With its ever changing stock of artifacts and vibrant community of collectors, eBay is a wonderland of material culture waiting to be discovered. Most of the items related to the history of Jacksonville hint at popular culture, like this vintage leather postcard from the Illinois Women’s College (now MacMurray):
This is a series where every now and again I’ll post about my favorite research tools, such as digital resources, databases, note-taking software, or old-fashioned highlighters and paperclips. Today’s post looks at an unlikely historical source: the on-line auction. About once a month or so, I look on eBay just to see if there are any items related to the history of IC or Jacksonville. Take for example this very interesting jar of olives bottled for a local wholesale grocer:
A little research reveals that the Jenkinson-Bode Company was a wholesale grocery in Jacksonville established in 1888 by William and Henry Jenkinson. I’ve not been able to establish a firm family connection, but a Percy Jenkinson (listed as a clerk in the 1910 census) married Anne Ayers Young, an alumna of the Illinois Women’s College, class of 1904. What connections did the Jenkinson family have to the IWC and are their olives a nod to the students there? I had not previously thought to explore the relationships between local businesses and the women’s colleges, but this little artifact provides some food for thought.
And then one day I stumbled across an entire stash of photographs from the Illinois Conservatory of Music from 1878. The seller, Bonnie Miller, purchased an album of 22 photos from another seller in Montana. Not just your average e-Bayer, Bonnie describes business, 4Hearts Photos and Treasures, as a “photo rescue” that reconnects people with their past and photos with their families or organizations. Though the photos were priced well beyond my budget, she was kind enough to share all of the digital images of the photos with me, as well as images of the complete photo album. The photos of students and faculty show us what they looked like, the clothes they wore, how they kept their hair, and the fact that they all thought to have their photos taken at a studio on State Street. These carte de vistite (a fancy name for these kinds of photos) tell us something about the students and the images they hoped to project. More than anything, these allow us to put names with the faces.
So here’s to eBay. Research victoriously.