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posted: 3/29/2010 12:01 AM

Bonnets, beer, Bibles made Elgin news in 1910

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Should the Bible be taught in area schools? Would Elgin area residents vote to end liquor sales? Were women going to wear those big, annoying hats again this year? Those were some of the questions residents probably wondered about after reading area newspapers a century ago this month. Here's a look at those and other stories that made headlines in March 1910.

• Bible in Schools: Should the Old Testament of the Bible be taught in the public schools? That question came to the forefront after the Bible was added to the list of recommended books needed to prepare for college. "Teachers are unprepared to teach English literature, and they will be even more unprepared to teach the Bible," said one critic. "No book can be separated from the intent from which it was written," added another who objected to the book's introduction into the high school curriculum.

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• Evangelism Meetings: Noted Evangelist Billy Sunday was reported to have said, "The Devil has Elgin and I will never go back." But, that didn't stop Henry W. Staugh, a popular Midwestern evangelist, from coming to the city for a series of revival meetings and street parades.

"Cards have killed our concentration. They require no brains. "Seventy-five percent of gamblers got their start by card games in the home." Staugh was also critical of dancing, saying, "Comparative strangers are allowed liberties with the person of a woman that should not be allowed to any man." He warned men's organizations to "get the booze out of your lodges," and recommended Elgin churches expel up to 50 percent of the members "so they represent what they're supposed to stand for."

• Women's Hats: After the sizes of women's hats became a contentious issue the year before, many were probably delighted to learn that fashion was now dictating smaller hats. "Flowers would still be in abundance, though feathers would be used widely as well," said one newspaper. "Kings blue, a color a bit lighter than navy blue was one of the newest fashions, though black and blue would still be quite popular." Large hats became a particularly onerous matter in one congregation - an issue that was finally resolved when many women voluntarily agreed to sit in a separate section of the sanctuary during services.

• Voting Machines: "The voting machine future is bright" proclaimed newspaper headlines as the "The International Voting Machine Co. Elgin, Illinois," announced it was beginning business in the city. Twelve tool and die makers were busy making the machines that would produce the 400 pound devises - a weight that was only a fraction of its competitors. The company said it had orders for 30,000 machines, and with voting machines allowed in 22 states, it felt its successes were assured. A few years later - after producing only 19 machines - the firm was bankrupt.

• Library Choices: Just how popular was the Borden Public Library in 1910? Very - just as it is today. The most popular choices among readers were fiction titles followed by those for juveniles. Travel and adventure were the next most popular titles followed by poetry and essays. More than 2,000 - or about 1 percent of the total checked out - were titles in the German language. Only 4 books were reported lost, while 10 were burned because of infectious diseases. The library budget for the year stood at just over $12,000, or about 50 cents per library resident.

• Dry Elgin: Finally, would Elgin Township vote "dry," as many were hoping, or would liquor establishments be allowed to remain open? That's what a number of people were wondering after new state legislation allowed local municipalities to decide the question of liquor regulation through a "local option." The measure failed in the Elgin area two years earlier, but this time both sides - the "wets" and the "drys" - had been working for a victory. The "wets" planned to send out one piece of campaign literature to every voter, while the "drys" said they would be inundating voter's mailboxes with one piece of literature every day over a 20 day period. And, how did the voters - all men - decide? The answer to that question will appear in this column next month.

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