- Category: Library News
- Created: Tuesday, 21 June 2016 16:42
Famous visitors began appearing early in Alton history. They came for many reasons including campaign tours, promotion of religious or cultural ideas, and humanitarian efforts. Many appeared as guest speakers for local organizations and schools. Several political dignitaries have made footprints in the mud to view destruction caused by floods.
In 1867 American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson came to Alton to give a lecture to benefit the Alton Library Association. Emerson’s brother, Dr. William S. Emerson, was a local physician who was also instrumental in the establishment of Alton’s Unitarian Church. Other famous dignitaries who traveled to Alton to give lectures during this period were New York Times journalist and editor Horace Greely and American lecturer Anna Dickinson.
Abraham Lincoln walked along the Alton streets and stayed in Alton many times before his famous senatorial debate with Stephen Douglas. The debate happened on the steps of the old City Hall building that stood in full architectural splendor on the site of downtown’s Lincoln-Douglas Square. Lincoln was close friends with Alton resident U.S. Senator Lyman Trumbull. He visited the Trumbull home, among other places in Alton, on many occasions before his presidency.
Charles Lindbergh had an emergency landing field and mail relay station on the Godfrey farm of William Walters. Lindbergh was also a member of the Alton Aeronautical Club that was organized in 1925. In 2001, the relay station was restored and moved to a dedication site next to the Godfrey Village Hall.
Traveling evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, who is known as the founder of the Foursquare Gospel Church, held revivals and healing services in Alton between 1920 and 1927. During one visit she was said to have baptized nearly 90 people in the Mississippi River at the foot of Henry Street.
Amelia Earhart visited the Monticello Seminary, now Lewis & Clark Community College, in October 1933. She charmed her audience with a lecture titled “The Fun of Flying” as she spoke about her experiences as a female pilot. While in Alton, she lodged at the Stratford Hotel.