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updated: 4/30/2014 1:43 PM

Liquor laws among Elgin's top headlines in early 1914

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  • Members of the Elgin High School basketball team of 1914 were warned by their coach to make a choice between playing on the team or going to dances.

    Members of the Elgin High School basketball team of 1914 were warned by their coach to make a choice between playing on the team or going to dances.
    Courtesy of Jerry Turnquist


"Do you think it's fair that governmental officials don't pay income taxes?"

"I'm not sure having a 'tent city' is a good idea for those patients."

"With women voting in the next election, I think the 'Drys' are going to beat the 'Wets.'"

These are some comments people might have made after reading the Elgin area newspapers of a century ago. Here's a look at those and other stories that made news during the first few months of 1914.

"Baby Jane": She was known as "Baby Jane" and the "queen and favorite" of the nurses at Sherman Hospital. When this young girl was just three days old, she arrived in Elgin from an out-of-state sanitarium and was now celebrating her first birthday. The young lady was "taking her first steps and displaying the typical curiosities of a young child." Just who her parents were remained a mystery. Money for her support, however, arrived from a Chicago bank each month.

Basketball discipline: "It's either go to the dance or play basketball," the Elgin High coach told his players. "If you attend this dance and remain there past 11 o'clock, you need not report in a basketball uniform the next evening."

A similar warning was given by the head coach two weeks earlier, but all players chose not to obey it.

"We have 10 players out for the first team, and I do not want anyone to think we can get not along without you," he added.

Police news: In police news, an east side woman was bound and gagged and robbed of $200 in cash and jewelry by a man posing as a telephone repairman.

The crime, which took place in the late afternoon, was witnessed by the woman's 9-year-old daughter.

The incident led to numerous calls to the police department, prompting the chief to issue a warning to women not to let strangers into their homes.

The top official also cautioned citizens about providing food to men who said they were hungry. He said that the city provided lodging at city hall to about 400 persons per month, adding, "We give them coffee, bread, and meat. There is absolutely no need for begging from citizens."

No policewoman: It was described as a "club for the uplift of girls," according to one story, and would make it unnecessary for the city to hire a policewoman as had been done in downriver Aurora.

The plan called for girls ranging in age up to 16 years to be part of a group that would meet regularly with the police.

The young ladies would then "act as their own censors and police officers" in the community. They were to monitor public dances and also discourage "streetwalking" by girls -- a practice that had been more commonplace of late.

Tent city: As the number of tuberculosis cases began rising, city officials talked of establishing a "tent city" to house the patients.

"The cost of going to a sanitarium was too great for many," said a representative of the Associated Charities, the forerunner of today's United Way.

The arrangement would provide for fresh air, which supporters of the plan said would help the patients' conditions. It would also allow patients who were currently being cared for by family members to be moved elsewhere, which would help stop the spread of the disease.

Adoptees available: Thirteen children, blued-eyed and brown-eyed, with black hair and with red hair, were looking for homes, said officials of the Larkin Home.

Some of the youngsters came from homes in which the parents were described as too poor to take care of them, while others "had no fathers or mothers at all."

While officials of the institution hoped to keep children from the same family together they said they would break them up if necessary.

The appeal to the community eventually prompted the adoption of the girls, while there were no takers for the boys.

Income tax: As the new federal income tax laws rolled out, city officials were pleased to learn that they would pay no federal tax on their salaries.

Speaking to a gathering of business leaders, a government official said the salaries of elected officials of state, county, township, and schools and their employees were exempt from the new tax. Only about 170 to 175 people in Elgin would pay any income tax, with most paying no more than $10.

"I don't think many in this city pay more than $500. I would advise you not to try and dodge tax," the official said. "The government will get you ultimately and then the department will go back to this year and collect all you should have paid besides collecting the prescribed penalties."

Wet or dry? Finally, whether Elgin would end liquor sales was top news as the "Drys" and "Wets" geared up for an upcoming referendum.

While not the first of such elections, the outcome of this one held the possibility of a different result since it was the first one in which women could vote.

"If Elgin votes dry, it will be so dry it will crack," said the city's police commissioner. "The people of Elgin need not be afraid that laws will not be enforced."

The outcome of the election will be the subject of a future column.

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

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