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Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves

Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves

A Plain-Spoken History of Mid-Illinois

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James Krohe Jr.


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
360 pages, 6 x 9, 57 illustrations


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About the Book

In Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves, James Krohe Jr. presents an engaging history of an often overlooked region, filled with fascinating stories and surprising facts about Illinois’s midsection.
Krohe describes in lively prose the history of mid-Illinois from the Woodland period of prehistory until roughly 1960, covering the settlement of the region by peoples of disparate races and religions; the exploitation by Euro-Americans of forest, fish, and waterfowl; the transformation of farming into a high-tech industry; and the founding and deaths of towns. The economic, cultural, and racial factors that led to antagonism and accommodation between various people of different backgrounds are explored, as are the roles of education and religion in this part of the state. The book examines remarkable utopian experiments, social and moral reform movements, and innovations in transportation and food processing. It also offers fresh accounts of labor union warfare and social violence directed against Native Americans, immigrants, and African Americans and profiles three generations of political and government leaders, sometimes extraordinary and sometimes corrupt (the “one-horse thieves” of the title). A concluding chapter examines history’s roles as product, recreation, and civic bond in today’s mid-Illinois.
Accessible and entertaining yet well-researched and informative, Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves draws on a wide range of sources to explore a surprisingly diverse section of Illinois whose history is America in microcosm.


In more than forty years as an award-winning magazine journalist, essayist, and critic, James Krohe Jr. has explored the history, politics, and culture of his native Illinois. His work has been published in more than fifty magazines and newspapers, including Illinois Issues and the Chicago Reader, and he is a longtime contributor to Springfield’s Illinois Times. He has written two popular monographs published by the Sangamon County Historical Society and edited the society’s anthology, A Springfield Reader, which in 1977 received the Illinois State Historical Society’s Award of Merit. He lives and works in the Chicago area.