The decades following World War I may best be thought of in terms of transplanting. The social counterpart to that botanical procedure is suburbanization. Not since the original European settlement of the nineteenth century had so many from the outside pulled up their roots and then planted them in DuPage, thus outnumbering the natives.
Suburbs had come into being after the Civil War to a limited extent as people began commuting to and from Chicago and subdivisions were platted. This pattern ceased to be the exception to the rural rule with the mass production of automobiles after World War I. In 1900 automobiles were counted in the hundreds. By 1920 they were numbered in the millions. That kind of geometric progression made the automobile the predominant invention of the era, thus creating the moving-van phenomenon.
The extent and depth of this change locally was strikingly visible during the boom times of the 1920s. While slowing during the “bust” of the 1930s, the social and concomitant cultural mobility resumed during and immediately after World War II.
It took the population of DuPage County ninety years to reach its 1920 figure of 42,120. Only ten years later that number more than doubled, climbing to 92,000 by 1930.
While this unprecedented 118 percent growth in a decade gave way to a modest increase during the Great Depression, with the county attaining only a 103,000 level by 1940 a 40& percent spurt followed in the 1940s. The next chapter will recount the resumption of a doubling growth rate in a decade after the 1950 record of 154,000 people.
The areas that were most heavily affected by the larger numbers in the 1920s were the townships of, in order of size, York, Downers Grove, and Milton. By 1930 Downers Grove Township had taken second place to York Township. The population of Downers Grove Township grew 250 percent from 1920 to 1930, from 7,925 to 25,396. During this decade Elmhurst leapfrogged into first place as the largest community in the county, increasing from 4,594 inhabitants to 14,055. Another sign of the land development bonanza was the increase in real estate agencies in Glen Ellyn, from three in 1920 to twenty in 1928.
Arthur T. McIntosh was the individual who most typified this period’s “land-office” business. He was the largest real estate developer in DuPage after World War I and into the post World War II era. Originally from Iowa, he founded his Chicago land development company in 1907. He also was involved in major developments in Cook, Lake, and Will counties, as well as in Florida and Iowa. In 1920 he bought property in Westmont, laying out streets and sidewalks and selling land for as little as $5 an acre. Within four years, he had 1,800 buyers, and Westmont experienced its initial surge of growth
Among these purchasers were persons of various ethnic backgrounds who had first settled in Chicago and were working for such companies as International Harvester and Western Electric. They were looking for places on the outskirts of the city. These “transplants” from abroad continued to have a feeling for the soil and so sought room for gardens. They would often drive to the suburb after working hours or over the weekend to build their own homes, aided by the headlights of their cars. That practice indicates how the automobile was becoming the dominant means of transportation and how inseparable it was from the building boom.
In 1922 McIntosh bought the property of Henry Middaugh in Clarendon Hills. He converted it into the McIntosh Golf Addition, because of its proximity to the Hinsdale Golf Club. When laying the streets, he named three of them after himself-Arthur, Tuttle, and McIntosh. In the unincorporated community of Belmont, he bought property that included today’s Downers Grove Golf Club, the area around Puffer School on Belmont Road. Altogether McIntosh had submitted twenty-five plats in Downers Grove Township by 1935, twenty-four such housing sites in Lisle Township, and an equal number in Milton. To promote the McIntosh Lisle Farms south of the Morton Arboretum, trainloads of people were brought on excursions. North of the arboretum Walter A. Rogers, a founder of the Bates-Rogers Construction Company, established the estate of Warwood. Upon his death in 1955, the McIntosh Company purchased that land.
Parallel to expanded home ownership was growth of horticulture, long a strong element in the DuPage economy, which took on fresh impetus during these postwar decades. George Ball, a Spanish-American War veteran, began the Ball Nurseries in Glen Ellyn in 1905. By 1928 he owned seven greenhouses in that community and had also started seven others in West Chicago. He then concentrated his holdings in the latter community, eventually selling only on a wholesale basis and becoming best known for hybrids and seeds. The George Ball calendulas won a far-reaching reputation. In 1938 he was elected president of the Society of American Florists. At its height, George J. Ball, Inc., operated seventeen companies, including six overseas.
By 1939 Ball had diversified his interests, purchasing the North Avenue Airport and developing it into the largest airfield between Chicago and the Mississippi River. During World War II it was called the Air Activities Airport. It later became the DuPage County Airport, and it now operates as the Fox Valley Air Authority.
Others were also interested in the new field of aviation, including Emile and Herbert Miller. Theirs was the American Eagle Airport, west of Finley Road and south of Roosevelt, on the site of today’s International Village. These brothers had come to DuPage in 1913 from Berwyn with their cabinet maker father. He subsequently helped establish them in Willie Knight’s Auto Repair. In 1921 Emile, at nineteen, took spare parts from automobiles and used them to build an airplane. At seventy-nine he still could strip down a plane and reassemble it. The airfield lasted from 1929 to 1964. Another airport, Mitchell Field in Addison, also lasted until the 1960s. A hardware warehouse is now located on that site.
The busiest of all the nation’s airports was to have its beginning in this same period. Extending into Bensenville, Douglas Field, previously called Orchard Park (still evident in the ORD on baggage tags), was begun in 1942 with the aircraft plant delivering 655 large cargo planes to the armed forces by October, 1945. At the war’s end, Chicago purchased the field in 1946, along with an additional 6,300 acres of neighboring farmland, and O’ Hare International Airport, named after a World War II& flying ace, came into being. During this decade Bensenville doubled its 1940 population of 1,875.
Despite this swift development in the northeastern corner of the county, neighboring Wood Dale remained rural; electricity had not been brought into that area until 1923 and phone service not until 1927. Until 1948 Police Chief Adolph Soska was having his wife take calls at their home. There are now nineteen on the staff of that department.
Just to the south of Wood Dale, however, a foretaste of things to come was visible as early as 1918. It was then, on the east end of Addison at Lake and Villa roads, that Hungarian immigrants Louis and Mary Bosworth started their own restaurant. Louis’ Place remains the oldest continuing restaurant in DuPage. Such as establishment testified to the growing use of the automobile, because customers would drive out from the city.
During Prohibition eating places on the edge of the metropolis also served as “roadhouses.” In Winfield Township “Whiskey Creek” was associated with more than one “still.” Another was located on Lambert Road, north of today’s College of DuPage and across from Berger’s fox farm.
Among the most notorious bootleggers was Roger Touhy, whose widower, policeman father, and eight children had moved to Downers Grove from Chicago in 1908. After graduating from St. Joseph’s parochial school in 1911, he served in the military and taught code to naval officers at Harvard. After returning to Chicago, he established a trucking company which lent trucks for transporting moonshine.” Touhy subsequently engaged in a protracted feud with Al Capone.
The automobile accounted for still another kind of service in the county-the first ice cream drive-in. This innovation was the result of collaboration between two Downers Grove boyhood chums, Walter Fredenhagen and Earl Prince. In 1928 the latter opened up the initial Prince Castle in DeKalb. Meanwhile, Walter, whose family business dated to the nineteenth century Fredenhagen grist mill in Warrenville, bought a wholesale ice cream company in Naperville. In 1931, during the Depression, he opened four ice cream drive-in stores in DuPage and called the chain Prince Castle. These friends also knew paper-cup salesman Ray Kroc, who later founded McDonald’s. Because the cooperation between the two DuPage county men did not result in a merger, Fredenhagen renamed his operation Cock Robin in the 1950s.
There were still estates in the midst of this land and commercial development, representing the continuation of a “country gentleman” lifestyle. Previous mention has been made of Robert McCormick’s assuming ownership of his grandfather Medill’s Red Oak Farm, changing the name to Cantigny because of his participation in that World War I battle. His cousin, Chauncy McCormaick, in the 1920s purchased the land just to the south, calling it St. James Farm, now owned and operated by his son, Brooks McCormick. They cooperated with owners of neighboring estates to begin the DuPage Hunt, which lasted into the 1950s. The fox chase began at Cantigny with Colonel McCormick serving as master of the hounds. The Wayne Hunt was launched in 1935 by Joy Morton II, whose father, Mark, owned property in Wayne Township. A subsequent merger resulted in the Wayne-DuPage Hunt.
There were others aspiring to such equestrian activity. In 1919 Francis Stuyvesant Peabody, of the Chicago-based Peabody Coal Company, bought property in the Fullersburg area for a country home. Over three years he built a Tudor mansion on the 848 acres. On Sunday morning, August 1 a fox hunt had been arranged by his son, Jack. When the chase ended on the south end of the estate on Ogden Avenue, someone noticed that Mr. Peabody was missing. He was found lying on a grassy knoll, dead of a heart attack at the age of sixty-three. In 1924 Mrs. Peabody sold the property to the Franciscan Fathers, who have since used a portion of it for the Mayslake Retreat Center. Senior citizen housing is now located on another part of the site.
Another example of persisting elegance was that of Danada Farms, named for its owners Dan and Ada Rice. He had been born in 1897 in Chicago, later rising in the commodity business to become one of its most successful dealers. The Daniel F. Rice Company flourished for thirty years, from the 1930s to the 1960s, surviving the Depression and World War II and merging with the Haydyn-Stone Corporation in 1960.
His fellow trader, Arthur Cutten, persuaded Rice to buy Mark Morton’s nearby holdings in 1929. Danada eventually grew to encompass 1,300 acres. He planted no fewer than 5,000 trees in his apple orchard.
The Rices’ real claim to fame was their twenty-five-horse stable and racetrack, where their Kentucky-born horses were trained. One of these, Ada’s Lucky Debonair, won the 1965 Kentucky Derby. Among the horse enthusiasts entertained in their 1939 home were Don Ameche, Jimmy Durante, and Liberace.
Joy Morton, on his adjacent Lisle Farms, had more than commercial interest in his land. After making the initial purchase of farmers’ wood lots in 1909 and building his “Thornhill” home in 1911, he turned increasing attention to his estate, leaving the day-to-day operation of the Morton Salt Company to his son Sterling, nephew Carl, and treasurer, Daniel Peterkin. With his father, J. Sterling Morton, having founded Arbor Day, Joy had a long-standing interest in establishing “an outdoor museum of woody plants.” Judge Win Knoch, in an interview just before his death in 1983, reported that Joy Morton asked his advice prior to starting the arboretum. Wanting the public to enjoy the acreage, he was considering donating it to the forest preserve. Knoch advised him to set up a foundation instead, to avoid the possibility of future political vagaries. The Morton Arboretum was established as a privately controlled trust in 1922.
OLD AND NEW DEALS
Knoch also provides the connecting link to the governmental developments which transpired during this thirty-year period While the New Deal had considerable impact on the local scene, the Republican dominance continued as it had since the Civil War, except for renegade Republicans who had won as “Bullmoosers” during the Theodore Roosevelt years.
Knoch’s grandparents on both sides had immigrated from Germany. His father, William, a cigar manufacturer in Naperville, had served on the county board and was one-time mayor of Naperville. Knoch came from a politically active family.
After graduating from SS. Peter and Paul parochial school and Naperville High School, Knoch earned his law degree from DePaul. He then served with the infantry in World War I.
Upon his return, he entered law practice with Chauncey Reed and Russell Keeney. Reed soon became state’s attorney with Knoch’s organizational support. Between 1934 and 1956 Reed served as United States congressman from DuPage, followed in this office by Keeney. These victories were due in large measure to Knoch’s helping consolidate the power of the Republican Party locally, although he never sought the chairman’s role.
Knoch himself ran for the office of county judge in 1930. He won, in part, because of the post World War I support of the American Legion, which in addition to being a veterans’ organization also functioned as a community voting bloc. Knoch would frequently campaign with veteran Clarence V. “Pegleg Pete” Wagemann, who was also the county clerk.
Knoch went on to distinguish himself in the judiciary. In 1958, upon the nomination of his friend Senator Everett Dirksen, President Dwight Eisenhower named Knoch to the United States Appeals Court, covering Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
In Naperville, there were four accomplishments for which Knoch wished to be remembered. The first was the organizing of the Naperville National Bank in 1934, in the midst of the Depression, thereby helping local citizens maintain solvency. Secondly, he served as general chairman of the Naperville Centennial Committee, which led to the purchase and development of Centennial Beach. By 1938 he had also become the chairman of DuPage’s Centennial. A third contribution was persuading Caroline Martin Mitchell, descendant of George Martin, to bequeath the twenty acres of homestead as a perpetual museum, the Martin Mitchell Museum, and site for Naperville Central High School. Finally, in 1955, after the invention of antibiotics ended the need for Edwards Sanitarium as a tuberculosis treatment center, Knoch led in its conversion to a general hospital. Another law partner, Melvin J. Abrahamson, oversaw its formation as the only tax-supported hospital in the county.
At the same time that Knoch was beginning his career, another of considerable importance was being launched in Downers Grove. There Lottie Holman O’Neil was becoming the first woman ever to be elected to the state legislature in Illinois. This was a result of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which granted the franchise to women. A resulting development, the formation of the League of Women Voters, helped to create the support needed to assure her election in 1922. She served consecutive terms until 1963, except for two years when she made an unsuccessful bid for the United States congressional seat. Also of significance is that the minutes of the DuPage League of Women Voters, in February 1929, reported a distribution of leaflets titled “Shall Women Serve on Juries in Illinois?” Two years later, November 28, 1931, women were allowed by law to serve on juries, and the county jury list for the first time had women’s names on it.
In the 1930s the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt was defining new political realities throughout the land. Although the devastation experienced elsewhere in the country was not so severe locally, suffering was felt nevertheless. In May 1933, $10,911 in public aid was distributed to the unemployed. Downers Grove received the largest share, $3,159. Wayne received the least, $174. The township of Lisle had 223 families receiving public assistance and a soup kitchen operating at the Morton Arboretum.
By 1936, when the national unemployment rate rose to 16.9 percent, it was only 4.7 percent in DuPage County. Yet all but one of the New Deal programs were represented Graue Mill was a case in point. It had operated as a mill until 1929. The Butler family owned it at that time, then sold it to the forest preserve district. Through a combination of Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) efforts, the dam and millrace were reconstructed and the building restored. Reforestation and erosion prevention were undertaken on this forest preserve property.
Along North Avenue, at the Salt Creek, a CCC camp was established. This program administered by the United States Army, with the help of Army Reserve officers, resulted in the paving of North Avenue in 1933, with trees planted beside the roadway.
Another location where the effects of the New Deal were particularly evident was McDowell Grove, the forest preserve between Naperville and Warrenville. The CCC came to McDowell in the 1930s, shortly after the preserve had been purchased by the district. There were as many as 300 men working at that camp, a site for construction of bridges and dams as well as for state and county flood control projects. In April 1938 a group of older workers, veterans of World War I, were brought in from the Fullersburg Preserve where they had been stationed previously.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, McDowell Grove became the site of a secret installation for radar equipment, the second largest such collection in the world during World War II. The army built Camp McDowell in twenty-eight days, taking the old CCC barracks, adding to it guard houses and a radar school building. The person in charge of the camp was a priest, Father Claridge. As many as 400 men trained at this camp during the course of the war. The security was tight; even refuse collection followed a special format. Because the camp had no food disposal, local resident was recruited to remove and eliminate the refuse without leaving any clues of the camp’s existence.
At war’s end the district bought the remaining government land at McDowell Grove, in 1946. Today the only evidence of this operation is an H-shaped concrete slab. At one time the school structure was twenty-eight feet high, with a false roof which concealed radar dishes and screens from view during the day. At night trainees folded away this facade to expose the equipment for use. Only shortly before the war Wheaton College student Grote Reber had invented a dish-shaped device to eliminate excessive static on his ham radio band. From this invention came the first radio telescope.
One person whose life accents the New Deal period was Seymour “Bud” Waterfall. Next to Argonne National Laboratory is Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, named after him. He came to DuPage in 1928, at the age of ten. Before his life’s end, he had become chairman of the county board and president of the forest preserve district. His place in county government as a “Johnny-come-lately” to the community was in contrast to others on the board, who came from nineteenth-century families. Nicholas Lies, for example, was from a Prussian family who had settled in Bloomingdale Township in 1853. Adam W. Kohley lived on the same property at Route 53 and 83rd Street that his grandfather farmed in 1847.
Certainly Waterfall’s arrival did not presage such political involvement. He lived in Westmont, having been trained as a civil engineer, and worked for the street and sewer department of that village. When the Depression hit, he was soon out of a job. Then he obtained the position of administrator of relief funds for the New Deal programs. He also became more actively involved in politics after the Depression. Again, the political success he enjoyed was related to his connections with the American Legion, which supported him. He was never defeated in candidacy for office between the 1930s and the 1960s.
Likewise, it was the New Deal that contributed to the career of Ivan Albright, who represented the artistic flowering in the decades between the World Wars. But it is first necessary to review the way he was transplanted to DuPage.
He was the son of Adam Emory Albright, a Wisconsin native, who had studied at the Chicago Fine Arts Institute, with Thomas Eakins at the Fine Arts Academy in Philadelphia, and in Europe where he was influenced by Impressionism. He then moved to the Chicago area, and eventually to a picturesque location along the West Branch of the DuPage River in Warrenville. In 1924 he purchased what had been the Methodist church in Warrenville as a studio and a nearby home on Aurora Avenue. His twin sons, Ivan and Malvin, moved to Warrenville in 1927, having first tried their hand at other fields, but ultimately following in their father’s artistic footsteps. Yet they choose a decidedly different style from that of Adam Emory, whose idyllic childhood scenes, including those of the twins as boys, made him the precursor of Norman Rockwell. In contrast, Ivan and Malvin, the former in particular, portrayed the decay of life and flesh. The two would later turn their father’s pictures toward the wall of the studio when visitors came.
During the Depression, Ivan was involved briefly in the Public Works Art Project (PWAP). For it he painted the pictures of his neighbor across the street, Mrs. George Stafford (1933-1934), called “The Farmer’s Kitchen.” The series is close to the Regionalist theme of such other artists as Thomas Hart Benton, but it is unique in its detail and complexity of patterns. This painting now hangs in the Smithsonian. In 1943 Ivan was asked to paint the portrait of Dorian Gray for the movie of that name. He journeyed to Hollywood, and brother Malvin painted the younger versions of that Oscar Wilde character.
Although the brothers left DuPage County after gaining fame, their father continued as a resident until his death in 1957, at age ninety-five. Both brothers died in 1983, Malvin in September and Ivan in November. Most of Ivan’s paintings on exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute are of DuPage County subjects.
In contrast to his often morbid subjects, he was a cheerful, fast talking man who sometimes joked about his art. He once answered a reporter who asked him to explain his art, “Explain it? It’s hard enough to paint it!”
Another artist of note, the originator of “Little Orphan Annie,” was Harold Gray who lived in Lombard in the 1920s at the time he devised the cartoon. He subsequently bought the expansive Victorian home on North Main, built by Dr. William LeRoy, for his parents, with whom he lived for a while. In 1929 he married Winifred Frost, who had worked in the ticket office of the local movie house. They moved to Connecticut soon after.
Growing up in Elmhurst during the same period was Margaret Chant, who was also to marry a person of prominence. In 1948 in a Minneapolis dentist’s waiting room, she met George Papandreou. She subsequently married this economics professor, who has become Greece’s prime minister.
One of the best-known literary figures of the time, Carl Sandburg, lived on York Avenue in Elmhurst during the decade of the 1920s. After commuting home from the city, where he was a columnist for the Chicago Daily News, he would continue writing in his “Happiness House” residence. At night neighbors would hear him on the typewriter, not knowing until later that the effort resulted in Rootabaga Stories for children; The American Songbag in 1927; and Good Morning, America, a 1928 book of poems, as well as The Prairie Years, the first part of his Lincoln trilogy. By the end of the decade, traffic had increased so much on York Avenue that he thought it too congested and moved to Harbert, Michigan.
While Sandburg changed his residence to Michigan, two other writers of prominence continued working in Downers Grove. One was Sterling North, who wrote the novel Rascal in 1934. Alice Tisdale Hobard wrote Oil for the Lamps of China, which was made into a movie. Another author in Elmhurst, Rosamund DuJardin, was concurrently writing short stories and children’s works of note.
Living in the area for a short time was Katherine Dunham, identified as the Mother of Black Dance. Following her birth in 1914 in Chicago to a French-Canadian Indian mother and a black father, she moved with them to a subdivision in Glen Ellyn. There Katherine attended an elementary school. During that period homemade bombs were thrown at their windows, but the family persisted
A later move to Joliet was followed by her receiving two degrees in anthropology from the University of Chicago, starring in Ruth Page’s 1933 Martinique ballet, choreographing and dancing in the 1940 stage and film production of “Cabin in the Sky.” The 1943 production of “Stormy Weather” ensued. Before her death in 1983, she had established a Performing Arts Training Center in East St. Louis for ghetto youths.
Another event which highlighted the racial issue occurred in York Center. After the outbreak of World War II and the imposition of gas rationing, Louis Shirky, a ten-year resident of that community, found it impossible to drive into Chicago to attend the First Church of the Brethren. He then took a first step in establishing that denomination locally and also in purchasing the Goltermann farm for a housing cooperative. When blacks were allowed to buy into the co-op and two families did in 1948, a hundred neighboring citizens gathered to protest in the District 49 school. By March 1950, however, spokesman Jesse Ziegler could write “… There is new friendliness and quite likely a more general support for the right of the Co-op to carry on its own business according to its principles.” By 1957 Bethany Theological Seminary, the divinity school for the Brethren, was located at Meyers and Butterfield roads.
The cultural flowering in the county was in large measure a result of the cross-fertilization which characterized this era of social transplants. It is fitting, then, to conclude the description of this period with the lyrics of “Judge” Frank Earl Herrick, who has been called the “Poet Laureate of DuPage County.” From a family whose Warrenville roots dated to the 1830s, this justice-of-the-peace was in the 1930s catching the sense of excitement of a county becoming more aware of its own uniqueness, blending old and new, commerce and estates, art and politics. Calling DuPage “A star upon the breast of great Chicagoland, a jewel in the crest of Illinois the grand …,” he wrote in “The Song of DuPage County”;
There’s a Spirit fine and gentle
Who goes with me night and morning…
And he tells me all the stories
All the lore and all the legends of DuPage and its good people …
Clear from Signal Hill to Bartlett
From Lake Street to Copenhagen
From the Airport down to Downers
From Army Trail to Ogden.
And he knows all of its cities
All its villages and hamlets,
Knows Roselle, Nick Lies Kingdom,
And he knows all West Chicago (little replica of Dublin)
With its railroads and its freight yards;
Knows great Elmhurst and its lordly
Avenues of shade and beauty,
The Goliath of the county.
And he knows Lombard, the splendid,
Lombard and its lovely lilacs …
Knows Hinsdale, of kingly glory,
Great estates and trees and landscapes …
Rocky Glen and leafy Wood Dale
Herrick Lake and the Bird Refuge
And Glen Ellyn’s crystal mirror …
And great Morton Arboretum
A crown jewel of the Nation …
Westmont, wide awake and coming,
Winfield, in its Sleepy Hollow,
Wayne, a wild rose on the prairie …
Knows Lisle Township’s rural beauty,
Adam Kohley’s lovely country;
Warrenville, the grand old rustic…
Naperville, renowned in legends …
Warrenhurst and Swift and Belmont,
Bensenville and small Eola,
Frontenac and Lace and Granger,
Cloverdale and Lisle and Ardmore,
Addison and fair Itasca
And young Villa Park, the giant.
For a thousand years hence forward
May this DuPage County Spirit
Watch and keep our noble homestead…