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updated: 8/21/2014 4:10 PM

The summer of 1914: Top news stories in Elgin

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  • Baseball Hall of Famer Charles Comiskey is pictured with catcher Kem Kemler in Elgin 1877. Comiskey later owned the Chicago White Sox and built Comiskey Park -- a Chicago icon for 80 years.

      Baseball Hall of Famer Charles Comiskey is pictured with catcher Kem Kemler in Elgin 1877. Comiskey later owned the Chicago White Sox and built Comiskey Park -- a Chicago icon for 80 years.
    Courtesy of Gail Borden Public Library

  • The Elgin Road Races began a year before racing in Indianapolis and attracted the world's best drivers and cars to the city. Autos are shown lining up for an early race at the starting line located near the current Larkin High School.

      The Elgin Road Races began a year before racing in Indianapolis and attracted the world's best drivers and cars to the city. Autos are shown lining up for an early race at the starting line located near the current Larkin High School.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 

"I'm glad Elgin voted to close the saloons so men will do something else with their time."

"I didn't know Charles Comiskey got his baseball start in Elgin."

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"The Elgin Road Races were sure exciting, but I think car racing is getting too dangerous for country roads."

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

Elgin votes "dry":

Anyone wanting to buy an alcoholic beverage in Elgin had to make plans to go elsewhere after Elgin Township voted "dry" in a local option election -- six years before national prohibition.

Though similar balloting had taken place on two previous occasions, the passage of limited voting for women in Illinois -- the first state east of the Mississippi to do so -- provided the needed votes for the referendum's passage.

Though nearly three dozen saloons were forced to close, anyone wishing to imbibe only needed to drive east to Hanover Township or north to Dundee to purchase a drink.

Dozens of "beer clubs" were soon reported to be operating while some fraternal organizations were said to have a locker system which allowed members to drink on the premise.

Comiskey's Elgin roots:

A century ago, stories about sports figures made the newspapers, too, and one for baseball enthusiasts was that of Charles Comiskey's early days in Elgin.

Later a major league player, manager and owner of the Chicago White Sox, Comiskey got his start as a pitcher with an Elgin team in 1877.

Then 19 years old, Comiskey was hired for $45 a month to play on a team primarily made up of players from the Elgin National Watch Company. As was common for the time, Comiskey played with a "tight glove" and used an underhand pitch, the story added.

Lawbreaking doctors:

"No class of people is so severely indifferent to the law as physicians," said Dr. Alban Mann, the Elgin City Physician.

Noting that adherence to the birth recording requirement is both "faulty" and "farcical," he added that the reporting of contagious diseases is even worse. Mann said he knew of at least three cases of typhoid fever in Elgin though none had been officially recorded. He said family physicians should operate more like military surgeons who stringently follow procedures.

Ruined childhoods:

"A good many little toddlers are having their childhood ruined and their life made abnormal because they are brought up on motion pictures, ragtime music, tango and such like stimulants," said a representative of an Elgin group advocating for more playgrounds.

"If they spent their childhood picking buttercups, playing leapfrog and being normal boys and girls they would live better," he added.

The Elgin group planned to ask an expert in playgrounds to survey the city.

Upset teachers:

Surveys made by the state about private lives of teachers had Elgin educators in an "uproar."

"Do you spend Saturday and Sunday in the district in which you teach?" "How have you disposed of your time during each of the last three summers?" "How much time each week is devoted to church and Sunday School?" were just some of the questions.

Teachers said the most objectionable question was one asking how they secured their employment and whether a fee was involved.

Serious crime:

No serious crime in the good old days? Think again. A 26-year-old Elgin photographer who was described as an "ardent lover of children" reportedly murdered a 6-year-old boy and then committed suicide.

"He was the kindest man with children I had ever seen," said a colleague.

In another case, a jilted suitor whose girlfriend refused to marry him took poison and died on the front steps of her east side home. The man wrote two letters before doing so -- one to his girlfriend and another to his mother whom he instructed to give the $1,000 he had saved to his girlfriend.

Tainted gumball machines:

Penny gumball machines might seem unlikely devices for city officials to be concerned about, but that was not the case.

"Bugs, insects, dirt and filth" accumulate inside the machines, explained a city health official. A police department official said the machines were also frequent targets of young boys who tampered with them to steal the pennies.

"The machines should be taken off the street," he added.

Elgin Road Races:

Finally, witnessed by a record crowd of more than 100,000 people, the running of the fifth annual Elgin Road Races got underway west of the city. The contest was conducted on an eight mile course of oil-covered gravel roads that began on Larkin Avenue not far from the current Grandstand Place -- a street later named to commemorate this feature of the course.

The route then traveled east to McLean Boulevard, north to Highland Avenue, west to Coombs Road and south to Route 20.

The death of a driver and mechanic prompted one Elginite to write a letter to the editor describing the races as "brutal" and "more dangerous than prize fighting, bull fighting and the Roman Gladiator contests."

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