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Recent donation to archives grants insight into life at Illinois College


The archival donation by the family of Henry Caldwell '17 will provide hands-on opportunities for students for years to come.

Earlier this month, Elizabeth Aldridge, of Jacksonville, and her family visited for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College. The visit was planned in conjunction to view a recent donation to the archives.  Aldridge donated a unique historic collection of material related to the life and work of her father, Henry Caldwell (1892-1938).

Henry Holland Caldwell was a graduate of Whipple Academy and Illinois College in 1917. Born in Manchester, England, Caldwell was active in a range of academic and extracurricular pursuits while on the Hilltop, all of which are carefully documented in letters and photographs in the collection. As a student Caldwell served as a charter member of the Dramatic Club at IC, his English accent setting him apart as he actively participated in a range of Shakespearean productions. In addition to early twentieth century college theatre productions, the collection provides insight into campus life, dining, literary societies, dances, and, of course, homework and studies. Caldwell also served as an editor of The Rambler, was an active writer and poet, and later served as the first editor of the Alumni Quarterly. He would go on to teach English at IC before later joining the faculty at the University of Florida.

The collection contains photographs, correspondence, and ephemera from Caldwell's time as a student and instructor at Illinois College. The materials also includes his letters written while serving with the Canadian army during the Great War, as well as courtship letters to his future wife, Margaret Irving, who also attended Illinois College. 

Samantha Sauer, the Illinois College Archivist, Curator, and Assistant Professor of History noted that the materials were a valuable contribution to the collections.

“This is an incredible resource for current and future Illinois College students and researchers. There are many ways that these primary sources will help support coursework, student-faculty collaborations, and research.”
Samantha Sauer

She went on to note that the collection had been well cared for by family and friends through the years, mentioning that friend of the family and caregiver Janet Mitchell contributed greatly to the care of the collection. While the materials come to the archive well-organized, there is still much to do to process the materials to help long-term preservation and access for researchers. “We have a wonderful team of Archive Student Assistants who will gain, apply, and hone skills handling and processing this collection,” Sauer mentioned. Archive Student Assistants are paid student work positions offered in the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives and Paul Findley Congressional Office Museum. 

For more information on the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives and the student work program, contact Samantha Sauer at

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932 the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

Visit or call 217.245.3000 for more information.

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