Radium Dial and Cherry Mine Disaster books earn awards for author Jim Ridings

Illinois State Historical Society lauds Ridings for 2 works documenting and detailing historical tragedies

The Illinois State Historical Society awarded author Jim Ridings a certificate of excellence and a certificate of merit for two local history books.

Ridings, formerly of Ottawa and now of Herscher, published “The Illustrated History if the Cherry Mine Disaster of 1909” and “The Society of the Living Dead: The Illustrated History of Ottawa’s Radium Dial Scandal” in 2020. The ISHS honored both books during its April 23 meeting in Springfield, with “The Society of the Living Dead” receiving a certificate of excellence.

“This illustrated history of Ottawa’s Radium Dial Scandal brings a unique viewpoint to the study of the tragic deaths of mostly women in the late 1920s who worked in the Radium Dial factory,” ISHS judges said in a news release. “Author Jim Ridings, a former reporter for the Ottawa Daily Times, was instrumental in fleshing out the stories of these victims of radium poisoning, as well as the link between high incidences of cancer and the radioactive debris from shops associated with the Ottawa factories. This illustrated history brings the Radium Dial tragedy out of the shadows, and offers a cautionary tale in a new age of dubious wonders.”

Judges also awarded Ridings a certificate of merit for his documentation of the Cherry Mine Disaster, calling the book “the greatest body of photographs from the worst mining disaster in Illinois history.”

“The photographs, culled from various sources old and new, are disturbing, engaging, and enlightening, raising a mourning veil on an immigrant community during the most horrific event of their lives,” judges said in a news release. “Ridings’ book is a sobering study of grief on display; 112 years later, we still cannot look away.”

Ridings, a former reporter for The Daily Times in Ottawa, will release his 30th book, “The Illustrated History of Ottawa’s Tent Colony,” on June 28.