This week in Illinois history: Jan. 14 to 20
Jan. 14, 1861—Springfield. Richard Yates takes office as Illinois governor, and 40 years later, his son, Richard Jr., ascends to the same office. Though technically a day apart (Richard Jr. took office Jan. 13), the Yates dynasty (if you can call it that with a four-decade interruption) was a notable gubernatorial milestone in the state’s political history. Yates the elder was a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln, who campaigned for Yates during his State House run in 1854. Like his father, the younger Yates w as a lawyer who worked his way up into legislative positions.
Jan. 15, 1862—Fullersburg. Dancer Loie Fuller is born in DuPage County. A pioneer of modern dance, Fuller embodied the Art Nouveau movement in Paris with acts such as her Serpentine Dance. According to her bio on DanceHeritage.com, her performances “combined billowing costumes with dazzling lights and projections.” Her work innovated the world of dance interpretation, using colors, shadows and lighting to evoke fire and celestial surfaces.
Jan. 16, 1855—Chicago. The city’s first railroad depot opened at Canal and Kinzie. It took a dozen or so years to connect Chicago to a nearby mining community, but the railway’s construction anticipated the area’s rapid growth. As the Digital Resource Library of the Illinois Historical Society says, the city soon “became the largest railroad center in the world.”
Jan. 17, 1929—Chester. Popeye the Sailor Man is introduced in Chester resident Elzie Crisler Segar's comic strip "Thimble Theatre," published by King Features. Arguably the state’s second most famous animator (behind Walt Disney), Segar took his spinach-eating character to two out-of-state papers. First was the New York Evening Journal, and second was syndication in the Victoria (Texas) Advocate. While it is true there are no Popeye theme parks, Segar’s huge-forearmed character still changed the world, for a while anyway. As the Houston Chronicle notes, who else could have made children in the 1930s eat more spinach?
Jan. 18, 2012—Chicago. Yuri Rasovsky, an American playwright and producer, dies. Along with co-founder Michelle M. Faith, Rasovsky launched the National Radio Theater of Chicago in 1973. Until its demise in the mid-1980s, the company contributed “original radio plays, adaptations of fiction and stage plays, and radio plays from Europe and the Far East.” Though his work won two Peabody Awards, Rasovsky later sensed the opening of a new market and began producing audiobooks.
Jan. 19, 1909—Challacombe. This all-but-forgotten city disbands after two decades of incorporation. In 1887, town founders initially settled on an area near Chesterfield Township as the city’s location. The name traced its roots to an English settler, Nicholas Challacombe, who in 1840 crossed the Atlantic Ocean to claim his place in the New World, according to LivingHistoryofIllinois.com. Today, the region is part of Medora. “All that is left is an intersection, Challacombe Road & South Alton Way Road, with a single house, two grain silos and farmland,” the website reports.
Jan. 20, 2009—Washington, D.C. Former U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. “Against a backdrop of the nation’s devastating economic collapse during the start of the Great Recession, Obama’s message of hope and optimism—as embodied by his campaign slogan, “Yes We Can”—struck an inspirational chord with a nation seeking change,” according to History.com.