Event calendar

How Corn Changed Itself and Then Changed Everything Else

Event information

Date: Saturday, March 23, 2024

Time: 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Fee: Free!

Age: All ages.

Contact: 815-722-9301

Location: Isle a la Cache Museum

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A woman posing in front of a tree. Photo via Illinois Humanities

Event details

Come out to Isle a la Cache to meet Illinois Humanities Road Scholar Cynthia Clampitt, who will present the history of corn and how it transformed the Americas before first contact, how it traveled the world after first contact and its stunning impact on the creation of not only the historic Midwest but just about everything in it. 

About 10,000 years ago, a weedy grass that grew in Mexico and possessed a strange trait known as a “jumping gene” transformed itself into a larger and more useful grass—the cereal grass that we would come to know as maize and then corn. Most textbooks only mention corn in the context of rescuing a few early settlers, but it in fact sustained the colonies and then the early United States. Corn virtually created the Midwest, a region that settled faster than any other region in history. It also created the region’s cities, especially Chicago, where everything from grain elevators, the Chicago Board of Trade and the 1893 World’s Fair to time zones and the stockyards were made possible by the golden flood flowing into the city.

Illinois Humanities is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly (through the Illinois Arts Council Agency), as well as by contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed by speakers, program participants or audiences do not necessarily reflect those of the NEH, Illinois Humanities, IACA, our partnering organizations or our funders. 

Event requirements

Registration required by Thursday, March 21: 815-722-9301.


Isle a la Cache Museum is an accessible facility. Anyone who requires an auxiliary aid or service to participate in this program should mention their request when registering, or submit a request online no later than 48 hours before the program.