How well do you know Elgin history? Take our quiz and find out

  • Where is the first watch ever made by the Elgin National Watch Co. -- shown in this 1920s picture -- located today? Take our quiz to find out.

    Where is the first watch ever made by the Elgin National Watch Co. -- shown in this 1920s picture -- located today? Take our quiz to find out. Courtesy of Jerry Turnquist

Posted1/5/2016 1:00 AM

This column marks my 20th anniversary with the Daily Herald.

Shortly after the newspaper expanded its coverage to the Elgin area in 1995, I began sharing some ideas with the local editor for history-related stories. Before long, I was writing a column myself.


The rest is history. Two decades later I have written in excess of 300 stories which retell some of the rich history of Elgin and northern Illinois.

So how much do you remember? Here are 20 questions taken from my stories over the past 20 years. And, this is a quiz for all -- whether you're a first-time reader or haven't missed a column.

1. Where did the name "Elgin" come from?

A) a brand of watch; B) a church hymn; C) a milk company; D) a village in Scotland

2. In 1910, the Elgin National Road Races, a contest that would later feature the same drivers that raced at the Indianapolis 500, was held on an eight-mile course west of the city. What type of vehicle won the race?

A) Mercedes; B) Duesenberg; C) Rambler; D) Lozier

3. When the federal income tax debuted in 1913, a governmental official speaking to a group of Elgin businessmen said the new federal income tax would affect no more than 175 residents and their federal tax would not exceed this amount. How much was that?

A) $5; B) $7; C) $10; D) $17

4. What was the "Explosive Supply Corps" which existed during World War II?

A) a special unit at the Elgin Armory; B) a volunteer women's organization; C) a special Elgin Police Department unit; D) a group of workers at an ammunition factory

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5. How did the area's Gail Borden Public Library get its name?

A) the Borden company donated a large sum of money; B) Gail Borden donated the land for the first library; C) the stepsons of Gail Borden donated a building; D) a converted former dairy building was used for the first library

6. How did Udina -- a small unincorporated community on Route 20 west of Elgin -- get its name?

A) a poem; B) a city in New Hampshire; C) an early settler's name; D) no one knows

7. How long did it take the designer of the Wing Park Golf Course to lay out the course?

A) 3 hours; B) 3 days; C) 3 months; D) 3 years

8. What type of business built the Elgin Tower Building and first occupied its ground floor?

A) restaurant; B) department store; C) pharmacy; D) bank

9. What author had a pre-Civil War family connection to the Elgin area?

A) Harriet Beecher Stowe; B) Emily Dickenson; C) Louisa May Alcott; D) Laura Ingalls Wilder


10. What sporting event did 10 Elgin brothers participate in annually for more than a quarter century?

A) bowling; B) golf; C) table tennis; D) pool

11. What is "Slop Hill?"

A) a turn of the century dump; B) hill for sledding; C) a near west side residential area; D) an area located near an artisan water flow

12. During its lifetime the Elgin National Watch Company manufactured more than 60 million "Elgin" watches. Where is the first watch made by the company now found?

A) Smithsonian Institution; B) Elgin History Museum; C) Hemmens Cultural Center; D) National Watch and Clock Museum

13. What did the Elgin school board ban from the city's west side Abbott School in the late 1930s shortly after the program began?

A) gun club; B) free lunch program; C) corporal punishment; D) principal's dress code

14. In 1902, the Kane County School superintendent informed the Elgin schools that they would now be known as School District No. 46. What had the district been called before that?

A) School District No. 1; B) Elgin City Schools; C) Elgin Free Schools; D) the district had no name or number

15. Just before World War I, Elgin doctors mutually agreed that they would charge this fee for each house call. What was it?

A) 50 cents; B) $1; C) $2; D) $5

16. In the late 1890s, more than 500 people presented a petition to the city council to end this. What was it?

A) Sunday liquor sales; B) Sunday baseball; C) bicyclists on sidewalks; D) oyster harvesting from the Fox River

17. What did it cost to play nine holes of golf at the Wing Park golf course when the course first opened in the early 1900s?

A) 5 cents; B) 10 cents; C) 25 cents D) 60 cents

18. Many visitors to the Elgin Public Museum in the 1960s remember this once popular exhibit which is no longer there. What is it?

A) arrowhead exhibit; B) dinosaur egg; C) two-headed calf; D) skull collection

19. In the late 1890s the Elgin city clerk paid a bounty of 2 cents each for any of these killed within the city. What were they?

A) gophers; B) crows; C) snakes; D) sparrows

20. A few years after it moved into its new Spring Street building in the late 1890s, the Gail Borden Public Library said it was making this change. What was it?

A) adding a children's department; B) adding titles in German; C) using the Dewey Decimal System D) adding an elevator

Bonus question: In 1935, the students of Elgin High School went out on strike. What were they seeking?

A) better cafeteria food; B) more heat in classrooms; C) personnel change; D) restoration of program cuts

Daily Herald columnist Jerry Turnquist loves to hear from readers. Email him at


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