The Colorful History of the Little Black Dress​

For decades, Christmas in Chicago meant a trip or two to State Street. This new lecture explores the history of Christmas at the big department stores stores on State Street. We'll use photos, ads and memorabilia to trace the cherished traditions including the animated window displays and beloved characters like the Cinnamon Bear and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Drawn from my book, Lost Chicago Department Stores. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]


For many Chicagoans, no Christmas season was complete without a visit to Marshall Field and Co. We'll trace the store's holiday traditions, including the Walnut Room Christmas tree, the window displays, the toy department, and the catalogs. A fun and fascinating look at one of Chicago's most beloved holiday traditions. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.] (NOTE: This is not the same program as Remembering Marshall Field's. Scroll up for info on that.) 

Food Fads

from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s

Explore the history of the America's favorite teen sleuth, including the mystery of who was "Carolyn Keene" and why this series, more than other girls' book series, has captivated generations of readers. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]

It's a Wonderful Life:

The Making of a Holiday Classic

Explore the history of America's First Ladies. Why are some beloved and some vilified? And how has each shaped the job to fit her own strengths? [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]

Christmas at Marshall Field's

 *** NEW!!    Chicago's Riverview Park
America's First Ladies:
The Best, the Worst, and the Strangely Forgotten

Remember Jell-O salads and cheese sprayed out of a can? Take a nostalgic look back at the food innovations and marketing approaches that transformed how we eat. Using classic cookbooks, mass-market advertisements, and family magazines, we'll explore how society and technology shaped American food from the 40s through the 60s. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]

Betty Crocker

and Her Cookbook That Changed How America Cooks

Holiday Programs

Trace the history of the Kentucky Derby's beloved traditions, from mint juleps to lavish hats. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]

Leslie


Goddard

*** NEW!!   Christmas on State Street

Debuts November 2023

No other doll has been played with, analyzed, collected, criticized and loved. In this illustrated lecture, historian Leslie Goddard delves into the history of Barbie and her inventor, the passionately creative and intensely competitive Ruth Handler. Learn what inspired Handler to develop Barbie in 1959, how Barbie helped make Mattel one of the world’s most successful toy companies, and what Barbie’s impact has been on American culture.​ [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]


She's a household name and her cookbook has sold more than 75 million copies, but who was Betty Crocker? Celebrate the 100th anniversary of America's favorite cook with a look back at her history, from her debut in 1921 through her current reign over one of America's popular food websites. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]

Requirements for most lectures:

  • Screen or white wall on which to project slides
  • Projector and laptop, unless arrangements have been made for me to bring mine
  • Table for approx. 20-25 artifacts
  • Microphone (lapel preferred), if needed or desired by presenting organization
Kentucky Derby Traditions and History
Remembering Route 66

Christmas in America from the 1940s through the 1960s meant aluminum trees, department store Santas and TV specials. Every kid wanted an Easy Bake Oven, a G.I. Joe or a Slinky. Look back at this optimistic era in a fun illustrated lecture, using photos, ads, greeting cards and catalogs to explore why this era was a turning point for how we celebrate the holidays. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]

Lectures

available for 2023

The Mystery of Nancy Drew

Explore the traditions that bring Christmas alive inside America’s most famous address, from the gingerbread house  to the National Christmas Tree. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.] 

From 1852 to 2006, Marshall Field's reigned as Chicago's grandest department store. Learn the history of the Walnut Room, the legendary window displays, and, of course, Frango Mints. Based on my book, Remembering Marshall Field's[This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]​ (I also offer Christmas at Marshall Field's. Scroll down for info on that.)

Christmas at the White House

*** NEW!!   Lost Chicago Department Stores 

The history of a fashion icon, including the role that Coco Chanel played in popularizing it and how it has been reinvented by everyone from Betty Boop to Versace. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]

*** NEW!!  Barbie: The History of America's Most Famous Doll

Available July 2023

Chicago History Programs

​Remembering Marshall Field's

Midcentury Christmas

Fads and Fun from 1945 to 1970

Explore the history of the "mother road" that linked Chicago to Los Angeles from 1926 to 1985. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]

A look back at Marshall Field's, Carson's, Montgomery Ward, Wieboldt's, Goldblatt's and Sears. Based on my 2022 book, Lost Chicago Department Stores. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]

Did you know the gym-turned-swimming pool in It's a Wonderful Life was real? That the movie did ho-hum business at the box office? Have fun exploring the movie's creation including how the script evolved, how the cast was chosen, and the technical challenges that were overcome. Enjoy rare photographs taken behind-the-scenes and find out what happened to the cast. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]

Baby Ruth, Milk Duds, Juicy Fruit, Cracker Jack, Milky Way, Tootsie Roll, Lemonheads - whatever your favorite candy may be, chances are it came from Chicago. For much of its history, the city churned out an astonishing one third of all candy produced in the United States. Based on my book, Chicago's Sweet Candy History.  [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]


Chicago's Sweet Candy History

Flickr/Joe & Jeanette Archie

It was once the “world’s largest amusement park." Take a look back at Chicago's famous park and its beloved rides including the Pair-O-Chutes, Aladdin’s Castle, Shoot the Chutes and of course, the Bobs roller coaster. [This is a lecture, not a portrayal.]