Book of historical photos celebrates Belleville's 200th anniversary

News-DemocratNovember 13, 2013 

Belleville turns 200 next year, so the Labor and Industry Museum is publishing a book of historical photos to help the city celebrate.

"Belleville: 1914 and Beyond" is a sequel to "Belleville: 1814-1914," published 10 years ago. Both are part of Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series.

"A few of the 250 photos are very familiar," said Judy Belleville, museum collection coordinator. "But the rest have never been in print."

Belleville co-authored the book with Robert Brunkow, a retired civilian historian for the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command.

He was interested not only in Belleville history, but how it fit in to American history.

"During World War II, we find examples of Belleville businesses supporting the war effort by producing war materials, such as munitions and machines, as well as the involvement of Bellevillians in the military," he said.

One of Brunkow's favorite photos shows a hearse with a military guard going around the Belleville Square on its way from the South Illinois train station to Renner Funeral Home in 1948.

The hearse contained the body of Army Air Corps Capt. William Mueller.

"He was the first of the World War II casualties who had been buried overseas and then returned to his hometown of Belleville," Brunkow said. "And he was the brother of one of the earliest friends (Wayne Mueller) I made when I moved here."

Another favorite is a 1916 photo of the former German Methodist Church near Brunkow's house. Scaffolding stands around the steeple for workers repairing damage caused by "cyclonic" winds.

The photo is symbolic because social and political forces later prompted church members to change the name to Jackson Street Methodist.

"You heard German spoken frequently on the streets of Belleville in 1914," Brunkow said. "But because of the strong anti-German sentiment during World War I, that sense of ethnic identity was rapidly diminished."

The book's 250 photos were selected from 5,000 in the museum's collection.

Volunteer Robert Arndt served as photo editor, performing restoration magic in some cases.

"Some of the older photos are torn or have corners ripped off, or maybe something has been spilled on them," he said. "Some are very washed-out looking, or they lack contrast. You have to use Photoshop to ... I guess you could say 'heal' or repair those photos."

The authors will sign copies of the book from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 7. It sells for $22 (or $42 for the set).

Belleville sees the book not only as a way to document history, but also to help build civic pride.

"I really do believe that if people know the history of their community, they will appreciate it more," she said.

For more information on "Belleville: 1914 and Beyond" or "Belleville: 1814-1914," call Belleville at 618-234-7862 or the museum at 618-222-9430.

Where to get the book

Labor and Industry Museum, 123 N. Church St. in Belleville -- Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Dec. 1-7. Book signings will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 7.

My Vintage Addiction, 119 E. Main St. in Belleville. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Belleville's 200 Memorabilia Store, East Main and North Church streets. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.

Eckert's Country Store, 915 S. Green Mount Road in Belleville. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Editors note/correction: An incorrect image of the book cover appeared with this story when it first appeared online.

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service