“Nice Threads” Capps Clothing Co. exhibit opens July 16

“Nice Threads,” a new major exhibit featuring the history of the Capps Clothing Company, will officially open to the public on Saturday, July 16 at the Jacksonville Area Museum in downtown Jacksonville. A special preview for museum members only will be offered on Wednesday evening, July 13.

“Nice Threads” traces the history of the company from 1839, when Joseph Capps started his wool carding business in Jacksonville, through the company’s closing in 1975. Many original artifacts are included in the exhibit, including men’s suits, topcoats, military uniforms, and the company’s famous Indian blankets that were a prominent feature of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Also featured are original fabrics, tools, company records, photographs, and the reminiscences of Capps employees through the years that can be accessed via podcast.

“Capps Clothing Company was Morgan County’s oldest manufacturing firm and the products it produced for more than 135 years were world-renowned for their quality,” said Jacksonville Area Museum Board Chairman David Blanchette. “Many current Jacksonville residents either worked at Capps or knew someone who did, and the factory’s impact on the community’s history is profound.” 

At its height, Capps employed 450 workers and made clothes that were sold in more than 800 retail establishments in 40 states. 

The Jacksonville Area Museum uses original artifacts, storytelling exhibits and the building itself, as well as items from the MacMurray College Foundation and Alumni Association collection, to show people of all ages and backgrounds why the Jacksonville community has been and continues to be one of a kind.

The museum is located in the old Post Office building at 301 E. State Street, and its regular schedule is Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. There is no admission fee but a donation of $5 is suggested to keep the all-volunteer museum operating. 

Announcing the Jacksonville History Podcast

The Jacksonville Area Museum is proud to announce its new history podcast!

Spring is a time for new things, and our podcast is the newest way to share the wonderful audio stories of the Jacksonville area. You can listen to the story directly from the person who lived it, or has direct knowledge of the topic.

For our launch, we have a handful of stories to get you started. More will be added regularly. Current stories include:

  1. Dr EC Bone, with David Bone
  2. Old Post Office with postmaster Russell Schofield
  3. Carnation (Nestle) plant history with Tom Schierl
  4. Ruth Linear, African American historian
  5. J Capps and Sons with George Murphy

What is a podcast? It’s similar to radio shows that play on your phone or computer. You can access them via apps on your phone: Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, plus a few others. Search for ‘Jacksonville Area Museum’ and look for our round orange logo.

Each recording lasts from 10-30 min. More stories will be added as we move ahead. Have an idea or a person that you think should be interviewed? Contact us at info@jacksonvilleareamuseum.org.

Happy listening!

Sarah Angleton presentation and book signing this Saturday

Sarah Angleton, the author of several books of historical fiction, including one featuring a founder of the former MacMurray College, will appear at the Jacksonville Area Museum on Saturday, April 30 at 10 a.m. for a presentation and book signing. The event is free and open to the public, and no advance reservations are required.

Angleton’s White Man’s Graveyard is about the issue of removing freed slaves from the United States to Liberia in the mid-1800s. The book’s two main characters, siblings Annie and Sylvanus, were real people and Angleton’s ancestors. Sylvanus was a missionary physician with the Methodist Episcopal Church who went to Liberia to serve the freed Blacks who were establishing a colony there. But it was his sister Annie who had the Jacksonville connections.

“Annie married Reverend Peter Akers, the circuit rider who prophesied in 1837 at a camp meeting that slavery would soon end and that one who was in the crowd that day may have an important role to play,” Angleton said. “A young Illinois lawyer named Abraham Lincoln was there that day and was listening.”

Akers was a founder of the Illinois Conference Female Academy, established in 1846, that was the forerunner of MacMurray College. Angleton did key research at MacMurray College for Akers’ role in her book. The material that Angleton used for her research is now part of the MacMurray College Foundation and Alumni Association collection at the Jacksonville Area Museum.

Angleton’s other books include Gentleman of Misfortune, a tale of scoundrels, mummies, and the Joseph Smith Papyri; Smoke Rose to Heaven, a tale of fanaticism, treachery, and the Spalding Enigma; and Launching Sheep & Other Stories from the Intersection of History and Nonsense, a humorous look at history from the perspective of modern-day family life. Visit www.sarah-angleton.com for more information.

The Jacksonville Female Academy

The Jacksonville Female Academy is said to be the first women’s school for secondary education in Illinois.

Anne Rutledge, the purported love interest of Abraham Lincoln, was making plans to attend the Jacksonville Female Academy when she died in 1835.

If Rutledge had not succumbed to typhoid fever, she most likely would have attended classes in the new Female Academy building that had been constructed on the corner of West Morgan and South Church streets. The Photo is most likely taken in the early 1900s.

The Female Academy opened its doors in 1833. The Rev. John Ellis, a Presbyterian minister who helped establish Illinois College in 1829, also had a hand in founding the Female Academy.

Before Academy Hall was demolished in 1936, some Jacksonville residents called for its preservation, in view of the role the academy played in Illinois and the Midwest. “The influence of the school and its graduates was widespread. It is with full realization of its history and traditions that Jacksonville will watch (the building) go, as Jacksonville more than 100 years ago saw its beginning.”

The Jacksonville High School Bowl has stood on the former site of the Jacksonville Female Academy since 1952.

Read more in “The Way We Were: Volume II” by Greg Olson, and published by the Morgan County Historical Society.