Lewis University John M. Lamb Research Papers (Lewis University)
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About this Collection

The John Lamb Research Papers

The John Lamb Research Papers, the work of I&M Canal historian John Lamb, are a part of the Howard and Lois Adelmann Regional History Collection at Lewis University. These papers, numbering 49, constitute the largest repository of research articles on the history of the I&M Canal and on that local communities situated along the canal, notably, Lockport, Illinois.

Lamb is a prominent figure involved in the late twentieth century preservation efforts of the Illinois and Michigan (I&M) Canal, and of the cultural heritage of the many towns along its corridor. He has spent the greater part of his life as a Lockport, Illinois, resident and as a history professor at Lewis University in nearby Romeoville. He was born on March 30, 1926, in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He received degrees in history from the University of North Dakota (BA) and Fordham University (MA). Lamb served in the U.S. Army for two years during the Korean War, followed by doctoral studies in history at Oxford University in England. He completed additional studies back in the States, and worked with the City of Chicago Welfare Services, before he began his teaching career at then Lewis College in September of 1956. Lamb retired from the school in May of 1994.

A great part of Lamb's personal and professional life was committed to I&M Canal-related research, publications, presentations, exhibits, grants, legislation, and consultation; and to the social and economic growth of I&M Canal communities. Lamb has been an active organizational and committee member, and historic advisor, to local, regional, and national associations. In 1984, Lamb was specially nominated by Governor James Thompson and appointed by the Secretary of the Interior to be the state and federal Historian to the I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor Commission.

Lamb is a prolific historian whose writings are published in scholarly journals and other periodicals. In 1987, Lamb also wrote and helped publish a sesquicentennial commemorative booklet on the I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor called A Corridor in Time. In 1999, Lamb's Lockport, Illinois: The Old Canal Town, was published by the Arcadia Press. In 2009, a collection of Lamb’s most notable articles on the I&M Canal was published by Lewis University, Historical Essays on the Illinois & Michigan Canal.

The John Lamb Research Collection

The John Lamb Research Collection contains most of the articles that came out under John Lamb’s authorship from 1965 to 2004. Most are articles that were published in local newspapers, magazines, and history journals, but some are derived from John Lamb's presentations at history conferences.

Twenty-eight of the 49 articles relate to the I&M Canal, most notably those relating to the canal’s early development and construction until its completion in 1848. A number of the articles relate to how the I&M Canal impacted the settlement and economic development of the region. Other research articles relate to the people associated with building the canal, boats on the canal, and preservation issues relating to the canal.

Articles on associated waterways include two on the Kankakee River, two on the Illinois Waterway, and one on Chicago and its waterways.

Twelve of the articles are on Lockport history and development, one on Joliet and its limestone architecture, one on the Statesville Prison, one on development of the steel plow by Lockport resident John Lane, and one on decoys and decoys carving.

This collection of articles was originally published in 2004 in a three-ring binder format and a CD format, called The John M. Lamb Collection. The collection was initiated when local historian Charlene Giardina began gathering all of John Lamb’s articles and presentations, and her initial efforts were seen through to completion by student intern Carrie Tarasuk. Lewis University librarian Mary Ann Atkins served as technical coordinator and web publisher.

John Lamb Papers Finding Aid

These research papers also include the Finding Aid for the John Lamb Papers, constituting four archival boxes relating to the John Lamb’s biography and his research and collection work. Here the researcher can find citations to other articles by John Lamb not in this online research collection, listed by folder and box numbers, because the John Lamb Papers contain many articles, published and unpublished that do not appear in the John Lamb Research Collection. The Finding Aid will lead the researcher to one of his earliest articles from 1965, "Depicts Background of the Milne Home," from a local newspaper; and one of his later articles, "Mount Joliet: The Fate of an Ancient Landmark," published by the Will County Historical Society in 2007.

The majority of the articles listed in the Finding Aid are on the I&M Canal and other Illinois waterways, constituting 25 in number. The next in number are 11 articles relating to the history of Lockport, many of them published in conjunction with Old Canal Days. There are also four significant articles by Lamb on the stone-built buildings of Joliet, in page proof format, which were intended to be a part of a book that was never published on Joliet stone construction. Lastly, the papers include five articles dealing with various subjects in the area and Illinois, including articles on steel plow inventor John Lane and Statesville Prison.

The Finding Aid also lists folders relating to exhibits drawn from the Adelmann Collection, three folders on newspaper clippings on John Lamb and his work, folders on John Lambs talks and presentations, and miscellaneous folders relating to the Adelmann collection and John Lamb.