urbana City Building. Owen, who showed up with his two children, said the speech revealed a lot about Lincoln's presidency.
"He knew that even before the Civil War started that he was going to be a president remembered for either saving or destroying the union," Owen said. "That kind of intelligence and forethought is amazing for any president."
Organizers say it will be several weeks before they know if they broke the record
Meanwhile, Urbana is looking forward to more Lincoln events. City planner Rebecca Bird said in the next couple of months, the city will release a podcast outlining sites with connections to Lincoln.
If you read the newspaper comics pages, you may have noticed the decline of the story strip. In January, "Brenda Starr, Reporter" disappeared from the comics pages, some 70 years after its creation by the late Dale Messick.
Its syndicator, Tribune Media Services, decided to end the strip, rather than replace Mary Schmich, the Chicago Tribune columnist who decided to leave "Brenda Starr" after writing it for 25 years (her collaborator for the past 15 years was artist June Brigman).
Schmich said she hopes Brenda Starr returns some day, but admits there is no future for the newspaper story strip as a format. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows spoke with Schmich about Brenda Starr's unique position as a woman-produced comic strip about a woman reporter.
Archeophone Records will be part of the Grammy Awards for the 5th straight year.
'There Breathes a Hope', the newest release from the Champaign-based label that re-issues some of the earliest known recordings, includes 43 songs performed by the Fisk Jubilee Quartet. The recordings and the accompanying 100-page booklet tell the story of John Wesley Work II, who started taking the Fisk Jubilee Singers, from Nashville-based Fisk University, on the road in the late 1890's in an effort to preserve African-American spirituals and their place in history. The ensemble became the Fisk University Jubilee Quartet in the next century. The re-issue of these songs is nominated for Best Album Notes.
Author Doug Seroff wrote the notes. "I suppose what Work had to do was convince the student body that this music was genuine African-American folk music..," said Seroff. ".. and it had all the potential and all the inherit cultural value that people's music has." The CD also includes portions of a 1983 interview Seroff conducted with Rev. Jerome Wright, one of the last surviving members of the Fisk Jubliee Singers to have performed under John Work II.
Archeophone co-owners Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey have one Grammy win - that was in 2007 - when another collection of black recordings - Lost Sounds, took the award for best historical album. Previous nominations include "Debate '08: Taft and Bryan Campaign on the Edison Phonograph" and "Actionable Offenses: Indecent Phonograph Recordings From the 1890's." The 53rd annual Grammy Awards will be presented on February 13th.
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