Events & Exhibits


Lady Elgin Collision and Sinking in Lake Michigan, September 8, 1860

The PS Lady Elgin was a wooden-hulled sidewheel steamship that sank in Lake Michigan off the fledgling town of Port Clinton, Illinois, whose geography is now divided between Highland Park and Highwood, Illinois, after she was rammed in a gale by the schooner Augusta in the early hours of September 8, 1860. The passenger manifest was lost with the collision, but the sinking of the Lady Elgin resulted in the loss of about 300 lives in what was called "one of the greatest marine horrors on record". Four years after the disaster, a new rule required sailing vessels to carry running lights. The Lady Elgin disaster remains the greatest loss of life on open water in the history of the Great Lakes.

How Corn Changed Itself and then Changed Everything Else

About 10,000 years ago, a weedy grass growing in Mexico possessed of a strange trait known as a “jumping gene” transformed itself into a larger and more useful grass—the cereal grass that we would come to know as maize and then corn. Nurtured by early farmers in the Oaxaca region, this grain would transform the Americas even before First Contact. After First Contact, it would span the globe, with mixed results, but for newcomers in North America, it expanded its influence from rescuing a few early settlers to creating the Midwest and building the world we know. Today, it is more important than ever. As Margaret Visser noted in her classic work Much Depends on Dinner, “Without corn, North America—and most particularly modern, technological North America—is inconceivable.” However, corn and the people who raise it also face some challenges.

4th of July Trivia Contest at 9:30 AM

Curated and designed by Nancy Webster, Archivist Saturday, July 4, 2020 at 9:30 am Available virtually via Zoom Go to meeting This link above has the password built into it. While the meeting won't begin until the appointed time, please take a look in advance if this is your first time. Meanwhile, we look forward to better days. 4th of July Highland Park Trivia Contest You many have also noticed that the Historical Society launched a social distancing parade on social media this Memorial Day, May 25. This effort will culminate July 4th when the Society will broadcast the sequence on Facebook and other social media sites. An online trivia contest on Zoom will follow. Please participate and bring others. Log on information will be distributed before the event and via City websites. Please propose trivia that you would like included in the contest, please email suggestions with source citations to

John Deere: A Discussion of the History and Future of Agriculture

You have been ‘invited to a private board meeting and celebration of John Deere & Co.’ The founder of the company is retiring and handing the plow to his son Charles. John Deere reflects on the history of his self-scouring plows, shares some of his personal struggles, and then turns to the future and the great changes in agriculture that he foresees in the vision of his son, who transforms the company and the future of farming.

POSTPONED Surprises, Laughter and Tears on the North Line of the Chicago & North Western Railroad

All aboard an anecdotal history of the North Line of the Chicago and North Western Railroad since the 1850s from Chicago through Highland Park to Milwaukee includes surprises, laughter and tears relating to Ravinia Park, President Theodore Roosevelt, unique lost and found items, and many other stories.  Many North Line residents are not aware of unusual events that have occurred on or near the tracks during the past century and a half.

COVID Survey

As you know, the Highland Park Historical Society collaborates to document the community, culture and people of Highland Park, Illinois in everyday life and in a broad context. Given the extraordinary circumstances, the Society, in collaboration with other Highland Park agencies, invites you to share your experiences now and in the future.

When Potato Fields were Prisons: Unfree Farm Labor in McHenry during World War 2

During World War II, some farmers in Marengo, Illinois negotiated with a large food corporation and federal agencies to make local farm fields into restricted, prison-like spaces. When the Curtiss Candy Company brought Japanese-Americans from the Tule Lake Internment Camp in California to cultivate and pick potatoes in 1943, the Marengo community struggled with the federal government and the candy company to eliminate the outsiders’ presence. Click for additional information.

Abraham Lincoln Goes to Waukegan

Hear the story of Abraham Lincoln's brief, but memorable visit, to Waukegan in this presentation by Ty Rohrer, of the Waukegan Historical Society, who will recount the visit as well as the "Lincoln Legends" that are still shared today, 160 years after the event.

Abraham Lincoln: A Man of His Time, A Man for All Times

More than two hundred years after his birth, Abraham Lincoln's historical importance endures. A man of his time - humbly born, self-taught, and ambitious - he seized the opportunities of an expansive society to rise to the country's highest office. A man for all times, Lincoln's strong principles, timeless rhetoric, and resolute leadership have contributed to his status as a globally recognized figure.