A 49-year relationship between the Sangamon County Historical Society and Robinson’s Advertising Service officially ended December 31 when the firm at 308 East Adams Street, Springfield, ceased operations.
The company had been handling membership and record keeping details since 1961 when then Sangamon County Historical Society president — the late John Chapin — turned those operations over to Robinson’s just as the fledgling historical organization was getting started.
The Society's new office, at 123 South Seventh Street
, is across from the Abraham Lincoln Hotel and the Prairie Capital Convention Center Parking garage. Housed on the fourth floor of an office building above Sachi’s Flower and Gift Shop, the office (Suite 402
) is accessible by elevator from its Seventh Street entrance.
The office is being staffed Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. by volunteer Marion Leach. The Society’s new phone number is 217-525-1961
. Messages left when the office is not staffed will be answered promptly. The Society’s new mailing address is Box 1834, Springfield, IL, 62705
. The new office e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Aware of the plans of Robinson's owner Mary Marada and her sister, Theresa Power who has worked there since 1973, and respecting their wish that decision not be made public until all customers could be notified, the Society has been quietly planning for the transition since late summer, seeking out new office space, furnishings, equipment and staff to handle its needs now and in the future.
Marada, who completed purchase of the firm in 1958 from its founder, William Brown Robinson, remembers the first time Chapin approached her “with an envelope which contained all the information to set up a business—envelopes, letterheads, membership cards, program brochure listing date, time, location of monthly meetings. Mr. Chapin informed me that I knew my business and he entrusted the envelope and its contents to me. We began in earnest to get the process rolling and the Sangamon County Historical Society was born. The Society consisted of nine people at that time.”
Chapin’s relationship with Robinson’s went back to childhood, when as an eighth grader at the Lawrence School, he launched “The Depression Tonic” to compete with a classmate who had also started a newspaper. Signing up 100 neighborhood subscribers at 10 cents per month and listing himself as editor-in-chief, publisher, and delivery boy, he struck at deal with Mr. Robinson to run off 100 mimeographed copies for what he thought would be $9 a month, giving him a $1 profit.
“What Mr. Robinson meant was $9 a week,” recalled Chapin in an interview with Cullom Davis for a 1998 oral history. “When Mr. Robinson found out about the misunderstanding, he volunteered to go ahead and do it anyway. In exchange for that all the rest of my professional life, I sent Robinson’s Advertising Service, all the business I could, including the Sangamon County Historical Society.”
Robinson, a Greenville, Illinois native who founded the business in 1912 as Practical Advertising, three years later changed its name to Robinsons Advertising Service and used the slogan “Since 1915,” Marada recalled. He did not like apostrophes as it was always Robinsons Advertising until several years ago when I was bold enough to put the apostrophe in.”
The growing company, which started in office space above the Wyle and Bryant Drug Store at Sixth and Capitol, moved several times before settling into the space it has now vacated after some 40 years.
When Robinson first approached Marada in 1954 to buy the company, it was primarily a direct mail business that also did some advertising in local newspapers for its farmer clients.
“Slowly, we gave up advertising in the papers, developing the graphotype and addressograph for mailing lists (one customer alone had 20,000 names on their mailing list). We had to emboss each plate and addressed them twice with the address and then on the reverse, the dealer’s return address. Then it was on to the post office which required that we bundle, tie with string and mail. We also did mimeographing printing, multigraphing and general typing for our clients. We had numerous civic clubs for whom we printed and mailed newsletters.” When her youngest sister, Theresa, joined Marada, she “soon picked up the knack of recording memberships, mailings, etc.”
Both women, Sangamon County natives, have fond memories of their years interacting with Society members. “We had many distinguished and prominent members in the Society. The presidents, since the Society’s inception, have been “top notch,” and each one brought their own special talents and interests to the Society,” Marada says.
The future is still a toss-up, they say. “I plan to sleep a lot, which I already do,” chuckles Marada, “and Theresa’s on to new and different interests.” They may miss the Society’s day-to-day interaction, but that won’t keep them from its membership, thanks to a recent vote of the Society’s Board of Directors. Both were voted Life Memberships in the organization and were presented with certificates to that effect by President David Scott in December. They were also provided with a small gift, a token of appreciation from the Society in recognition of their efforts for nearly 50 years.