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 16 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 16th, and before dawn on this day in 1811, the first of the three New Madrid earthquakes struck the Midwest, with an epicenter near New Madrid (MAD-drid) in present-day Missouri. For a time, the Mississippi River appeared to flow backwards from the quake’s impact. John Reynolds, later an Illinois governor, wrote in his memoir that the quake sent his family’s cattle running home in fear, and caused his father to jump out of bed, thinking Indians were attacking.

December 15 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 15th, and Illinois Governor Edward Coles was born in Virginia on this day in 1786. Coles was elected Illinois’ second governor in 1822, running on an anti-slavery platform. Two years later, at a constitutional convention called by pro-slavery interests, Coles led a successful effort to keep slavery out of the Illinois constitution.

December 14 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 14th, the day that the Chicago suburb of Robbins was incorporated in 1917. It’s the second oldest municipality formed by African-Americans in the north, and in its early years, the only northern town entirely governed by African-Americans.

December 12 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 12th, and on this day in 1939, WILL Radio recorded University of Illinois English Professor Ernest Bernbaum giving a public reading of “A Christmas Carol” at the Natural History building. The recording, on five sides of 16-inch transcription discs, is one of the oldest recordings by WILL in the University of Illinois Archives.

December 9 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 9th, the day that Democrat Augustus French was sworn in as Illinois’ 9th governor in 1846. French was the last Illinois governor to begin his term in December, and the first to take office in January, four years and one month later, when he was re-elected under a new state constitution.

December 8 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 8th, and cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar (SEE-gar) --- E.C. Segar for short, was born in Chester Illinois on this day in 1894. Segar drew his first cartoons for Chicago newspapers. But it was at the New York Journal where he created his most famous character, Popeye the Sailor in 1929. Segar died in 1938, and is buried in his hometown of Chester. He’s also remembered with a bronze statue of Popeye in a local park.

December 7 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 7th, the day in 1941 when Japanese forces attacked the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. More than 24-hundred Americans died in the attack, including dozens of Illinoisans.

December 6 Illinois History Minute

It’s December 6th, the day that quarterback Otto Graham was born in Waukegan in 1921.  The son of music teachers, Graham studied music at Northwestern University. His success on the Northwestern football team led to a professional career with the Cleveland Browns, where he earned the nickname “Automatic Otto” for his dependability.

December 5 Illinois History Minute

It’s December Fifth, the day that Thomas Ford was born in 1800 in Pennsylvania. He served as Illinois’ eighth governor in the 1840s. And it’s the day that Edward Coles was inaugurated as Illinois’ second governor in 1822. Both Ford and Coles had Illinois counties named after them.