This week in Illinois history: May 7-13
May 8, 1929 - Chicago. Mafia kingpin Al Capone offs two of his own hired guns. Legend has it that once Capone hitmen Alberto Anselmi and Giovanni Scalise were acquitted in the deaths of two Chicago policemen, the pair were plotting to overthrow Capone himself. Once he got wind of the plan, he allegedly beat them to death for insubordination.
May 8, 1936 - Chicago. Birthdate of four-term Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson. As the first governor to serve the state for four consecutive terms in office, Thompson cut his teeth as a federal prosecutor. The Republican became governor in 1976 with a record 3 million-plus votes. Thanks to the state’s decision to move gubernatorial proceedings to years in which presidents weren’t elected, he ran again in 1978 for a full four-year term. His last two terms, in 1982 and 1986, saw election by much closer victories.
May 8, 1988 - Hinsdale. A blaze knocked out the metro area’s telecommunications grid. It took just two crossed wires to shut down telephone service for a half-million Chicago residents, according to the Chicago Tribune. Regarded as the nation’s worst telecom crisis, the outage prompted the inevitable plans to ensure it would never happen again. So far it hasn’t, thanks to an $80 million grid backup system.
May 9, 1839 - Nauvoo. Mormon leader shifts headquarters to new city. Once Mormon founder and prophet Joseph Smith had escaped incarceration in Missouri, he soon reunited with his wife, Emma, and their children in Quincy. Just months later, the couple founded a new Latter Day Saint settlement he called Nauvoo.
May 9, 1922 - Chicago. A grand jury uncovers graft in Chicago school system. Mayor William “Big Bill” Thompson is said to have packed the scandal-ridden school board with his appointees, apparently hiding a system of using sole-source contracts to overcharge the school board for items ranging from phonographs to potato peelers. A group of politically connected suppliers allegedly received the excess profits, according to then-state's attorney Robert Crowe.
May 10, 1861 - Cairo. Gov. Richard Yates fortifies Cairo in case of Confederate attack. By this date, a battalion of 2,700 men had made its way to this city in southern Illinois. But was it necessary? As it turns out, Yates made the right strategic move. According to the American Civil War Forum, turning the city into a military base protected the Union from attack via the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. It also guarded the Illinois Central Railroad, which provided a pipeline of soldiers sent downriver to attack Confederate posts in Mississippi, Kentucky, Missouri and other states.
May 11, 1894 - Midwest. Labor-management battle touches off Pullman Strike. Cutting the pay of workers who made the Pullman railroad car by one-fourth, especially during an economic depression, proved disastrous, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Once company President George M. Pullman fired union representatives seeking to negotiate, many employees walked away from their 16-hour days for a strike. Other labor unions got involved, but the matter was settled when President Grover Cleveland dispatched troops to keep the trains running.
May 12, 1880 - Chicago. Birthdate of famed Antarctic explorer Lincoln Ellsworth. A stint as an airplane pilot for the U.S. Army during World War I evidently spurred Ellsworth’s interest in exploration, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Beginning in 1925, the pilot undertook several expeditions over Antarctica, some encountering bad weather and other dangerous conditions. Thanks in part to his efforts, the world now knows about the Antarctic landscape and its mountains, including a mountain range bearing Ellsworth’s name.