Elgin History Museum





U-46 Bilingual Education
In 2022, School District U-46 celebrates an important milestone: 50 years of bilingual education.
The photos – donated to our collection by Jaime Garcia, director of Centro de Informacion – were taken in 1972 for a class at Elgin Community College. They capture the beginning of the evolution of U-46 into a preK-12th grade dual language school district.


Ice Skating at Lords Park
Lords Park lagoon used to be the home of some intense ice skating competitions! Krisilee presents a souvenir program from 1937.


Camp Edwards Neckerchief
Campers are inducted into the Honors program the first day when the program is explained to them and they are given their first green neckerchief. Campers create goals to achieve that identifies with the next neckerchief color. Sponsored by their cabin leaders, they put into action their goals, and by the end of the week, if they have succeeded and exhibited good behavior, the campers will retire their previous neckerchief color and receive the new neckerchief.


Courier News Negatives
Mike Bailey, former managing editor of the Daily Courier News, describes a years long project of cataloging and digitizing the over 100,000 negatives from the Courier News 1936 – 1994 that are part of the Museum’s collection. With the help of dedicated volunteers, negatives are now available to view on Illinois Digital Archives.


Jack Johnson postcard
Marcus describes the Elgin Road Races, and the postcard of boxer Jack Johnson in attendance in 1912.


Freiler Distiller Knee Board
What did you use to play cards in a crowded saloon? A knee board, of course! Learn the history of the Freiler Distillery in Elgin, IL.


“The Sherman Rx” Newsletters
“The Sherman Rx” was a monthly newsletter published by Sherman Hospital. The Museum’s collection has newsletters dated from 1957 to 1971. These newsletters not only highlighted employees, but provided updates on the hospital expansion, statistics, and operations.


Reverend Nathaniel C. Clark Handwritten Sermons
Reverend Clark was the first pastor of Elgin’s First Congregational Church. These letters and sermons document Reverend Clark’s arrival in the Fox Valley in 1833.


Photo of Goff Island
Did you know there used to be an island in the Fox River near (what is now) the National Street bridge? The island was variously referred to as National Street Island or Watch Island in the 1870s. Then David Goff decided to make it his own.


Child’s Dress
This is a 19th century young boys dress worn by Frank Sherman Mason of Elgin. He would attend Elgin Academy as a young man and go on to found the Mason & Alexander Rib-Stone Silo company. In this era, most girls AND boys wore dresses. Remember what held clothes together before zippers and snaps? Buttons. LOTS of buttons. For purposes of potty training, a dress was the best choice for small children.


The Thomas Oxinjector
In the 1950’s local Elginites engineer Perry Thomas and physician Dr. Florimond LeBlanc collaborated on the invention, manufacture and sale of the Thomas Oxinjector.


Western Christian Newspaper
Hear about Elgin’s first weekly newspaper, The Western Christian. This is one of the oldest artifacts in our collection as it dates back to 1845!


Selz Shoes
By the mid 1920’s Selz-Schwab Shoes was turning out 2,000 pairs of women’s shoes each day. High top shoes like these with either laces or buttons were a very popular style. The company was located at the corner of Congdon and Dundee Avenues and is now a 27 unit condo building..


Swimmers at Wing Park Pool Photos
Maria Cumpata, Director of Elgin Parks & Recreation, will describe the evolution of swimming in Wing Park – from Tyler Creek, to a mudhole, and to the swimming pool. Photos date back to 1911.


Program Book Elgin High School Graduation 1879
There were only 11 people who graduated Elgin High School in 1879. In this segment, Mrs. Teresa Winters, the Principal of Hillcrest Elementary, features the program book from that graduation, and introduces you to Maggie Oates – the first African American graduate of EHS, who was also the valedictorian.


1872 Wedding Dress
Historian Linda Rock shows a wedding dress owned by Margaret Jane McCornack for her wedding to Myron Gage on May 13, 1872. This dress is in remarkably good shape for it’s age, and it is also special because Margaret and Myron met here at Old Main when it was Elgin Academy!


Woodruff & Edwards promotional elephant and bulldog
Founded in 1879, Woodruff & Edwards made metal cast products for over 100 years. The large red coffee mill in the video is on view at the Museum as part of the “Made in Elgin” permanent exhibit. Woodruff & Edwards would remain a leading employer of Elgin’s Hispanic community until the factory’s closure in 1987.


Wendell Moseley paintings and graphic designs
Moseley was a talented commercial artist producing business cards, ad copy, and promotional items for firms in Elgin and around the country. He was also a Well-respected landscape painter with exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago.


Photo of Louis P. Andrews
Lewis P. Andrews was a lifelong Elgin resident. In 1926 he was appointed Elgin’s first African-American mail carrier. Lewis was among the leading Black citizens who worked to establish the Fremont Recreation Center. Elgin City Councilman, Corey Dixon, will tell you more about his accomplishments.


Elgin Watch College Jacket
Just like any other college, the Elgin Watch College organized teams to participate in various sports, and offered swag to purchase to show school spirit. In this video, Elgin collector, Jeff White will present an Elgin Watch College jacket.


Channing Cemetery Plat Map
Before Bluff City Cemetery, Elginites were buried at Channing Street Cemetery. From the map, you will see that some of Elgin’s founding families were laid to rest here. Judy Van Dusen, past president of Elgin Genelogical Society will tell you what they found when they started to build the school.


Elgin Sweeper Tin Toy
Nick Bruski from the Elgin Public Works department will tell you all about the Elgin Sweeper Company tin toy manufactured c. 1945. He will also tell you a little bit about how the sweeper was invented.


Elgin’s First Car
Purchased in 1900, the first locally owned automobile in Elgin belonged to Mr. and Mrs. George B. Richardson, superintendent at the David C. Cook Publishing Company. The photo is from the Howard Gusler collection donated in 1992.


Broadnax Shoe Repair Calendar
Daniel Broadnax came to Elgin in 1925, working 11 years for the Saxe Shoe Rebuilders before opening his own shop at 450 Dundee Ave in 1936. This wall calendar was given to customers as a promotion for Broadnax Shoe Rebuilders.


Remembering LeeWards
LeeWards Creative Crafts was an American crafts and fabrics retailer. It was founded in Elgin in 1947. Many of us have fond memories of beaded Christmas ornaments, crochet topped dish towels or embroidered pillow cases at Grandma’s house. Chances are many of these came from kits sold by LeeWards. Among these kits were embroidered baby quilts. Here we have a hand quilted applique baby quilt made from a LeeWards kit.


Dick Peck’s Pocket Watch
This watch belonged to Elgin aviator Dick Peck, son of George Peck who owned the Peck Department Store. It was found by the donor at the plane crash site where Dick Peck died in 1931.