Brown Bag/Local Lore: What’s Coming Down the Line? The Railroad in the American Mind

Illinois is the nation’s railroad crossroads. This not only shaped the state’s economy and communities but created an industry with a cultural allure. The speeding locomotive was a real-life representation of progress, and people gathered trackside to marvel at the big city opulence represented by an Illinois-built Pullman car.

Presented by Mike Matejka, a historian, writer, and community organizer with a passion for Illinois labor history and years of experience presenting to a wide range of audiences.

Railroads not only accelerated Illinois’ economic development and population growth, but also became icons that influenced American culture. The national land-based transportation network radically changed the economy, how people traveled, and how corporate structure evolved. Rail workers were seen as heroic as they faced an extremely dangerous occupation. The railroad became a cultural symbol, reflected in advertising, cinema, and children’s toys.

Made possible through the Illinois Humanities Road Scholar Program

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Dec 07 2023


12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


DeKalb County History Center


DeKalb County History Center