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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Rockford's recently elected "urbanist" 35 year-old mayor's first action as mayor was to hop on a Hooters airplane and fly to Washington DC. The latest in a long line of uniqueness.

A bit of Rockford history....

The earliest settlers were chiefly from New York state and New England, but the city early acquired a modest cosmopolitan character. Large numbers of Irish born immigrants arrived in the 1850s, and a few Swedish immigrants in 1852. After the Civil War the Swedes began to come in large numbers and quickly became the largest ethnic group in the city. They settled chiefly on the east side, and in areas along 7th Street or Kishwaukee Avenue the Swedish language was as common as English as late as the 1920s. Other significant ethnic groups which had a presence in Rockford were the Italians (after 1880), Poles and Lithuanians (after 1900), Laotians, Vietnamese, and Hispanics (after 1970). One of the founders of the city, Lewis Lemon, was an African American, but the black population of the city was very small until the First World War, after which people from the south, particularly Arkansas and Mississippi, arrived.

Before the Civil War Rockford was the center of an avid anti-slavery region. In 1845, Rep. Anson Miller introduced a bill in the state legislature in an unsuccessful attempt to repeal the Illinois "Black Laws." Former President Martin Van Buren, running as Free Soil presidential candidate in 1848, received 42% of the county's vote and missed winning the county by just 59 votes. In 1852, Senator John P. Hale, the Free Soil candidate, became the first presidential candidate to visit the city and managed a respectable 28% of the county's popular vote. In 1864, abolitionist H. Ford Douglass was briefly a resident of the city, helping in Lincoln's reelection campaign. After the Civil War, an important civil rights case from Rockford was decided by the Illinois Supreme Court, Chicago & Northwestern Railroad v. Anna Williams (1871). The decision supported African Americans' rights to unhindered use of public transportation, but was decided on such narrow legal grounds it was cited in support of the "separate but equal" doctrine established by the United States Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).

When war broke out in 1861, one of the first Illinois military contingents to be mobilized was the Rockford Zouaves. Many of the Zouaves had been members of an earlier company, the Rockford City Greys, which was the first American company trained in the Zouave drill by Elmer Ellsworth. The Zouaves became Company D, 11th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Their captain, Garrett Nevius, eventually became Colonel of the 11th and was killed at Vicksburg in 1863. Another prominent Rockford soldier was Lt. Colonel Edward F. W. Ellis, of the 15th regiment, who was acting colonel when he was killed at Shiloh in 1862. From July to November 1862 the city was the site of Camp Fuller, training ground for the 74th, 92nd, 95th, and 96th infantry regiments. Another Rockford man, Jason Marsh, was Colonel of the 74th.

In the six years following the Civil War Rockford became nationally known in baseball circles, with the remarkable success of its Forest City Baseball Club. Led by Albert Spaulding (pitcher) and Ross Barnes (infield), the team had become the most prominent western club and joined the first professional baseball league, the National Association, for the 1871 season. Both stars had been hired away by Boston after the 1870 season, so the club's season was not particularly successful, despite the presence of Adrian Anson, playing his first major league season. Spaulding, Barnes, and Anson went on to significant careers in the National Association and its successor, the National League. Barnes, the first batting champion of the National League, is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Rockford. The city was a member of the Northwestern League, the first minor league, in 1879, and since that time has frequently had a minor league club. During the existence of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, 1944-1954, the city supported the Rockford Peaches, the team featured in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own.

Rockford's municipal politics in the 19th century often revolved around liquor issues, the "drys" and the "wets" often being about equal in electoral strength. In the 1890s a national organization, the American Protective Association, anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant, had some effect in municipal politics, but the early 20th century saw the rise of organized labor as a potent force locally. In 1907 Mark Jardine, nominee of the Union Labor League, was elected mayor, and was re-elected as an independent in 1909. In the 'teens the labor movement cooperated with the Socialists, and the two groups were able to elect aldermen and other officials, but not a mayor. Led by alderman Oscar Ogren, the labor-Socialist coalition pulled from 25% to 40% of the votes in mayoral elections. Anti-war protests spearheaded by the International Workers of the World led to 118 arrests in 1917, and May Day 1919 was celebrated with a large parade, numbering between 1000 and 3000 participants.

In January 1920 Rockford was a principal target of the infamous Palmer Raids, and between 140 and 180 citizens were summarily arrested, charged with conspiracy and sedition. The most important result of these raids was the sedition trial of Arthur Person in the Winnebago County Court. Defended by Clarence Darrow, Person was found not guilty in April 1920. Undaunted by official terrorism, citizens of Rockford elected a new mayor in 1921, J. Herman Hallstrom, nominee of the newly formed Labor League. Hallstrom was a Swedish immigrant, a veteran, a union president, a former Socialist, and former editor of the Rockford Labor News. He was reelected twice, lost, then reelected twice again, before being permanently retired in 1933 by C. Henry Bloom, a former Socialist alderman with widespread labor support. Bloom served as mayor until 1951, with one four-year interruption. In the 1970s, the city's labor movement reawakened after a placid quarter century and a succession of moderate Democratic mayors were elected, oddities in a region of pronounced Republican inclinations. The current mayor, Charles Box, was elected in 1989, reelected in 1993 and 1997. An African American, Box has been a significant participant in the National Council of Mayors and in Illinois politics.


And now Rockford has a 35 year-old INDEPENDENT mayor, an avowed urbanist

who hopped on a Hooters airplane and spent an hour with Senator Barack Obama in DC (just the two of them).


for what it's worth...
 

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Kudos to Rockford for that progressive history! Thats great to hear about the place.

I think the independent GOP candidate for President who ran against Reagan and Carter...John Anderson...was from Rockford. His candidacy was sort of a rejection of the right wing takeover of the GOP.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Jeff said:
Kudos to Rockford for that progressive history! Thats great to hear about the place.

I think the independent GOP candidate for President who ran against Reagan and Carter...John Anderson...was from Rockford. His candidacy was sort of a rejection of the right wing takeover of the GOP.

yes, he was. And what is happening in Rockford today (an independent winning) is pretty much the same thing..........but the question is.....will the country ever follow Rockford????
 
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