Red SOLO cupsFor parties, cookouts, and celebrations of any kind, there is always one common item – the red solo cup. Did you know its origins are rooted in the South Side of Chicago? Amid the Great Depression, Leo Hulseman launched his new business idea for easily accessible and disposable kitchenware.

Hulseman spent his nights creating paper cups so he could sell them throughout the day. Eventually, he invested in a 1940 machine that was invented by George Method Merta, an immigrant from Metylovice, Czechoslovakia who settled down in Chicago, which produced 250 cups per minute from a single roll of paper.

When choosing a brand for this new innovate cup, Leo Hulseman and his two sons agreed on “Solo” because the cup was “so high in quality, so low in price.” However, a patent lawsuit presented itself later. The “Solo” name was initially devised by Bozena Merta, a Czech immigrant.

As the legal situation was handled and business continued, Leo Hulseman dabbled in the music and television industry. It was a tool in advertising his Solo cups. He would provide ads for grocery stores and surrounding businesses as a means of receiving shelf space for his product in their establishments.

After Leo’s passing, his son, Robert Hulseman decided to expand the company and the product’s design. Robert pursued a more modern proposition of using plastic rather than paper. He found machines in Germany equipped with fulfilling this task. When creating test samples of the contemporary product, he looked to his own children to select the colors. In its 1970s debut, the Solo cup was made available in red, blue, yellow, and peach. Red received the most favor.

The Solo Cup Company also played a role in the creation and patent of the Traveler Lid for coffee cups. The design was developed by Robert Hulseman and Jack Clements. It became a widespread tool after Starbucks applied it to its many coffee cups and New York’s MOMA featured the acclaimed lid in a 2004 “Humble Masterpieces” exhibit.

For some time, the Solo Cup brand was connected to the well-known Star Wars films. This was due to the main character, Han Solo. In 2011, country star Toby Keith released a hit song titled, “Red Solo Cup.”

Since the start, the red solo cup has remained a classic, disposable kitchenware and symbolizes a great deal of festivities within popular culture.

gwendolyn brooks Gwendolyn Brooks was a famous American poet from Chicago. Born June 7, 1917, Brooks held a passion for writing poetry from a young age, having her first poem published at 13. She was published in Chicago Defender, a newspaper for African Americans in Chicago, by the time she was 17. After attending Wilson Junior College, now known as Kennedy-King College, and working for the NAACP, Brooks began centering her poems on the urban Black experience. This became part of her first collection of poems, “A Street in Bronzeville.”

Brooks’ unique writing style combined comedy with irony to portray the struggles people face. In 1950, Brooks became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Brooks published her first and only book in 1953, “Maud Martha.” The book focused on the discrimination that a dark skin Black women faced. Later into Brooks’ career, she began highlighting politics. A change in Brooks’ writing style when she was in her 50s was seen as a pivotal point. That change has been credited to her attendance at a Black writers gathering that took place at Fisk University. Brooks then transitioned from a traditional writing style to a free verse style.

Brooks was declared a “Living Legend” by Congress. She received over 70 honorary degrees, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Endowment of the Arts. In 1994, she received the highest government honor for career achievement in the humanities, Jefferson Lecturer.

Brooks taught at several colleges including Chicago State University. Brooks said that her biggest accomplishment was her work with children. She spent 30 years sponsoring poetry competitions for students.

Her life and legacy lives on through the words she wrote. Brooks remains one of the most famous African American poets.

little village archAfter the long overdue recognition of such a central piece of the Chicagoan Mexican community, Little Village Arch has been named an official landmark.
Built in the 90s, the Little Village Arch was devised by Adrián Lozano, a Mexican architect. His art was brought to life when the Balti Contracting Co. began building the structure. The concept of the arch was birthed by 1987 Alderman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. The intention of the art piece was to mirror the classical arched entrances that frame the streets of Mexico.

A distinguishing trait is the large bronze clock positioned in the top center of the Little Village Arch. In 1991, this item was donated by the former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari during an in-person visit to Chicago. The clock is from Relojes Centenario, a renowned watch and clock factory, shop, and museum, in Zacatlán, Mexico.

As a result of this architecture and its cultural significance, the neighborhood in which the arch is located has received a designated name. This arch is often referred to as the gateway to the Mexican capital of the Midwest. This is due to its large Mexican and Mexican American population. Comparatively, the Latinx community composes almost a third of the Chicago population.

Located at 3100 W. 26th St. in Chicago, the Little Village Arch presents a doorway into a unique and thriving neighborhood with rich history. According to Chicago records, it is also a commercial hotspot for tourism and opportunity to appreciate Mexican authenticity. It is two miles of taquerias (taco joints), panaderias (bakeries), and mom-and-pop shops. In respect to revenue, Little Village is ranked second in generating the most profit throughout the city of Chicago.

This is the first time an architect of Mexican descent has received recognition from the city of Chicago for an architectural structure of their creation. It is a consequential triumph for the Mexican community residing within its scope. It is a pillar of honor, cultural significance, resilience, economic strength, and artistry.
As stated on the arch, “Bienvenidos A Little Village. Y Bienvenidos A Illinois.” – “Welcome to Little Village. And Welcome to Illinois.”

American actor and comedian, Bill Murray, with a groundhogGroundhog Day was born from a weather lore that originated in Germany. The animal that Germans typically looked for weather predictions was the badger, but the United States and Canada decided on the groundhog. One of the largest celebrations of this Dutch tradition occurs every year in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is the location in which the plot of the critically-acclaimed film, Groundhog Day, is set. The film focuses on the life of one man, Phil Connors who is played by Bill Murray. He is a television weatherman who seems irritated with his occupational duties. While working on a project in Punxsutawney to highlight the Groundhog Day festivities, Connors realizes that he is living in a continuous loop of the same day – Feb. 2. Throughout the film, he is portrayed as egocentric, but after a long time period, the viewer will observe Connors immense change in character. Rather than being a selfish brute, he begins to commit acts of kindness and service. In addition, Connors sincerely and benevolently reports on Punxsutawney’s celebration of Groundhog Day while catching the eye of his television producer. The following morning, he awakens to realize he has finally escaped the loop.

An exciting fact about this film is that a majority of it was shot here in Illinois. Four Illinois’ locations played a role in successfully capturing the ideal environment the director envisioned. These included Woodstock, Cary, McHenry and Nimtz Quarry in Loves Park.

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ILIBHMBlack history month is a great opportunity to highlight the influence that many African Americans have on not just the world – but also right here in Illinois. To celebrate this Black History Month, we are highlighting Illinois-born Black figures that have made an impact throughout history.

Lorraine Hansberry (May 19, 1930- Jan. 12, 1965) was the first African American women to have a play performed on Broadway. Chicago-born Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun” opened on Broadway in 1959. This play won New York Drama Critics' Circle best play of 1959, making her the first Black woman to win.

Ramsey Lewis is a jazz composer and pianist from Chicago born May 27, 1935. Lewis has won three Grammys, seven Gold Records, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and many other awards for his notable work in jazz.  In 1957, Lewis formed the Ramsey Lewis Trio. This trio included Isaac "Redd" Holt as the drummer and Eldee Young as the bassist. Some of his popular songs are “The in Crowd” “Wade in the water” and “Hang on Sloopy”.

Oscar Micheaux (Jan. 2, 1884 – March 25, 1951) was a filmmaker from Metropolis who produced and directed over 44 films throughout his career. Micheaux became the first African American to produce a feature-length film. Micheaux used his films to portray Black people in a positive light and to display the struggles that they face. He was one of very few African American independent film makers to survive the sound era.

Katherine Dunham (June 22, 1909 – May 21, 2006) was a dancer and choreographer from Glen Ellyn. Dunham was one of the first African American women to attend University of Chicago and earn her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology. Dunham’s interest for dance began while studying at the University of Chicago.  Dunham used her dances and choreography to express Black culture. Her dance company, the Katherine Dunham Company, performed on Broadway and in major American cities.

Albert Raby (Feb. 20, 1933 to Nov. 23, 1988) was an activist from Chicago who worked hard alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to bring the civil rights movement to Chicago. Dr. King had chosen to come to Chicago because he was impressed by Raby’s sincerity of is commitment. In 1962, Raby helped create the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, which worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to launch the Chicago Freedom Movement.