On Dec. 6, 1871, Carl F. Kranz and 14 students stepped off a train in the small Illinois prairie town known as Elmhurst. They would be the first students and faculty at a newly formed “proseminary,” a high school for preparing young men to attend the seminary or teach in the German Evangelical Church’s parochial schools.
Much has changed on the Elmhurst campus since that time. One hundred and fifty years later, it is evident that the progress of what we now know as Elmhurst University and the City of Elmhurst were intertwined from those early days.
A new exhibit at the Elmhurst History Museum, “An Ever-Widening Circle: Elmhurst University at 150,” traces the story of this symbiotic relationship and the University’s 150-year journey.
The exhibit opens at the Elmhurst History Museum, 120 E. Park Ave. in downtown Elmhurst, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, and runs through Jan. 2, 2022, as part of a yearlong celebration of Elmhurst University’s sesquicentennial. The exhibit is sponsored by Community Bank of Elmhurst, Feze Roofing, and Storino, Ramello and Durkin Attorneys at Law.
“I think it can be said that the Elmhurst University we see today would not be what it is without this rich history and close relationship to its hometown,” said Dan Bartlett, curator of exhibits at the Elmhurst History Museum. “It’s hard to imagine one without the other and the two entities have evolved together in many ways. The school has always been strongly connected to the community, and the City of Elmhurst has been positively impacted by the educational values, cultural opportunities, and resources that result from having a world-class institution of higher learning in its midst. It’s a wonderful asset for a town or suburb to have a university at its core for 150 years.”
The Circle Expands
Through a detailed timeline, rare photographs, eclectic artifacts, video and more, “An Ever-Widening Circle” chronicles the many ways the school has grown and changed, from its early days as a theological proseminary to today’s modern, vibrant university. The exhibit arc considers campus life, academics, faculty, sports teams and more. Some of the exhibit themes include daily student life in the late 1800s; building of a strong faculty; development of sports programs; the transition from proseminary to college to university; and opening the doors to an ever-widening circle of new students.
Some of the archive items on display in the Elmhurst History Museum exhibit include:
- Rare film footage from the Elmhurst campus in 1940.
- School spirit items, including freshman “E Beanies,” a college sweater and “E” blanket from the 1950s, and a costume headpiece worn by the team mascot known as Victor E. Bluejay circa 1990.
- Photographs and manuscripts from the Elmhurst History Museum and Elmhurst University archives.
- Sports team memorabilia and athletic apparel, including a 1924 pennant, uniforms and gear, intramural champion patches from various eras, and a 1980s letter jacket.
- A 1956 class key pendant connected to an engagement and a marriage of more than 60 years.
- A collection of parts from the first commons building (1895-1964).
- A uniform bib worn by student nurses in the 1980s.
Museum hours are from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday and Tuesday through Friday; and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free, and limited free parking is available. For the latest information, please visit elmhursthistory.org.
The Elmhurst History Museum will present a number of engaging programs in the coming months to connect to the exhibit and sesquicentennial.
- Vintage Baseball Game: An old-fashioned baseball game played by the wildly different rules of 1858 will take place on the Elmhurst University campus pitting University players against the City of Elmhurst locals in a “town vs. gown” competition. Bring a picnic basket and lawn chair. 1:00 p.m., Sept. 26, Elmhurst University Mall. Free admission and parking in campus parking lots.
- Elmhurst University Arboretum Tour: Mark Wakely, an Elmhurst University alumnus and longtime campus services manager, will lead a walking tour showcasing top specimens in the arboretum collection. Tour lasts approximately 2 hours. 12:00 p.m., Oct. 16. Limit: 30 participants. Cost $5. Registration required.
- Elmhurst Greats and Grads Lecture (online): Learn about some of the significant people who led, developed and graduated from Elmhurst University during its 150-year history in this free online lecture. Led by Elmhurst University’s Joan and Lester Brune Chair of History, Robert Butler. Available online from Nov. 4, 2021, through Jan. 2, 2022.
For more information, visit elmhursthistory.org in the Programs section.