Illinois Biography Resource File

Notable Illinois People

Volume 1


Addams, Jane (1860-1935) Social reformer.  Born in Cedarville, Illinois.  Started Hull House in Chicago.  Won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.  Site:  Hull House Museum.  Also:Nobel Laureates 


Armour, Philip Danforth (18321901) Site: The Columbia Encyclopedia.

bullet Armstrng, Louis "Satchmo" (1901-1971) US jazz musician.  Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, he began playing at 13 in the band at the New Orleans Waif's home. Later he played cornet in New Orleans and Mississippi River boat bands. He joined King Oliver's group in Chicago in 1922. In 1925, he formed the Louis Armstrong's Hot Five, and recorded in the "Chicago Dixieland" style.  Armstrong became popular on radio, in film and later on TV. Famous for his gravel scat singing and trumpet tone, he is one of the most famous jazz musicians. Songs recorded include 'Hello Dolly' "It's a Wonderful World." He married Lillian Hardin in 1924; they were  divorced in 1938. He remarried in 1942. His nickname Satchmo is an elided version of Satchel Mouth. Site: PBS. JAZZ: A Film by Ken Burns -- Biographies.
bullet Bickerdyke, Mary Ann Ball (1817-1901) Hospital worker. Born in Knox County, Ohio, Mother Bickerdyke became the best known, most colorful, and probably most resourceful nurse in the American Civil War. By the end of the war, with the help of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Mother Bickerdyke had built 300 hospitals and aided the wounded on 19 battlefields.  Site: "Civil War Interactive: The Daily Newspaper of the Civil War"
bullet Benny, Jack (1894-1974) Film, radio, and television actor and comedian. Born in Waukegan, Illinois.  Site: Jack Benny on the Web (A nicely done personal site.)   
bullet BLACK HAWK (1767-1837) Sauk chief. Lived in area now called Rock Island.  He led Sauk, Winnebago and Potawatomi Indian tribes in defense of their homelands in Illinois and Wisconsin..  Abraham Lincoln was among the militia from Illinois who fought in the war. Site: Black Hawk Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin.
bullet Bond, Shadrach (1773-1830) First Governor of Illinois serving from 1818 to1822. Site: Illinois Genealogy Web Project.
bullet Brooks, Gwendolyn (1917-2001) Poet and Author.
First black poet to win a Pulitzer Prize.  Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas; her family moved to Chicago when she was one.  She lived in Chicago for the rest of her life. She is best known for her poems of street-wise authenticity. One of her well known poems begins "We Real Cool. We/Left school. We/..." (1960). A children's book of poetry is titled Bronzeville Boys and Girls.  She wrote many other poems: "Medgar Evers" (a civil rights leader in Mississippi, murdered in 1963), "The Bean Eaters"(1960), "Boy Breaking Glass", (1968) and "Kitchenette Building" (1945). Site: Academy of American Poets
bullet Bryan, William Jennings (1860-1925) Lawyer and politician.  Bryan was born in Salem, Illinois and moved to Nebraska in 1877.  He became United States Congressman from Nebraska and ran for president of the United States three times.  He was considered a great orator and writer by the people of his day. Site: 1896: The Presidential Campaign; Cartoons and Commentary : A Vassar College Website
bullet Cabrini, Mother Francis Xavier (1850-1917) First American Saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Site:  St. Frances Cabrini School in Piscataway, NJ
bullet Clark, George Rogers (1852-1818)  Revolutionary War hero, frontiersman, founder of Louisville, Kentucky. He was noted for his farsightedness and his persuasive abilities. Site: Indiana Historical Bureau.
Clinton, Hillary Rodham (1947-    ) Born October 26, 1947 in Park Ridge, Illinois. First Lady of the United States, 1993-2001.  Elected Senator from New York on Nov. 7, 2000. Online Office
bullet Coleman, Bessie (1893-1926) Aviator.  First African-American woman to get a pilot's license. Site: Thomson-Gale Inc. ( Free Resources.
bullet Daley, Richard J. (1902-1976) Lawyer. Politician. Born in Chicago.  Mayor of Chicago. Site: The Columbia Encyclopedia.
bullet Daley, Richard M. (1942-    ) Lawyer. Politician. Born in Chicago.  Mayor of Chicago.  Son of earlier mayor with similar name. Site: Official Site of the City of Chicago.
bullet Deere, John (1804-1886) Agricultural toolmaker and Inventor,  Deere was born in Rutland Vermont. He worked as blacksmith until 1837 when he moved to Grande Detour, Illinois where he invented a sturdy new plough for heavy prairie soil. He began selling these and then branched out into manufacturing other farm implements as well. By 1855 his factory was selling more than 10,000 units a year. John Deere and Company, US farm implement manufacturer, is located in Quad Cities area of Illinois and still markets under his name.   Site: John Deere and Company. (Moline, IL)
bullet Disney, Walt (1901-1966) Born in Chicago, IL. Artist.  Film Animator and Producer.  Businessman.  Creator of Mickey Mouse. Site: Kansas City Public Library. Also: JustDisney.Com. Commercial site.
bullet Dix, Dorothea Lynde  (1802-1887) Teacher, Social reformer, and Humanitarian. Site:  Civil War Nurses
bullet Douglas, Stephen Arnold (1813-1961) Cabinetmaker, Lawyer, Politician. Candidate for president.  Lincoln-Douglas Debates.  Site: Illinois in the Civil War. Stephen A. Douglas Site: InfoPlease.Com Also: Douglas Monument Park. (Graveyards of Chicago).
bullet Dunham, Katherine (1909-     ) Dancer, Choreographer, Anthropologist. Site: The Black Collegian Magazine Online
bullet Fermi, Enrico (1901-1954) Experimental and Theoretical Physicist. Won Nobel Peace Prize for his work in nuclear physics. A major scientist of the 20th century.   Site: Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory 
bullet Ferris, George Washington Gale, Jr. (1859-1896) Civil engineer and builder of the Ferris Wheel. Site: American National Biography Sample Page. Also: Interactive Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition  Chicago, Illinois May-October, 1893.
bullet Field, Marshall (1834-1806) Businessman. Merchant.  Founded Marshall Field & Company in Chicago. Site: Infoplease Encyclopedia.
bullet Goodman, Benny (1909-1986) Musician. Clarinet player. Band leader. Site: PBS: American Masters
bullet Gould, Chester (1900-1985 ) Cartoonist: Creator of Dick Tracy - Site; Comic Art & Graffix Gallery
bullet Grant, Ulysses S. (1822-1885) United States Army General.  18th President of the United States. Site: The American Presidency by Grolier. Also: The White House.
bullet Gruelle, Johnny (1880-1938) Political cartoonist, Author and Illustrator.  Born in Arcola, Illinois.  Created Raggedy Ann and Andy stories and dolls. Site: Johnny Gruelle Raggedy Ann & Andy Museum.
bullet Jackson, Mahalia (1911-1972), Gospel singer. Born October 16, 1911, New Orleans, Louisiana; died January 27, 1972, Evergreen Park, Illinois.  Site: Women in History by Lakewood Public Library (Ohio)
bullet Kroc, Ray. (1902-1984) Entrepreneur. Founder of McDonalds. Site:  McDonalds Media.Com.  Also: Great Entrepreneurs. and Time: Persons of the Century--Builders and Titans.

Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)  Lawyer. Legislator. 16th US president. 
Abraham Lincoln was born in log cabin in Kentucky. His father was an itinerant laborer who turned to carpentry. By the time the Lincolns left Kentucky, Abraham's father had 3 farms. Lincoln's parents were anti-slavery.  In 1816 they moved to Indiana, partly because slavery was illegal there and partly because land tenure there was more secure.  Abe had less than 1 year of schooling.
  In 1834, Lincoln was elected to lower house of the Illinois legislature.  He served 4 terms.  He became a lawyer in 1836.  He married Mary Todd in 1842 and settled in Springfield, Illinois.  He lost an election to the US Senate but made an impression by opposing the spread of slavery saying "A house divided against itself cannot stand." In 1860, he won the presidential election. In 1861, he made a symbolic supply to Fort Sumter, a federal outpost in a slave state, thus prompting the Civil War. He appointed hard-fighting generals such as Ullyses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. In 1864, he won re-election. Lincoln agitated Southern-sympathizer John Wilkes Booth who assassinated him on April 26, 1865, after Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ullyses S. Grant on April 9,1865.SITE: The American Presidency by Grolier. Also: The White House.

bullet Lindsay, Vachel (1879-1931) Poet. A comprehensive, but scholarly site on the life and work of Vachel Lindsey.  Graphics include poet's handwriting, covers and some content of original editions of his books, and his home in Springfield, IL. Site: Modern American Poetry Site (MAPS).
bullet Lovejoy, Elijah Parish (1802-1837) Teacher. Minister. Newspaperman. Murdered by a pro-slavery mob while trying to preserve a printing press for his anti-slavery newspaper. Site: Altonweb, City of Alton, IL

Illinois Biography Resource File:  Volume 2

bullet Masters, Edgar Lee (1869-1950)  Lawyer and Poet. Most famous work: Spoon River Anthology.  Born in Kansas, he grew up near Petersburg, IL.
bullet Mayer, Oscar F. ( 1859-1955) Meat packer and businessman.  Chicago company. (Site: Kraft Foods) Legend: Oscar Mayer (Site: Youngstown University)
bullet McCormick, Cyrus   (1809-1894) Inventor and industrialist.  Invented the mechanical reaper. Site: Shenandoah Valley Agricultural Research & Extension Center (Virginia)
bullet McCormick, Robert R. (1880-1955) Publisher and Editor, Chicago Tribune  Site: Robert R. McCormick Museum
bullet Medill, Joseph (1823-1899 ) Publisher and Editor, Chicago Tribune  Site: Robert R. McCormick Museum
bullet Ogden, William Butler (1805 -1877) First Mayor of Chicago, IL  Site: PBS: American Experience: Chicago: City of the Century
bullet Peck, Richard  (19  -      ) Illinois author.  Richard Peck is a Newbery Award winning author.  His books about crusty Grandma Dowdel are set in a small southeastern Illinois town in the 1930s. Mr. Peck was born in Decatur, Illinois.  His many books are popular with young adult readers.
bullet Pinkerton, Allan (1819-1884) American Detective. Site: The Columbia Encyclopedia.
bullet Pullman, George (1831- 1897) Inventor and industrialist.  Developed the first modern railway sleeping car. Site: Graceland Cemetery  Also: Photographs form Chicago Daily News
bullet Reagan, Ronald (1911-    ) Fortieth President of the United States.  Actor, Governor, Politician.  Site: The White House.
bullet Sable, Jean Baptiste Pointe du (1745?-1818), Trader, trapper.  First permanent non-Native American resident of the area now called Chicago, Illinois.   Site: Historic Peoria
bullet Sandburg, Carl (1878-1967) US poet, historian, lecturer, and folk-singer.  He wrote poetry, biography, autobiography, fiction and newspaper articles. He was a lecturer and folk-singer as well. His newspaper coverage of social unrest in 1919 resulted in a book called The Chicago Race Riots. The stories he invented for his three daughters became The Rootabaga Stories. When he was 70 he published his first and only novel, Remembrance Rock.  Son of Swedish immigrants, Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois.  He worked his way through Lombard College and graduated 1902. He married 1905.  In 1914, some work was published in a magazine.  It included the poem "Chicago."

"And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces
of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger."

The publication of this poem suddenly placed him in the forefront of American literature.  His work, influenced by Walt Whitman, celebrated working class people and the great sprawling and often brutal American cities. Sandburg also compiled an anthology of folksongs and ballads, The American Songbag (1927). He wrote 3 books for children including a Rootabaga Stories, a collection of original fairy tales. His twelve volume biography on Abraham Lincoln (1926) and (1939) won him the Pulitzer Prize. Sandburg's Complete Poems (1950) also won Pulitzer Prize. His autobiography of his youth is called Always the Young Strangers (1952).  Site; EduETH

bullet Sears, Richard Warren (1863-1914) Merchant and entrepreneur
bullet Sullivan, Louis (1856-1924) Architect. Marshall Field's Building, Chicago.
bullet Taft, Lorado (1860-1936) Sculptor. Site: University of Illinois Archives
bullet Washington, Harold (1922-1987) 42nd Mayor of Chicago  Harold Washington
bullet WELLS-BARNETT, Ida Bell (1862-1931) Teacher, Journalist Social activist. Born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Ida Wells was the daughter of slaves. She was educated at Rust University, a freedmen's school in Holly Springs.  By the age of 14 she was teaching school. Her belief in justice and educational equality for black American children led to  a career in journalism.  In 1895 she married Ferdinand L. Barnett, a Chicago lawyer, editor, and public official, and adopted the name Wells-Barnett.  She was active in Chicago civic affairs and led a crusade to stop lynchings. Site: Women in History
bullet Wright, Frank Lloyd (1867-1959) Architect.  Led the way to the development of a truly American architecture. Site: Oak Park Tourism.  Also: All-Wright Site. A  compilation site of online information about Frank Lloyd Wright by a Frank Lloyd Wright fan.  
  Wrigley, William, Jr. (1861-1932) Salesman, entrepreneur and chewing gum manufacturer. Site: Youngstown University.

Key Words and Subject Headings

General Terms

  • lllinois—Biography--Bibliography
  • Illinois—Dictionaries
  • Illinois—History—Wars
  • Chicago—History—Timeline


bullet American National Biography Online.  Sample pages from prestigious reference tool.
bullet Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Search  for biographical data on United States Congress members from 1774 to the present.
bullet Graceland Cemetary (Chicago) is the burial place of some of Illinois' most influential and powerful leaders.
bullet Illinois GenWebProject Genealogical Website for Illinois with links to many Illinois related history and biography sites.
bullet Interactive Guide to the World's Columbian Exposition  Chicago, Illinois May-October, 1893.
bullet Invent Now: National Inventors Hall of Fame Includes  biographical profiles of John Deere, Enrico Fermi, Cyrus McCormick.
bullet National Women's Hall of Fame  Includes biographical profiles of : Jane Addams, Gwendoyln Brooks.
bullet The Political Graveyard.  An enormous database of American history, politics, and graveyards.
bullet Thomsom-Gale, Inc.  Free Resources.  Includes biographies for Black History Month, Women's History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and poetry.

Compiled by Carol Fox  

Library Media Specialist


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