It isn’t often that a reader finds it enjoyable to read a history book from cover to cover, but the contents of a new Illinois history book is interesting enough to promote such an undertaking. The book, “Roadside History of Illinois” by native Illinoisan, Stan Banash, includes a chronology of the state from before 300,000 B.C. to 2011, some Illinois facts (such as 2010 population and state bird), some Illinois “originals, (e.g., the first Dairy Queen shop in Joliet in 1940), a brief history of Illinois, and then a virtual tour of the state’s seven regions (Southern Illinois: Between the Great Rivers; Western Illinois: Utopia on the Prairie; Central Illinois: Lincoln’s Legacy; Eastern Illinois: More Than You Expect; Northern Illinois: Rock River and Beyond; Greater Chicagoland: Metropolitan Diversity; and Chicago: City of Neighborhoods).
Written almost as a tour guide, the book includes route numbers, road maps, historical markers, and little-known stories and facts about Illinois’ towns and cities, illustrated with 120 black-and-white photographs, many from the author’s personal collection. One can find easy reference to Hoopeston’s prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, the release of Sioux prisoners at Fort Sheridan after agreeing to join Buffalo Bills’ Wild West Show, Watseka’s paranormal events in the 1860s and 1870s, and many references to Abraham Lincoln’s activities in the state.
Illinois history becomes entertaining as well as informative — especially if visits to the state’s sites result from reading about them.
“Roadside History of Illinois” is a 496-page, softcover, 6-by-9-inch book, ISBN 978-0-87842-599-0, which can be ordered from Mountain Press Publishing Co., P.O. Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806 at $20 plus $4 shipping. VISA, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover orders may be placed toll-free at (800) 234-5308 or online at http://www.mountain-press.com.
Stan Banash, a.k.a. “Tex,” graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor of philosophy degree in political science in 1968, and received his master’s degree in urban studies from Roosevelt University in 1972. His years of research have resulted in this most instructive and interesting history of the state of Illinois.