Briefly from Around the State

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Naperville’s All Zip-a-dee-do-dah in 1947

The Disney song was number two on the charts during 1947, emphasizing the buoyant mood of Naperville’s residents and Americans in general.

With World War II over, the soldiers were home, ready to jump back into their lives by going to school, getting jobs, finding spouses and settling down to raise babies.

Certainly there were bumps on the road. Housing was in short supply for all these  new young families. The Chicago Tribune regularly posted a list of suburban building permits which showed a huge increase in estimated value over the previous year as builders tried to keep up.

North Central College stopped accepting student enrollment when they reached capacity in June, with 175 students still on their waiting list.

New beginnings was a world-wide theme. Princess Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh. India celebrated its independence and the United Nations moved Israel one step closer. Thor Heyerdahl finished his grand Kon-Tiki voyage and some weird reports were coming out of Roswell, New Mexico.

In Naperville, Mayor James Nichols was serving his fourth term in city hall. Mrs. Annie Merner Pfeiffer made the final donation from her family that included Pfeiffer and Kaufman Hall and Merner Fieldhouse, donations valued at $17 million in today’s money.

After years of “doing without” during the War, people were eager to go, do and spend!

Cars were huge and glamorous — when you could buy one. It took a while for manufacturing to catch up to the demand. Old-timers recall buying a new car sight-unseen after getting word that a local dealer was able to snag one from the manufacturer and hide it in a neighborhood garage.

The Naperville telephone book for 1947 had seven full pages of auto dealers, repair shops and service stations, more than any other trade.

All over America in 1947, people were humming “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” and Naperville was humming right along.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Naperville Business Circa 1886

The business community of Naperville published its first directory in 1886, decades before forming the Naperville Association of Commerce, our Chamber’s first incarnation.

The Holland Publishing Company created these directories for many area cities in Illinois and Wisconsin, financed by advertisements purchased by local businesses.

Those ads are marvelous bits of history, noting who owned what as well as where businesses were located,. They also showcase what everyday people bought, where they shopped and the jobs they held, giving us a window into a world that disappeared more than a century ago. 
The Directory “respectfully suggests” that our town consider numbering lots in a “systematic plan,” which apparently hadn't happened yet.

But Holland also praises Naperville as having “a valuable location, shipping facilities, social, religious and scholastic advantages of high merit and a full complement of liberal business men...not surpassed and but seldom equalled, in any other village of only three thousand inhabitants.”

Last year our Chamber of Commerce celebrated its first century and Naperville can still be said to be unsurpassed and seldom equaled. We are fortunate to have the advantages and opportunities found in our community.

We look forward to business growth in new year and the next hundred years! Excelsior! Ever upward!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Last Look at Naperville in 1913

In closing out the 100th anniversary year of the Naperville Chamber of Commerce, let’s have one final review of our counterparts from one hundred years ago.

President Woodrow Wilson took office that year, officiating over the establishment of the Federal Reserve.

1913 also saw the inauguration of Income Tax, although the rate was only 1% after your first $4,000. And since the average annual income was $800, Income Tax didn't affect a lot of folks.

The average automobile cost $600, which seems cheap until you figure that took most of the average family’s annual income.

Only a little more than half of school-aged children actually attended school. But we suspect the things they learned at home were more useful to their adult lives than how to win at video games.

Charlie Chaplin was just beginning his movie career in 1913 and popular tunes included “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

Closer to home, the DuPage County Farm Bureau was formed. Now there’s barely a farm to be found in DuPage.

In 1913, Illinois became the first state east of the Mississippi to allow women to vote in national elections. Today women not only vote, they are elected to serve.

1913 has been called by some “the long summer,” a pleasant moment before World War I progressed into the Great Depression and World War II.

What will people say about 2013 a hundred years from now? Will they remember it as a pleasant time or a difficult time?

Not that it matters much. This is the time we have to work with, so the only choice is to make the most of it!
Kiekhofer Hall, built in 1913 to serve as the Evangelical Theological Seminary, is now part of the North Central College campus.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Not Always Sunny in 1913 Naperville

Looking back at 1913 Naperville calls up sentimental images of a possibly better time, but there was also a downside. as seen in the following quotes from contemporary city council minutes.

For instance, horses were still a primary— and messy— mode of transportation:

“Gentlemen: -- The rapid accumulation of debris on the brick pavement, especially in the business district in front of the stores where hitching posts and rings are placed, makes it advisable for this department to recommend that an employee of the street department be assigned to patrol the down town streets with a wheeled carrier to remove at least twice daily the accumulations from the streets.”

But the new-fangled automobile also had its problems:

“Whereas, it has been reported to the Council that Automobiles left standing on the Streets of the City by owners while at church, places of business, etc., have been tampered with by cutting tires, taking away switch keys, changing gears etc.”

A new teen center is being planned today for downtown so kids have a place to hang out, but finding a place for them was also a issue in 1913:

“We the undersigned persons desire to enter complaint to you that the peace of our families is disturbed every Sunday afternoon by persons who congregate near to our dwellings to play base ball or witness the same. And who by their loud hallooing, quarreling and use of profanity, disturb the peace of the community.  These same persons also trample on our gardens and otherwise trespass on our property until such gatherings have become a nuisance and we petition your Honor to have this nuisance abated.”

And then there was the mess created when a large portion of the Naperville Lounge Factory collapsed during a storm in March of that year. 125 feet of the building was destroyed, but Peter Kroehler rebuilt and renamed the factory after himself.

Every decade has its pros and cons and we strive to improve ourselves. 1913 photos of the downtown area point out many improvements we’ve made such as better street surfaces, more trees and greenery, and no visible telephone poles!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Naperville Relates 2013 to 1913 and 1831

By 1913, Joseph Naper had long since taken up his eternal residence in the Naperville Cemetery. While his wife Almeda outlived him by more than two decades, she joined him by the 1880’s.
Joseph and Almeda raised seven children, but sadly, none of them survived until 1913.

The wife of their son Thomas, however, was still living in Naperville in 1913, along with two of Joseph’s grandsons.

Thomas and Julia were married only eight years and following his death, she remained a widow for the next 52 years, raising their two boys on her own.

Thomas’ sons were both grown men in 1913 and fixtures in the Naperville community. Charles served with the Naperville Hose Company, an early incarnation of the city fire department.

Caroline Martin Mitchell  was another fixture in town who bequeathed her mansion home and the surrounding land to the city. In 1913, she was still living at Pine Craig, as it was then known, with her husband Edward and her older sister Lizzie Martin.

Caroline and Lizzie, along with sister Kitty until her death, carried on the operations of their father’s business after he passed away, including the stone quarries where we now swim and paddleboat.

Dick Tracy, a familiar figure on the Riverwalk today, started appearing in comic strips in 1931, so he technically could have been a comic strip child in 1913. Naperville artist Dick Locher took over from Chester Gould, drawing Tracy from 1983-2011.

Locher wasn’t around in 1913 or 1831, but he was tapped to design a statue of founder Joseph Naper for the Naper Homestead park on Mill and Jefferson streets.

His design was then imagined in bronze by sculptor Jeff Adams of the Oregon, Illinois InBronze studio.

On August 9, the statue traveled via flatbed down Washington Street to Jefferson to be installed at the park.

The official dedication ceremony will be held on Friday, August 23 at 4pm. The public is invited to attend, so stop by before the Chamber Centennial Celebration at Naper Settlement and see the unveiling of this impressive sculpture.

That’s two great chances on Friday for you to be part of Naperville history!