Pat Quinn , Governor
Six thousand manuscript collections containing more than 9,700,000 letters, business ledgers, diaries, and organizational records are preserved in the Library. These papers are from Illinois businesses, individuals, and governmental officials, including nearly all of the governors and many state and federal legislators. Major holdings relate to frontier travel and settlement, agriculture, the Civil War, medical care, women's studies, and labor and social history.
Appointments are required to use the Manuscript collection. Phone (217) 785-7942. Manuscripts are not available on interlibrary loan.
The Manuscripts Section houses over 6,000 collections of individuals and records of businesses and organizations from Illinois. The holdings date from 1274 through the 1990s with the bulk of the materials dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. These original letters, diaries, and business and organizational records document the physical, political, religious and social aspects of Illinois history. Nearly all of the governors and many state and federal legislators are represented in the collections.
Major concentrations are in frontier travel and settlement, agriculture, the Civil War, medical care, women's studies, and labor and social history. Prominent political figures highlighted in the collections are U.S. Sen. and Gov. Ninian Edwards, U.S. Sen. David Davis, U.S. Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, U.S. Sen. Lawrence Y. Sherman, U.S. Sen. Lyman Trumbull, U.S. Rep. Joe Cannon and U.S. Sen. Shelby Cullom. Collections of contemporary political figures include Gov. Otto Kerner, Gov. Adlai E. Stevenson II, Gov. William G. Stratton, Sen. Paul Simon and Sen. Adlai E. Stevenson. (Official papers of state government officials are housed in the Illinois State Archives.)
Early Illinois history can be found in the papers of Pierre Menard, a fur trader, merchant and public official. Holdings of the Civil War era and the Gilded Age are unusually rich and diverse. Civil War generals represented in the collection include John A. McClernand, Benjamin H. Grierson, Richard J. Oglesby and John M. Palmer. A bibliography of Illinois Civil War regimental sources is also available.
Religious history of the early period of Illinois is documented in the papers of William Royal, an early Methodist circuit rider, and Levi Spencer, a Congregational minister and abolitionist, among others. The papers of Richard Paul Graebel (1947-1975), pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Springfield, illustrate the connections between social work and religion. Some of the educational history of Illinois can be found in the Jonathan Baldwin Turner Papers (1836-1895), the records of Monticello College (1794-1971), a women's school in Godfrey, and the American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region Records which includes the Shurtleff College records.
Organized labor is represented in the collections of the Belleville Trades and Labor Assembly, the Tn-City Trades and Labor Council and the Illinois State Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. Early aspects of the labor movement appear in the papers of George A. Schilling (1876-1943), who was active in the Knights of Labor and Duncan McDonald (1894-1960), an organizer for the United Mine Workers.
The library is home to a number of unusually fine collections of family papers, among them the Bailhache-Brayman family (1796-1905) and the Condell Family (1855-1959) of Springfield. Other notable family papers include the Wallace-Dickey family of Ottawa (1816-1934), Ingersoll family of Peoria (1859-1935) and the Herrick-Reasoner-Milnor-Sparks family of Alton, Litchfield, and Staunton (1860-1967).
Descriptions of agricultural activities can be found in the papers of the Hopkins-Mcvay family (1836-1964) relating to stock farming in Granville and the papers of Carl S. Vrooman (1874-1970), a McLean County advocate of scientific farming methods. The Springfield Association of Commerce and Industry collection (1908-1967) is one of many illustrating business activities.
The records of the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention (1969-1970) are housed in the library and supplemented by the papers of twenty-six delegates, including Samuel W. Witwer, who was president of the convention and had long been active in efforts to revise the 1870 Constitution.
Manuscripts Section has its own card catalog, which can be used to access
materials. Larger collections have more extensive finding aids, which
are filed in notebooks near the card catalog. An in-house set of bibliographies
is also available to help patrons find material relating to particular
Research Requests / Visits
Patrons must fill out a registration form specifying the requested collections. All manuscript materials are used in the Manuscript Reading Room. Notes should be taken with pencil or computer. Electrical outlets are provided for computer use.
Copies may be made Manuscripts staff for 25 cents each with a limit of 40 copies per person per day. Copyright restrictions apply. A list of local historical researchers can be provided upon request.
Some collections are restricted, requiring special permission from the donor for use. Information regarding specific collections is available upon request. Records for some collections can be found in the OCLC database. The Library's symbol is JFK.
Appointments to use the collection are strongly recommended. Staff will respond to letter and phone inquiries as time permits. Email requests will not be answered. The Manuscripts Section is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday except for state holidays.
For information on the use or reproduction of images or text, please see our policy.
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