CHICAGO — Neil Gale loves sharing his love of history with others.
As an 8-year-old living in West Rogers Park at the corner of Mozart Street and Arthur Avenue, he started a collection of Chicago-themed postcards that now numbers more than 7,000 and includes digital copies.
In late 2012, the 56-year-old Mather High School graduate started the Facebook page "The Living History of Illinois and Chicago" with a few Facebook friends. The vintage photo page now has almost 27,500 members, including mayors from across the state, entire middle-school classrooms — teachers and students — and people like Deirdre Marie Capone, the grandniece of Al Capone.
One of the thousands of postcards in Neil Gale's collection. [Neil Gale]
"What I think the group brings to history is the ability to participate with it," Gale said. "Seventy percent of our members are 40 years or older, and a lot of people say to me, 'I wish we had this in school.' The interest level is very high."
The Facebook page connects to another Gale project: a website entitled "The Digital Research Library of Illinois History." That site features a plethora of Illinois documents, research articles and books on the state's and city's history, including a mapbook of Chicago's 77 community areas.
Because so many children and teens use the site for research, Gale said all members are vetted and unacceptable comments are quickly removed.
"We don't want the students shocked," he said.
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Susan Simmons Winans (spelled wrong in photo), the last survivor of the Chicago Fort Dearborn Massacre. [The Living History of Illinois and Chicago/Facebook]
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