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Wesley Raymond Brink (1850-1902), entrepreneur and long-time resident of Edwardsville, Illinois, compiled and published dozens of county atlases and county histories in the decades following the American Civil War. A talented travelling promoter who earned his living by persuading local persons of standing to pay for inclusion in and for copies of his county atlases and illustrated histories, Brink simultaneously gathered and preserved for future generations a wealth of significant historical information about individuals and communities. The works compiled and published by Wesley Raymond Brink are among the best examples of county atlases and histories published in Illinois during the nineteenth century.
Wesley Raymond Brink was born in Frenchtown, New Jersey, on February 23, 1850. He attended school in New Jersey and subsequently joined his older brother, George Washington Brink, at Cordova, Illinois, studied law, and earned admittance to the bar. While involved in attempting to establish himself as an attorney, Brink substituted for an individual who was engaged in collecting historical information for a projected publication and became fascinated with that activity. Turning his back on the orthodox practice of law, Brink embraced the vagabond commercial career of compiling county atlases and publishing county histories and genealogies of prominent local citizens.
Brink moved to Edwardsville in Southwestern Illinois in the early 1870s and in the spring of 1873 announced his intention to publish his first county title, an atlas of Madison County. The finished volume appeared in print in December 1873 to a largely favorable reception. On Christmas day of that year, Brink married Eleanor (Nellie) Gillespie of Edwardsville. Wesley and Nellie Brink had three children together, Florence, Julia and Sherman.
Over the succeeding three decades, Brink organized and directed a number of publishing projects in Illinois and other states, spending a great deal of his life on the road, far away from his family, and working with a constantly-evolving production team of associates and agents. In their scholarly article "Wesley Raymond Brink, History Huckster,"(Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 58:2 (Summer 1965), 117-138) researchers Betty and Raymond Spahn carefully investigated Brink's life and publishing activities. They concluded that Brink had compiled and published a total of thirty-eight county atlases and histories during his lengthy, meandering career. Brink was working on a history in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the time of his death on June 21, 1902. His body was returned to Edwardsville where he was buried on June 26, 1902. Both Brink and his wife are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Edwardsville.
The Wesley Raymond Brink Collection showcases nine of the information-rich Illinois county atlases and county histories produced by Brink and preserved in the Louisa H. Bowen University Archives & Special Collections, Lovejoy Library, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. This digital collection was created by Library & Information Services in 2015. The Project Director was Stephen Kerber, who also wrote the home page text.
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