The Hallwas Collection

            The John Hallwas Collection, at Archives and Special Collections, Malpass Library, Western Illinois University, contains an extensive array of materials related to the life and work of the long-time Illinois literary scholar, regional historian, newspaper columnist, and teacher of university classes and adult-education programs.

            His thirty books, scores of journal articles, and hundreds of newspaper essays are central to the collection. The articles often focus on Illinois history and literature, Macomb and McDonough County heritage, the importance of reading, and the issue of community in books, films, and modern life. But there are also extensive files of historical materials and/or annotated typescripts relating to most of the Hallwas books, including The Poems of H: The Lost Poet of Lincoln’s Springfield (1982), Thomas Gregg: Early Illinois Journalist and Author (1983), Western Illinois Heritage (1983), McDonough County Heritage (1984), Illinois Literature: The Nineteenth Century (1986), Macomb: A Pictorial History (1990), Spoon River Anthology: An Annotated Edition (1992), Cultures in Conflict: A Documentary History of the Mormon War in Illinois (1995), The Bootlegger: A Story of Small-Town America (1998), First Century: A Pictorial History of Western Illinois University (1999), Keokuk and the Great Dam (2001), McDonough County Historic Sites (2002), Dime Novel Desperadoes: The Notorious Maxwell Brothers (2008), Remembering McDonough County (2009), Here to Stay: Reflections on the Dead in a Small-Town Cemetery (2012), and On Community: A Crucial issue, a Small Town, and a Writer’s Experience (2015). The collection of his writings and source materials also includes hundreds of files about local and western Illinois regional history topics (often related to journal or newspaper articles that he wrote). In addition, the collection includes many unpublished talks and radio program scripts, on such matters as famous Illinoisans, western Illinois history, small-town life in the Midwest, notable authors and books, modern values or issues, and contemporary spirituality.  Scripts of, and commentaries on, his several Illinois-based plays, videos of his local history TV shows, recordings of some of his speeches, and reviews of his books are also part of the collection. 

            Of course, the collection also has materials directly related to the life of Hallwas, on such matters as his background, university teaching, adult-education programs, other professional activities, community service, interviews, awards, and correspondence.  There are many photographs too, of Hallwas and his family, his speaking occasions, and his activities.

           It should be noted as well that hundreds of short, Illinois-focused memoirs, submitted for possible publication in the multi-volume Tales from Two Rivers book series, which John Hallwas co-edited over several decades, while not part of the Hallwas Collection, are available elsewhere in Archives and Special Collections at Malpass Library. Some of those short memoirs were published in the Tales from Two Rivers series, but many others were not selected and remain in manuscript.

            To access the one-hundred-page finding aid to the Hallwas Collection, or to ask questions about the collection’s contents and its use, contact Kathy Nichols (309-298-2717) or email to


General Information

The WIU Archives and Special Collections is located on the 6th floor of the Malpass Library at Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois.

Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.; closed on University holidays.

For more information call (309) 298-2717,

or send e-mail: