Thursday, May 10, 2012

Springfield history in old newspaper photos

It’s like a long forgotten, 80-year-old scrapbook of our city. It shows a bustling downtown crowded with men wearing fedoras and women in fur coats, a family brewery preparing for the onslaught of business after Prohibition, a swimming hole packed on a busy summer day, and many more scenes of daily life in Springfield between 1929 and 1935.

It’s not a literal scrapbook, but an exhibition of black and white photos developed from glass plates taken by Illinois State Journal photographers and neglected for decades.

Rich Saal, photographer for the State Journal-Register (which was formed when the city‘s two newspapers, the Journal and the Register, combined), organized the exhibition. In 2004, while preparing a different exhibition to celebrate the paper’s 175th anniversary, Saal started reviewing its old photos.

“I was blown away at how good and how descriptive they were. I felt like I was there looking at life in the 1930s,” he says. After studying those photos, “I wanted to study the period and know more about it, and get a better idea of what these pictures meant.” So, he went to the University of Illinois Springfield and got his master’s degree in history.

The project was featured in an May 10, 2012, article in the Illinois Times.

Read the article online