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!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Celebrate Naperville's Founding This Week

Happy Birthday, Naperville!

In 1831, Joseph Naper, along with his brother John, his sister Amy and their families and friends, settled down along the banks of the DuPage River to build a new community. While we can’t pinpoint the exact date, historians are fairly sure it was during the week of July 15 in 1831 that the wagons completed the three-day journey from Fort Dearborn.

You may want to stand in an actual northern Illinois prairie this week and imagine that you are one of Naper's settlers. Much of the original prairie in our area has been plowed up or built over, but there are still a few places that are either original or restored.

One of the best places to find original prairie is in very old graveyards. Yes, the settlers did dig into the prairie long ago for graves, but they didn't plow the land, so the grasses and wildflowers continued to grow in the natural way. Conservationists will often collect seeds from old graveyards to help create prairie restorations with native plants.

The Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove boasts some original prairie, but there are also some restored areas that are worth a trip. Both the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn and Fermi Lab  in Batavia have been working on prairie restorations in recent years.

Or visit the Joseph Naper Homestead site in Naperville and try to imagine what it looked like in 1831. Now a park, signage and landscaping give visitors an idea of where the original house and trading post stood. Down Mill Street, Naper would later build his mill, swelling the DuPage River into a mill pond that he could see from his log house.

If you get to visit a local prairie, use all your senses to put yourself in the place of the early Illinois settler. What can you smell and hear? How does it feel to walk through such tall grass? Are there bugs? Imagine yourself barefoot, for nearly everyone went barefoot in the summer to save on shoe leather, walking for three days in the July sun from Chicago.

Now imagine trying to explain hitting the highway in an air-conditioned SUV to Joe and the rest of his group! Our forefathers were certainly a hardy lot!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Moving Pictures: Going to a Show in 1913 Naperville

Continuing our look at what Naperville was like one hundred years ago, here is a page from the City Council meeting minutes from March 17, 1913.

Asa Frank Stoner applied in March “to operate a moving picture show.” Stoner was a prominent citizen and a member of the Euclid Lodge, the local Masons chapter. He served in World War I and was also a member of the American Legion.

The early 1900’s was the “wild west” of cinema, before big corporations monopolized the industry. Anyone who could scrape together a little cash could open a nickelodeon theater in an existing storefront.
They would rent films from a distributor, patch them up if they were a little worse for wear, and run them maybe thirty times a day.

Folks would pay a nickel to watch about a half hour’s worth of entertainment — twenty minutes’ worth if the operator sped up the projector to squeeze more showings into an evening.
Moving pictures were considered “not quite nice” at first, but by 1913 they were well accepted. Men could bring their wives and children along to a nickelodeon, unlike a saloon.

In 1913, the Keystone Cops and Tom Mix cowboy movies were popular. Dialogue titles were not yet common so the silent film stars mimed their roles completely.

The earliest moving pictures were presented as one act of a vaudeville show and many of those traditions continued in movie theaters. Live piano music accompanied the films and the show might include sing-a-longs to filmed “illustrated songs.”

Traveling moving picture shows offered the same film every night for a week before heading to the next town, but Chicago was the biggest movie-going city in the entire nation. No doubt there were plenty of new titles available to watch on a regular basis at Mr. Stoner’s moving picture show.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

150th Anniversary of Gettysburg and our Local Connections

Civil War history buffs are commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle at Gettysburg, While the three day battle resulted in a horrific number of casualties, Gettysburg was considered the turning point of the war which would lead to cessation of hostilities.

Several men in our local history had connections to the Battle of Gettysburg. While there is some debate on the matter, many believe the first shot of the Battle was fired by Marcellus Jones of Danby, Illinois, which is what Glen Ellyn was once known as.

But Jones is not the only local connection. According to the tale, Jones made the shot with a carbine he borrowed from Sergeant Levi Shafer of Naperville.

Following the War, Jones moved to Wheaton and was most likely among the men who swiped the DuPage County records from what was then the county seat in Naperville. He’s buried in Wheaton Cemetery, a few steps from the cemetery office.

Jones' home, built in 1865, was moved about one block away from its original location to Illinois Street in May of 1977. It now serves as the law offices of Peregrine, Stime, Newman & Ritzman.

Shafer returned to Naperville where he married Anna Naugle, worked as a carpenter and raised three daughters before being laid to rest in the Naperville Cemetery.

Visitors attending Gettysburg Anniversary events might learn about DuPage County from a monument that Jones, Shafer and buddy Alex Riddler erected to their contribution to history. The men had a stone monolith cut in Naperville commemorating the event and then, using their own funds, they dragged the marker to Pennsylvania and purchased a small piece of the battlefield from a local farmer on which to rest the monument. Kathleen Logothetis features the stone on her Hidden Gems of Gettysburg website for history buffs who want to view it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

1913 Naperville Goes up to Bat

To continue our look at Naperville in 1913, let’s play ball!
  • Woodrow Wilson threw out the first pitch at the first ever game played by the New York Yankees. (Before then, they were the New York Highlanders.)
  • Ty Cobb and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson were at the top of their games and Honus Wagner was the oldest player in the National League – although still playing!
  • The Chicago Cubs made Johnny Evers of the famous “Tinker to Evers to Chance” their manager, succeeding Frank Chance.
  • And in Naperville, the Exiles Athletic Club was organized to play their first base ball season.
According to Genevieve Towsley of the Naperville Sun, the Naperville Exiles was born when some young men from Ellsworth High School were prevented from organizing a school team by their principal.

The Exiles hired a young Chicago fireman to be their pitcher and played teams from Aurora, Wheaton and Chicago, towns they could get to by Burlington rail. The team included boys named Drendel, Wehril and a few Stengers, familiar families from Naperville’s history.

Recreating vintage base ball games is a popular pastime today, played with period-appropriate uniforms, rules and equipment.

You can see base ball (two words in 1913!) in action and talk with the players about the history when local vintage base ball teams like the Downers Grove Plowboys or the Chicago Salmon play in the area. Check out their websites to see when and where you can watch games.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Celebrating History a Naperville Tradition

Here’s another look back at our town 100 years ago, when the Naperville Chamber was founded.

Of particular note this time around is that May is Community Heritage Month in Naperville. This is an early heads up so you can fit some of the planned events into your calendar.

The Naper Settlement began when Caroline Martin Mitchell bequeathed her home and the surrounding property to the cityin 1936. The house, now known as the Martin Mitchell Mansion, served as a museum until the 1970’s when preservation-minded citizens started moving other landmark buildings onto the property.

But there was a museum in town even before that which was housed on the second floor of the original Nichols Library.

Mary Barbara “Matie” Egermann was appointed to the job of librarian in 1909 and served in that position for the next 41 years.

The Souvenir of the Naperville Homecoming published in 1917 tells us that “In October, 1912, the librarian, Miss M. B. Egermann, opened the museum department, which, today, exhibits rare old treasures of Naperville’s pioneers and other specimens of historical and general interest.”

One of those old treasures was a bible once owned by John Naper, brother of Joseph and one of the original settlers.

In their commemorative booklet from 1931, the Naperville Centennial committee noted that in preparing for the centennial celebration, they used a number of historical resources “together with the documents and newspapers preserved by M. B. Egermann in the historical collection at the City Library.”

Today the Naperville Heritage Society keeps an extensive collection for future posterity and offers many great programs for current enjoyment, such as next month’s Civil War Days.

Learn about more of May’s Community Heritage Month events at the City of Naperville website.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tradition of Education

To understand Naperville’s school system in 1913, the year the Chamber of Commerce was founded, we should really go back even further.

Education has always been important to Naperville citizens. Our first settlers arrived in July 1831 and established a school already by September. Twenty-two students were enrolled and a teacher, Lester Peet, was hired to teach them for $12 a month.

In 1870, Naperville set much higher goals and successfully wooed Plainfield College away from that town to become our North Central College.

In 1913, respect for education was a simply  a way of life. Naperville’s high school was accredited by the state and other institutions as “meeting or exceeding standards” to prepare students for college level study.

Ellsworth was the “East” side school while the Naper Academy served as the “West” side school. Ellsworth was named for Lewis, the first school commissioner and for Milton, the director of the district. The median teacher salary in this town of 3,500 residents was $760 a year.

Over one hundred high school students attended classes on the upper floors of the first Ellsworth school building, with younger grades taught below. High schoolers didn’t get their own building until it was opened in 1916 on the site of the current Washington Junior High.

Physical education was required of high school students, but in 1913 they didn’t have a gymnasium. Instead they took phys ed in the barely-two-years-old YMCA building on Washington Street.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Calling Naperville-1913

In celebration of the Chamber’s 100th anniversary, let’s take another look at Naperville in 1913. Or rather, let’s listen!

Chicago’s first telephone company was founded in 1878 and the use of the telephone grew tremendously during the last decades of the 19th century.

Originally telephones connected one-to-one. For instance, Naperville’s first private telephone connected Philip Beckman’s home to his harness shop at Chicago and Washington. Eventually switchboards made it practical to connect with anyone.

Early in 1913, the City of Naperville Council resolved that the Inter-State Telephone and Telegraph company be required to furnish seven free telephones per their franchise agreement for the residences of council members Givler, Hiltenbrand, Bowman, Schwartz, Luebcke and Palm.

The meeting minutes don’t say what kind of phone, but both wall units and candlestick units were in vogue then.

The telephone directory gave instructions for use in the front of the book:

“To call the Exchange Office, take the hand telephone from the hook and place at the ear. (If the telephone has a crank attachment for signaling Central, give two quick turns of the crank before removing the hand telephone from the hook.)

The Operator will say ‘Number please?’ Give the exchange name and number of the subscriber wanted...Remain with the telephone at the ear until an answer is received.”

The directory also begs to “call attention to the fact that we maintain a messenger service at each exchange and will call any party with who you wish to talk, even though he has no telephone.”

A little over 350 telephone numbers were listed in the directory from that era, including North-Western College (now North Central), the Naperville Lounge Company (later Kroehler) and W.W. Wickel Drugs (now Oswald’s Pharmacy.)

In February of 1913 the council granted the Chicago Telephone company permission to trim five elm trees on High Street west of Main Street and moved to pay the city’s telephone bill of $13.36.

How the times have changed!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Naperville100 years ago When the Chamber of Commerce was Founded

The Naperville Association of Commerce was founded in 1913. That means our Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce is celebrating 100 years of business promotion and fellowship! So in the coming months let’s climb into the “way back” machine and take a look at Naperville one hundred years ago.

1913 was a pivotal year for our city’s government. The year started with Mayor Francis Granger overseeing eight alderman who represented four wards. In April, however, newly-elected Mayor Francis Kendall became the leader of the newly-formed commission form of government.

Now 100 years later, Naperville is planning to vote in April 2013 on whether to reconsider the ward system we are currently planning. As they say, “everything old is new again.”

Mayor Granger moved with his family from New York City to DuPage County when he was an infant. He was a successful farmer and later president of the First National Bank of Naperville.

Throughout his life he was very involved in the community, including stints as County Supervisor, Highway Commissioner, and Alderman. Granger also served seven years as President of the West Side School Board and spent 30 years as a School Trustee, so it was a natural choice when Indian Prairie School District 204 named a middle school after him.

Mayor Kendall was also involved in our schools. He attended North Central College when it was still North Western and later served both as Superintendent of Naper Academy and principal of Ellsworth School.

Indian Prairie’s Kendall Elementary School, however, is not named for Francis but for his son Oliver “Judd” Kendall, the World War I hero who in 1918 was captured and killed near Cantigny, France.

The Kendalls built onto an older cottage in Naperville to create a gracious family home that now houses Quigley’s Pub and the Jefferson Hill shops.