Wanted: Historical items that tell a piece of Belleville's history

News-DemocratMarch 14, 2014 

— A coffee pot made in the 1950s in Belleville. A snare drum used by a Belleville infantry in the Civil War. Sheet music and a medallion from the city's 100th anniversary.

These are the kinds of items that bicentennial event organizers would like to see residents lend to the committee for an exhibition featuring 200 items telling the city's history.

Organizers will accept submission forms postmarked or sent via email by March 21.

"Belleville Bicentennial Exhibition: 200" will run from July 3 to Aug. 15 at the Schmidt Art Center at Southwestern Illinois College, 2500 Carlyle Ave. in Belleville.

When Belleville resident Kathy Liddy heard about this year's bicentennial events, she thought of the homecoming march composed by her grandfather for the city's 100th anniversary.

Liddy submitted to the exhibition committee original sheet music of the song, "Belleville," arranged for the piano.

Liddy's grandfather, Frank E. Macke, also played the trumpet. He led the "Frank Macke's Old-time Orchestra" and was a music teacher.

Macke was born in April 1889 in Belleville and he died at age 60. The march was played at his funeral.

Liddy remembers her father, Frank Macke, calling the march "a catchy tune."

"It's a hundred years old," Liddy said. "It's exciting that possibly this march could be played again this year."

William Shannon, curator of the St. Clair County Historical Society and chairman of the Belleville Bicentennial History and Archives Committee, said he hopes the exhibit will display items mostly from the general public.

"We really want to make this Belleville's exhibition because this is Belleville's story and we want it to be told in its own voice," Shannon said.

The committee will fill in gaps, if any, with items from the historical society and the Labor and Industry Museum.

Shannon said there has been a solid response from the public and he is excited to see what surprises turn up next.

So far, there has been a range of items, such as an electric Knapp-Monarch coffee pot that speaks to the city's industrial past and present, Shannon said.

There also is a snare drum used by the 43rd Illinois Regiment in the Civil War. The unit, named "Koerner's Regiment" after Gustave Koerner, was made up mostly of men from Belleville, Shannon said.

"The drum is a very emblematic item during the Civil War," Shannon said. "To have an item like that, that has a definite local connection to a period in American history a lot of people are interested in, is very exciting."

Jack LeChien, a member of the Belleville 200 Committee, said his wife's family has a medallion from the city's 100-year celebration in 1914.

And, there was a blacksmith on LeChien's side of the family, so he has some hammers from the turn of the century.

Exhibit organizers are interested in showing pieces from different time periods of the city's history.

Items should mostly focus on themes related to Belleville's origins, early residents, immigration, population, geography, science, business, agriculture, medicine, schools, culture, family life, sports, leisure, military, religion and community service.

Residents might have a deck of cards or other games people in Belleville used to entertain themselves before radio and television, LeChien said. Or, residents might also have gadgets made in Belleville that are no longer in use today.

"They're probably sitting in somebody's attic," LeChien said. "They might have forgotten what they inherited from a grandmother or grandfather."

Have something for the exhibit?

Submit the application forms, questionnaires and images online at visit www.belleville200.com.

If submitting by mail, send to the William and Florence Schmidt Art Center, Attention: Nicole Dutton -- Bicentennial Exhibition, 2500 Carlyle Ave., Belleville, IL 62221.

Lenders may submit up to three objects or collections of items. Do not send original prints or images.

Organizers will review submissions and announce entrants on April 4.

For more information, visit www.belleville200.com, email bicentennial200exhibition@swic.edu, or call Will Shannon at 234-0600 or Judy Belleville at 222-9430.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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