Naperville 1920 / 2020 - Setting the Stage
According to contemporary reports, a wild winter storm greeted the new year as 1920 dawned in Illinois. The President was Woodrow Wilson. The Governor was Frank Lowden. With World War I wrapping up, the nation was intending to go back to normal, but normal was anything but in the 1920s.
actually take effect until January 10, 1920. The last soldiers were coming home from overseas, having experienced more of the world than their parents or grandparents ever had. Many of the women who had filled in for their menfolk were reluctant to take off their trousers, put their dresses back on and return to the kitchen. Patriotism was high across the nation.
WWI ended in November of 1928, but the Treaty of Versailles didn't
But patriotism was morphing into a nationalism that sowed suspicion. The rise of communism, socialism and fascism in Europe raised fears in the U.S. The first "Red Scare" raids in November 1919 and January 1920 were to oust leftist leaders and political and labor radicals. Immigrants were looked at differently and there were calls to close the borders to immigration. The Ku Klux Klan, once a Confederate social club, adopted an "Americanism" creed that embraced intolerance not only for immigrants, but also for blacks, Catholics, Jews and various practices they deemed "immoral."
So what was it like during this time in little Naperville?
Naperville was incorporated as a city in 1890 and by 1912 was a commission form of government with a mayor and several commissioners instead of aldermen and wards. Mayor Charles B. Bowman was a professor at North-Western College (later renamed North Central College). His commissioners were Alexander Grush (who owned a meat market), Robert Enck (who was in coal supply), Charles Rohr (who was a florist), and C.C. Coleman (who was a druggist.)
The men met at the "new" city hall after moving from their location above the jail and firehouse which was located about where the Apple Store is on Jefferson. The local Masons had just built a new building in 1916 (the Naperville Running Company building) and had moved out of their rooms above the First National Bank. That building, now La Sorella di Francesca, became the new city hall.
Naperville's quarries were no longer being worked, so the main employer in town was the Kroehler Manufacturing Company, renamed in 1915 as the Naperville Lounge Company started incorporating other factories.
While Edward Hospital doesn't look anything like it did in 1920, it did exist as a popular Sanitarium. The YMCA, which does still boast its original building, had been completed in 1911 and even allowed women to use the facilities at certain times of the week. Another landmark from the 1920s that still exists in some form today is Nichols Library, which was built in 1898.
George Santayana said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" while Mark Twain is supposed to have replied "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme." Comparing 1920 to 2020 is certainly an interesting exercise that may be useful as well!