How Corn Changed Itself and Then Changed Everything Else

A Road Scholar Program by Cynthia Clampitt (Photo from Dolan Farms in Durand, IL)

Dolan Farms Durand IL

Dec 12, 2023


Fire Station
115 W Howard St
Durand, IL 61024


Refreshments will be served.

About 10,000 years ago, a weedy grass, growing in Mexico 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 the early United States, and then virtually created the Midwest, a region settled faster than any other region in history.

It also created the region’s cities, especially Chicago, where everything from grain elevators to the Chicago Board of Trade to the 1893 World’s Fair to time zones to the stockyards were made possible by the golden flood flowing into the city.

This is a one-hour lecture about 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 today.

This event is part of the Spark: Places of Innovation Smithsonian exhibition hosted by Durand Charm. Additional support for this event is provided by the Durand Lions Club.

For more information, please contact Kelly Giovanine at

Learn more about Cynthia Clampitt, this program, and how to book it here.

Additional support by