New Exhibit “Ordinary People - Extraordinary Actions” to Explore Local Connections to the Underground Railroad

A new exhibit at the St. Charles History Museum entitled “Ordinary People - Extraordinary Actions” will explore newly discovered local connections to the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement of the mid-1800s.

 The exhibit centers around local folk artist and radical abolitionist Sheldon Peck, exploring his previously unknown connections to regional abolitionist figures, whose work played a crucial role in providing freedom-seekers coming from southern slave states with a safe avenue to find new homes in Chicago and the Great Lakes area. Peck’s artwork can be seen at museums around the United States such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, and the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. The St. Charles History Museum is proud to have a prized original Sheldon Peck painting in its collection which will also be part of the exhibit.

 New research from the St. Charles History Museum staff explores the local connections between Sheldon Peck and the Kane County Anti-Slavery Society to other Civil War and abolitionist figures such as Allan Pinkerton, Lyman Goodnow, John Farnsworth, Caroline Quarlls, and others. The new research explores many myths related to local Underground Railroad operations, but also sheds new light on how active communities like St. Charles were in the operations, thanks to the work of local individuals like those involved with the Kane County Anti-Slavery Society. 

“We are so excited to present this new and groundbreaking research about the people behind the operation of the Underground Railroad and their local connections,” said Alison Costanzo, Executive Director of the St. Charles History Museum. “What they did can often be overshadowed by more well-known abolitionist figures, but there is no denying the importance of the work done by abolitionists right here in our local community, and we are proud to share their stories.”

The exhibit will be unveiled with a special grand opening event on Tuesday, February 12 at 5 p.m.. For more information, visit the Museum’s website at or call the Museum at (630) 584-6967.

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