Wayback Wednesday: 40 years of Illinois Times

A look back at our first issue

On Sept. 18, 1975, the first issue of Illinois Times went out to subscribers across Springfield and the surrounding communities. That first issue cost 25¢ per copy, but IT has since become a free paper. We're celebrating our 40th anniversary later this year.

Here’s the front cover of that first issue. (For a closer look, check out the slideshow at the bottom.)

Look at all that white space, which has become yellow with time. 

The cover story for that first issue was about preventing the decline of Athens, north of Springfield. 

The article included tips on “Turning Your Town Around.”

Of course, Athens still exists today, so those folks must have done something right.  

Whenever I look back at old issues of Illinois Times, I’m struck by how little has changed. We seem to be still writing about many of the same topics we covered 40 years ago, although I’m willing to bet these topics were less “mainstream” back then.

Case in point: an article from the first issue on building homes to save energy. “Going green” is fashionable now, but it was considered the territory of radicals in 1975.

The first issue also covers the desegregation of Springfield Public Schools, which had started five years before in 1970 and was trailing far behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which said racially segregated schools are unconstitutional.  The article below recounts the struggle to integrate the schools.

The school district is now beginning a study of institutional racism in its rules and practices, marking a continuation of that decades-long struggle for true integration.

In a similar vein of equality, the first issue also covered the battle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. 

Some of the ads from that first issue offer a glimpse into the past. Here’s an ad for the St. Nicholas Hotel, which has since been converted to apartments.

An ad for Volvo mentions the energy crisis of the 1970s, spurred largely by the political tension between the United States and oil-producing Middle Eastern nations over Israel.

This next ad made me smile. The radio station WSSR went on the air for the first time in January 1975 at Sangamon State University. After Sangamon State became the University of Illinois-Springfield, WSSR became WUIS, which means WUIS is 40 years old this year, too. Those of us at Illinois Times consider WUIS to be our sister of sorts.

Check out more neat nuggets from the first issue of Illinois Times in the slideshow below. You can also read in full the letter of snarky advice from Norton Kay, former Gov. Dan Walker’s news secretary, here. We'll be posting more cool stuff from our archives in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!


Illinois Times has provided readers with independent journalism for more than 40 years, from news and politics to arts and culture.

Now more than ever, we’re asking for your support to continue providing our community with real news that everyone can access, free of charge.

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