Special Collections and Preservation Division
Neighborhood Research History Collection
West Side Historical Society
4.75 linear ft., 21 photographs, 1 audiotape
Call number: Archives_WSHS
The exact founding date of the West Side Historical Society (hereafter referred to as the WSHS) is unclear. It is recorded by Miss Pearl L. Field, librarian at the Legler branch of The Chicago Public Library and honorary life president of the WSHS, that the Society was organized sometime in either 1929 or 1930. The WSHS took as its mission to search our the west side’s pioneer families, the boundaries of its settlements, and the story of the west side’s development as a neighborhood.
The WSHS was closely associated with the Legler Library for almost twenty-five. Its meetings were held there, the Society’s exhibits were displayed there, and the library provided storage space and staff expertise for the Society’s historical collections.
Sometime in the late 1950s (again, the exact date is not available), the WSHS disbanded; more accurately, it dissolved as community interest waned. The reasons for this lack of community enthusiasm are unclear, although a strong factor may be the dramatic demographic shifts on the west side which occurred in the 1950s.
The Papers of the WSHS have been arranged in subject series ranging from Administrative Papers to Tours to Scrapbooks. A fairly complete picture emerges from the papers of the functioning of an active community historical group which succeeded in preserving a significant quality of its city’s historical record.
All photographic material has been removed from the manuscript portion of the collection and placed in the Neighborhood History Research Collection/Audiovisual Collection.
SERIES I: Administrative Papers,
This series contains the WSHS’S administrative papers, including papers relating to the WSHS’s constitution and by-laws, collection development policy, programming, and publicity activities. An extensive record of the Society’s correspondence has also been preserved here, as well as transcripts from a weekly radio quiz show featuring questions about Chicago’s west side. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject.
Series II: Annual Meetings, 1930-1955.
This series consists of an almost complete record of the WSHS’s annual meetings. Information concerning finances, membership, programs, and other officially sanctioned activities are found in this series. The materials are arranged chronologically.
Series III: Committees, ca. 1930s-1940s.
This small series records the activities of two WSHS committees: the Membership Committee and the Research Committee. Of the two committees, the Research Committee’s records are far more extensive and the papers preserved here give an excellent accounting of that group’s endeavors.
Series IV: Contests, ca. 1930s-1940s.
In an attempt to engender an appreciation of local history in west side high school students, the WSHS sponsored historical contests and competitions. Organizing the contests required a great amount of effort, as can be attested to by the records in this series. Also included are a sampling of historical essays submitted by west side high school students on a variety of local historic topics. This series is arranged alphabetically by folder title.
Series V: Executive Board Meetings,
The WSHS’s Executive Board met frequently, sometimes holding three or four meetings each year. In these meetings board members would set an agenda for the forthcoming general membership meetings, schedule events and presentations, and discuss plans for the Society’s future. This series is a good source for examining the Society’s general administrative practices, and is arranged chronologically.
Series VI: Tours, 1936-1954.
Almost every year, the WSHS’s Executive Board would offer WSHS members an opportunity to go on an historical tour. This small series chronicles the arrangements, attendance, and publicity associated with this very popular WSHS sponsored activity. The tour records have been arranged in chronological order.
Series VII: Scrapbooks, ca. 1930s-1940s.
This series contains three scrapbooks of newsclips, memorabilia and miscellaneous materials compiled, apparently, by Legler Library staff.
SUPPLEMENT 1: Administrative Papers,
After the original processing of the West Side Historical Society papers, several boxes of additional material were found. This material was distributed among eighteen of the NHRC sub-collections, including the WSHS collection. These are strictly administrative papers; material more correctly thought of as historical collections was put into the neighborhood collections. However, this group of papers does include some excellent resources, particularly the correspondence from the 1930s concerning the Abraham Lincoln family and his widow’s Chicago home of the 1860s (folders 8:30, 31). The series of correspondence has been arranged to highlight the names of some of the more famous or voluminous writers.
This series occupies folders 8:18-37; see page 8 for the detailed list of folder titles. Considerable material concerning WSHS tours was cataloged with this material, resulting in a total reorganization of Series VI of the original collection (folders 8:1-17).
The following items have been removed to the locations given.
West Side Historical Society Annual Meeting/ Audio Tape—WSHS #T1
Proceedings. Paul Angle, speaker. 1954 Sep
25. [See also folders 6:14-15.]
The Records of the West Side Historical were culled from the WSHS historical collections left at Legler Library after the WSHS disintegrated. The collections remained there, where they suffered mistreatment, inadequate storage facilities, and outright theft. In 1976 the Special Collections Division of The Chicago Public Library conducted a survey in order to determine the number and significance of neighborhood historical collections then scattered throughout the branch library system, and the WSHS collection was rediscovered. At that time, the Special Collections Division was ill equipped to handle such a large and significant archival collection. Arrangements were made to have the materials stored with the Special Collections Department of the University of Illinois-Chicago Campus. The collection remained there for ten years and, under the terms of the deposit agreement between the University of Illinois and the Chicago Public Library’s Special Collections Division. The collection has since been divided up by community area, processed according to archival standards, and placed in the Neighborhood History Research Collection. Funds for archival supplies and staff were provided by a grant from the Dr. Scholl Foundation.
Processed February 1989.
The West Side Historical Society Records are available to the public for research in the Special Collections and Preservation Division Reading Room on the 9th floor of the Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60605. The collection does not circulate, although photocopy and photoreproduction services are available depending upon the condition of the original materials. First time patrons to Special Collections must present photo identification and complete a Reader Registration Form. Telephone inquiries on this collection and other Special Collections holdings can be directed to 312-747-4875.
Series I: Administrative Papers
1. Bulletin, 1936-1938.BOX 2
2. Collection, Development Guidelines, ca. 1934-1938.
3. Constitution, by-laws, and general history, 1936, 1935.
4. Correspondence: n.d.
1-3. Correspondence: 1938.BOX 3
4-9. Correspondence: 1939.
10. Correspondence: 1940.
1-4. Correspondence: 1940.BOX 4
5-6. Correspondence: 1941.
7-8. Directories, 1930-1945.
9. High school chapters: Minutes, n.d.
1. Programming: Teas, 1938.BOX 5
2-3. Publicity: Radio quiz questions, 1942-1943.
4. Publicity: Radio quiz correspondence, 1942-1943.
Series II: Annual Meetings
5. Proceedings: Oct. 10, 1930.
6. Proceedings: Oct. 19, 1931.
7. Proceedings: Oct. 10, 1932.
8. Proceedings: Oct. 10, 1933.
9. Proceedings: 1934.
10. Proceedings: Nov. 18, 1935.
11. Proceedings: Oct. 19, 1936.
12. Proceedings: April 12, 1937.
13. Proceedings: Oct. 25, 1937.
14. Proceedings: Oct. 17, 1938.
1-3. Proceedings:1941.BOX 6
1. Proceedings:Oct. 8, 1945.
3. Proceedings:March 4, 1947, Oct. 17, 1947
4. Proceedings:March 19, 1948.
14-15. Proceedings:1954. [See also Tape #T1]
Series III: Committees
18. Membership Committee, 1938.
19. Research Committee, ca. 1930s-1940s.
Series IV: Contests
20. Correspondence and announcements, ca. 1930s-1940s.BOX 7
21. Elementary schools, ca. 1930s.
1. High schools: "A testimony to Robinson", n.d.
2-3. High schools: "A. C. Ellithorpe", n.d.
4. High schools: "Eleanor Smith at Smith House", n.d.
5. High schools: "The story of sister May", n.d.
6. High schools: "Dr. Joseph B. DeLee", n.d.
7. High schools: "Rev. Arnold Damen", n.d.
8. High schools: "The story of Anna Braude", n.d.
9. High schools: "Bishop Sheil’s work among west side youths", n.d.
10. High schools: "The story of Carter H. Harrison", n.d.
11. Middle schools: Assorted titles, n.d.
12. Photographic contest, 1936-1937.
Series V: Executive Board Meetings
13. Minutes: 1932.BOX 8
14. Minutes: 1933.
15. Minutes: 1934.
16. Minutes: 1935.
17-18. Minutes: 1936.
19-20. Minutes: 1937.
21-23. Minutes: 1938.
24. Minutes: 1939.
25-28. Minutes: 1940.
29. Minutes: 1941.
30-31. Minutes: 1942.
32-33. Minutes: 1943.
34. Minutes: 1944.
35-36. Minutes: 1945.
37. Minutes: 1946.
38. Minutes: 1947.
39. Minutes: 1952.
40. Minutes: 1953.
41. Minutes: 1954.
Series VI: Tours
1. Tour; 1936 May and Oct (Haymarket riots/Willow Springs)
2. Tour; 1937 Apr (Path of 1871 fire)
3. Tour; 1938 May (Desplaines River)
4. Tour: 1939 May (Palos Hills: canceled?)
5. Tour; 1939 Oct (Palos Hills)
6. Tour; 1940 June (Plainfield, IL)
7. Tour; 1940 Oct (Indian localities)
8. Tour; 1941 May (Indian Mounds)
9. Tour; 1946 May (City of Chicago)
10. Tour; 1947 June (Des Plaines River)
11. Tour; 1948 June (Illinois & Michigan Canal)
12. Tour; 1949 June (Indian country)
13. Tour; 1950 June (Sanitary & Ship canal)
14. Tour; 1951 June (Congress Street highway/Medical Ctr. Dist.)
15. Tour; 1952 June (Black Hawk Trail)
16. Tour; 1953 June (100-mile bus tour)
17. Tour; 1954 June (All-day boat trip: canceled)
SUPPLEMENT 1: Administrative Papers
18. Annual Report—General Not for Profit Corporation Act; 1962-65
19. Blank letterhead & blank forms
20. Constitution—Original draft [1929?]; By-laws, 1938
21. Correspondence; 1942-1957, n.d.
22. Correspondence--Bond, Carrie Jacobs; 1939
23. Correspondence--Burroughs, Edgar Rice Inc.; 1940
24. Correspondence --Goodman, Benny (Secretary to); 1940
25. Correspondence--Keeney, Albert F., 1941-1948
26. Correspondence--Madigan, George P. and J. D.; 1941-1945
27. Correspondence--Miller, John Calvin; 1943-1952
28. Correspondence--Shumon, Ted; 1956-1958
29. Correspondence --Advice from other historical societies; 1933-1935
30. Correspondence--Abraham Lincoln materials & reminiscences of
Lincoln family; 1931-1937
31. Correspondence--Identity of Mary Todd Lincoln home; 1931-1937
32. Correspondence--Re General Haller of Poland; 1938
33. Correspondence with speakers;; 1934-1946
34. Finances; 1956-1958
35. Meeting invitations & programs; 1938-1955
36. Membership drives; 1935, n.d.
37. Miscellaneous notes, ideas; memos re collections
38. Field, Pearl I., "An historical society in the Library"—Wilson Bulletin
(XI: 7); 1937 Mar
39. Life Membership certificate book (blank certificate); 1941
Series VII: Scrapbooks
Three scrapbooks of newsclips, memorabilia, and other materials documenting activities of the West Side Historical Society; 1930s and 1940s.
All photographs in the West Side Historical Society collection are cataloged under Clubs and Organizations. See also snapshot photos of various tours in folders 8:1-17.
Board of Directors
1.1 Board of Directors; 1948 Mar 11 (2 copies)Meetings
1.2 1931 Oct 19 Early Settlers MeetingExhibit
1.3 1932 Oct Annual Meeting
1.4 1944 Oct Early Settlers Meeting
1.5 1945 Oct 8 Early Settlers Meeting
1.6 1945 Oct 14 Early Settlers Meeting
1.7 1948 Mar 19 General Meeting: West Division High School alumni
1.8-1.9 1949 Apr 5 Group
1.9a 1949 Apr 5 Joe and Mabel Paul, performers at meeting
1.10 1949 Apr 5 Helen Babcock & Pearl Field (2 copies)
1.11 1952 May 20 Student looks at display at meeting
1.12 n.d. Stanley Pargellis, speaker
1.13 n.d. Stanley Pargellis, speaker, with others (unidentified)
1.14 Exhibit [in window of Midwest News?]; n.d.West Side Day at Railroad Fair; 1949 July 8
1.15 Replica of pioneer engineContests
1.16 Beauty queens of West Side
1.17 Jimmy Shea’s Irish Dancers
1.18 Trophy awarded to Steinmetz High School; 1937
1.19 Trophy awarded to Steinmetz High School; 1939
1.20 Trophy awarded to Steinmetz High School; 1941
1.21 High School Quiz Contest participants; [1946?]