Of the Secretaries of State who served in the early years of the State Library’s existence, Edward Rummel was among the most actively interested in the development of the library.
However, Rummel (whose name is sometimes spelled “Rummell” by historians) is long forgotten, being born, and dying, in obscurity. He was born in Baden, Germany, in 1838 and came to Chicago at age 13, where he later served as a printer’s apprentice and eventually became the editor of the Chicago Republican. 1
At age 20, he moved downstate to Peoria and became co-owner of the Illinois Banner, a German-language newspaper. Two years later he re-named the publication Die Peoria Deutsche Zeitung and began to identify as a “radical Republican,” the anti-slavery, staunchly pro-Union wing of the party. Along the way, he became a successful printer. 2
Rummel was elected Secretary of State in 1868, the only state office he ever held. His experience as a printer was of great value to the state, as he greatly reduced the cost of public printing. He also implemented numerous improvements in record keeping, creating several indexes while streamlining methods of filing and storage. In 1872, Rummel made the earliest public recommendation for a volume on state government similar to the modern era’s Illinois Blue Book. He had published a work called Rummel’s Illinois Hand Book in 1870 at his own expense, the first such directory published by a Secretary of State. He revised the work in 1871. 3
However, Rummel broke with his party while in office to follow the upstart Liberal Republican movement, which was disenchanted with the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant, and included such state leaders as then-Governor John M. Palmer, Lyman Trumbull, Ozias M. Hatch, and Jesse Dubois. He ran unsuccessfully for re-election on this ticket, and left office at the conclusion of his term in 1873. 4
At only 34 years old, Rummel retired from public service and returned to Peoria, where he resumed his work in the press. He relocated to the Lake View area of Chicago later that decade and established another newspaper, Der Postillion. Rummel later switched to the Democratic Party and remained a strong political voice, serving as superintendent of the Lake View Postal Station. 5
Edward Rummel died in Chicago on Sept. 7, 1894. His death merited only a tiny obituary in the Chicago Tribune, with no mention of his service as Secretary of State or State Librarian. 6
- Howlett 81. Rummel’s name is spelled differently in various sources.
- Howlett 82-83.
- Howlett 83; Moses II-811.
- Howlett 83.
- Howlett 83; Chicago Tribune Sept. 8, 1894.