Seven-year-old Jesse W. Weik was in the crowd when Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train passed through Indianapolis on its way to Springfield. Weik’s father, an immigrant baker and grocer, lifted his son to see the late president’s body. Years later, the younger Weik would play an instrumental part in putting a reputation and a personality to Lincoln’s haunting, haunted face.

herndon's lincolnBorn on August 23, 1857, Jesse Weik grew up in Indiana and at age thirteen enrolled in the forerunner of DePauw University in Greencastle. In his time there Weik became a student of John Clark Ridpath, author of the then-popular History of the World. Weik wrote and received letters from the likes of William Lloyd Garrison and Thomas Carlyle. Indeed, a short and interesting biography of Weik by Randall T. Shepard notes a “fascination” with famous people. A social animal, Weik belonged to various clubs and, in the family tradition, joined the Republican Party. He also made frequent journeys to Indianapolis to attend the theater and once took in a show starring Edwin Booth, the toast of the nineteenth century American stage and the elder brother of John Wilkes Booth.

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twistee treatThere’s nothing more American than soft-serve ice cream. It provides the dairy and sweetness we crave in an attractive shape atop a sugary cone that encourages mobility. And we dispense the tasty snack via a machine that smashes it with compressed air. Why? Because regular ice cream is just not good enough for us.

Tomorrow, we celebrate National Soft-Serve Ice Cream Day, that childhood bribe all of us have dropped on at least one occasion. Every town of any size, and a lot of towns lacking much size at all, claims a soft-serve stop or two, and you know the stuff popular because you can find it at your better gas stations, too. Many people have tried to take credit for inventing soft-serve. But the all-seeing culinary oracle that is The Chicago Food Encyclopedia gives precedence to a local institution:

Soft-serve ice cream was invented by a father-and-son team living in Green River and first sold in Kankakee in 1938, which led to the opening of the first Dairy Queen store in Joliet in 1940. The American Dairy Queen Corporation is now a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., and DQ franchises are found worldwide.

Soft-serve even influenced history. Future British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, in her early career as a food chemist, took part in the industrial effort to bring soft-serve technology to the UK, where the treat became famous under the Mr. Whippy brand. Just think if she had ridden her success to the top of the food chemistry game instead of going into politics.

Sure, the Internet may frighten you with news that soft-serve, particularly fast food soft-serve, is a flash frozen chemical stew that contains red seaweed extract. But air-pulverized ice cream remains the most popular ice cream for a reason. Hold it with both hands.

This week marks the anniversary of the death (?) of Elvis Presley, a transformative cultural figure of the twentieth or any other century. If you have memories of that afternoon in 1977, you perhaps recall what you were doing when news of the King’s demise shook our primitive, pre-digital media. I, for instance, was on the way to football practice. When one of the other kids in the car made a joke about Elvis, his dad reached back and thwacked him one but good.

Greil Marcus called Elvis’s life The Presleyiad. The arc of it remains a part of our collective history: the rise from Tupelo poverty; the supernova of Sun Records music that changed it all; years in the army; celluloid slavery in a hundred awful movies; the brief, transcendent 1968 comeback that provided a too-short-lived taste of an alternate reality where the mature Elvis was scared enough to put forth the effort necessary to create art; the crash and burn of that dream in Vegas; tabloid notoriety; death; life everlasting.

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UI Press salutes Paul Oliver, pioneering blues collector, who passed away today. Oliver’s tremendous contributions are documented in his own writings, most notably Blues Fell This Morning, and his journey is recorded in his own words in Pioneers of the Blues Revival, edited by Steve Cushing, which we are issuing in an expanded second edition next year.

The Food's the ShowWhile on the UI Chicago campus this week, we had the distinct pleasure of visiting the current Special Collections and University Archives exhibit at the library: “The Food’s The Story.” The compact exhibit space features the nearly 90-year history of the Blackhawk restaurants, a family-owned Chicago business that spanned generations. The Blackhawk story highlights the innovative nature of food and entertainment in the Windy City.

Original owner Otto Roth transformed the first Blackhawk restaurant (est. 1920) again and again to adjust to the ever-changing tastes of the American restaurant-goer. To compete with the speakeasies and backroom bars during Prohibition, swing bands and dance performances entertained guests and the music was broadcast nationally as “Live! From the Blackhawk!” Though the Blackhawk was named for the U.S. 86th Infantry “Blackhawk” Division, in later years Roth leaned on the Native American connotations of the name to bring in guests. Actor Basil F. Heath entertained children at the restaurants as his TV and film character Chief White Eagle. Roth was a genius at utilizing advertising to bring in new clientele. The exhibit features many examples of efforts to drum up business ranging from advertising a sophisticated luncheon spot for women shoppers in the 1930s and the development of a signature “spinning salad bowl” that waiters built at the table to a special American Airlines menu featuring not only the spinning salad but also meat cut straight from a loin on a trolley pushed down the aisle. Airline service used to be very different apparently!

The original Blackhawk finally clSignosed in 1984 after a 64-year run, and a second location, Don’s Blackhawk restaurant in Wheeling, Illinois (est. 1969), shut its doors in 2009. As UIP anticipates the release of our extraordinary Chicago Food Encyclopedia, “The Food’s The Story” exhibit reminded us that Chicago’s food history is chock full of fascinating and fun stories to explore.


bookstoreBook lovers enjoy writing/talking about the sanctity of books. The tactile pleasure. The superiority of the physical object to the ethereal electronic version. The knowledge. The immersive experience. The old friend thing.

But the time comes when every bibliophile must face an inexorable fact: he/she owns too many freaking books.

You look around. Mortality stares you in the face and you realize that, even if you’re put under house arrest, even if you alone survive nuclear war, you will never read all of the books in your collection. You won’t read half. You won’t read even a modest number because you’ve reached an age where you keep re-reading the same clutch of old favorites.

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Yesterday marked the birthday of tennis champion Helen Jacobs. Born in 1908, Jacobs learned her trade in Berkeley, California before going on to a term as the world’s top-ranked player and the winner of nine Grand Slams. Jacobs was best known as the rival, if frequent victim, of fellow champ Helen Wills Moody, the top women’s star of the late 1920s and 1930s. In eleven matches against Moody, Jacobs went 1-11. And in that one win, Moody retired with an injury while down to Jacobs at the 1933 United States final (precursor to the US Open). It was Moody’s first loss in almost seven years.

Whatever Jacobs’ accomplishments on the court, though, she had a profound influence on the game—and our lives—in another way. She insisted on playing in shorts.

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StephensIn early May 1953, my girlfriend Jean Armstrong suggested I apply in the coffee shop where she worked as a waitress at the Tulane Hotel in Nashville. The hotel was situated on the corner of Eighth Avenue North and Church Street. It was the equivalent of a two- or three-star-rated hotel in today’s market. The restaurant served breakfast, lunch, and supper—nothing fancy. The Tulane was cheap, clean, nice, and convenient—a magnet for sidemen from the Grand Ole Opry. Musicians who lived there and worked at the Opry didn’t need a car. They could take their instruments, unless it was an upright bass, and walk to the Ryman Auditorium, where the Opry was held. The Ryman was located on Fifth Avenue, between Broadway and Commerce Street—about six or seven blocks.

I applied in the coffee shop at the hotel and was hired the same day. I started to work the next week. On my first day of work I met Bessie Lee Mauldin, Bill Monroe’s longtime girlfriend. Bessie was a well-endowed, beautiful blonde and an immaculate dresser. I was envious of her beauty and fashion. She was easy to talk to. Maybe she needed a friend. Who knows? But she befriended me. It wasn’t long before she told me she was Bill Monroe’s girlfriend and had been for many years. Bessie said Bill was still married to his wife, Carolyn, and they had two children. But that didn’t stop Bill and Bessie. He took her everywhere. She even appeared with Bill and his daughter, Melissa, on stage. Despite the fact I was a transplanted Nashville girl, I had no idea who Bill Monroe was at the time, nor did I care. I did know he played on the Opry, because Bessie told me. Bessie was not only Bill’s longtime girlfriend but also his bass player.

Within a week of starting work I met Rudy Lyle, L. E. White, Sonny Osborne, Charlie Cline, and into my life came Jimmy Martin. They were all sidemen for Bill. They didn’t impress me, but I thought they were nice guys. I still didn’t know anything about Bill Monroe. The last time I had gone to the Grand Ole Opry, I was three or four years old and it was held in the Old Dixie Tabernacle. I don’t remember going, but Mother told me
we went. When Jimmy first came into the restaurant and sat at one of my tables, he immediately asked me out. At the time, he was twenty-five years old and I was only seventeen, with a smart mouth. I told him, “No. If I wanted to go out with my daddy, I would go home and get him.”

Even though I thought of Jimmy as old, he was still very good looking and a charmer. He had beautiful blue eyes. His hair was a dirty brown color and sort of thin, but not as thin as it was in later years. I liked him—and I didn’t. I wanted to go out with him—and I didn’t. I thought it would be exciting to go to the Opry with him, but I didn’t want to get involved with him. Those mixed feelings would keep me with him for the next fourteen years. Continue reading

Headed to AEJMC next week? Here are five books to keep on your radar as you peruse the exhibit hall:

usher1. Interactive Journalism: Hackers, Data, and Code By Nikki Usher

“In Interactive Journalism, Nikki Usher skillfully answers three questions rarely addressed at the same time: how are newsrooms changing with their adoption of interactive journalism, what economic and cultural factors are driving this adoption, and why new ways of telling stories may affect the impact of journalism.”–James T. Hamilton, author of All the News That’s Fit to Sell: How the Market Transforms Information into News 

Make sure to stop by the UIP booth at 3:00 on August 9th to get your copy signed by Nikki Usher!


horne2. The Rise and Fall of the Associated Negro Press: Claude Barnett’s Pan-African News and the Jim Crow Paradox By Gerald Horne

The Rise and Fall of the Associated Negro Press is a brilliant model for writing black transnational history and for appreciating the contradictory results of desegregation for mid-twentieth century African American media, black freedom, and Pan-Africanism.”–Erik S. McDuffie, author of Sojourning for Freedom: Black Women, American Communism, and the Making of Black Left Feminism 



Bedingfield3. Newspaper Wars: Civil Rights and White Resistance in South Carolina, 1935-1965 By Sid Bedingfield

“Sid Bedingfield offers a brilliantly fresh account of the peak decades of the civil rights movement–a time when newspapers shaped the contours of civic discourse and political debate. More than an essential history of the civil rights movement in South Carolina, Newspaper Wars recasts our understanding of the civil rights era and the enduring struggles around race and citizenship.”–Patricia Sullivan, author of Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement\


socolow4. Six Minutes in Berlin: Broadcast Spectacle and Rowing Gold at the Nazi Olympics By Michael J. Socolow

“Socolow … is well placed to set that Olympic final in the context of a Nazi propaganda machine that found its fullest expression at those Games…. The author’s finer brushstrokes … paint glimmers of the horrors to come, but also the manifold personalities  comprising that uniquely American crew, and the sheer competitive thrill of the final itself, whose wake can still gently lift the world 80 years on.”–Booklist



ali5.  Media Localism: The Policies of Place By Christopher Ali

“This landmark book offers a fascinating and invaluable analysis for anyone seeking a critical understanding of ‘the local’ in our digital age. With elegance and clarity, Ali draws from comparative case studies and key historical contexts to show why democracy still requires media localism–and why an unfettered market can’t support it. This is a must-read for policymakers, journalists, and concerned citizens everywhere.”–Victor Pickard, author of America’s Battle for Media Democracy: The Triumph of Corporate Libertarianism and the Future of Media Reform 


All books at the UIP booth will be 40% off with free shipping in the U.S., so don’t forget to stop by and see us! 

grumpy chickIt was my first day on the Falkland Islands, and our group of five headed to Volunteer Point. I felt as though I was not supposed to know the point’s location—and I didn’t—as we piled in the Range Rover at one thirty in the morning. It was pitch-dark. We bumped and bounced along a dirt track for more than three hours, seeing nothing but sheep in the headlights, and listened to our driver recount her Falklands War experience. Volunteer Point is a privately owned farm where sheep intermingle with penguins. The area contains a two-mile-long beach, and Volunteer Point is home to the Falklands’ largest king-penguin
colony—around one thousand birds.

Prior to our foray to the Falkland Islands, one of the books I read was The Moon by Whale Light, by Diane Ackerman. In it she describes an encounter with a king penguin while wearing a yellow sweat suit. The penguin followed her about until it was convinced
that she was not of its kind. King penguins have bright, graduated orange-yellow comma-shaped ear patches that extend down onto the breast. The penguin “saw” yellow and was likely hoping for a mate. After reading that, I quickly went to our local mall in search of a
yellow scarf that I hoped would mimic penguin yellow.

face preenWe arrived at Volunteer Point at four thirty, and as we crested the final hill, tall forms—initially mistaken for massive numbers of cruise-ship “explorers”—materialized into king penguins. Their erect white bellies glowed like a full moon against the brown-green hills. Our driver left us and romised to return twelve hours later. We were in the midst of organized penguin chaos. Colonies of gentoo penguins graced the tops of circular rises they had created by hundreds of years of accumulated penguin debris. Magellanic penguins brayed in pairs and small groups, poking their heads from within deep, mysterious burrows. Several large colonies of king penguins graced the gentle hillsides,
organized by age. The adults were in the center, surrounded by a moat of multiage chicks. The periodic trumpeting of adult king penguins sounded like tin New Year’s Eve horns. Young juveniles stoically stood on the edge of the colony, mimicking humans in furry brown coats. Older chicks sported newly grown feathers with bodies still laced with tufts of brown hair—like hairy men at the gym. Continue reading