It's a Wonderful Life:
The Making of a Holiday Classic


available for 2020

Holiday Themed Programs

Chicago's Bygone Department Stores

This beautifully illustrated lecture explores the history and elegant artistry of afternoon tea. Learn why afternoon was so popular with the Victorians and Edwardians, what a proper menu includes, and why the custom of afternoon tea remains so enduringly appealing.

Chicago's Sweet Candy History

Votes for Women

The 72-Year Struggle for Women's Suffrage

Explore the struggle from 1848 -- when the first call for women's votes was issued at Seneca Falls -- to 1920 when the 19th amendment gave all American women the vote.

Christmas in America from the 1940s through the 1960s meant aluminum trees, department store Santas and cartoon specials on the television. Every kid in the suburbs wanted an Easy Bake Oven, a G.I. Joe or a Slinky. The coolest houses had trees with rotating color wheels. Historian Leslie Goddard explores this optimistic era in a new illustrated lecture, using photographs, advertisements, greeting cards and catalog to explore why this era was a turning point for how we celebrate the holidays.

Christmas at Marshall Field's
America's First Ladies:
The Best, the Worst, and the Strangely Forgotten

Clustered mostly on State Street, stores like Marshall Field’s, Carson Pirie Scott, Sears, Wieboldt’s and Goldblatt’s set new standards for retail innovation, customer services and visual display. This nostalgic illustrated lecture revisits Chicago’s fabulous retail emporiums and explores their rise and fall.

The fascinating of the most infamous healthy carrier of a deadly bacteria in American history.

Dive into the history of America’s favorite candies, from early treats like licorice roots and maple sugar candy through modern Baby Ruths and Hershey bars. We’ll explore the companies and brands that have become American icons and learn how candy evolved from a luxury good into a cheap, everyday snack.

Requirements for most lectures:

Who Was Typhoid Mary?

Also Available:

Christmas at Midcentury
America's Sweet Candy History

Did you know Cary Grant was supposed to star in It's a Wonderful Life? That the gym-floor-turned-swimming-pool was real? That the movie bombed at the box office? Even if you've seen the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life 150 times, you'll 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.

A fun new lecture, perfect for anyone struggling with failed baking projects

Remembering Marshall Field's
The Colorful History of The Little Black Dress
Elegant Indulgence: The History and Rituals of Afternoon Tea

The role of First Lady comes with no job description and no pay. Yet America's presidential spouses have wielded great influence and endured intense public scrutiny. In this fascinating lecture, we'll explore which First Ladies have ranked highest and lowest (or most in-between) with historians and why. Who do you think was best or worst? Why were some so vilified? And what might the future hold for the role of American First Lady?

For more than 150 years, Marshall Field and Co. reigned as Chicago's leading department store. This talk traces the store's history from 1852 to its demise in 2006 including the store's cherished traditions - the Walnut Room, the legendary window displays, and, of course, Frango Mints. [Based on Goddard's book, Remembering Marshall Field's, Arcadia, 2011.] (PLEASE NOTE: This is not the same as Christmas at Marshall Field's. Scroll down for info on that.)

Can't take a road trip this year? Travel back in time instead to explore the history of the "mother road" that linked Chicago to LA from 1926 to 1985.

Betty Crocker and Her Cookbook That Changed How America Cooks
Remembering Route 66

In this illustrated lecture, historian Leslie Goddard, Ph.D., explores the history of this fashion icon. Learn how Chanel helped dissociate black from mourning, how Audrey Hepburn helped establish the LBD; and how it has been reinvented by everyone from Betty Boop to Versace.

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. Ever have your photo taken with Santa in Cozy Cloud Cottage? Remember Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly? A fun and fascinating look at one of Chicago's most beloved holiday traditions. (NOTE: This is not the same program as Remembering Marshall Field's. Scroll up for info on that.) 

Leslie Goddard

  • 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

For much of its history, Chicago  produced one-third of the nation's candy.  Learn the history behind candies such as Baby Ruth, Snickers, Milk Duds, Tootsie Rolls, Wrigley's Gum, and more, and explore what made Chicago such a powerful location for candymakers. Delicious! [Based on Goddard's book, Chicago's Sweet Candy History]