MY STORY

Hello. My name is Neil Gale. As a child, I had no interest in learning about history. Like so many of us, I found learning history in elementary school boring. I didn't think that remembering dates, names, and events would be useful as an adult... "in the real world." History was not captivating or even interesting to me. Many teachers didn't try to make learning history fun or exciting and didn't present the "results" of too many historic events.

But, at the age of seven, I began collecting antique and vintage Chicago postcards (Chicago proper - no suburbs). My mom and aunt would take me to a lot of antique and collectible shows.

The first time I found an antique dealer's booth who had tables full of boxes filled with postcards from around the country and the world, I parked myself on one of his folding chairs in front of the many boxes marked "Chicago, Illinois." After about two hours, my mom came back to the dealer's booth to find me still looking through and reading the postcards.

Postcards were very reasonable back then, mostly 10¢ to 25¢ per postcard, so I was able to buy a few with my own money. I found it fascinating that I was looking at images that were 50 years old or older and that I knew the present locations and what it currently looked like.

By the time I was in High School, I developed a liking for American History. Still, the teaching methods were mostly memorization. I learned on my own how to research historical events, places, and people. I spent many Saturdays at the Chicago Historical Society, researching the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition and other Chicago stories. The head librarian gave me a library card at no charge since I wasn't a member of the CHS.

In my senior year in High School, it was the first year of the Chicago Metro History Fair, which included schools from the entire Chicagoland area. My project was an analysis of why the 1933-34 Century of Progress World's Fair opened for a second year. I included many of my postcards and a research report of the financial profitability of the World's Fair at the ending of the Great Depression and Prohibition and the benefits to the City of Chicago and Illinois. I won the regional first and second rounds receiving a Certificate for 'Outstanding Historical Project' with an Honorable Mention. In the History Fair's finals, held at the old the Chicago Cultural Center, (renamed from Chicago Main Public Library in 1977), I received an 'Outstanding Achievement Award.'
Certificate of Outstanding Achievement Award - Finals
The First Chicago Metro History Fair.
Brass Plaque
As my Chicago postcard collection continued to grow to over 5,000, I wanted to share some special Chicago postcards from my collection. I opened the Chicago Postcard Museum on November 1, 2007. The virtual Museum is constructed with lobbies, galleries, rooms, and exhibit halls, just like walking into a brick and mortar Museum. You will see special presentations and collections of extremely rare, antique, and vintage postcards.

Listen to Dr. Gale's Interview on WBEZ 91.5 FM, Chicago Public Radio, Eight Forty-Eight Show presents: Passion for Postcards Goes Digital. Hosted by: Stephanie Lecci. February 26, 2008. 

Below is an article from the Chicago Reader, "Show Us Your [______]." February 2, 2012


REJUVENATING ILLINOIS HISTORY

As an Author and Illinois Historian, I not only enjoy learning about our state’s history, but I also enjoy presenting the stories and photographs that make Illinois' history come alive. In my opinion, the next evolution of a modern-day historian is to interact with history by allowing others to add to the richness of the article presentations with additional facts, photographs, personal and family experiences. This is where a Facebook group excels by allowing feedback, comments, videos, photographs, and images to be added to the presentations, enriching the experience of all readers.

The resources below help students with research and preparation for the Chicago Metro History Fair, the Illinois Regional History Fairs all leading up to the state final competition on Illinois History Day held in Springfield, Illinois each May.

In October of 2012, I started the Facebook group and named it Living History of Illinois and Chicago®. People from around the world and from all walks of life have joined to participate in this social history venue, forming one of the most interesting educational and entertaining groups on Facebook. The group hosts Junior and Senior High School (6th-12th grades) history and social studies classes with their educators, for lesson plans.

I've recruited dozens of Illinois community, township and county Historical Societies, History Museum Directors, Museum Curators, and career Historians to join the group. Many of the members are in public service including Mayors and former Mayors from towns and cities all over Illinois. In addition, the group is loaded with local media broadcasters, including news anchors and researchers from NBC, ABC, CBS, and other TV and cable networks, plus radio personalities from around the state. The group boasts about having a number of professional photographers on-board who share their own photographs of historic places in Illinois.

In 2013, I started the Digital Research Library of Illinois History®. Included in the Library are quite a few of my personal research papers, including series about ‘Lost Town of Illinois’, ‘Chicago’s Forgotten Neighborhoods’, and ‘Defunct Amusement Parks of Illinois’. The Library is sanctioned by and linked from the Chicago Metro History Fair, the Illinois History Fair website and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) as a prime resource for students, educators and the public.

Because of Facebook’s restrictions on each group's number of posted images stored (approx. 5000 per group) the oldest ones are deleted when new ones are posted, I found it necessary to create a way of -- "Saving Illinois History, One Story at a Time." -- before the posts in Facebook get deleted. On November 6, 2016, I founded the Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal™. The Journal presents Illinois history in a friendlier format. Being membership free, anybody online can add their comments to the postings in the Journal.

On July 28, 2020, I was removed and blocked from an Abraham Lincoln Facebook group because I provided proof that the post a member made was not at all truthful. Little did I know the person was the group's Administrator. After sleeping on the issue, I decided to start a new Facebook group the next morning, July 29th, and named it "Abraham Lincoln Forum™." After setting up the new group, I began inviting people to join the next morning. In the first two weeks, we had over 1,200 members.

I offer our members, and the general public, a free Daily Illinois Newspaper. The Living History of Illinois Gazette™ which has current news from all over the state of Illinois.  

To offset the costs of hosting and management fees for the Digital Research Library of Illinois History®, Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal™, and the Living History of Illinois Gazette™, I opened an online store with unique Illinois and Chicago logoed items that I personally designed or re-created. The Illinois History Store® profits fund these Illinois history projects.