Friday, October 27, 2017

"The City of Cairo Schottish"

This is the cover page of a piece of mid-nineteenth century sheet music entitled “The City of Cairo Schottish.” The City of Cairo was a steamboat, depicted in the illustration at the foot of the page. A schottish is a form of music popular in the nineteenth century, which musicologists identify as a country dance originating in central Europe.

In a time before phonographs or other forms of recorded music became widely available to the public, Americans typically experienced music by live performance and/or participation. Sheet music like this was widely distributed and allowed individual musicians to keep up with the latest musical trends. According to the Oxford Companion to Music, the schottish (or schottische) became popular in the England in 1878 with the publication of Tom Turner’s “Dancing in the Barn Schottisch,“ and Americans tended to favor a variety of the form identified as a “military schottische.”

Mark Twain mentions this form of music and dance in one of his letters to his brother Orion, and indicates the extent to which Americans of the mid-nineteenth century made use of sheet music, performed music in their own homes, and often danced to it.

“Ma was delighted with her trip, but she was disgusted with the girlsfor allowing me to embrace and kiss them–and she was horrified at the Schottische as performed by Miss Castle and me. She was perfectly willing for me to dance until 12 o'clock at the imminent peril of my going to sleep on the after watch–but then she would top off with a very inconsistent sermon on dancing in general; ending with a terrific broadside aimed at the heresy of heresies, the Schottische.”

       - Letter to Orion Clemens, 18 March 1861    

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Map - Early Settlement of Illinois

 Map of Illinois, 1818 | Lincoln/Net | NIU Digital Library
This map, provided by the Chicago History Museum, depicts Illinois at the time that it became the twenty-first state. In 1809 the area that became the state of Illinois was organized as the...

This map, provided by the Chicago History Museum, depicts Illinois at the time that it became the twenty-first state. In 1809 the area that became the state of Illinois was organized as the Illinois territory, with its capital at Kaskaskia. That city is visible on this map on Illinois’ southwestern border, across the Mississippi River from St. Genevieve, Missouri. Kaskaskia remained the capital of Illinois for a year, until the government removed to Vandalia, some 120 miles to the northeast. Vandalia was a very small town, not even represented on the above map, but Kaskaskia had proved unsuitable as a seat of government due to the Mississippi’s persistent threat of flooding. Vandalia also promised a more central location for a state eager to grow toward the north and east. As the map shows, much of what is now the most heavily-populated part of the state of Illinois had not even been divided into quarter sections, much less counties, at the time of statehood. 

The Illinois country was not settled by parties moving across the land from east to west. In a time of very few roads, this would have been an extremely difficult task. Instead, immigrants came to Illinois by way of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, moving largely from south to north. The parts of this map depicted as settled, organized territory were, and are, largely inhabited by people who came to Illinois from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. The wedge of land making up Illinois’ westernmost parts was also settled by way of river travel, but it was unique in that it had been set aside by Congress for settlement by veterans of the War of 1812. Note that it is identified on the map as “Military Bounty Land.”

Settlers did not come to northern, central and eastern Illinois in large numbers until the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 made that land more accessible by way of the Great Lakes and Chicago. Today those portions of the state retain a significant population descended from immigrants who came to the state from New England and the middle states, like New York and Pennsylvania.