East St. Louis is now being included in the "Images of America" Arcadia Publishing book series on the celebration of its 150th anniversary.
Professor of political science Andrew Theising said he is excited to have published a photo essay on the city's 150th anniversary. He also wrote another book about East St. Louis, "Made in USA: East St. Louis," in 2003 and published several articles about the city in the past.
Theising said East St. Louis has been his research passion for almost 20 years, but he was not always so enthusiastic. When he started his research back in 1993, he did not want to visit East St. Louis.
"My doctoral adviser at UMSL kept insisting that I go study East St. Louis," Theising said. "I wanted to study school desegregation, education issues and financial issues for cities. Each time, my advisor would say 'No, go study East St. Louis.' So I went and I have never left. I love the city. I'm fascinated by the city. I think I will be for the rest of my life."
Research assistant at the Institute for Urban Research Victor Hicks said Theising's work is very important because people frequently have a negative impression of East St. Louis due to the socio-economic issues and the media.
"I think Dr. Theising's work helps people understand how the city got to where it is," Hicks said. "It helps show a more full and accurate picture, especially of the history of the city. Oftentimes people assume they know the story."
Theising co-authored the "Images of America" book with Bill Nunes, who attended SIUE in 1963 when there was no campus in Edwardsville. The only buildings were in East St. Louis and Alton.
"Images of America: East St. Louis" was published July 12, in the book series that reproduces historic photographs. Theising said there has never been a book in the series written on East St. Louis.
"They wanted to do one for years," Theising said. "The problem is there's just no single place that has collected a critical mass of photos and memorabilia about East St. Louis except for one place: SIUE."
Theising said the university archives have a tremendous collection of East St. Louis material, much coming from his own donations over the years.
"The collection has hundreds of images and the archives [were] very kind to scan a bunch of these," Theising said. "I worked with the archives to select images. I researched the content of the images and I wrote lengthy captions for them. Really, this book is a photo essay of the East St. Louis experience in its first 75 years."
The chapters of the book include the chapter landmarks, events, commerce and industry, government and leisure time. Theising chose a mix of photos from the archives to represent these titles.
University archivist Steve Kerber said working with Theising was not a complicated process because he knew his way around the archives.
"[Theising] is really more conversant than anybody that I'm aware of with the source materials that relate to the history of East St. Louis, not just here, but anywhere," Kerber said. "He usually has a very good idea and a very good memory for an appropriate illustration."
Kerber said Theising chose 39 images out of hundreds from the university archives to include in the book.
Theising gathered materials for this book while working as the director of the IUR and said his research in East St. Louis often coincides with the institute's active role in the city.
The proceeds from the sales of the book will actually be donated back to the university for the work of the IUR. The book will be available in the university bookstore and Barnes and Noble.
"The IUR is the applied research arm of the university and that means we go out and take the talents and the research of the university and we apply it at the local level," Theising said. "We work with city halls and nonprofits and government agencies to use our research in doing their work."
Nunes and Theising have been friends for more than 15 years and they have each published separate works about East St. Louis, but this is the first project they have worked on together.
"He was very kind because he's written a lot more than I have and he let me take the lead," Theising said. "He let me have editorial control over the volume and he provided a lot of information about the pictures. He would read my writing and he would find gaps in the information that I had and he would help fill those gaps for me. We made a very good team."