Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

E. Duane Elbert


The purpose of this work is to present a history of Galena, Illinois, from 1826 to 1860. It was during this time span that Galena was the major trading center for the upper Mississippi Valley.

The study is divided into five chapters, but the main body consists of chapters II, III, and IV. Chapter II deals with federal and local government affairs at the Galena lead fields. The first part of the chapter examines the early policy of direct federal control which was effective for only a short time. Litigation over the rights of miners and smelters as opposed to governmental needs brought about the end for direct federal control. The chapter’s last section deals with the growth of city government and the problems created by dishonest politicians and an ineffective police force.

Chapter III covers Galena’s economic growth. Beginning first with the lead trade and a discussion of mining and smelting techniques the chapter moves to the other contributors to Galena’s economy. Galena was the largest settlement of the upper Mississippi Valley and it attracted merchants from its earliest days. In the late 1840’s and early 1850’s large scale manufacturing or the contemporary equivalent of heavy industry began in Galena. Also discussed in this chapter are Galena’s river trade and the development of local railroads.

Galena’s social development is the topic for Chapter IV. It is here that all the other factors merge to make Galena’s history. The town started in the typical frontier fashion with mud streets and log houses. Early Galenians were confronted by the Indian peril, starvation and other frontier hardships. As the town grew and became a safer and healthier place to live local society began to bifurcate. The wealthy desired more gracious living conditions and looked down upon laboring men, log houses and dirt floors although most of the affluent people were but a few years removed from such a situation. This chapter also explores the ethnic and racial side of Galena’s history.

The thesis depends heavily upon primary source material with the various Galena newspapers supplying the majority of data.