The river bend near the confluence of three great rivers - the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois - was founded by Rufus Easton between 1814 and 1818 for land development and a ferry service between Illinois and St. Louis. Named for one of Easton's sons, Alton developed into a bustling river town. In 1837, Alton's economy was hurt by financial panic and its reputation blotted by the murder of abolitionist newspaper publisher Elijah Lovejoy. But by the 1850s, Alton had caught "railroad fever," which, along with plentiful natural resources, fueled its growth as a manufacturing city. Fortunes were made, and by the 20th century, Alton boasted fine churches, schools, and millionaires' mansions. On the other end of the social scale lived the workers in their neighborhoods. The river, the railroad, and the diverse people they brought to the river bend shaped Alton's history and culture.

Edwardsville, named for territorial governor Ninian Edwards, began life as a frontier fort and gateway to settlers. It became the seat of law and government of Madison County, which at that time encompassed much of the Illinois Territory. The town was incorporated shortly after Illinois became a state in 1818. In 1890, industrialist N. O. Nelson began a manufacturing complex and established the model town of Leclaire Village. Edwardsville grew rapidly through the late 1800s and early 1900s. Main Street became a bustling business district while elegant mansions were constructed on St. Louis Street. Take a nostalgic look at Edwardsville 100 years ago with a stroll down Main Street, a walk through City Park, or a glimpse of the weeklong Madison County Centennial festivities.

Route 66 zigzagged southwest across Madison County, Illinois, before crossing the Mississippi River into Missouri. Various alignments of this segment of the "Mother Road" rolled through pastoral farmland, headed down main streets, and later straightened as it bypassed towns. From 1926 to 1977, the path of the highway changed numerous times and crossed the Mississippi River on no less than five different bridges. Along the way, motorists watched for the blue neon cross on St. Paul's Lutheran Church to guide their nighttime travel; they counted on the doors of the Tourist Haven, Cathcart's, or the Luna Cafe to be open for business. Travelers crossed their fingers that they wouldn't get stuck at the bend of the Chain of Rocks Bridge and hoped they could make it up Mooney Hill in the winter. A later alignment took motorists right by Fairmount Park and Monks Mound.

From 1926 through 1977, Route 66 carried millions of travelers from the shores of Lake Michigan to the Pacific Coast. Americans fell in love with the automobile and made a family tradition of the road trip. On its three different alignments through the capital city of Springfield, Route 66 took motorists around the Illinois State Fairgrounds, past the state capitol, and through Abraham Lincoln's neighborhood. Mom-and-pop motels, gas stations, and eateries opened along the highway and became familiar landmarks to travelers in the "Land of Lincoln." In Springfield, the "horseshoe" and the "cozy dog" became popular local foods, and one of the first drive-up window restaurants opened. A man spent 40 years on Route 66 operating his gas station before transforming it into an internationally known museum. Meet the proprietors of these businesses, witness the growth of the highway, and enjoy a generous dose of nostalgia.

ROUTE 66 IN ILLINOIS - (with Co-Author Joe Sonderman) 
Between the great cities of Chicago and St. Louis, there are 300 miles of adventure, history, culinary delights, and quirky attractions. This is the "Land of Lincoln" and roadside giants. There are cozy motels, cozy diners, and Cozy Dogs. Interstate 55 will speed travelers to their destination, but Route 66 offers something more. It goes through the hearts of the towns, wandering onto old brick pavement far from the roar of the interstate. Historic restaurants like Lou Mitchell's in Chicago, the Palms Grill in Atlanta, and the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield still keep their coffee pots warm. Waitresses, pump jockeys, gangsters, cops, and politicians all gave the "Main Street of America" its distinctive personality, and their stories are within these pages. So slow down, take the next exit, and head toward the beckoning neon in the distance. Come explore Route 66 in Illinois - where the road began.

ROUTE 66 IN KANSAS - (with Co-Author Joe Sonderman)
(2016) RELEASE DATE:  JULY 4, 2016

(The above books can be found at some bookstores, museum gift shops, and Walgreens stores in the Metro East IL and/or Springfield IL, and "Route 66 in Illinois" in shops from Chicago to St. Louis; can be ordered from Amazon or Arcadia Publishing; or can be ordered directly from the author using the PayPal links above (include instructions for signing/ inscribing). You can also order "Route 66 in Illinois" or Joe Sonderman's other fine books at his website:

If you prefer, you can email me at to arrange to mail a check or money order to buy signed books. You can also purchase these books and have them signed at various author fairs, book signings, programs, and Route 66 events. See the "Appearances" page for when and where.)