Hard Times in Illinois, 1930–1940
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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January 13, 1930


When the Chicago City Council met in early January of 1930 to consider a new budget most aldermen were anxious to trim expenses. Austerity was judged prudent not because of the onset of the Great Depression but due to local conditions.

The 1927 property tax assessment had been challenged in the courts and in the meantime collections had been suspended. The city had floated tax anticipation warrants to tide it over. Bankers were warning that unless the budget was balanced, those warrants would have no takers.

Mayor William Hale Thompson and a minority of alderman opposed major cuts. A heated meeting of the full council was held on Friday, January 10, with the galleries packed with city employees targeted for layoffs. Agreement was made to eliminate automobile allowances for all fifty aldermen as well as those for fifty-one police captains. Most city departments were required to reduce spending significantly. Eventually "Big Bill" Thompson and his allies were forced to accept most of the cutbacks.

Public bathhouses provided laundry as well as bathing facilities. In reply to this communication Governor Emmerson wrote "Much as I would like to help you and others in this matter, I regret that it is impossible for me to do so because there is nothing that I can do in connection with these matters."

Points to Consider

What were the authors of this letter asking the governor to do?

How would free public bathhouses have helped the poor?

What was a "shell shocked" son from the World War?

Why were these women being let go?

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