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The IBEX Archive:

ESLARP's Social History Project

In the Spring of 1999, using monies provided from a Partnership Illinois grant, the East St. Louis Action Research Project commissioned the preparation of an on-line history project concerning the city of East St. Louis.  In its final form, IBEX (the Illinois Bottomland Explorer), will serve as a freely available resource allowing tourists, students, scholars and other interested individuals to examine historical documents, primary and secondary sources, and oral history interviews to which access has, until recently, been rather limited.  The project will consist of several types of user interfaces--ranging from  straightforward timelines and map-based methods to more sophisticated database-driven presentations tailored to better suit the user's individual needs--and incorporate many different types of sources from a wide range of perspectives.

As a first step toward achieving these ends, it was necessary to construct an archive of historical data about the city of East St. Louis.  With relatively few readily available published works to draw from, the time-consuming task of scanning archival material from the Illinois Historical Library, SIU-E's Special Collections, the Illinois Historical Survey, the East St. Louis Public Library and the Missouri Historical Society became a major part of our efforts and, to research librarians in each of these institutions, we owe a debt of gratitude.   Perhaps an even larger debt is owed to the local historians, many themselves residents or former residents of East St. Louis, who allowed excerpts of their self-published works to be reproduced here. 

This archive represents only a small percentage of existing works on East St. Louis.   It should be enough, however, to provide readers with a broad spectrum of perspectives and interests with the raw materials to begin their own study or to simply learn about the work of others.  The works were reproduced as faithfully as possible and any editing or additions have been clearly labelled as such.  This archive was last updated in 2000. So peruse the archive, enjoy, and please do not hesitate to send any comments, corrections, or additions to eslarp@illinois.edu.


Available Locations include:

East St. Louis Guidebook (1936)  An unpublished guidebook to the city prepared by the Federal Writers Project
American Notes (1842)  Excerpts from Charles Dickens narrative of his travels in America
The First Steamboat on the Western Waters (1871)  A description of the first steamboat to operate in the West that reminds us that transportation, so integral to the development of ESL, was not always to be taken for granted
Historical Lecture (1871)  Transcript of a speech about ESL's early history and geography delivered before the Literary and Historical Society of East St. Louis by Dr. Isaac Piggott
My Own Times (1879) Excerpts from the autobiography of former governor and Belleville resident John Reynolds
The Improvement of the Mississippi River (1896) Transcription of a speech describing in some detail the mechanics of making the river navigable
The Great Cyclone (1896; reprinted 1997)  Excerpts from a book commemorating the destructive events of May 27, 1896
Pictorial East St. Louis (1906) A book of photographs capturing images from the turn of the century...a period of rapid growth for ESL
East St. Louis: Past, Present, and Future (1909)   An address praising ESL's growth as a city and predicting its continued greatness in the future
Picturesque St. Louis (1909)  F.A. Reid's book about St. Louis contains a section on the Illinois side of the river which has been reprinted here
A Brief History of St. Clair County (1928)  Excerpts from A Centennial History of McKendree College designed to provide readers with an overview of the region's history
East St. Louis Blue Book (1936)  A snapshot of life in 1930s East St. Louis that describes the cities businesses, government, churches, and social institutions
The Romantic Story of Cahokia (1943)  A commemorative book describing the history of and the area surrounding the oldest church west of the Appalachians
Illinois Vignettes  Series of short essays and articles designed to provide readers with a brief overview of Illinois history
Gateway to the Past  Excerpts from the Illinois Dept. of Transportation Survey of ESL conducted before the construction of an interstate extension
Black Role Models of Greater St. Louis (1982, 1984) Dr. Sheryl Clayton's profiles of several hundred prominent African-Americans from the East St. Louis area
Works by Bill Nunes  Excerpts from works by a local historian interested in preserving the memory of ESL's past.  Also includes links to works by other authors interested in ESL history and nostalgia such as W. Edward English and Rube Yelvington.
Temporary Repository  Home for material that, while not immediately useful, might become so in the future.  This option will not be available once the site becomes more complete
Useful Holdings of the Missouri Historical Society  List of holdings at the Missouri Historical Society that pertain to East St. Louis (doc file)


Related Websites:

Southern Illinois History


Other Resources:

East St. Louis Public Library -- Local Holdings
Illinois State Historical Library
Missouri Historical Society
St. Clair County Geneaology Web

Archive Acknowledgements:

  • Project Supervisors:
    • Brian Orland, Professor in Landscape Architecture Dept., University of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign
    • Vernon Burton, Professor in Dept. of History, University of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign (History)
  • Research and Editor: Michael Sherfy, Graduate Student in History Dept., University of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign (Data)
  • Managers and Technical Supportors: Abhijeet Chavan, Deanna Koenigs, Yong Wook Kim, Imaging System Lab/East St. Louis Action Research Project University of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign

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