Naperville City Council 100 Years Ago

Mayor Steve Chirico’s career path to becoming the Mayor of Naperville started in the flooring business, to being elected to the city council and then winning election for mayor. 100 years ago Naperville’s mayor Alexander Grush’s path to becoming mayor started in the meat business, to the oil trade business, then civic affairs, and then being elected  mayor in 1921 – 1923, and again eight years later.

What a difference a century makes:

  • The average life expectancy for men was 47.
  • The average U.S. wage was 22-cents per hour.
  • Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores only.
  • 8% of homes had a telephone
  • Maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
  • 90% of all doctors had no college education.
  • The population in Las Vegas was only 30.
  • Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were available over the counter at local drugstores.
  • Pharmacists said, “Heroin clears complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates stomach, bowels, and is a perfect guardian of health.”
  • The leading cause of death was influenza and pneumonia.

In 1922 Naperville had a commissioner form of government (mayor, four commissioners, and clerk). In 1922 (June 3rd) the big event in Naperville started in Plainfield when 50,000 Ku Klux Klansmen had a rally accepting 3,000 new members that evening. Later that night the largest Catholic Church in DuPage County, Sts. Peter and Paul in Naperville was completely destroyed by the worst fire in Naperville history. The rally and the church burning were never formally connected, however the political climate at the time, was a strong indication.

Other major issues the Naperville city council had to deal with in the early 1920’s included:

  • The Association of Commerce meeting with the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad to discuss the purchase of property.
  • A committee was created to study the serious water supply situation in Naperville which needed prompt attention.
  • Improvement of Postal services including more street signs to get through town easier.
  • Funding of the Naperville Municipal Band, and sponsoring the July 4th celebration.
  • Restructuring city addresses
  • Beautification of riverside property.
  • Formation of a Naperville Park District
  • Establishing a paved highway south (Il. Rt. 59)

The largest category of crime was arrests for violation of State Motor Vehicles Law, and two people were arrested for intoxication; all cases resulted in convictions.

For the most part, Naperville Police Chief Edward Fairbanks, and Mayor Alexander Grush had situations under control. Life wasn’t easier then, just different.

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