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posted: 11/5/2012 2:04 PM

Elgin deserted the Republican Party in 1912

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  • President Woodrow Wilson, shown throwing the first pitch at an opening day baseball game in 1916, was the winner of the 1912 presidential election, but in Elgin, the majority of voters supported Progressive ("Bull Moose") party candidate Theodore Roosevelt.

    President Woodrow Wilson, shown throwing the first pitch at an opening day baseball game in 1916, was the winner of the 1912 presidential election, but in Elgin, the majority of voters supported Progressive ("Bull Moose") party candidate Theodore Roosevelt.
    Library of Congress photo


Elgin broke a long tradition in 1912 and voted for a presidential candidate who wasn't a Republican.

Also making news: a "free love" marriage contact crafted by an Elgin man, a request by high school students to hold dances, and the escapades of a man dubbed as "Jack the Peeper."

Here's a look at those stories and others that made Elgin news in the early fall of 1912.

Republican candidate snubbed: Regarded as a Republican stronghold since the Civil War, Elgin deserted the "Grand Old Party" and voted overwhelmingly for Bull Moose candidate Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.

William Taft, the Republican Party candidate, received only one-eighth of the popular vote, while Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson, who won the presidential election, fared slightly better than Taft.

As the polls closed, hundreds of men, women, and children gathered in the downtown to see the results projected on the sides of two newspaper buildings. Movies and stereopticon slides kept the audience occupied between election updates.

The evening was marred by tragedy when a well-known judge, who had spent the afternoon at a nearby fraternal lodge, according to the newspapers, was struck by a train passing through the area.

Individualized education: In his annual report to the Board of Education, the Elgin Superintendent of Schools advocated for a more individualized approach to education.

"School is not a grind where every pupil must be given the same concoction and the same work as every other pupil of his class.

"Here, then, is the teacher's work. The pupil cannot be made longer or shorter, but the course can be. There must be an adaptation of course, to the pupil," said the superintendent.

'Free Love' marriage: A 23-year-old former graduate of Elgin High School married the daughter of a Philadelphia author in what newspapers described as a "free love" plan.

The wedding contract devised by the young man allowed for either party to terminate the marriage anytime they chose. Both parties also agreed that the expenses of their household and the caring of a child would be equally divided.

The groom said the ideas were partially inspired by talks given by his mother who was the operator of the Washburn Sanitarium, an institution that would later become the well-known Lovelton facility.

No "undue excitement" was caused in Elgin by this young man since he was already known for "his eccentricities," newspapers added.

Education costs: In other school news, Elgin school officials announced that it cost just over $59 a year to educate a high school student, while the amount for an elementary pupil stood at about $33 per year.

In what was a bargain for nonresidents, fees for parents who lived outside the district and wanted to send their children to Elgin schools were set at $40 per year for high school students and $25 per year for elementary students -- a figure some said needed to be increased.

In other action, the board also announced that it was making physical education compulsory for ninth- and 10th-grade students.

Night school: In other school news, Elgin area residents of foreign birth said it was time the school district offered classes to adults who wanted to obtain an education.

The plan was initiated by the city attorney who said he knew of a number of men who worked during the day who could benefit by a night school.

"Any person who is desirous of an education should be helped," said the superintendent. The night school plan "would be a good thing," added the school board president.

Spitting mad: More than a dozen complaints made by women to the city attorney over a two-week period prompted the city official to say he was taking action against men expectorating on city sidewalks and on floors of public buildings and other locations.

One woman was particularly upset that she had a gown ruined by tobacco stains.

"I will get a warrant for the first man I catch expectorating on the sidewalk," said the official.

The city health officer added that he had signs posted informing violators of the ordinance.

No dances: Any students who planned on attending a high school dance were told they should forget the idea -- at least for now.

Supporters of the move said other communities offered high school dances with a "bureau of entertainment" made up of teachers as chaperones.

"I regret to say that a busy term prevented me from making any progress in the movement for public school dances," said the Elgin school board attorney. "I consider the idea a decidedly good one if worked out right," he added.

Kissing cousin: Elgin police warned women that they should be on the lookout for a man who identified himself as their "long lost cousin" and then tried to embrace and kiss them.

The offender, who was described as a "handsome young man," was also reported to ask the women for money.

One "society woman" was "taken so suddenly by the cousinly embrace that she did not know whether she should call the police or accept the advances of the stranger."

Calls also came in about a man described as "Jack the Peeper" who was seen looking in windows at an east side residence occupied entirely by women.

Greek loyalty: Finally, Greek Americans living in Elgin who had served in the Greek Army were making plans to return to their homeland to fight against the Ottoman Empire in the First Balkan War.

Elgin newspapers said the city was home to more than 200 Greek-born citizens who operated various businesses, including candy stores, restaurants and shoe shine parlors.

"I do not want to return to my native country unless I have to," said one Elgin businessman. "It's a long journey and I love America now and have become naturalized," he added.

"I do not think there is a patriotic Greek in Elgin who will not respond to the call for men," added another Greek-born Elgin man.

• Jerry Turnquist writes about Elgin area history. Contact him at

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