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UIC at 30

UIC's place in Chicago history

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Then and now

A little girl carrying a bucket of beer to her family on their stoop. Horse-drawn vehicles outside a Halsted Street saloon. The rap sheet of thief Allan Howard, aka "Chicago Al."

The images were among those illustrating "UIC History, Legacy, Promise and Brand," a talk by Burt Bledstein, professor of history emeritus, leading off a symposium in Student Center East Sept. 19 celebrating the 30th anniversary of UIC.

Bledstein noted that the university first was named Illinois Industrial University, leading many to think it was "a penal or reformatory school." The name was changed to the University of Illinois in 1885.

Street scenes outside Jane Addams Hull-House enlivened the lecture: boys in short pants playing stickball; the "hokey pokey man," an organ grinder; people showing off their baby buggies.

Bledstein flashed onscreen the cover of a Sears & Roebuck catalog ("Cheapest Supply House on Earth"), then one of four pages displaying the perambulators.

He also showed scenes from the public library.

"Kids learned to read there, not in school," he said.

Young news vendors known as "newsies" worked for pennies. "Chicago had some of the first news girls," Bledstein said.

Other kids sold nuts, and a photo showed several girls sitting at a table cracking nuts with their teeth. "You talk about a hygiene problem!"

Maxwell Street's teeming outdoor market was "the second or third largest grossing area in the city," Bledstein said, and its police station was the busiest in town.

The university's medical school was founded in 1897 and its dental school in 1901. Visiting nurses were popular partly because "it was assumed that if you go to the hospital, you were going to die," he said.

Speaking after Bledstein was Jason Marcus Waak, UIC alumnus, historian and contributing editor of UIC Alumni Magazine, giving the student-alumni-staff perspective on the merger.

The campus he attended after the merger was very different from the one his father graduated from, Waak said.

"While my dad had classes from 8 to noon, then went off to work, I got involved in campus life," he said.

"Consolidation had a positive effect on my student experience and my career," Waak added.

"It gave me a chance to stretch my skills across a wider variety of fields."


Three who made it happen consider the outcome

'An impact across the world'

What they said

Below: consolidation of the two campuses meant many university services were combined, including Physical Plant.

Physical Plant shirts with UIC logo

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