Fall Exhibit to Explore the Boys School of St. Charles

Exhibit to open with special opening reception Friday, October 25

School Co-Founder John “Bet-a-Million” Gates

School Co-Founder John “Bet-a-Million” Gates

Our next temporary exhibit, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: The Boys School of St. Charles, will explore the history of the local reformatory school and its impact on the boys who attended it. In 1902, the Illinois State Home for Delinquent Boys (today existing as the Illinois Youth Center) was established by John “Bet-a-Million” Gates, Samuel Allenton and Henry Weaver.

These men believed that delinquent young boys could be rehabilitated and reintegrated back into society. Instead of locking them in a cell for punishment, boys sent to the school experienced a home-like setting and focused on schooling, hard work, and discipline.

Lester Gillis, AKA Baby Face Nelson, in his FBI Most Wanted Photo in 1931  Photo: fbi.gov

Lester Gillis, AKA Baby Face Nelson, in his FBI Most Wanted Photo in 1931 Photo: fbi.gov

Many of the boys learned their lesson in their time at the school, and went on to lead normal, productive lives. Others remained unchanged, choosing to continue a life of crime. One such example is the famous Midwest Gangster Lester Gillis, also known as “Baby Face Nelson”, who resided at the school during his teen years and went on to become Public Enemy No. 1 in October of 1934.

The exhibit will open with a special opening reception from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, October 25th. Stay tuned for more details as we get closer to the opening date.

Do you know someone who resided at the Illinois State School for Boys? Let us know!

We are looking for more stories to highlight as part of the exhibit. If you or someone you know spent time at the school or have any artifacts, we would love to speak with you! Please contact Collections & Exhibitions Manager Amanda Helfers at amandahelfers@stcmuseum.org or call us at (630) 584-6967.

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