I recently discovered the vast potential that DeKalb holds as a photographic treasure trove so I’ve decided to create a personal blog project to focus on this one subject. For more about this please check the About Page.
For what it’s worth, I’m hoping this project takes on a sustained interest similar to “The Adventures of Brody” on my Profiling Light site. So the photo assault on DeKalb, Illinois begins.
DeKalb was founded in 1837. Agriculture was the primary economic activity until 1874 when a farmer, Joseph Glidden patented a functional design for “Barbed Wire”. Glidden sold half of his interest to hardware merchant, Issac Ellwood and the Barb Fenced Company put DeKalb on the map.
As an aside, the actual first patent in the US for Barb Wire was issued in 1867 to Lucien B. Smith of Kent Ohio, who is regarded as the inventor. But, there are hundreds of patents for Barb Wire and it’s history and development is a story of its own. Suffice it to say, in DeKalb, Joseph Glidden, Jacob Harish and Issac L Ellwood saw an early design of barb wire at a Fair in 1873 and all 3 set about improving and capitalizing on the product.
Let’s begin the adventure with this Mural and it’s significance.
One of the features of DeKalb that first caught my eye is that there are a number of Wall Murals painted around town which contribute to the turn of the century folksy feel you get as you drive through. The mural is part of the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition (ILHC) mural program. Jay Allen, of Shaw Craft Signs, was the chosen artist for the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalitions mural program.
The arch in the mural is significant in that it illustrates the actual arch that was built by the Chamber of Commerce in the 1920’s and stood near Carroll Avenue. In reference to the Barb Wire Industry, the arch declared DeKalb as the Live Wire City. It was eventually destroyed. A 1911 Stevens-Duryea Six is shown traveling under the arch with scenes along DeKalb’s Lincoln Highway in the 1920’s and 1930’s as the background. The Stevens-Duryea Six was a right-hand drive car manufactured in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts and its presence in the mural helps to emphasize the importance of early automotive history in the United States. The vehicle and its passengers represent the many different automobiles and travelers that drove the Lincoln Highway. When the Lincoln Highway was established in 1913, towns along the route were encouraged by the Lincoln Highway Association to rename their Main Streets. DeKalb was the first city in the nation to do so. (RE:NewDekalb)
Of course the “Lincoln Highway” should be recognizable to most people.
The Lincoln Highway, affectionately known as The Main Street of America, was the first road to transverse the United States from East to West crossing through 14 states. This highway plus the “Chicago and Northwestern” train system helped to bring prosperity to many rural Midwest towns like DeKalb.