Homepage of "Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, & Other Highlights of Lincoln, IL"

Site Map


A Long-Range Plan to Brand the First Lincoln Namesake City as the Second City of Abraham Lincoln Statues

The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration in Lincoln, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln and the Historic Postville Courthouse,
including a William Maxwell connection to the Postville Courthouse

About Henry Ford and the Postville Courthouse, the Story of the Postville Courthouse Replica,
Tantivy, & the Postville Park Neighborhood in the
Route 66 Era


The Rise of Abraham Lincoln and His History and Heritage in His First Namesake Town,
also the founding of Lincoln College, the plot to steal Lincoln's body, and memories of Lincoln College and the Rustic Tavern-Inn

Introduction to the Social & Economic History of Lincoln, Illinois,
including poetry by William Childress & commentary by Federal Judge Bob Goebel & Illinois Appellate Court Judge Jim Knecht

"Social Consciousness in William Maxwell's Writings Based on Lincoln, Illinois" (an article published in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, winter 2005-06

Peeking Behind the Wizard's Screen: William Maxwell's Literary Art as Revealed by a Study of the Black Characters in Billie Dyer and Other Stories

Introduction to the Railroad & Route 66 Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois

The Living Railroad Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois: on Track as a Symbol of the "Usable Past"


Route 66 Overview Map of Lincoln with 42 Sites, Descriptions, & Photos

The Hensons of Business Route 66

The Wilsons of Business
Route 66
including the Wilson Grocery & Shell Station

Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Lincoln Memorial Park
(former Chautauqua site),
the Historic Cemeteries, & Nearby Sites

Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Salt Creek & Cemetery Hill,
the highway bridges, GM&O bridge, Madigan State Park, the old dam (with photos & Leigh's memoir of "shooting the rapids" over the old dam), & the Ernie Edwards' Pig-Hip Restaurant Museum in Broadwell

The Historic Logan County Courthouse, Past & Present

Route 66 Map with 51 Sites in the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District,
including locations of historical markers
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

Vintage Scenes of the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District

The Foley House:  A Monument to Civic Leadership
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

Agriculture in
the Route 66 Era

Arts & Entertainment Heritage,
including the Lincoln Theatre Roy Rogers' Riders Club of the 1950s

Business Heritage

Cars, Trucks & Gas Stations of the Route 66 Era

including the hometown churches of Author William Maxwell & Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

Factories, Past and Present

Food Stores of
the Route 66 Era


Hospitals, Past and Present

Hotels & Restaurants of the Railroad & Route 66 Eras

Lincoln Developmental Center
(Lincoln State School & Colony in the Route 66 era), plus
debunking the myth of Lincoln, Illinois, choosing the Asylum over the University of Illinois

Mining Coal, Limestone, & Sand & Gravel; Lincoln Lakes; & Utilities


Museums & Parks, including the Lincoln College Museum and its Abraham Lincoln Collection, plus the Heritage-in-Flight Museum

with Distinction

News Media in the Route 66 Era

The Odd Fellows' Children's Home


Memories of the 1900 Lincoln Community High School,
including Fred Blanford's dramatic account of the lost marble fountain of youth

A Tribute to the Historians and Advocates of Lincoln, Illinois

Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era

The Historic 1953 Centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois

The Festive 2003 Sesqui-centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois,
including photos of LCHS Class of 1960 dignitaries & the Blanfords

Why Did the State Police Raid Lincoln, Illinois, on October 11, 1950?

The Gambling Raids in Lincoln and Logan County, Illinois,
During the Late Route 66 Era (1950-1960)


Pages in this section tell about Leigh Henson's Lincoln years, moving away, revisits, and career:

About Lincoln, Illinois;
This Web Site; & Me

A Tribute to Lincolnite Edward Darold Henson: World War II U.S. Army Veteran of the Battles for Normandy and the Hedgerows; Brittany and Brest; and the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge)

For Remembrance, Understanding, & Fun: Lincoln Community High School Mid-20th-Century Alums' Internet Community
(a Web site and email exchange devoted to collaborative memoir and the sharing of photos related to Lincoln, Illinois)

Leigh Henson's Pilgrimage to Lincoln, Illinois, on
July 12, 2001

Leigh Henson's Review of Dr. Burkhardt's William Maxwell Biography

Leigh Henson's Review of Ernie Edwards' biography, Pig-Hips on Route 66, by William Kaszynski

Leigh Henson's Review of Jan Schumacher's Glimpses of Lincoln, Illinois

Teach Local Authors: Considering the Literature of Lincoln, Illinois

Web Site About
Leigh Henson's Professional Life


Pages in this section are about the writing, memorabilia, and Web sites of other Lincolnites:

A Tribute to Bill and Phyllis Stigall:
Exemplary Faculty of Lincoln College at Mid-Twentieth Century

A Tribute to the Krotzes of Lincoln, Illinois

A Tribute to Robert Wilson (LCHS '46): Author of Young in Illinois, Movies Editor of December Magazine, Friend and Colleague of December Press Publisher Curt Johnson, and Correspondent with William Maxwell

Brad Dye (LCHS '60): His Lincoln, Illinois, Web Site,
including photos of many churches

Dave Armbrust's Memorabilia of Lincoln, Illinois

J. Richard
(JR) Fikuart
(LCHS '65):
he Fikuarts of Lincoln, Illinois, including their connections to the William Maxwell family and three generations of family fun at Lincoln Lakes

Jerry Gibson (LCHS '60): Lincoln, Illinois, Memoirs & Other Stories

Dave Johnson (LCHS '56): His Web Site for the Lincoln Community High School Class of 1956

Sportswriter David Kindred: Memoir of His Grandmother Lena & Her West Side Tavern on Sangamon Street in the Route 66 Era

Judge Jim Knecht
(LCHS '62): Memoir and Short Story, "Other People's Money," Set in Hickey's Billiards on Chicago Street in the Route 66 Era

William A. "Bill" Krueger (LCHS '52): Information for His Books About Murders in Lincoln

Norm Schroeder (LCHS '60): Short Stories

Stan Stringer Writes About His Family, Mark Holland, and Lincoln, Illinois

Thomas Walsh: Anecdotes Relating to This Legendary Attorney from Lincoln by Attorney Fred Blanford & Judge Jim Knecht

Leon Zeter (LCHS '53): His Web Site for the
Lincoln Community High School Class of 1953
including announcements of LCHS class reunions

(Post yours there.)


Highway Sign of
the Times:

The Route 66
Association of Illinois

The Illinois State Historical Society

Illinois Tourism Site:
Enjoy Illinois



     Email a link to this page to someone who might be interested.   Internet Explorer is the only browser that shows this page the way it was designed.  Your computer's settings may alter the display. This page was published 9-2-06.

April 24, 2004: Awarded "Best Web Site of the Year" by the Illinois State Historical Society "superior achievement: serves as a model for the profession and reaches a greater public"

Marquee Lights of the Lincoln Theatre, est. 1923, Lincoln, Illinois

You can go home again.

Darold Leigh Henson's Review of William Maxwell: A Literary Life

     The following review of Dr. Barbara Burkhardt's biography of William Maxwell was invited by the Journal of Illinois History and appears in its spring, 2006, issue: Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 72-74. Mr. Maxwell (1908-2000) was born and raised in Lincoln, Illinois, and he used his hometown as subject matter in many short stories and novels and one book-length family history.

William Maxwell: A Literary Life
By Barbara Burkhardt. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005. Pp. xiv, 308. $34.95.

     The frieze of the Illinois State Library, opened in 1990 and facing the state Capitol, inscribes the names of thirty-five distinguished Illinois authors, including that of William Maxwell (1908-2000). Maxwell, a native of Lincoln, Illinois, led a dual literary life. For forty years (1936--1976), he was a well-respected fiction editor of The New Yorker magazine. His career as an author of autobiographical short stories and novels was even longer, beginning with his first novel, Bright Center of Heaven (1934), and ending with Billie Dyer and Other Stories (1992). Commonly acclaimed as his masterpiece, So Long, See You Tomorrow (1980) won Maxwell the prestigious William Dean Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Yet, despite these distinctions, no book-length study of his life and work had appeared until Barbara Burkhardt published William Maxwell: A Literary Life in 2005. She is a tenured faculty member in the English Department of the University of Illinois at Springfield.

     Readers of the Journal of Illinois History will be especially interested in Professor Burkhardt's book because much of William Maxwell's material is based on his childhood memories of Lincoln, Illinois, the first town named for Abraham Lincoln, in 1853, before he became famous. In many ways, Lincoln, Illinois, has always been representative of Midwestern small towns. A thorough researcher and skillful writer, Burkhardt effectively accommodates readers ranging from academic specialists in American literature to educated laypersons. Also, readers both familiar and unfamiliar with Maxwell will find Burkhardt's book engaging and informative.

     In the Introduction, Burkhardt precisely states her thesis: ". . . [H]e [Maxwell] experimented with narrative technique, bringing new form to his subjects as his view of them evolved over time. Early on [Virginia] Woolf and company stirred him to create a distinctive form of the tradition-breaking Modernism they practiced: He brought tough subjectivity, in-depth psychological probing, and unremitting intensity to the substance of his life and Midwestern homeland. Then, in small stages over many decades, he pushed past his own practice to arrive at a distinctive form of American Postmodernism that questions and foregrounds how we come to understand the past, challenges how we can over know what 'really' happened . . ." (page 8). Burkardt explains that Maxwell continually adapted his material: "Each of his works brings new form, new possibilities to his signature subjects--childhood and family life, the Midwest, the agony and acceptance of loss--while navigating the delicate balance between human will and fragility, between the concurrent tragedy and privilege of living" (page 8).

     The chapters of her book are chronologically sequenced to reflect Maxwell's artistic development: "Childhood: A Lifetime of Material, 1908-33"; ". . . Bright Center of Heaven, 1933-34"; ". . . They Came Like Swallows, 1934-38"; ". . . The Folded Leaf, 1938-45"; ". . . Time Will Darken It, 1945-48"; ". . . The New Yorker and The Chateau, 1948--61"; ". . . Ancestors, 1961--71"; "Maxwell's New York, 1974--76"; So Long, See You Tomorrow, 1972--80"; and "Late Short Works, 1980-92."

     Each chapter benefits from the prodigious research that Burkhardt began near the time she first interviewed Maxwell in 1991, and these interviews continued "once or twice a year" until six months before he died in 2000 (page 4). Her scholarship also led her to investigate key sources of intellectual and artistic influence on Maxwell: Virginia Woolf, Elinor Wylie, W.B. Yeats, Walter de la Mare, Zona Gale, Louise Bogan, and the Freudian psychiatrist Theodor Reik. Burkhardt's research included access to correspondence between Maxwell and his father and stepmother, and this information helps Burkhardt discuss the ways in which Maxwell uses them (and others) in his fiction and memoir.

     Burkhardt notes that despite Maxwell's focus on domestic life, his material extends "beyond the home and into the community" (page 105) of the early twentieth century. In her chapter on Time Will Darken It, Burkhardt discusses how Maxwell's portrayal of Martha King and Nora Potter shows females struggling with the limitations of gender roles imposed by society. In several passages Burkhardt discusses the relationship between members of the white upper middle class and their black servants. Yet, her biography does not attempt a full discussion of social classes in Maxwell's canon. This reviewer's reading of Maxwell's Lincoln-based works finds that various main characters represent both town and country dwellers, and they span the entire range of the middle class: upper, center, and lower.

     More than a year after its publication, William Maxwell has received mostly high praise. Chris Lehmann's review in Washingtonpost.com quotes and agrees with Burkhardt's claim that "perhaps no body of American writing so fully captures the development of one person from childhood through advanced years" (pp. 9-10). The privileged relationship between Burkhardt and her subject, however, leads Morris Dickstein to qualify his compliment. He writes in The New York Times that her book is "a valiant attempt to chart the relations between the stories Maxwell told and the stories he lived. It has all the benefits and some of the drawbacks of an insider's project." Dickstein implies that Burkhardt is unwilling to identify any weaknesses in Maxwell's art. Curiously, no negative criticism of Maxwell appears in Dickstein's review. In a passage quoted from So Long, See You Tomorrow, Burkhardt acknowledges Maxwell's self-awareness that discovering and expressing the truth of human nature and life through creative writing are difficult. Humility and wisdom are endearing qualities in Maxwell that Burkhardt often cites. Just as Maxwell empathizes with those who live by "the true feeling of the heart" (Ancestors, p. 252), Burkhardt celebrates Maxwell's love of life and literature, and this biography should inspire people to read Maxwell again and again.

Darold Leigh Henson, professor emeritus of English
Missouri State University


     Information about the Journal of Illinois History: Quarterly of the Illinois State Historical Library (published by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency), including how to subscribe: http://www.state.il.us/HPA/journal.htm

     Site dedicated entirely to William Maxwell: A Literary Life, including passages from other reviews: http://www.aliterarylife.com/

     Summary of Darold Leigh Henson, "Social Consciousness in William Maxwell's Writings Based on Lincoln, Illinois," which appeared in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (winter, 2005-06: 254-286).

     University of Illinois Press webpage on William Maxwell: A Literary Life: https://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/56nen9pp9780252030185.html


  Email comments, corrections, questions, or suggestions. 
Also please email me if this Web site helps you decide to visit Lincoln, Illinois: dlhenson@missouristate.edu


"The Past Is But the Prelude"


The founding fathers of this town asked their attorney, Abraham Lincoln, for permission to name this new community after him, and he agreed.  On the first day lots were publicly sold--August 27, 1853--, Abraham Lincoln, near the site of the train depot, used watermelon juice to christen the town as Lincoln, Illinois.  It thus became the first town named for Abraham Lincoln before he became famous.