Skip to main content

LEW logo Joliet Historical Photographs (Lewis University)

About this collection


Browse all items in the collection

The Joliet Historical Photographs collection contains photos and a few other illustrative items that relate to the history of the municipality of Joliet, Illinois. The city traces its settlement back to 1833, when Charles Reed erected a home on the banks of the Des Plaines River, and was incorporated as a village in 1837. Joliet was reincorporated as a city in 1852. The city prospered and grew from it being a way station on two important commercial waterways in Illinois, the Illinois and Michigan Canal (I&M Canal), completed in 1848, and the Des Plaines River. In 1886, Joliet by then the largest city in Will County was made its county seat.

The collection contains photos relating to buildings, institutions, retail establishments, industrial structures, street scenes, parades, and other relating to Joliet from its earliest history to the 1940s. A particularly strong focus is on people, showing notable citizens but also everyday scenes of Joliet residents at work, at play, and at school. Most noteworthy are the many images of the Grand Army of the Republic’s Fourth of July parade from 1911, images of the fire department and the fires it fought, as well as images of the I&M Canal that traverses through the city.

Especially valuable are the many vintage scenes of streets and intersections and high ground vistas of the city dating back to the mid-1800s, as well as images of nineteenth century and early twentieth century public and private buildings and other structures in Joliet. These include such notable buildings and businesses as the David Oliver Oatmeal Mill, Ducker's Corner, the Opera House, the Cutting Building, Leach Windmill, and the Wilcox Brothers building.

This image collection is an invaluable learning resource for students and the general public, as well as for historians of Joliet, the Chicago region, Illinois, and the I&M Canal.

In 1964, historian John Lamb, and faculty member in the history department at Lewis University, began collecting photos and illustrations relating to Joliet, as a part of his research and collecting interest on the I&M Canal. He obtained the bulk of the Joliet historical photos, most of which are dated from the first decade of the twentieth century, from the Chicago office of the Sanitary and Ship Canal. Other photos from the 1930s and 1940s were obtained from the Army Corps of Engineers. In 1983, he donated to Lewis University the Joliet photos he had gathered. This collection was joined with the other I&M Canal-related collections gathered by Lamb to form the Lewis Canal and Regional History Collection in 1983, and renamed the Howard and Lois Adelmann Regional History Collection in 2009

Prof. Lamb originally stored the Joliet Historical Photos materials in vertical filing cabinets. Robert Pruter, in 2011 using John Lamb's basic organization, modified the organization somewhat and relocated the Joliet photos into labeled archival boxes as part of the City of Joliet Collection. In 2012, Robert Pruter, with assistance from Stefany Drebes and Lindsay Snider, separated the Joliet photos from the Joliet Collection record group placed them into a new record group, Joliet Historical Photographs. These photos were scanned by Ashley Killian and Lindsay Snider in 2013 and the collection made its debut online the same year.

Questions about this collection? Contact: or 1-815-836-5306

Select the collections to add or remove from your search