History (1901-1941)


Jan 30, 1901 ------- Three I League organized for minor league baseball competition; Rockford has franchise.

Nov. 21, 1903 ------ Rockford Public Library building on N. Wyman Street opened.

1904------ J. L. Clark organized, and Greenlee Bros & Co. moves to Rockford. City of Rockford buys 22-acre fairgrounds site from the Winnebago County Agricultural Association. Several new schools built between 1904 and 1911. Also in 1904, first auto races are held in the driving park north of Rockford. Andrew Ashton builds the city's first "Shyscraper," a new store with six stories at State & Main Streets. City Hall building on Walnut Street completed, at a cost of $100,000.

1905 ------ Construction begins on the Children's Home of Rockford. Rockford Furniture Co. is organized. Illinois Cabinet Co. formed in 1906 and Excel Furniture Co. in 1907.

1907 ------ Organized labor makes itself felt for the first time on the Rockford business and political scenes; labor helps elect Mayor Mark Jardine, a leader in the Leather Workers Union.

1908 --------- Rt. Rev. Peter J. Muldoon is appointed the first Catholic bishop of Rockford.

March 27, 1909 --------- Voters create the Rockford Park District. Within the next two years, Sinnissippi and Blackhawk Parks are acquired.

1910 ---------- Census figure for the city of Rockford is 45,401. Chanber of Commerce organized the same year. Consolidation of four school districts; first Harlem high school opens to serve students north of Rockford.

September, 1910 ---------- Twenty students attend first classes at St. Thomas High School. Classes held in the St. James Parish Hall.

Nov. 4, 1910 --------- Rockford Election Board is authorized.

1911 ---------- Rockford votes down commission for of government. William Bennett, a "dry" crusader is elected mayor and re-elected in 1913 and 1915.

March 11, 1911 ---------- Rockford High School wins its first Illinois high school basketball championship, with 60-15 victory over Mount Carroll in title game.

1912 ---------- St. Thomas High School moves into old Ellis School building at W. State and Stanley. St. Stanislaus Church built to accommodate 100 Polish families in Rockford.

1913 ---------- State Street paved, from 3rd to Summit Streets.

July 8, 1913 ---------- Tornado hits Rockford area; damage is estimated at $100,000, many buildings are unroofed, and State Street is flooded.

1914-1923 ---------- G.J. Boehland, clothing merchant, is instrumental in getting trees planted; provides program to give trees to schools, especially in Arbor Day observances.

1915 ---------- First Sundstrand adding machine is made here; inventors are Oscar J. and David Sundstrand. Boom year for business; many industries show 50 per cent gain. War products plants get big orders; night shifts are begun.

March 15, 1915 ---------- Rockford High School wins its second state basketball title, 39-29 over Springfield.

April, 1915 ---------- Women vote for the first time in municipal election and play a big part in another anti-saloon ballot.

1916 ----------Further industrial expansion; salaries increase, and auto dealers report record business. Rockford Municipal Sanitarium opens. Two new bridges - Morgan Street and Chestnut Street - are built. Shrine Temple erected at a cost of $250,000. City grows from five to eight wards. Companies H and K leave for Mexican border service as part of the 3rd Illinois Cavalry.

1916-1918 ---------- South side courthouse addition built.

May 1. 1916 ----------City is divided into eight wards; consolidation of Rockford and New Milford Townships is approved.

1917 ---------- Smith Oil and Refining opens the city's first "drive-in" gasoline station at N. Church and Mulberry Streets.

April 17, 1917 ---------- Sunday movies are approved by a vote of 8,400 to 6,389.

June 12, 1917 ---------- Rockford is awarded the National Army Cantonment, later named Camp Grant, to train soldiers recruited for service in World War I.

June 14, 1917 ---------- Rockford passes $1 million in Liberty Bonds.

June 26, 1917 ---------- For evading draft registration, 103 persons from Winnebago County are sentenced to Bridewell Jail.

July 1, 1917 ---------- Construction begins on the new camp. First Illinois Army engineers arrive on July 2.

Sept. 5-9, 1917 ---------- First group of 2,000 draftees reaches the cantonment.

Nov. 2, 1917 ---------- Sarah Bernhardt appears at Shrine Temple.

Nov. 15, 1917 ---------- Camp Grant is ready to house 41,160 men.

Jan. 5, 1918 ---------- Gen. John J. Pershing visits Camp Grant.

July 14, 1918 ---------- Swedish-American Hospital opens doors as Rockford's third major hospital.

September, 1918 ---------- Memorable influenza epidemic strikes the city and Camp Grant. Schools and all public places are closed. Final toll is 323 dead in the city and 1,400 at the camp.

Nov. 11, 1918 ---------- Rockford and Winnebago County join nation in an explosive Armistice Day celebration to herald the end of the Great War. About one million men entered, trained or were demobilized at Camp Grant during the conflict.

June, 1919 ---------- Walter R. Craig Post is formed as an American Legion chapter.

1920 ---------- Census figure for the City of Rockford is 65,651.

Jan. 2, 1920 ---------- 180 Rockford citizens arrested as Communist agitators and anarchists. Twelve are indicted.

Oct. 20, 1920 ---------- Bert R. J. Hassell opens flying field at east end of 18th Avenue.

April, 1921 ---------- J. Herman Hallstrom is elected may of Rockford at age of 32. He serves 10 years.

September, 1921 ---------- U. S. Government authorizes wrecking of Camp Grant and sale of buildings.

Nov. 4, 1922 ---------- Winnebago County Forest Preserve District established by vote.

1923 ---------- First zoning code adopted.

October, 1923 ---------- KFLV ( later WROK ) goes into operation as Rockford's first radio station.

1924 ---------- Roosevelt Junior High School opens. City's Boy Scout organization is started.

1926 ---------- Jefferson Street Bridge is completed, Lincoln Junior High School is opened, and construction begins on the 12-story Talcott Building in downtown Rockford.

March 31, 1926 ---------- Worst blizzard since 1880 hits Rockford.

June 13, 1926 ---------- 4.37 inches of rain fall in 90 minutes; flood damage is estimated at $1 million.

July 3, 1926 ---------- Sammy Mandell of Rockford whips Rocky Kansas to win the World's Lightweight Boxing Championship.

Nov. 2, 1926 ---------- Voters approve formation of the Sanitary Sewer District of Rockford.

1927 ---------- Baudhuin-Anderson Co. established to manufacture and sell paints. Later became Rockcote Paint Co. and Rockcote division of Valspar Corporation. Lafayette Hotel is opened and Coronado Theater is completed.

June, 1927 ---------- Fred E. Machesney opens an airfield which on July 8 is designated Rockford's official airport.

June 9, 1927---------- P. A. Peterson dies. He bequeaths large amounts for P. A. Peterson Home for the Aged and a Rockford YMCA.

Aug. 20, 1927 ---------- Col. Charles A. Lindbergh flies over Rockford after his history-making flight across the ocean.

1928 ---------- Construction begins on the first unit of the News Tower in Rockford.

April, 1928 ---------- Sanitary district $2.5 million bond issue approved by voters.

July 26, 1928 ---------- Bert R. J. Hassell and Parker B. Cramer take off in Greater Rockford airplane for Stockholm, Sweden via Northern Circle route. Flight ends in a cornfield crash.

August 16, 1928 ---------- Second takeoff of Greater Rockford plane is successful. Fliers are lost in the Greenland area between Aug. 18 and Sept. 2, but return safely to a welcoming reception on Oct. 18.

Sept. 1, 1928 ---------- Rockford Morning Star, recently moved to new quarters at the southeast corner of N. Wyman and Mulberry Streets, merges with the afternoon Rockford Register-Gazette, founded in 1855.

Sept. 14, 1928 ---------- Southeast end hit by tornado; in three minutes, 14 are dead, 36 injured, four factories and 360 dwellings demolished or damaged, and damage is estimated at more than $2 million.

1929 ---------- New St. Thomas High School for boys was completed on Mulberry Street, staffed by Christian Brothers. In September, Bishop Edward Hogan dedicates new Catholic high school for girls, named Muldoon in honor of Rockford's first bishop. Rockford Screw Products Company and American Cabinet Hardware Corporation add to the county's industrial growth.

April, 1929 ---------- Faust Hotel is opened. It is named for Levin Faust, who was born in Sweden in 1863, came to Rockford in 1887, and helped found the Mechanics Machine Company. Faust also helped organize the Rockford Park Commission.

Early 1930's ---------- Rockford hit hard by depression; census figure drops from 85,828 in 1930 to 84,687 in 1940. Banks close, car sales dip, and thousands of families go on relief. Levings Lake and Keith Creek flood control work and sanitary district trunk lines are among WPA projects. C. Henry Bloom serves as mayor during tough years 1933-1937.

Sept. 29, 1930 ---------- Rockford Morning Star, Rockford Daily Republic, and Register-Gazette merged into Rockford Consolidated Newspapers, Inc. with Mrs Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms as publisher and T. Barney Thompson as editor. Register-Gazette and Daily Republic consolidated into one afternoon newspaper, the Rockford Register-Republic. Morning Star continues as the only morning newspaper.

1931 ---------- Widening of Wyman Street completed at cost of $651,000. Central Illinois Electric and Gas Co. takes over operation of Rockford's gas, electric and traction transportation lines.

February, 1932 ---------- Rockford Sanitary Distric disposal system is completed at cost of $2.5 million. Also in 1932, the Gas-Electric Building is completed and, on Oct. 11 and 12, the Rockford News Tower is opened for housewarming.

Nov. 5, 1932 ---------- President Herbert Hoover is heard by 50,000 persons as he brings his campaign against Franklin D. Roosevelt to Rockford and Winnebago County.

April, 1933 --------- C. Henry Bloom is elected mayor of Rockford.

1934 ---------- Centennial of settlement by Germanicus Kent and Thatcher Blake.

Feb., 1935 ---------- Famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart visits Rockford, addresses Woman's Club.

April 1, 1936 ---------- Public art museum and gallery opened at 737 N. Main St., through generosity of Harry B. and Della Burpee. First Union Good Friday services held in Coronado Theater.

July 4, 1936 --------- Buses replace electric streetcars on Rockford streets. Occasion preceded by burning at midnight of old streetcar No. 805 at Broadway and 10th Street as thousands look on.

July 12, 1936 ---------- WROK becomes a full-time radio station.

July 14, 1936 -------- Nine die in one day as mercury hits 112. Ninth straight day of 100-plus temperatures.

Sept. 14, 1936 -------- Illinois Governor Henry Horner opens Jefferson Street link to 7th Street.

Dec., 16, 1937 ---------- Area known as Loves Park votes 538-194 against incorporation. Similar election on March 27, 1946, defeated 721-656. In second 1946 vote, Loves Park rejects annexation to Rockford - a proposal also defeated in 1928, 1931, 1937, and 1939.

March 27, 1938 ---------- Rockford observes New Sweden tercentenary in new Armory building; crowd estimated at 6,700.

June 9, 1938 ---------- Board of Education embarks on a $3 million program to build two new senior high schools and a third junior high school.

July 15, 1938 --------- Prince Bertil of Sweden visits Rockford.

1939 -------- Theodore and John Sachs found Rockford's Blue Star potato chips business.

March 18, 1939 -------- Rockford becomes first high school to win the state basketball title three times. Paris High falls 53-44 in a championship game.

1940 ------- Peaches, girls' professional baseball team, organized in Rockford and use high school stadium for home games.

Sept., 1940 ------- East and West Senior High Schools are opened. Old central high school is abandoned, to be used by the board of education. Washington Junior High School also opens. Selective Service goes into effect.

Oct. 1940 ------ Camp Grant is re-activated as a replacement center and medical training post for draftees. Renovation begins.

Nov., 1940 ------- Col. J. H. Davidson arrives as commanding officer of Camp Grant. Voters reject, 19,897 - 15,665, a school tax rate increase of 43 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

March, 1941 -------- National Guard units are federalized and sent to Camp Forrest.

April, 1941 ---------- C. Henry Bloom defeats Charles F. Brown in municipal election to return to the mayor's chair after four years. Brown had defeated Bloom in 1937.

Nov. 1, 1941 ------- Rockford's first public-housing project is started by the Winnebago County Housing Authority. Two hundred units are built and named Black Hawk Court. Nokomo Heights later erected to house non-commissioned officers at Camp Grant, as Rockford suffers through a severe housing shortage.

Nov. 7, 1941 ------- School board of Rockford orders all schools closed, cites shortage of operating funds.

Dec. 7, 1941 -------- Attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese and subsequent declarations of war shock city. Rockford becomes a war workshop. More than 16,000 enter military service.

Dec. 16, 1941 ------- Special school election; Rockford votes 8,824 to 3,989 for increasing educational-fund tax from $1.40 to $2 per $100 assessed valuation.


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