The IWA Timeline provides historical references that affected the lives of women in Illinois from 1840 to 1960. You can learn about the everyday lives of Illinois women -- what they wore, how they planned and cooked their meals, how they furnished their homes, and when art societies were formed, as well as state “firsts” and events.
Early Victorian dresses were sentimental. The boned bodices ended in a v shape at the waist. The narrow sleeves and dropped shoulders fit so tightly they limited the range of arm movements. Wide skirts were supported by crinolines that were stiffened fabrics like linen which used horsehair in the weave. The colors were plain and the patterns delicate. Large cashmere shawls provided warmth as well as a softness that appealed to women of this decade.
Over the next 60 years, women’s lives would change dramatically as they acquired greater freedoms. Yet at the same time their clothes became more restrictive.
1840s Home Furnishings
In the early 1840s, prairie Georgian architecture was favored in Illinois. Then in 1844 Abraham Lincoln bought a Greek Revival house in Springfield.
A fine house had both a parlor where visitors were entertained and a sitting or drawing room used by the family and close friends. Sliding or pocket doors separated the rooms. Furnishings were changing from Empire Style of the 1830s to gothic, Elizabethan and rococo styles. Carpets had large octagonal, star-shaped and later, floral designs. Braided and shirred rugs were also popular and were often made at home. Walls were painted in pale colors or papered with imported, vertical stripped papers. Pictures were hung high on the walls from long cords. Family portraits, maps, historical and disaster scenes were popular. Curtains were drawn back and held by swags with tassels.
A round mahogany table with a marble top or covered with a paisley cloth was found in the center of both rooms. In the sitting room, family life centered around this table where family members read by candle or solar lamp light in the evening. A chandelier also gave light to the room. Painted fancy chairs were set about the room and easily pulled up to the table. The sofa was large with low, turnip-shaped feet, and upholstered in velvet or silk or horsehair. Red was a popular color for upholstered sofas and chair seats. Footstools were covered to match the sofa and placed around the room. The fireplace was the focal point of the room. Framed paintings, a small lamp, and a piece of pottery were often found on the mantel. Most homes had a spinning wheel and a sewing rocker in the sitting room.
What’s for dinner?
Miss Leslie, in her 1847 cookbook called “The Lady’s Receipt-Book,” suggested these “plain” dinners for autumn…rabbit pot-pie, broiled ham with eggs, lima beans, sweet potatoes, and baked bread pudding….ochra soup, beef-steaks, tomatoes, lima beans, sweet potatoes, and sweet potato pudding….boiled fowls with celery sauce, oyster fritters, turnips, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and apple pie. For a “very nice family dinner” in autumn, she recommended…Italian pork; roast ducks with apple sauce, squashes, eggplant, lima beans, peach pie and gelatin custard...roast fillet of veal; cold ham; broccoli; turnips; lima beans; sweet potatoes, baked rice pudding and preserved peaches.
Food Facts and Discoveries
- 1840s-1900 Preparing a simple meal on a coal or wood burning stove was a time and energy-consuming chore. There was no single switch to flick on that would start the stove. First the ashes from the old fire had to be removed. Then, paper and kindling were set inside the stove. Dampers and flues were carefully adjusted, and a fire lit. To regulate the stove’s temperature, the woman had to keep an eye on the stove all day long. Any time the fire slackened, she had to adjust a flue or add more fuel. The stove used an average of 50 lbs a day of coal or wood. “She bought fresh foods that had to be prepared before cooking – poultry had to be killed and plucked, the scales on a fish had to be removed, loaves of sugar had to pounded, raisins seeded.” (digitalhisotry.uh.edu)
- Vinegar pie was a treat in spring time. It was made with vinegar, molasses, water, nutmeg and flour.
- In 1845 a popular dessert was roly-poly pudding made by spreading orange marmalade or mincemeat on a puff paste or suet crust and then boiling it for several hours.
- Oyster stew was a favorite and to accompany it, the oyster cracker was introduced in 1847.
- Necco Wafers – thin, round candies in eight flavors -- were first sold in 1847.
- In the late 1840s, Asian food was introduced to the U.S. when Chinese immigrants from Canton began settling in California. It was primarily consumed by the Chinese community until it became popular in the 1920s.
1840s Visual Arts
- The 1800s witnessed both a decline in the birth rate and an increased proportion of unmarried women – and saw a dramatic rise in the number of women artists.
- Portraits were the primary subject of paintings in Illinois in the 1840s.
- Mary Katherine Flower Ronalds of Albion started her art school in the 1830s and continued it well into the 1840s.
- In the 1840s and beyond, “American women’s efforts to get into art schools and life classes paralleled aspects of women’s struggle for equal opportunity at that time.”
- The mining town of Galena was one of earliest communities to attract portrait painters (primitive portrait style) in the late 1830s through 1848, when the town’s population peaked.
- In the 1840s some artists learned to make daguerreotypes.
- Patrons in the1840s-50s bought European paintings, Old Masters and copies.
- In 1843, portrait artists were active in Springfield, the state’s new capital.
- In 1843, John Ruskin published Modern Painters.
- Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts was the first major art school to accept women as students in 1848.
1840s Daily Life
- In most homes, household tasks were performed by the housewife and her daughters. House cleaning meant removing the smelly deposits of black soot left on furnishings by gas and kerosene lamps, and the soot and smoke from coal and wood burning stoves that blackened the walls. The lamp’s glass chimneys had to be wiped and the wicks trimmed or replaced. Floors had to be scrubbed, rugs beaten, and windows washed. Although well-to-do families had piped water, most had to bring water into the house from a hydrant, well, or stream. Laundry was a difficult chore. Clothes were soaked, sometimes overnight, and then scrubbed against a board, placed in vats of boiling water, and finally hung out to dry. Later in the century, their chores decreased with the introduction of new labor-saving equipment.
1840s Firsts and Events
- Illinois population in 1840: 476,183
- During the 1840s, women were entering the teaching field in increasing numbers, but their salaries were half that of male counterparts.
- A new literary genre (detective and mystery stories) was created in 1841 when Edgar Allan Poe introduced The Murders in the Rue Morgue.
- The word millionaire was coined to describe Pierre Lorillard, banker and snuffmaker, who died in NYC in 1843 leaving $1 million.
- In 1844, "Illinois women formed the first anti-slavery society. The abolitionist cause began to function as a training ground for the women’s rights movement."
- About 1844, Nauvoo was the largest city in Illinois.
- ”The building of the Illinois & Michigan Canal was completed in 1848. The canal made port towns of LaSalle, Peru, Joliet, and Lockport and provided a shipping link with the Great Lakes for Illinois agricultural products.”
- In 1845, the Jacksonville Female Academy (established in 1830) received a charter.
- Illinois abolished slavery in 1848, but free blacks were banned from coming into the state.
- First Women’s Rights Convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY.
- In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman awarded a medical degree in the US.
- The Illinois Conference Female Academy in Jacksonville opened for classes in 1849. Two years later, the school changed its name to the Illinois Conference Female College and in 1863 to Illinois Female College. It offered preparatory and college level classes for women. In 1909, the College was fully accredited and offered undergraduate degrees.
- Evidence of the effects of the Industrial Revolution were found in Chicago in 1849 when Cyrus McCormick established a shop that produced 500 horse-drawn reapers during the next year. The McCormick reaper could cut 15 acres of wheat a day. A man with a scythe and cradle could cut only 3 acres.
- The safety pin was invented by a mechanic named Walter Hunt in NYC in 1849. Imagine what a helpful little aid that became to women.
In the 1850s and1860s women wore hoopskirts--tight-waisted dresses with billowing skirts over large hoops. Hoops were made of wooden or metal bands covered in muslin.
1850s Home Furnishings
Gothic revival furnishings were popular in this decade and reappeared in the 1860s and ‘70s. Parlor furniture was made of oak and then painted and gilded. A sofa or ottoman or perhaps a late Empire couch with scrolled arms and curved back, animal paw feet and woodwork stenciled with rosettes and leaf patterns, had a matching footstool in front of it. Comfortable chairs were gathered in groupings with small tea tables nearby. Large pianos and round center tables completed the parlor. Flocked wallpapers were used instead of oil paint, which was expensive to apply. Wall-to-wall carpeting harmonized with the wall color. Paintings were too expensive for most people. They bought lithographs or engravings and plaster casts of historical subjects to hang on the wall. Many sitting rooms included a ladies work table and a writing desk. Collected accessories were displayed on many surfaces. Accessories included figurines made in Staffordshire, England and carved and painted shells. (see ill state museum history for details)
From the 1850s through the 1870s a rococo revival interested many homeowners. The furniture appeared lighter. Inexpensive models were mass-produced usually in walnut. Chairs were often upholstered in black horsehair. The S or serpentine line indicates the rococo style, from mantels and picture frames, to chair backs and table legs. Simple, fringed valances hung above lace (referred to as “glass”) curtains on the windows. Larger art pieces were mounted over smaller ones, and accessories such as heavily worked porcelain vases (see Ill St Mus for more). City dwellers had gas lamps and chandeliers often with globes on the light sources to modify the color produced by the gas. Gas lamps gave a room’s furnishings a creamy orange glow. Kerosene lamps became fashionable toward the end of the decade. Many homes still used candles, rush candles, and lard oil lamps to light the room.
What’s for dinner?
In her book, Catharine Beecher recommends the following for a party of 10 or 12: “Soup . Fish. A boiled ham. A boiled turkey, with oyster sauce. Three roasted ducks, and a dish of scolloped oysters. Potatoes, Parsnips, Turnips, and Celery. For dessert, Pudding, Pastry, Fruit, and Coffee.”
Food Facts and Discoveries
- “The kitchen help often kept the stove continuously burning with a catch-all kettle simmering, its contents changing constantly as they were drawn upon for one meal or replenished from another. In an emergency, it provided a rich stew. “
- Temperance drinks in 1850: Sarsaparilla Mead; Simple Ginger Beer; Currant Ice Water.
- In 1851 Jenny Lind Cake, made in honor of the famous singer who toured America in 1850-52, was especially popular.
- In 1853 a chef in Saratoga Springs, NY invented the potato chip.
- John Mason introduced a glass jar with a screw-on cap in 1858. Mason jars have been used for preserving foods ever since.
1850s Visual Arts
- By the 1850s, portrait artists in Illinois were more trained, less primitive in their compositions. “The growing sophistication of Illinois buyers and the competition from daguerreotypists necessitated a better trained artist.”
- The predominate art style in the 1850s was anecdotal painting.
- Downstate art classes in female seminaries continued to grow.
- For more than 20 years in Illinois, topographical paintings along and west of the Mississippi River were popular. Narrative paintings also sold well. For the German population, reverse painting on glass was a popular 1855 GPA Healy portraits most significant artists/subject; also sculptor Volk.
- In the 1850s Chicago could offer support for painters, but patrons preferred European and East Coast artists.
- Obrien’s Art Emporium was Chicago’s first art gallery. It opened in 1855.
- In the 1850s and ‘60s artists travelled to Springfield to paint Abraham Lincoln.
- The first real art exhibit in Chicago was held at Burch’s in 1859. Paintings, engravings, and sculpture were borrowed from local art collections. The exhibit helped to popularize art collecting in Chicago.
- Art had many purposes, including education. “It was thought to aid in enlarging minds and fostering noble ideas.”
1850s Firsts and Events
- State population is 851,470
- In 1850s, underground railroads had been set up from Southern Illinois to Canada.
- Between 1850 and 1860," the rail system in the state of Illinois grew to serve the entire state. The railways were instrumental in the development of the state, allowing farm produce, mineral ore and coal to be transported with ease. "
- The first National Women’s Rights Convention was held in Massachusetts in 1850.
- In 1850 Harper's Magazine was founded in New York.
- In 1851 The New York Times began publishing.
- In 1851 Isaac Singer perfected the sewing machine for home use. A time-saver for housewives.
- The first Illinois State Fair is held in Springfield in 1853.
- In Earlville (LaSalle County) “The Illinois First Suffrage meeting held at the home of Susan B Anthony’s cousin Susan Hoxie Richardson” in 1855.
- Free public-school system was approved by state legislature in 1855.
- Obrien’s Art Emporium was founded in 1855 in Chicago. It would become the oldest family owned and operated gallery in the US.
- The Peoria newspaper reported on November 10, 1855 that the “Peoria streets were illuminated by gaslights tonight for the first time and a great part of the population came out to see how the new lamps worked.”
- The Illinois Central Railroad connected Chicago, Galena, and Cairo in 1856.
- Museums and libraries were out of bounds for a proper lady to visit alone unless she goes there to study or to work as an artist.
Extremely wide skirts and tight bodices were the fashionable look in the early 1860s. For daytime, necklines were higher than in previous years, and pagoda sleeves were fitted with undersleeves. For evening, elaborate gowns had low necklines and short sleeves. Toward the end of the decade, skirts were designed to be flatter in the front and sides, while the back of the skirt was still full. Sleeves narrowed.
1860s Home Furnishings
Color-printed lithographs were developed so even modest households could buy a Currier and Ives or other artist’s print to hang in the parlor and the sitting room. Carpets of russet, blue and gold with small designs were popular. White plaster walls were used in many houses through the 1880s. Grand pianos indicated middle-class tastefulness.
Although affluent families in Chicago and several other Illinois cities furnished their parlors with furniture ordered from New York or Boston, Chicago manufacturers provided more affordable furnishings. By late in the decade, these manufacturers were making parlor suites in two prevailing styles of the day: rococo and Renaissance. The rococo sofa and matching chairs had graceful, curved frames of black walnut with scrolls and carved fruits or shells along the upper edges. Seats and tufted backs were made of black haircloth. The Renaissance style gained popularity in the 1860s and ‘70s. Curtains of heavy warm-colored fabrics hung from elaborate valances. Walls were often white or light colored, and few paintings were added. The dark walnut or mahogany Renaissance furniture was massive, solid, and straight in line, often including crests, heads, or medallions carved deeply into the frames and edges. Bookcases lined walls, and mirrors in large frames hung over mantels.
What’s for dinner?
Late 1860s winter balls, masquerades, and calico parties were held at hotels in cities throughout the state. At the ball, dinner was served at midnight. At one event, an elaborate New England-style banquet was served--beginning with “down-cast-style clam chowder, and boiled shad with cream sauce. The guests selected from several entrees including turkey with oyster sauce, buffalo tongue, aspic of breast of Illinois grouse ala Parisienne, and Yankee-style pork and beans. For dessert they enjoyed almond cake, green apple pie, Lady Slippers, Charlotte Russe, and lemon ice cream. Green and black tea, cocoa and coffee were served as well.”
Food Facts and Discoveries
- The icebox was a common fixture in most households.
- Stoves burned wood, coal or coke.
- In the 1860s, Louis Pasteur originated the process that would come to be called pasteurization, destroying pathogenic microorganisms in some foods and beverages, including milk.
- Soldiers (some accompanied by their wives) fighting in the Civil War ate hard tack, dried beef and salted pork, rice, and dried and canned vegetables.
1860s Visual Art
- During the Civil War (1861-65), several Sanitary Commission fairs were held in Chicago to raise relief money for discharged soldiers. At the first fair, 323 artworks were exhibited and over 25,000 people visited.
- Despite the war, galleries opened in Chicago.
- In 1866, the Chicago Academy of Design opened--holding exhibits featuring members’ works. The Academy incorporated as a school in 1869, but ran out of funds in 1879 and sold the assets to the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1882, the Academy of Fine Arts changed its name to the Art Institute of Chicago.
- Artists studied basics in Chicago, but went to Paris and Munich to finish their training.
- In this decade, the popular art subjects were landscapes and portraits.
- From 1865 to 1900, the number of Chicagoans listed as artists in city directories increased from dozens to several hundred.
- Beginning in the mid-1860s, Chicago women artists hand-painted factory-produced ceramic pieces and illustrated books, while the men received commissions for portraits, designed stained glass and taught advanced students. By 1900 there were more jobs for all artists: advertising, crystal cutting, furniture design, metalwork.
- In the1860s, art exhibits flourished at Crosby’s Opera House in Chicago.
- In 1868, for the first time, the Ladies Life class at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts allowed women to draw from a nude model.
1860s Firsts, Events, and Daily Living
- Illinois population in 1860: 1,711,951
- In 1860, the National Republican Convention was held in Chicago. Lincoln won the Republican nomination, becoming president in 1861.
- The Civil War lasted for five years, from 1861-65.
- During the Civil War, women throughout the state took on their husbands’ work as well as their own, and they assisted the war effort by preparing bandages, making shirts, knitting socks, and collecting bed sheets, medical supplies and food for the Union soldiers.
- The women of Peoria knew that the bell tolling in the tower of the Main Street Congregational Church signaled the arrival of soldiers. Day or night, when they heard the bell, women left their homes and shops and made their way to Rouse’s Hall to welcome the troops. They offered food and clothing, even medical care, to the soldiers returning from the front lines or those furloughed between battles.
- The state legislature passed the Illinois Married Women’s Property Act of 1861 allowing married women to own and sell their own property. The earnings law also passed, allowing married women to keep earnings from labor or capital, including the earnings from the sale of property they owned. Before these laws were enacted by the Illinois legislature, a husband controlled any property his wife acquired before or after marriage, as well as her earnings from property and from work she did (selling eggs, for example) outside the home. However, single women benefited from the same property rights as men.
- Andrew Johnson became president in 1865.
- In 1865, slavery was abolished in the US.
- The Marshall Field & Company department store opened in Chicago in 1868.
- The first Midwest Suffrage Convention was held in Illinois on February 11 and 12, 1869. There, the Illinois Woman’s Suffrage Association was formed.
- In 1869, Myra Bradwell became the first woman to pass the Illinois bar exam.
- Calling cards were popular in the late 1860s. When a woman visited friends and acquaintances, she left her card on a silver tray in the hallway. Depending on which corner was bent, the card delivered a particular message such as: “I came in person, but you were out;” “Hello to all the family;” or “Sorry your aunt passed away.”
- The language of the fan was popular in this decade. As Illinois author Sharon Atteberry explains it, “The fan was an extension of a woman’s body language. It was a convenient communication device for sending more or less furtive love messages. For example: Draw a fan across your cheek to say, ‘I love you.’ Draw it across your hand, ‘I hate you.’ Carry it in your right hand in front of your face to invite a gentleman to follow you. Put the handle on your lips: ‘Kiss me!’ Don’t care about a guy? Fan yourself slowly which tells him he’s wasting his time.”
In 1870s fashion, more closely fitting, softer lines seemed to follow a woman’s natural form. The first bustle period is usually dated to the early 1870s when the fullness of the skirt was gathered and draped softly in the back and padded frameworks that supported the skirt were tied around the waist. As bustles became larger, they were made of wire or a construction of horsehair with wire springs.
Over the next 20 years, the bustle grew larger and larger until it abruptly dropped out of fashion in 1889.
Throughout the 19th century, middle- and upper-class women’s clothing—long, heavy, confining skirts, and tight corsets, bodices, and sleeves—was designed to reflect their supposed delicacy by restricting free movement. It also supported a woman’s role as the “angel in the house”: the nurturing mother and loving wife who refrained from participating in the sordid details of civil and political life.
1870s Home Furnishings
Styles were eclectic during the last third of the century. Rooms were crowded with furniture and accessories of many different styles. Furnishings ranging from Gothic to Renaissance to English revival were mixed with Turkish, Egyptian, and Japanese elements. Red and brown dominated with dark walnut furniture, red and yellow carpeting, and heavy deep red-brown swag curtains. Parquet floors became increasingly popular.
Accessories ranged from Japanese ivory carvings to Moorish weapons and Navajo baskets. Popular Japanese ceramics with dragon designs were produced in Chicago. Egyptian items were in demand after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the presentation of Verdi’s Aida in the early 1870s. Tufted sofas with fringe that fell to the floor and circular sofas surrounding large ceramic containers holding potted plants represented the Moorish fad. Oriental rugs and stuffed peacocks added to the interest. Photograph albums were becoming popular as well.
What’s for breakfast?
In her book--Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving--Mrs. Mary F. Henderson recommends having a winter breakfast party. Her menu includes seven courses. “1st Course—Broiled sardines on toast, garnished with slices of lemon. Tea, coffee, or chocolate. 2d Course—Larded sweet-breads, garnished with French peas. Cold French rolls or petits pains. Sauterne. 3d Course—Small fillets or the tender cuts from porter-house-steaks, served on little square slices of toast, with mushrooms. 4th Course—Fried oysters; breakfast puffs. 5th Course—Fillets of grouse (each fillet cut in two), on little thin slices of fried mush, garnished with potatoes a la Parisienne. 6th Course—Sliced oranges, with sugar. 7th Course—Waffles, with maple sirup.”
Food Facts and Discoveries
- According to Women at Home in Victorian America, "a typical middle-class kitchen of the 1870s included a worktable, coal and/or wood-burning cast-iron range, a pantry for storing staples and dishware and a wooden 'dry sink' with water faucets."
- Heinz introduced the first canned foods in this decade: pickles and sauerkraut.
- Cubed sugar, root beer, ice-cream sodas, milk chocolate, and Nestle’s infant milk food were introduced.
- Glass milk bottles, milking machines, and pressure cooking in food canning were also introduced.
- Washington Pie, a white layer cake with apple-sauce in the middle, was a popular dessert.
- In 1878, a typical bill of fare for Thanksgiving dinner at hotels in cities throughout the state offered 22 kinds of meats, 9 vegetables, 2 soups, 6 entrees, 17 different desserts, tea, buttermilk, and Spring Hill mineral water. The price was 75 cents.
1870s Visual Art
- From the 1870s to 1900, Chicago painters’ style was very conventional.
- In the 1870s and 80s, the Interstate Industrial Exposition had an annual exhibition, an opportunity for artists to show their work. In 1872, 64 pictures were exhibited; 39 were by Chicago artists. The following year, 357 oils and 144 watercolors were displayed.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts opened in 1870.
- In 1871, the Chicago fire occurred. Artists suffered staggering losses, and many left the city. The fire in 1871 and the Panic of 1873 nearly extinguished art life in Chicago. It took almost a decade for the city to recoup.
- In Illinois, art organizations proliferated between 1871 and 1893, but would not expand significantly again until after 1920.
- The Jacksonville Art Association founded in the parlor of the Illinois Female College in 1873. It was the first art society in the state. Its mission was to study and appreciate the fine arts.
- In 1875 the Art Students League in New York City was formed.
- In 1876 Vincennes Gallery of Fine Art opened in Chicago.
- Art societies began to appear in Illinois, following the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, the first major World’s Fair in the U.S. Centennial attendees were awed by America’s industrial power and inspired by Philadelphia’s cultural leadership.
- In the last quarter of the century, European training was common denominator in art careers. Artists studied primarily in Munich and Paris. The Munich Style was first seen in the Midwest in the 1880s and reached a crest in 1890s. Lucie Hartrath studied in Munich. Caroline Wade studied in Paris. To learn more about these Illinois women artists, check the Artists section of this website.
- Art societies formed throughout the state:
- The Art Institute of Chicago was chartered in 1879.
- In 1879, the Chicago Art League formed to benefit the artists of Chicago and to furnish a meeting place for the general discussion of art by its members. Art Institute drawing instructor and artist John H. Vanderpoel was the first president.
- The Union League Club of Chicago was established in 1879. Their art collection of more than 750 works includes paintings and prints by Illinois women artists.
1870s Firsts, Events, and Daily Living
- Illinois state population in 1870: 2,539,891
- Although their skirts were voluminous, ladies were cautioned not to spread them over two seats in a tram.
- Typewriters were produced in large quantities during the 1870s, revolutionizing office work, and opening jobs for women.
- In May 1870, the Illinois constitution was rewritten allowing African American males to vote, but not women.
- The first annual convention of the new Illinois Woman Suffrage Association was held in Springfield in 1870.
- According to the Illinois State Museum, “In the 1870 Illinois census, over 7,000 women were listed in occupations that could be classed as independent businesswomen. Almost 80% were dressmakers, milliners, and seamstresses, occupying trades that still fit within the boundaries of acceptable female behavior at that time. Other prominent women's trades were boardinghouse keeper and teacher of music.”
- In the 1870s women carved new roles for themselves by creating their own public spaces--volunteer organizations.
- The Chicago fire, 1871. The city was rebuilt two years later. Original wooden buildings lost in the fire were replaced with buildings designed with permanent construction in mind.
- An act prohibiting discrimination in employment because of sex was passed in 1872 by the Illinois legislature. It was the first such law in the country.
- In 1872 Chicago merchant Aaron Montgomery Ward established the first large-scale mail-order business.
- The Panic of 1873 was widely felt, and the ensuing depression lasted for six years.
- In 1873, the Illinois legislature passed a bill allowing women to hold school offices. Nine women were appointed as county superintendent of schools that year.
- In 1873, Illinois women won the right to equal guardianship of children after divorce.
- Frances Willard founded the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in Evanston in 1873. Their first convention was held the following year in Bloomington.
- For some time, bathing had been considered hazardous to health. In 1873 Godey’s Lady’s Book encouraged bathing at least once a week, re-establishing the ritual of the Saturday night bath.
- In 1873, free mail deliveries began in Illinois cities, such as Peoria.
- In 1874, the Illinois legislature passed Sole Trader laws, which allowed married women to enter into contracts and engage in trade on their own account.
- In1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, and exchanges opened in Chicago, Bloomington, Danville, Springfield, Decatur and Peoria in 1879.
- Financial panic seized the country once again in 1877.
- Rutherford B. Hayes became president in 1877.
- Thomas Edison built the first incandescent electric light in 1879.
A slimming, fitted dress with a train was popular into the late 1870s and early 1880s. It required a cuirasse bodice (named after the piece of armor) resembling a corset that reached the thighs. It didn’t last long. By 1883, a new hard bustle appeared. It jutted out like a shelf from the waist. The woman in the foreground of Georges Seurat’s famous painting “La Grande Jatte” (Art Institute of Chicago) is wearing one.
With the extended hard bustle dress, the bodice was fitted and more tailored, and the waist was tightly corseted. By 1887, the bustle shape was deflated and within two years, it was gone.
How influential the Rational Dress Society was in eliminating the bustle is not known. Still the dress reform or rational dress movement, begun in the 1880s, thought that women should not have to wear more than 7lbs of underwear and fought for more comfortable clothing.
The polonaise—a close-fitting bodice and cutaway overskirt pulled back and draped over an underskirt or petticoat—or a long jacket and a small hat or bonnet with a short brim were popular for day wear. At parties, evening gowns were sleeveless and low necked and worn with elbow length gloves of fine kid leather or suede and a choker necklace. Hair was pulled up softly and fastened at the top or back of the head. A feather might be added to stand straight up from the knot of hair.
Women had a wider variety of clothes to choose from and bought ready-made clothes for work or casual wear.
1880s Home Furnishings
Architects were no longer separating the sitting room from the parlor. The sitting room, as it was usually called, had a mix of furniture styles, as in the previous decade. In addition, the Colonial style, with its Chippendale chairs made comfortable with wide seats, was revived, and Queen Anne furniture, constructed in walnut, was also included. Walls were painted or covered in pale colors. For example, pink walls were outlined with white woodwork and a green ceiling molding. Curtain colors and patterns were chosen to match wall treatments. Parquet floors continued to be popular.
A decorating book of the time itemized the furniture needed in a drawing, or living, room: deep and luxurious chairs, black lacquer chairs with wicker seats, sofa, lounge, ottoman, hassocks, footstools, circular divan, piano, center table, folding screen, easel, davenport, étagère, corner shelves, side tables, tall cabinet for curios. The list for a more modest home included tapestry carpet, walnut haircloth sofa, walnut chairs, center table with a cloth cover, small table with marble top, piano, window shades. (Mayhew, p. 201) China painting was very popular through the end of the century. The mistress of the house painted her own china and occasionally her own paintings—the most common subjects were landscapes and flowers.
What’s for lunch?
For a German family in Illinois, a Sunday family feast in the park would include schweinebraten (pork roast), weinerschnitzel, sauerkraut, rot kohl (red cabbage), potato dumplings, baked apples, sandtorte (a pound cake), oatmeal cookies, and beer.
At women’s club luncheons, the food was plentiful and delicious. The menu included lamb chops, broccoli, platters of fried chicken and collard greens, pickled peaches and pears, and crisp fritters made with bananas or skillet cornbread.
Food Facts and Discoveries
- Bananas were introduced to the American public in the 1880s, and the first banana split was made in 1904.
- New foods in the 1880s included Aunt Jemima pancake flour, Salada tea, Thomas’s English muffins, and malted milk.
- Self-service restaurants appeared in cities.
- A favorite recipe was Berry Toast: canned strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries cooked until thickened and spread onto dry zwieback.
- The Franco American Co. introduced the first canned meals.
- In 1886 Coca Cola was first introduced in Atlanta, where it sold for 5 cents a glass as a health tonic.
1880s Visual Arts
- Until the mid-1890s, Illinois art patrons continued to import art from Europe, forcing Chicago artists to sell their works from their studios and to maintain other jobs. European works--French academic art and Barbizon landscapes for example--were shown at the Art Institute and in the commercial galleries, and they educated the public’s eye.
- The Newberry Library in Chicago began purchasing and exhibiting local artwork.
- In 1880, the Bohemian Art Club was started by a group of women who got together to sketch and critique each others work in the studio of Marie Koupal, a young Bohemian girl. They formed an informal club and named it for Koupal's nationality. Later it was renamed The Palette Club.
- In 1880, both the Decatur Art Class and the Bloomington Art Association were founded.
- The Central Art Union was formed in Springfield in 1880. It was a league of art societies in central Illinois that helped arrange for exhibits and education.
- In 1881, the Art Guild of Chicago was founded by artist Sister Mary Stanisia.
- The Illinois Art Association started in 1882.
- The Art Institute of Chicago was founded in 1882. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was the first serious art academy in the Midwest.
- As Chicago art critic, teacher, and gallery owner Katharine Kuh pointed out, “Early Chicago art was polite, even timid...It was predominately academic.”
- In 1884, the Society of Independent Artists formed in New York City with membership open to every artist and a “no jury, no prizes” policy.
- *In 1885, the Central Illinois Art Union formed and was composed of nine societies: the Historical and the Palladium of Bloomington; the Art Class at Decatur; Art Society of Lincoln; Art Association of Jacksonville; Art Society of Peoria; Art Society of Springfield; Art Club of Champaign.
- Lake View Art Club, Chicago, organized with 25 members to discuss art and its literature in 1885.
- The Western Art Association was organized for manual art teachers in 1885.
- The Calumet Club, Chicago, displayed a hundred works in its first annual art reception in 1885, mostly European and non-Illinois artists.
- In 1887, the Cellare Club for the study of literature and art opened in Streator.
- The Chicago Society of Artists formed in 1888. Their members were professional artists.
- The Palette Club of Chicago, an organization of women artists, was formed from the Bohemian Art Club in 1888.
- The Arche Club, Chicago, was organized in 1888, incorporated in 1897, and began purchasing a painting from the annual exhibits of Works by Chicago and Vicinity Artists at the AIC.
- In 1888, the Rockford Sketch Club was formed.
- Other art clubs, including the Society of Etchers and the Architectural Sketch Club, formed in Chicago in the 1880s.
1880s Firsts, Events, and Daily Living
- Illinois population in 1880: 3,077,871
- In the 1880s, women began working more outside the home as the need for office workers increased. Additionally, department stores were revolutionizing shopping habit, so more sales clerks and cashiers were needed. Owners believed women were more mannerly and honest than men, and they seemed easier to discipline and manage.
- The 20 years between 1880 and the end of the century was golden age for big business. During this period, the gap between rich and poor continued to widen.
- Carpet sweepers were invented in the 1880s.
- Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross Society in 1881.
- In 1881, Aurora was the first city in the world to light streets with electricity.
- In 1885, the skyscraper age began with the completion of the Home Insurance Company building in Chicago.
- Grover Cleveland became president in 1885.
- Josephine Cochrane, who lived on a farm in DuPage County, created a patent for the dishwasher in 1886.
- Illinois was becoming a manufacturing state. The labor movement had begun and in 1886, the Chicago Haymarket Riot, which began as a rally to support striking workers, killed many.
- In 1888, George Eastman invented the Kodak camera and launched the amateur photography craze that continues today.
- Hull House was formed in Chicago by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in 1889 to help Chicago’s burgeoning immigrant population. It was one of the earliest settlement houses in the US.
- In 1889 the first electric sewing machine for the home, a Singer, was introduced.
- Benjamin Harrison became president in 1889.
Throughout the century, women’s clothes became increasingly confining, restrictive, uncomfortable, and downright unhealthy. Women suffered from liver disease and indigestion. In the 1890s, women sought an hourglass silhouette created by corsets pulled tightly, a bell-shaped skirt with padding at the hips, and widening at the shoulders of the dress or jacket. Some women objected to the tight, long corsets required to show off a wasp waist. The Rational Dress Society, begun in the 1880s, influenced the redesign of underwear and went on to encourage women to wear simplified garments for bicycling and swimming.
In the early 1890s, the leg o’ mutton sleeve was popular. The puffed up sleeve ended at the elbow and was used on blouses and jackets for day wear. By the end of the century sleeves were tighter to the shoulder and capped with ruffles.
An increasing number of women worked in business and professional offices and department stores, where a white, long-sleeved, high-collared blouse and a dark, ankle-length skirt were standard attire.
Women engaged in sports such as swimming, ice skating, and bicycle riding in the 1890s, and sports costumes symbolized a new freedom that was in the air at the end of the 19th century. Bloomers--baggy, knee-length trousers, gathered just below the knee--were popular in Chicago. But in smaller cities like Peoria, bloomers were experimental. Bertha Boutin of Peoria was one of the first to try them. One evening in September 1894, she put on a pair of bloomers she’d made herself and took a ride along a neighborhood street. It was an experiment, she later told a newspaper reporter who caught up with her. That’s why she rode at night. She was so pleased with the bloomers that she went home, pulled the skirt guards off her bike wheels (which reduced the weight of the bike by 5 lbs), and never wore a long skirt biking again.
1890s Home Furnishings
Mrs. Potter Palmer’s house on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago had a mix of furniture styles, from a Louis XIV table and Louis XV side chairs to a curved, brass-studded sofa. More eclectic was the mix of styles in a neighbor’s sitting room, which included a Turkish chair and small table, a Japanese stool, a piano, a mantel-to-ceiling mirror in a gold frame, with statuary and porcelain on the mantel. Wall-to-wall carpeting in light colors with floral designs were used with pull draperies edged in rows of tufts. Other homes had Turkish cozy corners with low sofas, many cushions, and a pair of long spears on the wall. Bearskin rugs on parquet floors were stylish, too.
Mission style grew in popularity from 1895 into the next century. Its design was simple, heavy, square, and angular with little decoration--vastly different from the ornate styles of previous decades. The Morris chair with an adjustable back is a good example of the style. Most furniture was made of chestnut, and pegs and other construction elements were usually exposed. Chairs had leather seats with studs showing. Walls were plain if many pictures were displayed; paneled or covered with rough-textured oatmeal paper or Japanese papers if not. Landscape paintings were preferred, especially long narrow ones. Wood floors were favored, with Navajo scatter rugs. If carpeting was used, it was generally green.
What’s for dinner?
YWCAs, whose mission was to empower and create opportunities for women and girls, were being organized throughout Illinois. In many towns, the YWCA offered young women a homelike resting place, evening classes, Sunday afternoon programs, and merry evenings of sociability and games. Wholesome lunches at a nominal price were served daily at noon for women only. At first, the members of a new YW board of directors prepared and served the food themselves, which included a rich mushroom and barley soup or a navy bean and cabbage soup--long with coleslaw or potato salad, cold turkey or ham, bread and butter, rice pudding, and coconut drops.
Food Facts and Discoveries
- In the late 19th century, food began to be mass-produced and standardized. Mass- marketing techniques were applied for the first time.
- Processed cereals were originally promoted as a health food.
- Campbell’s sold the first condensed soups.
- The electric range first appeared, as did diners and pizza parlors.
- New foods included bottled Coca-Cola, Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Cracker Jacks, Fig Newtons, JELL-O, Tootsie Rolls, Pepsi-Cola, and Swans Down cake flour. Cracker Jacks was introduced to the public at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
- Temperance restaurants around the state served supper for 25 cents and lunch for 15 cents. They also provided a parlor where women could rest.
- In 1899, Oysters Rockefeller was invented by Jules Alciatore of Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans.
1890s Visual Arts
- Art historian Wendy Greenhouse explains that the 1890s was the end of an era dominated by such artist-driven organizations as the Chicago Society of Artists and the Palette and Chisel Club. Future associations were based not on improving Chicago’s artistic climate or the professional lives of their members, but on specializations (such as the Watercolor Club), geography (artists moved to the suburbs and started the North Shore Art League and others), ethnicity (the Swedish American Art Association), and civic organizations (such as the Friends of American Art and Municipal Art League).
- In the 1890s, the Art Institute of Chicago began to show work by American Impressionists. It was considered “modern” art. The Midwest version of Impressionism was an amalgamation of Impressionism and Munich Realism. Wendy Greenhouse describes it best, writing that Midwest “Impressionists remained loyal to conventions of pictorial representation while partaking of the lively brushwork and heightened color and light that superficially characterized the new mode.”
- In the early 1890s, many artists in the Midwest traveled to art colonies in Delavan, WI, Oregon, IL (Eagle’s Nest), and later Brown County, IN, for landscape study and plein air painting.
- The Munich Style of painting was first seen in the Midwest in the 1880s, and crested in 1890s.
- In 1890, the Aurora Woman’s Club formed and included an Art and Literature Department.
- In 1891, Jane Addams added the Butler Art Gallery to Hull House.
- 1892, Artists Alice Kellogg Tyler, Frank Peyraud and others started the Cosmopolitan Art Club in Chicago in 1892. The organization sought participation beyond Chicago. Their 1896 exhibition brought about the Society of Western Artists.
- In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago, and 106 pictures painted by Illinois women were accepted to hang in the woman’s section of the Illinois State Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition, out of 215 submitted.
- Less than 10 percent of the artworks on display in the World’s Columbian Exposition Fine Arts Building were by Chicago artists. Midwesterners still preferred European and East Coast artwork.
- At the exposition, 460 painters were listed in the catalog of the American section of the fine arts exhibition. Only 22 of the painters and only 15 of the 67 sculptors listed Chicago addresses. Considering there were only 100 artists living in Chicago at the time, that is not too surprising.
- In the decade following the exposition, landscape painting dominated the Chicago exhibits and won the prizes.
- The Columbian Exposition reinforced Chicagoans’ interest in European art. Through the late 1910s, Chicago artists were conservative in their approach, depending on naturalism and representational subject matter. Sales of artwork increased, and supporting organizations grew in Chicago and other cities around the state.
- In 1893, the Art Students League of Chicago was organized. A members’ show was held annually.
- The Little Room was a popular Chicago salon of visual and performing artists, writers, and patrons, such as sculptors Bessie Potter Vonnoh and Lorado Taft, from 1893 to 1931.
- In 1894, the Art Association of Chicago was formed. It was reorganized as the Municipal Art League in 1901.
- The Art Exhibit Club of Charleston, IL, was founded in 1885 to promote an interest in art, chiefly by furnishing opportunities for the exhibition and sale of art work. It was reorganized in 1896 as the Charleston Art Club.
- In 1894, the Central Art Association/Union organized. It had thousands of members across the Midwest, published an illustrated monthly journal (Arts for America), sponsored a lecture series on all aspects of pictorial arts, and held art exhibits that traveled throughout Illinois and were actively promoted. The Union held annual meetings called “art congresses.”
- The Tree Studios building opened in 1894. The building on Chicago’s North Side offered a block of studios to artists.
- In 1895, the Palette and Chisel Club - an independent group of commercial artists — met in the Athenaeum Building. Membership was limited to men for many years.
- The Fine Arts Building opened across the street from the Art Institute in 1898. It had a combination of studios, salesrooms, and clubrooms. The Cliff Dwellers Club met in the Fine Arts Building. Exhibits were held at the Fine Arts, offering Chicago painters an alternative to the AIC.
- In Paris, women artists were excluded from the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts until 1897; instead they studied at the Academie Colorossi and the Academie Julian.
- In Chicago, in the 1890s, the Art Institute not only accepted women, as they had from the beginning, but they often filled classes with more women than men.
- The Art Institute had an excellent department of illustration. In the 1890s and beyond, popular magazines and journals proliferated and illustrators were needed.
- In 1894, the Chicago Public School Art Society was organized.
- The Peoria Art League formed in 1895.
- The Englewood Woman’s Club formed in 1896.
- In 1897, the Chicago Art Association was originated to promote art in the city of Chicago. Its membership was composed of delegates from the clubs of Chicago, individuals or associate members, and artists.
- The National League of American Pen Women was founded in 1897. A number of Illinois women artists were members.
- The Oak Park Art Center formed in 1898.
- In 1898, a group of artists, including sculptor Lorado Taft, founded the Eagle’s Nest Art Colony near Oregon, IL. Situated on a bluff above the Rock River, the summer venue initially housed visiting artists in tents, although more permanent structures—cottages and studios—were built later. The activities at Eagle's Nest included not only visual arts but historical pageants presented in elaborate costume. Artist Lucy Fitch Perkins was one of the original members of the Eagle Nest group.
- In 1899, the Hinsdale Woman’s Club was active, and the Rock Island Monday Study Club was founded.
- The Art Institute’s annual exhibitions of Works of Chicago Artists were the best opportunity for artists to show work. The exhibits included work from artists in surrounding states who had lived in Chicago.
- Chicago artists began painting urban scenes in the late 1890s. “Chicago was gritty," said one historian, "but artists painted flattering images of the bustling downtown and skyscraping skyline.”
- From the 1890s into the 1920s, the School of the Art Institute concentrated on drawing the ideal figure, in classes often taught by John H. Vanderpoel, known for his teaching skills and the book he wrote on the subject.
1890s Firsts, Events, and Daily Living
- Illinois population in 1890: 3,826,352
- Chaperones were still expected for young women when in the company of men in the 1890s.
- In the 1890s, indoor plumbing was available in many households.
- In Chicago between 1890 and 1920, Marshall Field and Company, the Fair, Mandel Brothers, and Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company, built new, larger department stores to accommodate the increase in shopping as a leisure activity.
- Emily Dickinson’s poems were first published in 1890, as was Anna Sewell’s novel Black Beauty.
- In 1890, over 4,000,000 women employed outside the home.
- By 1890, women made up about 5 percent of all US doctors.
- By the 1890s, the rise in the number and kind of manufactured goods had made people’s lives easier, while providing both necessities and luxury items that were cheaper and better made. Farm families and farmworkers moved to cities, leaving farming behind for manufacturing jobs and access to more manufactured goods.
- By 1891, the women’s movement was so powerful in Illinois that an act passed by the legislature allowed women to vote in school board elections. Subsequently, Illinois Supreme Court cases allowed women to vote for and serve as University of Illinois trustees.
- The first 15 votes by Illinois women were counted on April 6, 1891, after a savvy lawyer named Ellen Martin led 14 other women to their polling place in Lombard. The town’s charter stated that “all citizens” above the age of 21 who were residents could vote in municipal elections. Although taken by surprise, judges subsequently ruled that the women did indeed have the right to vote.
- In Chicago in 1891, Lucy Parsons, an African-American social critic and organizer, first published a newspaper called Freedom.
- The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 provided a graphic demonstration of rapidly changing ways of life, including demonstrations of the role of electricity and telephones.
- The Chicago Public School Art Society was founded by Ellen Gates Starr in 1894. Its mission was “to enrich the lives of schoolchildren by introducing them to art and bringing art instructors and materials into the public schools.”
- Sears & Roebuck opened its mail order business in 1895.
- Roll film cameras made by Kodak were available to the public in 1895.
- The National Federation of Afro-American Women was formed in 1895, and the National Association of Colored Women was formed the following year.
- In 1896, Sarah Orne Jewett published a collection of her short stories titled The Country of Pointed Firs.
- William McKinley became president in 1897.
- In 1898, the Spanish-American War began.
- Amanda Berry Smith opened Illinois’ first orphanage for African American children in Harvey in 1898.
Women’s fashions turned with the new century. The line of a dress became longer and narrower over the next ten years. Corsets, no longer cinched at the waist, were designed to create a long, lean silhouette. Women aspired to the “Gibson girl” look: dresses with high, boned collars; large, wide hats; and looser, fuller hairstyles.
Blouses and dresses were full in front and narrow at the waist, and skirts touched the floor. But by the end of the decade, fashionable skirts cleared the floor, approaching the ankle. The new silhouette was flatter in front, thicker in the waist, and narrower in the hips. Working women wore tweed suits, often with neckties and smaller hats.
Huge, broad-brimmed hats trimmed with masses of feathers, entire stuffed birds, or ribbons and artificial flowers were popular, even for evening wear. The Merry Widow picture hat--always black--was popular from 1907. By 1910, hats had smaller brims but higher crowns.
1900 Home Furnishings
By the 1900s, simplicity reigned in the furnishings of many households. Rooms were cleared of clutter, and simplified, utilitarian objects appeared. Gone were the accumulations of decorative pieces that covered tables and mantels. Now tables held a plant or a flower in a vase. Solid, harmonious colors prevailed. Electric lights in chandeliers, wall sconces, and table lamps were common. Traditional furniture with simple lines and fine hand-carving was popular, and rooms were designed with intimate groupings of comfortable chairs, with the fireplace as the focal point.
Early in the decade, Art Nouveau furniture was manufactured by several Chicago companies. Although it was not especially popular in the Midwest, many families did enjoy its flowing lines and organic forms derived from nature. From easy chairs to divans, furniture frames were made in mahogany or covered with gold leaf. According to The Furniture Worker magazine, the “foot of a sofa was carved like the trunk of a tree and the branches spread up the arm and over the back.”
The Arts and Crafts movement flourished in Chicago. Local artists Ida Burgess and Julia Bracken designed English-looking furniture at the Krayle Company, a guild organized by Burgess with a workshop in the Tree Studios building. Burgess desks often featured carvings by Bracken and copper hinges or handles by Christia Reade. Burgess also incorporated mural painting into home interiors.
The simple geometric designs of Stickley furniture appealed to Chicagoans and its growing suburbs. Homeownership was becoming the American dream. Furniture could be ordered from cities throughout Illinois. The Sears Roebuck & Co. catalog offered versions of the Morris chair and sold kit homes in bungalow and foursquare styles.
What’s for dinner?
When a family entertained visiting diplomats, famous artists, great generals, or even the president of the United States, the housewife planned a five-course meal. Beginning with bluepoints (small oysters) and consommé of partridge, it continued with a variety of entrees, including brook trout and roast canvasback duck, relishes, vegetables, fried hominy and Saratoga chips. Wines were placed on the table in decanters and served appropriately with each course. For dessert: ice cream formed in small flower molds, Queen cake with opera caramel frosting, crackers, Roquefort cheese and fruit, coffee and sauterne.
Food Facts and Discoveries
- Sweets that were especially popular: chocolate brownies, apple pie, devil’s food cake, baked Alaska.
- Tea bags were invented in the early 1900s, as were the electric toaster, the drip coffee maker, and the egg beater with perforated blades.
- New foods included canned tuna fish, Ovaltine, puffed rice, Triscuits, and ice cream cones.
- Hershey’s introduced the original Hershey’s milk chocolate bar in 1900.
- In 1906, Congress passed the Federal Food and Drug Act, providing federal inspection of meat products and forbidding the sale of poisonous patent medicines.
- A favorite recipe was cheese straws, made from pie crust dough cut into strips and layered with grated rich cheese, salt, and red pepper, and then baked.
- In 1909, the average American consumed 65 lbs of sugar annually.
1900 Visual Art
- From 1900, there were more jobs for all artists: advertising, crystal cutting, furniture design, metalwork.
- In the early 1900s, German art was very popular in Chicago.
- During this period, the 57th Street Artist Colony, in the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park, nourished a range of creative activities. To learn more about it, see the Encyclopedia of Chicago.
- Students at the School of the Art Institute showed their interest in decorative arts, William Morris, and Art Nouveau through the monthly magazine they produced in the early 1900s called The Sketch Book.
- In 1901, the Municipal Art League was formed.
- In 1902, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, a school of fine and applied arts, was formed.
- The Art Study Club in Carbondale formed in 1904.
- In 1905, the Rockford Arts and Crafts Society formed, replacing the Sketch Club.
- In 1906, sculptor Lorado Taft formed an atelier in the barn studio on the Midway at the University of Chicago. Until it was moved in 1929, the sculpture capitol of the universe, according to Alson J. Smith, author of Chicago’s Left Bank.
- The Chicago Water Color Club was founded in 1907 by a group of artists encouraging watercolor painting by organizing traveling exhibitions.
- In 1908, Emma E. Church founded the Church School of Art to provide industrial art courses.
- In 1908, the Oak Park Fine Arts Society organized to sponsor annual arts and crafts exhibitions.
- In 1909, the American Federation of Arts was organized in New York City. Its stated mission was to take original works “’on tour to the hinterlands of the United States.’ Since its founding, the AFA has organized over 1,000 exhibitions that have traveled to hundreds of art museums and galleries across America and internationally.”
- In 1909, the Springfield Art Association was founded to sponsor exhibits, classes and lectures.
- In 1901 The Municipal Art League of Chicago was incorporated.
1900s Firsts, Events, and Daily Living
- 1900 Illinois population in 1900: 4,821,550
- Although more women continued to join the workforce, they still were not able to participate in most professional careers, including the law, architecture, the armed forces, the police force, and the church. Women’s wages were generally only half that of men’s, and they were not hired for or promoted to top positions,. Many women quit working—often involuntarily—when they got married.
- In 1900, 5,300,000 women in the US were employed outside the home.
- In 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated, and Theodore Roosevelt became president.
- The electric iron was invented in 1903.
- In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright flew an airplane at Kitty Hawk, NC.
- Albert Einstein formulated the Special Theory of Relativity in 1905.
- In 1907, the electric vacuum cleaner was available.
- In 1907, the Hurley Machine Co. of Chicago marketed the first electric washing machine.
- The Ford Company produced the first Model T in 1908.
- William Howard Taft became president in 1909.
- In 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in Springfield, IL, to promote the social, economic, and political goals of African Americans.
Early in the decade, dresses became softer. Fashions were exotic: flowing pantaloons, turbans in vibrant colors, kimonos. Empire style waistlines, hip-length tunics over narrow skirts, and hobble skirts were followed by designer Fortuny’s long clinging sheath dresses During World War I, fashions were more practical and monochrome in color, with shortened hem lengths, looser fit, belted jackets, and brimmed hats with little decoration. Women began to bob their hair. By the end of the decade, day clothes were loose, jackets belted, and skirts above the ankle.
1910s Home Furnishings
The popular mission style continued until about 1915, lingering in many homes far after that with a mix of other styles. Frank Lloyd Wright was designing houses in his Prairie style, reflecting the flat Midwestern landscape. Wright wanted the furnishings of his homes to present the same tone, simplicity, and beauty as the architecture, and therefore, he designed interior pieces that fit the spaces he created. He designed oak armchairs with slated sides and backs, side chairs with low seats and dramatically tall backs carved with clean arts and crafts-style designs, and birch side chairs with cane seats and backs. The backs extended almost to the floor. He used built-in seats and bookcases made of plain unvarnished wood. For families that couldn’t afford original mission and similar pieces, there were guide books for creating the mission look in furniture and textiles, leather and pottery.
Other designers and their clients preferred less blocky furniture and more intimate interior arrangements, with several conversation areas in a living room. Antique chairs, a Chippendale sofa covered in chintz, solid-colored walls, straight-hung damask curtains, and ceiling fans with shaded light bulbs and mahogany blades were used. New York City designer Elsie de Wolfe started a genre when she first covered the walls of the Colony Club with green trellises covered by growing vines. For a number of years, her clients wanted a trellis room, with and without vines, in their homes too.
What’s for dinner?
Guests at a lavish wedding dinner would be served clear green turtle soup, filet of kingfish with lobster sauce, or stuffed breast of guinea hen with deviled sauce; hearts of romaine salad; sautéed new string beans; assorted cheeses, and fancy ice creams. At one such wedding, atop the three-tiered wedding cake stood a tiny bride and groom, the latter waving a wee flag. The year, in this case, was 1918, toward the end of World War I.
Food Facts and Discoveries
- Processed foods were increasingly popular, including Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Oreo cookies, Crisco oil, Marshmallow Fluff, and Nathan’s hotdogs.
- Self-service marketing came into being, including new A&P stores that carried 1,000 products. Customers were no longer dependent upon a clerk to gather all the items on their grocery lists, but could walk up and down the aisles choosing what they needed.
- Vichyssoise, leek, and potato soup served cold was popular.
- In 1911, General Electric unveiled the first home refrigerator.
- Lunch served at a woman’s club meeting in 1914: soup, plankes, whitefish, pork tenderloin, cranberries, chili con carne, potatoes au gratin, salad, wafers, bread and butter, plum pudding, and coffee.
1910s Visual Art
- The Ox-Bow Summer School was founded in Saugatuck, MI, in 1910. It became an extension of the School of the Art Institute in 1919.
- In 1910, the Chicago Society of Etchers and the Friends of American Art organized.
- The Society of Miniature Painters was formed in Chicago in 1912.
- In 1913, the controversial International Exhibition of Modern Art, better known as the Armory Show, was mounted at the Art Institute of Chicago. Although artists and patrons were familiar with abstract art and the works of the Cubists, Fauves and Futurists that were growing in popularity in Europe, they did not embrace modernist art. If anything, the exhibit made many Illinois painters more conservative. Yet by mid-decade, there was a greater willingness to experiment. In 1917, the Art Institute’s annual Chicago and Vicinity show included a few Futurist and Cubist paintings.
- In 1913, the Rockford Art Association formed, incorporating the Arts and Crafts Society. It sponsored exhibits, classes, and lectures as most societies did, but it also arranged musical and drama performances.
- The Vanderpoel Art Association formed in 1913 to display the collection of artwork donated by John Vanderpoel’s friends and students after his death in 1911. The association exhibited the artworks in the Ridge Park Field House for over 50 years.
- In 1914, the Chicago Commission for the Encouragement of Local Art formed to select and purchase artwork produced by Chicago artists and place them in City buildings.
- Taos, NM, became a popular place for many Chicago artists to go to paint in the mid-teens.
- World War I began in 1914, halting Illinois artists’ trips to Europe. Instead, they used American scenes and settings for inspiration.
- In 1915, the Cordon Club, a Chicago women’s club dedicated to the arts, was formed.
- The Chicago Renaissance Society of the University of Chicago opened in 1915.
- In 1916, the Griggsville Art Club began.
- Arts Club of Chicago formed in 1916. Its exhibits featured Illinois artists.
- The Chicago Artists Guild was founded in 1917.
- In 1918, the Oregon Art Club was formed to show their permanent collection.
- The Aurora Art League was founded in 1919.
1910s Firsts, Events, and Daily Living
- Illinois population in 1910: 5,638,591
- Woodrow Wilson became president in 1913.
- Mother’s Day was created in 1914.
- World War I began in 1914, ending in 1918. America entered the war in 1917. At home, Illinois women helped make hospital supplies and learned to prepare wheatless and meatless meals to conserve food. They learned new skills and filled agricultural and industrial jobs vacated by men at war. One million women worked in war factories. Women worked behind the lines in Europe in hospitals and as ambulance drivers. About 10,000 women worked as nurses for the military.
- In 1918, an influenza epidemic killed 32,000 in Illinois and 20 million worldwide.
- Prohibition began in 1918 when the 18th Amendment was signed. It began the gangster era in Chicago, which lasted until 1933, when Prohibition was repealed.
- In 1918, Willa Cather’s novel My Antonia was published.
- In the early summer of 1919, the U.S. Congress passed the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Ratification by the states was still needed.
Reacting to the restrictive pre-war life, women of the twenties opted for a boyish look, hiding their figures in loose-fitting tubular dresses that hid the waist, and even wearing pajamas to bed. They demanded functional, comfortable clothes. Many dresses were one-piece, easier to sew, and could be pulled over the head. The dresses were shorter—although not above the knee as the movies show—with pleats, gathers, or slits to ccommodate motion, allowing women to dance the Charleston. They bobbed their hair short and pulled fitted cloche hats down over their eyebrows. The confining corset had been discarded for a chemise or camisole.
1920s Home Furnishings
In the early 1920s, the colonial and mission styles continued to be popular. Massive overstuffed sofas and chairs with reclining back and footrests were favored. By 1925, however, modern shapes were influenced by modern skyscrapers. Chicago designers were using art deco style, offering modern furniture with flat surfaces without ornamentation, and legs that ran in one continuous sweep from the floor to the top of the chair. Deep, upholstered furniture in plain, untufted surfaces were low to the floor. In fact, legs were often not included. Tables were lower to match the sofa and chairs, and lighter and smaller as well. Furniture was increasingly informal and functional, clean, and simple, yet with classical detailing.
Black lacquer tables were supported by tubular steel pillars and matched with white and red scalloped-back chairs. Mahogany veneered coffee tables had blue mirror tops. Comfortable chairs, with ruby-red mohair or floral velour upholstery and loose cushions, and upholstered wing chairs were popular. In the mid-20s, telephone sets were sold that included a small table with room for the phone and a book plus a matching bench or chair. Accessories included ceramics lightly decorated with doves or leaping gazelles.
What’s for dinner?
An intimate supper at home with friends would begin with ice-cold martinis, of course. Then shrimp cocktail, followed by roast crown of pork with mashed potatoes, peas, cabbage rolls, a small salad, and brown bread. And for dessert? Nut pie, which is made with Uneeda wafer crackers, egg yolks, sugar, and beaten egg whites.
Food Facts and Discoveries
- 1920s speakeasies served bathtub gin and, for the first time, finger food: oyster cocktails, shrimp patties, and stuffed mushrooms, for example.
- Cocktail parties were born in the 1920s as public bars closed (except for the speakeasies), and entertaining was done at home.
- Cobb salad was created at the Brown Derby in Hollywood.
- The martini cocktail was first made.
- Lady Baltimore cake, with its three layers and two fillings, was popular.
- Kool-Aid, Orange Julius, and Twinkies were introduced.
- Most homes had toasters, refrigerators, and gas stoves with top burners and interior ovens.
- In 1924, the Caesar salad was created at Caesar’s Palace in Tijuana, Mexico, by proprietor Caesar Cardini.
- In 1926, Safeway began the first supermarket chain.
- In 1928, the horseshoe sandwich was introduced in Springfield. It is made by layering two pieces of toast with ham and smothering it with rich cheese sauce.
- Birdseye introduced frozen foods in 1929.
1920s Visual Art
- Art historian Wendy Greenhouse has written, “The Modernism that emerged in Chicago remained linked to the late 19th century movements that sought to embody spiritual truth in abstract configurations of formal elements.”
- In his book, Chicago’s Left Bank, author Alson Smith refers to the late teens-early twenties as the Golden Age of Chicago Art.
- The 1920s to early ’30s produced the Harlem Renaissance in New York City’s African American community.
- In the early 1920s, the Art Institute faculty and juries were still quite conservative.
- Art historian Susan Weininger says that Chicago women painters in the 1920s–30s emphasized individuality and that they were painting with “sincerity, authenticity and the expression of one’s inner voice.”
- In 1920, the Decatur Municipal Art League reorganized as the Decatur Art Institute, sponsoring art exhibits, classes, and lectures.
- In 1921, Chicago modernists organized their first Salon des Refusés.
- In 1921, conservative members of the Chicago Society of Artists (including Lorado Taft, Pauline Palmer, and others) split off and formed the Association of Chicago Painters and Sculptors.
- The Oak Park, Austin, River Forest Art League organized in 1921. The organization lent their collection of paintings to different schools in their communities and organized exhibits.
- The Bloomington Art Association organized in 1922. Their permanent gallery was in the Bloomington Library.
- The Chicago No-Jury Society organized in 1922, offering exhibit opportunities for anyone who paid the yearly membership fee. The exhibits were not juried, and no prizes were given. The Art Institute of Chicago refused to mount the No-Jury shows.
- In 1923, the Chicago Art League was founded. It was the first group of black artists in Chicago to present exhibits, which held at the Wabash Avenue YMCA.
- The Illinois Federation of Art Association was organized in 1923.
- In 1923, the Galesburg Civic Art League was founded, and the Art Institute of Peoria formed as an amalgamation of the Society of Allied Arts and the Art League.
- The Quincy Art Club organized in 1923.
- According to their website, Winnetka’s North Shore Art League organized in 1924 “to cultivate a higher appreciation of art by means of exhibits, lectures, and social activities within the North Shore towns.”
- In 1924, six art associations came together to form the Central Illinois Federation of Art Associations. The CIFAA organized exhibits and lectures for members and others.
- In 1925, the South Side Art Association of Chicago formed.
- In 1925, the Municipal Art League formed the Chicago Galleries Association to try to encourage civic betterment and art appreciation by the middle-class.
- In 1925, the All-Illinois Society of Fine Arts was founded by a group of women’s clubs. Their first exhibit was held at the Galleries of Carson Pirie Scott & Co. in 1926. They later maintained a permanent gallery in the Stevens Hotel in Chicago and held exhibits in cities and towns throughout Illinois.
- The Illinois Academy of the Fine Arts was formed in Springfield.
- In 1926, the Romany Club of Chicago organized.
- In 1928, the Friends of Negro Art was founded in Chicago.
- The jury for the 1928 annual Chicago and Vicinity exhibit at the Art Institute selected a number of modern works for inclusion.
- Art historian Esther Sparks writes about “a ‘radical’ group of artists—called The Ten—who exhibited their work in Chicago from the late 1920s to the early 1940s.”
- In 1929, the Evanston Art Center was organized by the public library to arrange exhibits and hold classes and lectures.
- The Museum of Modern Art in New York City was founded in 1929 by three philanthropic women.
1920s Firsts, Events, and Daily Living
- Illinois population in 1920: 6,485,280
- In the twenties, young women danced the Charleston, wriggled the Black Bottom, nipped from flasks filled with bathtub gin, and waved long cigarette holders.
- For teenage girls, joining a Girl Scout troop became increasingly popular throughout the state.
- August, 1920: The Nineteenth Amendment was signed into law. At last women were empowered to vote and determine how their tax money was spent and who would govern them.
- In 1920, the League of Women Voters was founded in Chicago.
- In 1921, American novelist Edith Wharton became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, for her novel The Age of Innocence.
- Warren Harding became president in 1921.
- The first radio station in Illinois began broadcasting from Tuscola in 1922, two years after the first commercial broadcast in the US.
- Emily Post began her career as America’s etiquette authority when her book Etiquette, the Blue Book of Social Usage was published in 1922, and people began asking, “What would Emily Post say?”
- President Harding died in 1923, and Calvin Coolidge became president.
- In 1924, the typical housewife spent about 52 hours a week on housework.
- The Jazz Singer—the first “talkie”—premiered in 1927.
- Charles Lindbergh flew nonstop from New York to Paris in 1927.
- In 1927, Walt Disney created the cartoon character Mickey Mouse.
- Herbert Hoover became president in 1929.
- On October 24, 1929, the Stock Market Crash ushered in the Great Depression.
Softer, more womanly fashions, with mid-calf hemlines,. Suits with short fitted jackets and narrow skirts, and black dresses were popular. Clutch coats were designed without buttons. Saucer hats with short brims that sat on top of the head and tipped to one side were popular in the earlier years. Evening dresses were long and glamorous, often backless with sleeves. Fashions designed for Joan Crawford, Irene Dunne, and Greta Garbo were duplicated and sold at Marshall Field and other department stores. More clothes were made of synthetic fabrics, especially rayon, and nylon stockings first appeared in 1940. In the late 1930s and throughout World War II, designers created suits with exaggerated, padded shoulders. Matching skirts fell to lengths just below the knee to mid-calf.
1930s Home Furnishings
Modern interiors were sparse, crisp, clean, and sometimes even severe in appearance, with their straight-lined steel and glass furniture. Chairs were made of chrome-plated tubular steel with artificial leather seats. The Great Depression affected sales and influenced manufacturers’ designs. Modern pieces mixed with the traditional already in place in many homes. Materials were diverse, ranging from rough-hewn, log-cabin wooden chairs and tables to couches with metal frames treated to look like wood grain.
Living room sets of stained walnut, with upholstery fabrics of angora mohair, jacquard velour, tapestry, and velvet were in fashion. These fabric choices gave the room a cozier appearance. Glass-topped coffee tables were positioned in the center of the sofa and chairs. Tier tables and nests of table with squared lines completed the basic living room design.
Thirteen model houses filled with modern furnishings were displayed at Chicago’s A Century of Progress Exposition. They included a twelve-sided House of Tomorrow and an all-glass Crystal House, as well as a recreation of Lincoln’s boyhood home.
By the middle of the decade, Marshall Field & Company was selling furniture from their Living Modern selection, which offered classic to pure modern styles in light-toned woods and combinations of wood, metal, and glass. They displayed items from a variety of manufacturers. Many Illinois designers’ work was shown by Marshall Field, Mandel Brothers, and other department stores, including for example, Bauhaus-trained Bertrand Goldberg’s wide molded plywood chair with a striped cushion. The Skandia Furniture Company in Rockford, made a tall, narrow pier cabinet in Chinese red or leaf green with hand-painted decorations. The Koehler Company of Naperville sold a mohair-upholstered davenport bed. The bed pulled out from the bottom of the sofa. A matching armchair could be ordered with the sofa-sleeper. Late in the decade, a Philco radio built into a mahogany step table was available.
What’s for dinner?
In 1935, Ida Bailey Allen’s Cooking, Menus, Service offered three dinner menus for the fall:
Food Facts and Discoveries
- Vegetable bouillon, meat loaf, stewed tomatoes, baked potatoes, bread and butter, lettuce, celery and grape salad, gingerbread with whipped cream, black coffee.
- Chicken or Veal Fricassee, boiled rice, buttered beets, sweet pickles, bread and butter, hermits, sliced oranges, black coffee.
- Broiled halibut of mackerel, parsley sauce, spinach, Italian spaghetti, bread and butter, spice cake (left-over) served with custard sauce, black coffee.
- Popular dishes were inexpensive ones, usually one-pot meals, such as macaroni and cheese, chili, or oxtail soup, served with carrots, peas, and potatoes. (Leite’s Culinaria)
- Horn & Hardart’s and other automats, where patrons dropped nickels into a slot and food was released, offered cheap meals such as hot dogs and hamburgers.
- Al Capone sponsored soup kitchens in Chicago.
- Electric stoves were commonly used in homes.
- A new popular cake was the mystery, or surprise cake. Made with the usual cake ingredients, along with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and raisins, the cake included a can of condensed tomato soup. It was topped with Philly-Vanilly frosting.
- Ritz Crackers were introduced in 1933, followed by recipes for mock apple pie that replaced apples with crackers.
- Prohibition ended in 1933.
- Hormel introduced Spam in 1937, and Vernon Rudolph sold his Krispy Kreme hot original glazed donuts.
- Chicken Kiev debuted at the Yar restaurant in Chicago in 1937.
1930s Visual Art
- In the 1930s, a new movement—Regional painting—swept the country. An adjunct of the so-called American Scene, it featured works by Grant Wood, John Stuart Curry, and Thomas Benton, all students at the School of the Art Institute. According to Katharine Kuh, Regional painting “developed the idea that the function of American art was to break entirely with its European background and rely solely on its own roots, especially those of the Midwest. Subject matter became strictly indigenous…methods of painting were direct and naturalistic.”
- The Century of Progress International Exposition opened in 1933, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of Chicago. Visitors had seen nothing like this before: modern buildings, strikingly lit at night, had mechanical displays that visitors operated themselves during the day. A number of Chicago artists showed their work.
- In 1938, the Society for Sanity in Art was founded in Chicago to promote representational art.
1930s Firsts, Events, and Daily Living
- Illinois population in 1930: 7,630,654
- The Great Depression of the 1930s. Illinois suffered greatly because of its dependence on manufacturing. Banks closed, farms failed, and homes were lost. The Midwest also had the worst drought in its history.
- Jane Addams won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
- The Empire State Building in New York City opened in 1931.
- In 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1933.
- In 1933, President Roosevelt introduced the New Deal, implementing government programs that encouraged economic development.
- In 1935, the Dust Bowl continued to force thousands of farmers to abandon their land.
- In 1935, the federal government launched the Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs across the country to provide jobs people across the country. In addition, the Federal Art Project, and its regional division, the Illinois Art Project were federal work relief programs during the Depression that put many artists to work making public art. The programs continued into 1943.
- In 1936, there were 26,167,000 cars and trucks in the US.
- Nylon was invented in 1937, and the first nylon stockings were marketed in 1940.
- In 1938, Orson Welles broadcast The War of the Worlds.
- In 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II.
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