This week in Illinois history: June 25-July 1
June 25, 1862 - Pekin. Citizens form the Union League Club of America. A relic of its time – only men were allowed to join – these Civil War-era groups today have branches in other major cities like Chicago and Philadelphia. They were originally formed around support of President Abraham Lincoln, Wikipedia.org reports, but the Union League website today says the club champions “nonpartisan political, economic and social arenas.” In Chicago, the Orchestra Hall, the Field Museum and the Harold Washington Library all owe their existence in part to the Union League.
June 26, 1857 - Springfield. President-to-be Abraham Lincoln denounces SCOTUS Dred Scott decision. This decision, which held that slaves could not be citizens and prevented the feds from regulating slavery, could arguably be called the spark that ignited the Civil War. In an almost 4,000-word speech, Lincoln scrutinizes the decision, which did more for his rising political star in the short term than it did in demolishing slavery, as a SparkNotes.com analysis argues.
June 27, 1844 - Carthage. Mob justice forever silences Mormon founder Joseph Smith. The Latter Day Saints (LDS) may be most closely associated with Utah, but in the mid-19th century, Smith also established branches in the Midwest (Ohio, Missouri and Illinois) according to History.com. At the time, LDS championed polygamy, and Smith was jailed after smashing a printing press used to print publications that undermined his authority. He and his brother were executed when vigilantes broke into the jail.
June 27, 1932 - Chicago. Democratic Party nominators select Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the presidential candidate. The Roosevelt-Garner ticket won delegate support from over 40 states and seven territories, defeating 10 other candidates (including vice presidential nominee John Nance Garner of Texas), according to the Political Graveyard website.
June 28, 1989 - Arlington Heights (Chicago). Repairs are completed to Arlington Park four years after devastating fire. As the Daily Herald notes, it took almost two dozen fire departments delivering up to 4,000 gallons of water each minute to battle the blaze that destroyed the Depression-era racetrack’s clubhouse and grandstand.
June 29, 1841 - Ogle County/Rock River Valley. Dispute over lawbreaking prompts citizen threat to take matters into their own hands. Gangs of bandits roamed northern Illinois during this period, as explained by the Illinois Online Periodicals website, lending an air of lawlessness “straight out of an old-time Hollywood Western.” When the escape plans of a clever band of apprehended counterfeiters fell through and they were convicted, presiding Judge Thomas Ford warned fellow bandits not to retaliate or else face hanging. This strong stance is credited with breaking bandit gangs’ power.
July 1, 1911 - Chicago. U.S. officials dedicate Great Lakes Naval Station near Ross Field. Though it was a counterintuitive move to place a naval base in the Midwest, far from the coasts, then-President Theodore Roosevelt led the project that has now passed a century of service. As The Daily Herald notes, the facility boasts 1,600 acres and more than 1,000 buildings. Tens of thousands of Navy crewmembers are produced annually at the base, prompting commanding officer Capt. John Malfitano to tell the Herald in 2011 that visitors would “see where it all starts for most naval personnel.”