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, Arcadia Publishing.

(PLEASE NOTE: I also offer Christmas at Marshall Field's. Scroll down for info on that.)

Midcentury Cuisine

American Food Fads from the 1940s through the 1960s

Chicago's Sweet Candy History

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.

Holiday Themed Programs


The Mystery of Nancy Drew

Kentucky Derby Traditions and History
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.

Explore the history of Chicago's famous beachfront resort hotel on Lake Michigan, from its construction in 1916 through its demise in 1967.

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.

Midcentury Christmas

Fads and Fun from 1945 to 1970

Learn the history of five iconic Chicago foods: deep-dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, Chicago-style hot dogs, cheesecake and Frango mints.

Explore the history of America's First Ladies. Why were some beloved and some vilified? And how did each shape the job to fit her own strengths?

Chicago once boasted some of America's grandest department stores. The retail corridor on State Street was a crowded canyon of stores where you could buy anything from a paper clip to an airplane. Revisit a time when a trip downtown meant dressing up for lunch at Marshall Field's Walnut Room, strolling the aisles of Sears for Craftsman tools or redeeming S&H Green Stamps at Wieboldt's. This talk brings to life the Windy City's fabulous retail past. Based on my 2022 book, published by the History Press.


available for 2022

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. (NOTE: This is not the same program as Remembering Marshall Field's. Scroll up for info on that.) 

Elegant Indulgence:
The History and Rituals of Afternoon Tea​

Betty Crocker

and Her Cookbook That Changed How America Cooks

Christmas at the White House

Christmas at Marshall Field's

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.


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

How did the Kentucky Derby become America's most famous horse race?  Trace the Derby's history through its beloved traditions, from mint juleps to lavish hats.

Chicago's Iconic Foods

It's a Wonderful Life:

The Making of a Holiday Classic
The Colorful History of the Little Black Dress​

Explore the history of the "mother road" that linked Chicago to Los Angeles from 1926 to 1985.


How did afternoon tea emerge as a specific event and why did it rise to such popularity with the Victorians and Edwardians? What does a proper menu include? And why does afternoon tea remain so enduringly appealing?

Explore the traditions that bring Christmas alive inside America’s most famous address, from the gingerbread house  to the National Christmas Tree. 

Remembering Marshall Field's

For much of its history, Chicago produced about a third of America's candies. Delve into the stories behind candies such as Baby Ruth, Snickers, Milk Duds, Tootsie Rolls  and more, and explore what made Chicago a great location for candymakers. Based on my book, Chicago's Sweet Candy History, published by Arcadia Publishing.

Who Was Typhoid Mary?

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.

Remembering Route 66
Edgewater Beach Hotel

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

Lost Chicago Department Stores BASED ON MY NEW BOOK!

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.