The Svea Cafe

With the addition of Midway Village Museum’s permanent exhibit on immigration to Rockford– Many Faces, One Community —the staff in Midway Village Museum’s Collections Department is always on the lookout for immigration stories. Recently donated to us were a set of plates emblazoned with the words “Svea Café”.  Intrigued, we delved into old newspapers and city directories until a story emerged. In 1915, a young Swedish girl of 20 years, Miss Esther Ellison, came to the United States and to Rockford. She may have travelled...

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Do You Speak Esperanto?

Included in Midway Village Museum’s collection is a postcard of Rockford’s “Esperanto Klubo,” or Esperanto Club.  It shows eight young men, sharply dressed, posing proudly for the camera in 1916.  In a community with numerous clubs, this is one of the most obscure ones. In 1887 Polish physician Dr. L. L. Zamenhoff introduced Esperanto as a new international language. He created it to serve as a second language that could be used as a linguistic bridge between people speaking different languages.  The idea was not to provide a common language...

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The Founding of Allen Chapel

In 2012 Midway Village Museum was given three charcoal portraits. The portraits, executed in the late 1800s, are of prominent African-Americans in Rockford: Peter Blakely, his wife Hattie, and his mother-in-law Maria Donley. In the photo above Peter is shown on the left. His wife Hattie is pictured in the center and his mother is to the right. Peter Blakely was born a slave in Charleston, South Carolina; in 1861 he fled to Ohio and joined the Union Army. In 1885 Peter and his wife Hattie moved to Rockford; Hattie’s mother, Maria Donley lived...

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