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

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January 29, 1935


At the time of this tragedy Henry Arden, age twenty-seven, lived with his mother, Mrs. Ruth Arden, age forty-seven, at their home in the 1700 block of Sedgwick Street in Chicago. Henry had graduated from the University of Chicago in 1928 and from September 1928 through December 1929 he had been employed teaching Spanish at the North Dakota State College in Fargo. He had been terminated due to a nervous breakdown.

Ruth Arden had applied for relief from the Illinois Emergency Relief Commission (IERC) in December 1933 and had been receiving payments since that time. Her household's monthly budget was $40.84. Part of that she earned herself by framing pictures in her own home for paying customers. Also she had been given work relief assignments at the Cook County Building. Thursday, January 24, Mrs. Arden called Alice Irwin, her case worker, to ask for an additional allotment. A home visit was arranged for the next day.

When Alice Irwin arrived for her appointment she was shot dead. Henry and Ruth Arden, each armed with handguns, next proceeded to the IERC Lincoln Park district offices at 54 West Chicago Avenue. There they climbed the stairs to a second floor open office area. When asked to leave they gunned down relief worker Caroline Wallace and wounded two other employees before turning their pistols on themselves.

Points to Consider

In your own words describe the event this statement reveals.

Why had Governor Horner issued this statement?

Why had this tragedy taken place?

How could it have been prevented?

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