July 15th, 2 p.m.

The next presentation in the Bicentennial Speaker Series will be on Sunday, July 15th at 2 p.m. in the Thorne Deuel Auditorium of the Illinois State Museum. "Building Illinois: Entrepreneurialism Flourishes, Workers Rise" will be presented by Mike Matejka is the Governmental Affairs Director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council.

Beginning with 1850s railroad construction, Illinois boomed as an agricultural and industrial powerhouse. Familiar brand names, from Wrigley chewing gum to Swift and Armour meat products, covered the nation.  Looking at two specific industries, this presentation will cover not only the business expansion, but the workplace tensions that followed. George Pullman was a model 19th century entrepreneur, a “rags to riches” story. Yet when he was buried, his grave was concrete reinforced, to curtail desecration. What did Pullman create and what was his legacy? Illinois led the nation in years for coal production, a vital industry that fueled 19th and 20th century expansion. At the same time, the deep dark mines were a dangerous lair, creating a widespread workers’ movement for industrial democracy.
Mike Matejka is the Governmental Affairs Director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council, representing over 10,000 union Laborers in central and northern Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. He is a vice-president of the Illinois Labor History Society and a past-president and board member of the McLean County Museum of History. He served 18 years on the Bloomington City Council and is involved in numerous civic and community groups. In 1984 he co-authored, with Greg Koos, Bloomington’s C&A Shops: Our Lives Remembered, an oral history collection with railroad shop workers; and in 2000, Fiery Struggle: Illinois Fire Fighters Build a Union, 1901-1985.  

The series is presented by the Academy of Lifelong Learning at Lincoln Land Community College and the Illinois State Museum with support from Illinois Humanities.