Teddy Roosevelt visits Elgin, and other 1910 headlines

Published: 9/22/2010 12:00 AM

Elgin was an exciting place a century ago as former President Theodore Roosevelt made a stop in the city.

Over 250 women were guests at a luncheon held in the most unusual of places - a cow stable.

And, inspired by the throngs who came to the city for the highly successful Elgin Road Races the previous month, a number of area youth decided to stage some contests of their own.

Here's a look at those and other stories that made area headlines in September 1910.

Roosevelt's visit: Amid the boom of bursting bombs, dinning factory whistles, and a local city band, the train carrying former President Theodore Roosevelt arrived in the city.

Speaking to a crowd of over 8,000 gathered at the "High Northwestern" station at South Crystal and South streets, the former chief executive appeared "cheerful but plainly fatigued."

Showing his "much heralded front teeth," Roosevelt opened by saying, "My friends, it is a pleasure to catch a glimpse of you today." Moments later a portion of the hillside gave way - a mishap attributable to the train stopping in the wrong place - and 100 people slid 20 feet down a hillside.

"Stand back! Push not this way," Roosevelt shouted.

After being assured by the mayor that none were seriously injured, he continued.

Newspapers were sketchy about Roosevelt's presentation, but recent talks had centered on a graduated income tax, workman's compensation, preservation of natural resources, and the elimination of "special interests" in government.

For many, it was the second time to see the man described by newspapers as "America's Greatest Living American," since he had made a stop in Elgin 10 years earlier.

Ladies who lunch: Over 250 Chicago and Elgin "society women," attended a luncheon at one of the most unusual places imaginable - a cow stable.

Coordinated by the executives of the Borden Milk Condensing plant in Elgin, the women left the farm south of Elgin a bit dusty but otherwise unharmed by their experience. Company representatives also arranged for self-guided tours of their facilities in West Chicago and Elgin. The visits came after reports circulated about the quality of milk coming from area farms.

Street racing: Inspired by the highly successful Elgin Road Races held west of the city the previous month, nearly two dozen youth arranged for some contests of their own.

Held on the city's northwest side, the vehicles raced against a backdrop of bleachers, pit crews, and even a hospital tent just like the actual contests. A week later a group of youth in the southeast portion of the city replicated the excitement in their part of town.

Unlike the real race cars, there was no smell of gasoline, since gravity and foot power furnished the energy for these machines.

Say no to spitting: "No spitting on the sidewalk" was the message from the city health officer who said he would be enforcing a city ordinance that had long been on the books.

The law also extended to public places including streetcar facilities. Signs warning possible offenders would be posted in all locations, he added.

The change was heralded by women whose long dresses were damaged by expectorations.

Tough love: What made for a good teacher a century ago?

"Absolute control of a class is essential to good teaching," said the Elgin school superintendent.

"Pupils will respect the teacher who requires order and behavior. A good sense of humor will save the day for a teacher," he added.

A teacher who can appreciate the humor of a wrong translation, a ready reply, a ludicrous mistake, and a hundred other conditions may avoid many heartaches and many disciplinary crises, he opined.

"It is absolutely essential that a good teacher be a lover of children," he concluded. "A teacher who complains insistently about the naughtiness and bad qualities of children has chosen a calling unsuited to her."

Return of the native: Finally, Ellen Wilkie, described by the newspapers as the "Mother of the Chicago Press Club" made headlines as she made a return visit to Elgin where she lived as a child.

Growing up with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Morse at the southwest corner of Gifford and DuPage - now part of St. Mary's Church - she later married Franc B. Wilkie.

Her husband became a Civil War correspondent for The New York Times and served on the editorial staff of the Chicago Times. He also became the first president of the Chicago Press Club.

"I was with him a great deal taking my little baby with me on the train, on the transport, and riding before me on the saddle," she said of his war assignments.

Wilkie said their most dangerous time together was during the Siege of Vicksburg when enemy fire surrounded them.