Each year, Meliora students produce two semester-long projects. The framework for the projects is determined by the National History Day theme for the given year. Within that framework, students are given broad #choice in the topic they explore. They also have a #voice in how they present their evidence of learning. Below are some examples of History Fair projects students have developed over the years.

A Fire Storm of Wrong Information

Thesis: The story of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow pushing a lantern and making what is largely dubbed as “The Great Chicago Fire” is false and was made to contribute to Anti-Irish Propaganda.

Aung San Suu Kyi: Breaking Political Barriers in Mynamar (State finalist)

Thesis: During the 1980s Myanmar’s totalitarian government abused its power by violently suppressing any public uprisings against their tyranny. By protesting peacefully, Aung San Suu Kyi broke this barrier by co-founding a democratic party, which gained parliamentary seats in 2012, and she herself was elected as state counselor in 2015, giving Myanmar a chance at non-authoritarian leadership.

Colleen Moore’s Influence on American Women (National contender)

Thesis: Colleen Moore was a triumph for history because she created a bridge between the traditional woman and the modern American girl, with the tragedy in her story being that few people know her name her today. In both her on-screen roles and off-screen lifestyle she projected an independent woman who helped shape America’s views on women.

Dion O’Banion and the Irish Mob

Thesis: Due to Dion O’Banion betraying the fragile trust between the North and South Side gangs in Chicago during Prohibition, a bitter rivalry followed with many men losing their lives over the conflict. After the St.Valentine’s day massacre, the Irish gang was left in shambles.

Impact of Radio During the 1920s and 1930s (State finalist)

Thesis: The impact and spread of radio during the 1920s and the 1930s defined the Swing Era and changed the ways of communication during The Great Depression. Even though The First Amendment and the freedom of speech led to complications with the radio, the radio was an amazing progressive step in American history because it allowed people to communicate swiftly, and led to a broader exposure of pop culture and politics.

Insulin: The Savior of Millions (State finalist)

Thesis: The discovery of insulin broke a medical barrier by creating a treatment for people with diabetes, allowing them to live longer, healthier lives. However, what was originally meant to be an affordable treatment for everyone has become more expensive over time, diminishing Banting and Macleod’s hard work and dream.

It’s kind of a big dill: How the Dill Pickle Club gave a safe space for free thinkers

Thesis: Because of a lack of space to discuss controversial subjects, “Jack” Jones opened “The Dill Pickle Club” to give people a safe place for all ideas to be heard and respected. This gave a voice to the common outcasts of the time, which also played a part in the Chicago literary renaissance.

The Jazz Ambassadors: Musical Diplomacy in the Midst of the Cold War (State contender)

Thesis: Throughout the course of the cold war, music was used as a form of diplomacy to spread American ideals and culture. Jazz ambassadors were musicians sponsored by the U.S government to improve international relationships with opposing nations as well as strengthen bonds between allies.

The Jewish Response to the Nazi Threat on Skokie (National contender)

Thesis: To be unearthed…

Mauchly and Eckert: Founding the Frontier of Digital Computers (State finalist)

Thesis: John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert’s innovative work in developing the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) and subsequent computing technologies laid the foundation for modern computing and transformed the frontier of technology. It enabled faster data processing, improved research, pioneered digital machines, implemented stored-program computer architecture, and commercialized computers for the first time, changing the world as we know it today.

Northwestern University: How 17 Asian-American Students Changed the School Forever (State finalist)

Thesis: April 12th. 1995, marked the first day when 17 brave Asian-American students started a hunger strike to pressure the school into implementing an Asian-American study course. Their strike caused the school to compromise and implement dozens of study courses over the following years.

Paving the Way to Success: How the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 Shaped the American Frontier (Placed fifth in the nation in the Junior category)

Thesis: The Federal-Aid Highway Act (FAHA) of 1956 expanded the Interstate Highway System (IHS) to 41,000 miles, forever changing the American frontier both physically and economically. Described at the time as the biggest road-building project undertaken in the world, the FAHA eliminated travel barriers, causing an explosion of economic development to previously remote areas, and greatly improving life quality for Americans.

Political Music: Communicating Through Folk, Jazz, & Gospel During the Civil Rights Movement for Political Change (State finalist)

Thesis: During the civil rights movement, political music became a powerful form of communication for change. Folk, Jazz, Gospel, Blues artists throughout the 1950s and 1960s used their platform to galvanize the message of the movement. The music instigated people to participate in political protests, to advocate for social changes, and to fight racial oppression.

The Pullman Strike

Thesis: The Pullman Strike of 1894 was a Midwestern railroad strike against the declining wages and treatment of railcar manufacturers. It was a month-long strike that congested railroads nationwide, that eventually changed labour laws and positively affected the modern workplace in the treatment of its employees. The workers communicated the harshness of the workplace, and helped to improve the life of workers even up until today.

Shaking Houses out of His Sleeve: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Revolution of Architecture

Thesis: Frank Lloyd Wright revolutionized architecture, reacting to the Victorian style housing which he despised. His influence reformed modern architecture in ways that are still with us today.

The Fight for Freedom: The Story of Women’s Suffrage

Thesis: Suffragettes conflicted against women and men alike for the right to vote, and finally, in 1913, Illinois was the first state east of the Mississippi to give women the right to vote.

Telstar 1

Thesis: The launch of Telstar 1 in 1962 marked the beginnings of the Information Age, the modern age of rapid information sharing. Telstar 1 introduced the foundations of satellite communications by transmitting media internationally. Because of the achievements of Telstar 1, its descendants gave us the valuable ability to instantly access news, entertainment, and more.

The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train’s Influence on American Culture (National contender)

Thesis: In the early 1970s, civil rights activist Don Cornelius produced a television show that would change history. “Soul Train” provided one of the only platforms for African Americans to express themselves positively on television, while introducing their pop music and culture into that of the white mainstream culture of the time. It helped further African American pop music among white listeners, caused racial boundaries in music listening to lower, introduced new dances to America and helped further careers of now famous actors and musicians.

The $9 Billion Dollar Man (National contender)

Thesis: The energy of Michael Jordan’s basketball career was a turning point for the NBA, the city of Chicago, and the local and national economies. His popularity with basketball fans resulted in the construction of the United Center, which in turn led to the renewal of the Near West Side of Chicago.

The Occupation of Alcatraz

Thesis: The Indians of All Tribes (IOAT) communicated and voiced their right to unused federal land through protests and treaties directed at the US government’s oppressive legislation. The Occupation of Alcatraz was the forefront of the modern Native American civil rights movement, it led to over 200 cases of other revolts and protests. The occupation directly resulted in changes to federal Indian Policy and paved the way for Native American activism.

Tucker Torpedo: The Successful Failure

Thesis: Although Preston Tucker’s car, the 1948 Tucker Sedan, was never mass-produced, its revolutionary safety features later gave rise to advancements in modern automotive engineering.

The Unbroken Code

Thesis: The Native American Marines known as the Navajo code talkers created an unbreakable code using their native Navajo language to communicate classified war information. Their dedication, perseverance, and unyielding will led the US to victory in the pacific theater and helped to lessen people’s discriminatory views on Native Americans.

Using Everything Except the Squeal: Conditions in the Chicago Meat-Packing Industry

Thesis: During the early 1900s, Chicago’s growth was fueled by its unsanitary, but thriving, meat-packing industry, which exported tainted meat to most of the nation. After an inspection of a Chicago meat-packing facility, President Theodore Roosevelt’s fears of contaminated meat and poor working conditions were confirmed. He submitted the information to U.S. Congress which led to legislation that gave Americans the right to clean meat, and provided more sanitary working conditions in packinghouses.