An Industrial Suburb Faces The Depression:

Maywood, Illinois in the 1930s

Rex Nyquist

Rex Nyquist has an M.A. in history from Roosevelt University and is currently a graduate student in the Historical Administration program at Eastern Illinois University.  This paper is based on a chapter from his master’s thesis, submitted at Roosevelt in 2000.

 

Some day a man with stouter muscle and better wind, though no stouter heart than many who went before, will lick Mt. Everest, and before coming down its 10 to 1 he will leave a memento of Maywood, Illinois, 29,000 feet up in the air.  Before the explorer turns from conquest to fight a way back . . . he will toss away the empty container, and there will be Maywood's coat of arms, a tin can couchant on the roof of the world.[1]

So wrote a Chicago Times writer, penning a profile of Maywood in 1938.  Three miles west of Chicago’s border, Maywood--a suburb of 25,000 in 1930--was home to a large factory operated by the American Can Company. A number of smaller institutions were also located in Maywood, among them a Lutheran Seminary, a Baptist Old People's Home, and an orphanage.  Hines Veteran Hospital was located just south of the village, and Canada Dry (beverages) also had a factory in Maywood.  Unlike many suburbs, Maywood also had a small African-American community--roughly 3% of the population in 1930.[2]   This suburb thus offers an opportunity to examine how a relatively diverse suburb (both racially and economically) responded to the challenges of the Depression.  Examination of this suburb tells two stories.  One is of local leaders and civic and community organizations who struggled to do their very best to aid the needy during both the Hoover and Roosevelt years.  The second story tells how difficult it could be to fund relief, which gave rise to some class conflict.

Maywood had its beginning in 1869, when Colonel William T. Nichols received a charter for a joint stock corporation called the Maywood Company. In 1900, Maywood's population was 4,532.  This increased to 8,033 in 1910, and 12,072 lived in Maywood by 1920.  Like much of the Chicagoland area, the 1920's were years of tremendous growth for the town, and the 1930 census revealed a population of 25,829.  Sixty years later, the town's population was 27,139, so it is safe to say that the town was fairly well built up on the eve of the Depression.[3]

A study of the 1929-30 Maywood City Directory shows that the residents worked in a variety of jobs, though most could be described as "skilled" tradespeople.  The fifteen most common occupations culled from 753 names listed under three letters of the alphabet were:[4]

Chauffeur  (22)                         Worker in "big factory"  (17)

Carpenter  (15)                                    Manager/Foreman  (23)

Clerical  (57)                                        Mechanic  (24)

Grocer  (13)                                         Machinist  (10)

Salesperson (34)                                  Railroad Worker (13)  

Laborer  (31)                                       Contractor (12)

Student (20)                                         Teacher (12)

Secretary/Stenographer  (21).

 

There were also several listings for employees of the following large factories—Western Electric, Illinois Bell, and American Can.

A study of the figures from the 1940 Census (table 1) reveals that Maywood was a mixed suburb economically.  If one defines "middle-class" as those who labored in the first four categories of the table (professional, semi-professional, managers/proprietors/officials, and clerical/sales), and "working class" as those in six of the next seven (crafts/foreman, laborers, operatives, service workers, those on Public Emergency Work, and domestic service employees).  Note that 46.2% of Maywood's residents could be defined "middle-class" and an equal percentage (again 46.2%) may be defined "working-class."  It may be argued that "professional" should be placed in "upper-class."  (The author did not find any data about income levels of Maywood or any other local communities)  Yet these figures do provide evidence that Maywood was essentially a mixed suburb occupationally, and therefore economically as well.

Maywood was the largest town in Proviso Township, which also included the towns of Forest Park, Broadview, Hillside, Westchester, Bellwood, and Melrose Park.  There were two theaters in town--the Yale and the Lido.  The town had five elementary schools, and Proviso High School (located in Maywood) had over 3,000 students, making it one of the largest non-city high schools in the state.  There were over twenty churches in town and also a synagogue.  Maywood may not have had the reputation of being wealthy as did nearby Oak Park or Elmhurst, but it was a comfortable suburb.  Indeed, the planning done by Colonel Nichols in the 1870s still gave the town something of an "elite" reputation fifty years later.[5]

Maywood During the Hoover Years

The Great Depression came early to Maywood.  The town was adversely affected by the building slump of 1929.  In 1928, the building total for Maywood was $255,550.  A year later it was only $19,889.[6] A group of businessmen, meeting the week before the stock market crashed, spoke of the "present downturn."[7]   That winter, an employee at a health center in Maywood noticed that poverty was much greater in the town than it had been in previous winters.[8]  The village grappled with financial problems even before the Crash.  In the spring of 1929, the town was more than $100,000 in debt.[9]   The high school was also having difficulties paying its teachers.[10]

The increasing number of bank failures around the country included Maywood's three banks, in addition to those in nearby communities.  The People's State Bank closed on February 8, 1930.[11]  The next year, the Forest Park Trust and Savings suspended operations on December 16, the Proviso State Bank closed on December 17, and the Maywood State Bank and the Melrose Park State Bank closed on December 18.[12]  The closing of so many banks so close together made life very difficult for the townspeople.   Hugh Muir was an automobile painter who had both his checking account and his mortgage at the Maywood State Bank.  He thought he could at least have some of his checking account applied to his mortgage, but when he went to the receiver's office, he learned the Bank (before it had closed) had sold his mortgage to another company, so he lost money left in his check account and no relief on his mortgage payment.[13]   The community struggled to remain upbeat during these difficult days.  Seven years later the Herald recalled what it was like.  Writing about a local church, it reported, "As with so many congregations, business houses, and individuals, notes could not be met, there was default on interest, and the mortgage was due, while with members losing their homes and positions and suffering cuts in salary."[14]  The phrase "As with so many" suggests that a far greater number than ordinary were going through difficult, challenging circumstances. 

One creative way the town responded to the bank closings was through the establishment of the clearinghouse.  This was an institution established by some village businessmen, many of whom belonged to the Lions Club.  Patterned after clearinghouses in operation in Des Plaines and Melrose Park, it opened in early 1933.  Depositors in a bank, anticipating a 5% dividend, could buy necessities from local merchants, who would then be paid by the bank receiver when the dividend was due.  The clearinghouse ran for about four years.   Hugh Muir recalls that some merchants preferred to barter with each other.[15]

As the Depression worsened, the community expanded its charitable operations.  Prior to the Depression, the Maywood Public Welfare Organization (which had been formed in 1919) sought to aid the needy in town.   In 1929, the Maywood Central Relief Committee was formed as an auxiliary of the Public Welfare Organization.  It was particularly active in the winters of 1930-31 and 1931-32.  The committee divided the town into 12 (some accounts say 42) sections.[16] Each section had a man and a woman in charge to investigate cases that were called to the attention of the committee.  The office was open six days a week--weekdays from 8 to 5, and Saturdays from 8 to 1. During the winter of 1930-31, the committee spent $8,652.50 to meet the needs of 111 families.[17]

The Relief Committee also helped form (with help from members of the Lions and the Rotary Clubs) the Community Garden, which operated for several summers in the 1930s.  One summer, 169 unemployed residents of Maywood cultivated a 69-acre community garden that bordered River and North Avenues.  Those who gardened, chopped wood in the winter to buy seeds, and a farmer who farmed next to the garden donated equipment.  Students in Proviso High's domestic science classes canned the surplus, which were stored at the Relief Committee offices.[18]

These strong and wonderful examples of combating need were conducted in increasingly difficult times.   A candid and depressing article in the December 24, 1930 Herald entitled "Reasons for Relief" (with the subtitle "Investigator Finds Many Cases of Want in Visits to Local Homes") stated:

Old man Christmas in Maywood next Thursday is going to have a heart filled with more sympathy and cheer than he ever had before.  Because after he leaves his good will in the homes of Maywood's happy, prosperous families, he will turn to those many sad homes where unemployed fathers and mothers are struggling to keep their boys and girls from starvation and cold.[19]

 

The article described the circumstances of some of those in need.  During the winter of 1931-32, the Central Relief Committee was helping 283 families -- more than twice the number they aided the previous winter -- and was having increasing difficulty securing adequate funding.  In fact, the distribution of relief in Maywood was taken over by the Cook County Welfare Bureau on May 1, 1932.[20] 

In these tough times, people did their very best to keep their spirits up.  Some actually attributed the harsh economic climate to psychological problems.  A speaker at a Lions Club meeting blamed the depression on a mental state.[21] Another speaker, talking to the Maywood Real Estate Board, opined, "the trouble with 1930 was that we all thought this was going to happen and it did. . . . [W]e don't have to fear the Reds of Russia half as much as the Blues of America."[22]  Advertisements in the Herald urged residents to put money in circulation.[23]

Yet exhortations to think constructively and to spend money were difficult if not impossible for those directly touched by the Depression.  One "working class homeowner" vented his frustrations in a letter to the Herald:

How can we buy normally when about ten percent of the working class gets no salary at all and twenty percent get only part of their normal wages for they are working only a few hours per week. I'll tell you my own experience for example.  The early part of last year I was out of work for seven months.  When I did finally get work I had to work for half of my former wages.  I had a large mortgage to keep paying on my home, and payments had to be made.  The taxes came.  They were thirty percent higher.  Of improvements there couldn't even be a thought.  After I started working I started saving every cent so as to pay my taxes, not even giving myself the pleasure of a show and when I finally had enough in the bank for my taxes what happens.  They close the bank.[24]

The letter illustrates the spiral in which so many people were caught.  With no work or only temporary employment, they first used up their savings and then risked losing their homes.  They could not pump money into the economy.  Thus, while the leaders of Maywood stayed upbeat and strove to take care of their own, it was becoming increasingly difficult to do so. 

What was happening in Maywood, then, was that traditional strategies for hard times were being challenged.  People believed in saving for hard times, but the banks were closing.  People believed in charity, but the local organizations were swamped.  Community leaders strove to keep morale up, but the town had never--with the possible exception of the Depression of the late 1870s--known such difficult times.

Maywood and the New Deal

With no banks and overburdened local welfare agencies, Maywood welcomed the New Deal.  The bank moratorium did not really affect the town, as residents had more or less accustomed themselves to closed banks.  The town enthusiastically supported the National Recovery Act (NRA), however.  A local doctor--Charles Wiley--was named the "General" of Maywood's NRA campaign.  He selected three "Colonels" to aid him in administering the program.  Colonel #1 was to conduct a block by block census to see how many people were unemployed.  Colonel #2 was in charge of publicity.  Colonel #3 was to organize and direct a speaker's bureau.  On 1 August 1933, twenty-six businessmen went to a local NRA conference in Champaign.  (Interestingly, Maywood accepted the conservative aspects of the NRA, such as military organization and local control.)  In early September, one of Maywood's sister cities (Melrose Park) bragged that it was the first village in the United States to attain 100% compliance (businesses and residences) with the goals of the NRA.[25]

The next New Deal program to directly affect the town was the Civil Works Administration (CWA—the emergency jobs program established in the fall of 1933 by the Roosevelt Administration), which would leave a lasting legacy in Maywood in the form of the football stadium at Proviso High School.  Registration for CWA jobs began on November 20; one hundred men appeared in the office that morning.  One of the first projects approved was the stadium.  However, the stadium was not finished when the CWA shut down in early 1934.  It was considered worthwhile enough to be completed, however, and continued under the auspices of the Illinois Emergency Relief Commission.  The stadium was finished later in 1934.  Standing tall for more than six decades, it has been the home of many exciting football games and track meets.[26]

The township planned a celebration after the stadium was completed.  A football game was arranged between the Maywood Athletic Club and the Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League.  A large parade--which wound its way through all seven towns of Proviso Township--preceded the game.  Dr. Preston Bradley of the People's Church of Chicago gave a speech, in which he heralded the completion of the stadium as a sterling example of cooperation between local, state, and federal governments.  All of this enthusiasm did not help the Maywood team, however, as the Cardinals won 43-0.[27]

Another popular New Deal program with lasting effects was the night school.  Before the Depression, about 35% of Proviso High's graduates went to college.[28]  The Depression made it harder for young people to stay in school.  In late 1933, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) announced that a night school would begin at Proviso.  Fourteen teachers, one librarian, and two clerical workers were hired to staff the school.  The teachers, who were paid $100 per month, taught twenty-one different subjects.  More than a thousand students enrolled in the program.[29]

These projects were enthusiastically publicized.  Inevitably, however, there were problems.  Workers complained about rude case workers and delayed payments.  A group of them met with State Senator Arthur A. Huebesch.  Soon some workers formed their own organization--the Proviso Workers Brotherhood.  The Brotherhood was made up at first of CWA workers only, but later was open to anyone who wished to join.[30]    A similar organization--the Proviso Workers Association--met frequently at a local Methodist church.  The Association had forums on such topics as "Minimum Wage Laws" and "Red Cross Activities."  They presented a play called "Take My Advice,” about a worker named Bob.  Bob throws off the yoke of John Wargrim, the powerful boss of the town of "Eureka."[31] After these exciting developments, mention of workers' organizations disappeared from the Herald for two years.

These groups (the Workers Brotherhood and the Workers Association) were mostly lobbying bodies for the workers.  That they appeared intermittently and lacked strong leadership indicates they were not intent on class struggle or even that they were necessarily disgruntled with the New Deal.  Rather, they wanted respect, decent pay and better transportation to their jobs.  The Association also helped workers find jobs.  Workers in Maywood and Proviso Township may not have liked their bosses in the 1930s, but may also have dreamed that they or their children may one day be the bosses.

The Works Progress Association (WPA) gave Maywood a chance to complete some public works projects that were badly needed.  One--repairing the storm sewers--had been considered in the 20s but had been deemed too expensive.  Work commenced on the storm sewers in November 1935.  The project called for the construction of 480 manholes and the installation of 17,000 lineal feet of concrete pipe ranging from 8 feet to 5 inches in circumference.  The project lasted for almost a year and provided work for more than a thousand men.[32]

The WPA Recreation projects also provided a useful service.  Classes were held in barn dancing, first aid, tap dancing, golf, badminton, chess and checkers.  There was also a men's volleyball league and a women's cycling club.  Wrestling events were held at the National Guard Armory on Roosevelt Road.  The WPA also sponsored an ice derby.[33]  The National Youth Administration (NYA) helped many students stay in school.  Sixty-nine students held jobs at Proviso High in 1935.[34]

That the New Deal touched Maywood's citizens in a positive way can be seen by studying election results.  In 1928, Maywood preferred Herbert Hoover to Al Smith, 7,557 to 3,189.[35] In the 1936 elections, Maywood still preferred the Republican candidate, Alf Landon, over President Roosevelt.  However, the vote was much closer, with 5,082 for Landon and 4,884 for Roosevelt.[36]  (The township, however, supported Roosevelt 15,825 to 13,623.  Maywood's sister city, Melrose Park, with a heavy Italian-American working-class population, tended to vote Democratic.)  Four years later, the ratio was similar to the 1928 election, with Maywood's voters preferring the Republican Wendell Wilkie over Roosevelt 8,195 to 5,228.[37]  The closer 1936 vote shows that many Maywoodians were grateful for the efforts of the New Deal.

 Yet while the 1936 vote shows a substantial shift to Roosevelt, it is still instructive that a majority of the town's residents voted against him.  Thus, while need was still evident in 1936, and though the town had co-operated and backed several New Deal projects such as the football stadium, many in the community were not entirely supportive of the New Deal.  This is evident by studying the township relief crisis of 1936-37.  Indeed, the fight to pass a required property tax increase in the township would reveal significant class conflict.

The Relief Crisis of 1936-37

Although several New Deal programs were a visible force in Maywood, it is important to realize that by 1935 (even though it was the time of the "Second New Deal"), not all relief money was coming from the federal government.  Indeed, although Illinois was one of the first states to receive FERA money in 1933, in 1935 Harry Hopkins refused Illinois any more aid.  (Hopkins insisted that Illinois contribute $3 million a month to receive the federal allotment of $9 million per month.)[38]  This meant that state and local governments had to once again fund relief.  In this difficult climate, Governor Henry Horner pushed a very unpopular sales tax through the legislature.[39]  This tax would be split among the states' townships, but in 1936 the townships were also required to pass a real estate levy (which would raise taxes $0.30 per $100 assessed property value) in order to qualify for the relief funds.  In Proviso Township, the struggle to pass this levy would become an eight-month ordeal.  In addition to revealing class conflict, the crisis shows how challenging it was for local governments to come up with relief money during the depression.

When the levy was first introduced at a township meeting--open to all registered voters--in July 1936, it was voted down by a margin of 10-1.  At the time, Proviso Township had 696 families on relief.[40]   The township was thus not eligible for state money, the leaders of the seven towns (along with school board leaders) of the township traveled to Springfield to plead for clemency from Gov. Horner.  The governor listened attentively to their plea, but informed them that by law relief was their own responsibility, and that they would have to find the means to pay for it.[41]

Township leaders thus had no other choice than to call another election.  The levy was voted down again, at a second election in October.[42] Two factions battled each other for influence during these months.  On one side were the advocates of relief, organized as the Citizen's Committee on Relief.  Their leader was Reverend Armand Guerrero, the Pastor of the Community Methodist Church in Forest Park.  Rev. Guerrero urged the passing of the levy "as a duty to the community."[43] He lent his church as a meeting place for those on relief, and, in a letter to the Herald, angrily criticized those who voted against the levy.[44]

On the other side were certain property owners, many of whom belonged to the Proviso Township Taxpayer's Association.  They contended that there was too much waste in the relief system, that the Mothers Pensions and Blind Pensions were already serving the needy, and that the levy was unfair because it singled out property owners.  A leader of the Association also insisted that the township deserved its share of the sales tax, period.  If Proviso received its share, he argued, "there is absolutely no need for a levy on real estate in Proviso Township."[45] Another property owner contended that just because he owned a house (which he admitted, he still had because of the HOLC) did not mean he had the means to pay more taxes.  This homeowner wrote the Herald:

Someone said 'nice people.'  Does that person pay property tax?  The writer doubts it.  Let us look at the facts.  My home was saved through the HOLC.  We are just able to meet the present tax bill.  How?  By going without food, clothing, and medical care and medicine.  Ask any homeowner if this is not a fact.[46]

This letter is similar to the one by the working class homeowner who saved to pay his property taxes, only to lose his savings when the bank closed.  Residents were being exhorted to spend and pay taxes, but what if they basically had no money to do so?

As a result of the failed levies, the township had to close its relief office.[47] Private charities had to pick up the relief effort.  The township supervisor was besieged with requests for the necessities of life.[48] The American Legion and the Goodfellows had drives for the families on relief, and collected over 2,000 Christmas baskets, and the Community Chest administered relief for the duration of the winter.[49] This was a far greater amount than had ever been collected, but among 500 needy families, how much would 2,000 baskets provide?  The township leaders admitted as much, and kept pushing for the passing of the levy.  Finally, on 6 April 1937, they called a township meeting, and the levy passed.  Proviso (and Maywood) would now be eligible for state money.[50]

The relief crisis demonstrates how hard it was to fund relief during the Depression.  Even though the New Deal was involving the federal government in people's lives in an unprecedented way (during peacetime), it is instructive that local governments were still expected to raise money for relief.  Hopkins required Illinois to raise a certain amount of money before he would release federal funds, and Governor Horner, in turn, required townships to raise property taxes before he would increase state aid.  As is so often the case, raising taxes proved unpopular.

Secondly, the relief crisis shows that some class conflict existed in this relatively quiet suburb.  Homeowners bitterly resented a request that they pay higher taxes to fund relief for those who were even more destitute than they.  Were these people selfish?  Perhaps some were.  Yet many of them were working part-time and were strapped themselves.  Also, the tax was only to be paid by property owners, and those who had to pay it thus saw it as an attack on those who had worked hard to save and buy a house.  In their eyes, they were the "deserving poor."  Indeed, throughout the state there remained some ill feeling towards those on relief.  In 1940, Frank Glick--writing the story of the Illinois Emergency Relief Commission--noted that the Commission had only been formed with great reluctance, and throughout its existence public opinion was rather antagonistic towards it.[51]

Suffering Differently:  Maywood's African-American Community

One night in 1933, Dr. Charles Wiley--the same Charles Wiley who was the local "General" for the NRA campaign--went over to the residence of Charles E. Divers in the African-American section of town.  Charles Divers did janitorial work and one of the offices he cleaned was Dr. Wiley's.  That night Dr. Wiley delivered the Divers' baby for free.  The parents determined that if the baby was a boy he would be named Wiley, in honor of Dr. Wiley.  That night Marion Divers delivered a beautiful baby girl, who was named Consuela (after Consuela Vanderbilt).  Connie Divers' fondest memory of the 1930's would be tap dancing on the marble floor of the Lido Theater while her mother (who also worked at American Can) worked as a matron in the ladies room.[52]

Virtually all of Maywood's blacks lived near the railroad tracks in an area that stretched from St. Charles Road on the north to Madison Street on the south, and from 10th Street on the east to 13th Street on the west.  Two of Maywood's churches--the Second Baptist Church and Canaan African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.)--were black.  Some African Americans worshipped at the local Episcopal Church, but did not feel wholly included in the life of the church, and started a mission church, named St. Simon's, for blacks.[53]   In some ways the town was progressive.  A 1926 article in the Herald, "Give Thought to the Negro," written by a researcher of the United Charities of Chicago, told of the harsh realities African Americans faced at the time.[54] The next year the paper published an editorial that was entitled, "We Do Not Live in the South!"  The editorial criticized a rival newspaper for its coverage of a murder in the black section of Maywood, and stated:

For a long time past, there have been high class negro residents in this town, who have given loyalty and love to its institutions.  Statements that have been made are a direct slander against their name and as such should be resented - not only by the negro race but by the right-thinking, well-meaning white citizens as well.[55]

In other ways, the town reflected the customs of the times.  During the 1930s only a handful of photographs of African Americans appeared in the pages of the Maywood Herald.  In each case the picture featured a photograph of a Proviso High School athletic team, in which an African American participated.  Also, in 1938, Maywood celebrated its seventieth anniversary.  The town's boosters produced a handsome booklet about the town's organizations, schools, churches, police and fire departments and governing bodies.  If one knew nothing else about Maywood, one would assume the town was lily-white.  Not one African American is in any of the photographs.  Similarly, glancing through the Provi--the Proviso High School Yearbook--one is struck by seeing virtually no black faces in any of the pictures or the clubs and organizations sponsored by the school.[56]

The churches performed valuable social service functions for the black community during the depression.  Rev. Jesse Coleman, Pastor of Second Baptist from 1930-37, was an active leader in the black community, and served as a liaison to the community as a whole.  He served as one of the directors of Maywood Central Relief Committee, and one winter manned the office on Mondays.[57]  He also served as First Vice-President of the Ministerial Association, preached often at a local CCC camp, and served as chairman of the Proviso Township Emergency Relief Committee for Colored People.  Rev. Coleman established a free employment agency at the church, which, the Herald reported, helped more than 300 people.  He also established a commission on race relations, and read a five year study on the race problem in Maywood at an inter-racial meeting at Second Baptist.[58]  Moreover, he co-managed the Community Garden and lobbied the Forest Preserve for jobs for blacks.[59]

New Deal programs also aided Maywood's African Americans.  An Emergency Night School was held at Second Baptist, with classes held from 4 to 8:15 p.m.  Mondays through Fridays.[60]  Yet like so many communities, a substantial amount of help for the needy came from family and friends.  Northica Stone and Geri Stenson remember neighbors helping each other.[61]  Sidney Hearst recalled a grocer named Zeinfeld, who "helped a lot of Maywood's people . . . he gave them credit during the Depression."[62]  When asked at a videotaping of Maywood's senior citizens in 1998 about the depression, he and Bobbie Folkes replied, "Nobody suffered."[63]

There were few advantages for an African American living in Maywood in the 1930s.  Blacks could and did participate in the community.  Fleming Tyler was elected Republican committeeman for District 28 of Proviso Township in 1934, and George Harrison served on the Washington Park Board in the 1920s and 30s.[64]  Washington School had 375 students in 1931, 175 of which were black.  Thirteen African Americans, representing churches and other race organizations, lobbied the Board of Education to begin hiring black teachers and staff members.  They got nowhere.[65] At the same time, both Robert Fowlkes and Josephine Becker remember receiving an excellent education in Maywood.  Fowlkes recalled in 1998, "The teachers at Washington School were excellent. . . . [T]hey were all white, but the students were white and black. . . .  [T]hey taught us all well."[66] One white man in the community strove to persuade his fellow whites not to sell their homes to Jews or blacks, though by then many blacks (and Jews) already owned their own homes.[67]  The fact is that there was de facto segregation in much of life in the 1930s.  The two races lived in distinctively different social circles.  Yet it must be said that this held true for Catholics, Protestants, and Jews as well.[68]

Conclusion

The story of Maywood during the Depression is a story of how an industrious suburb was challenged by the crisis.  A mixed suburb (of working class and middle class, and--for the time--a rare inter-racial town), most of Maywood's residents were pursuing the "American way of life" (that is, working and saving with the goal of doing a little bit better than what they had been raised with) in the 1920s.  Yet the depression hit the town harder than anything had since the depression of the 1870s did during the town's infancy.  Although the numbers of people affected were not nearly as high as in Bronzeville, the magnitude of need was unprecedented in the town's history.  Though local institutions responded as well as they could, there was substantial want in the town in 1932.

Against this need, the New Deal was both well-received and basically appreciated, at least by many Maywoodians.  The CWA and the WPA left lasting legacies in the town in the form of the football stadium and the storm sewers.  They also provided needed jobs to many workers.  Yet questions persisted about the New Deal.  Workers felt patronized, and many residents (both working-class and middle-class) felt oppressed by new and higher taxes.  This is best seen during the relief crisis of 1936-37.  The township leaders realized that the poor levy had to be passed, whether they (and the residents) liked it or not.  Yet many residents felt they should not or could not pay the tax.  The conflict that ensued shows how difficult it could be to fund relief during the depression.  During this time, Maywood's small black population was "suffering differently"--enjoying a better education and some better opportunities than blacks in the city or the south--but still enduring the life of a second class citizen.



[1] Chicago Times, 6 November 1938.

[2] Fifteenth Census of the United States, III: Population, Part One--1930, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), 630.

[3] 1990 Census of Population and Housing, Summary File Tape 3: Population: Race, Hispanic Origin, and Veteran States (Copy, Maywood Public Library).

[4] Maywood City Directory 1929-1930 (Microfilm reel #16, Maywood Public Library).  The author analyzed the occupations of 753 residents listed under three different letters in the Directory—C, Y, and Q.

[5] Chicago Tribune, 28 September 1986.

[6] Maywood Herald, 12 December 1929.

[7] Ibid., 17 October 1929.

[8] Ibid., 23 January 1930.

[9] Ibid., 9 May 1929.

[10] Ibid., 13 February 1930.

[11] Ibid., 13 February 1930, 4 May 1933.

[12] Ibid., 25 December 1931, 4 May 1933.

[13] Interview with Hugh Muir, Maywood, Illinois, 28 April 1998.

[14] Maywood Herald, 28 October 1937.

[15] Interview with Hugh Muir, 28 April 1998; Maywood Herald, 26 January 1933; 3 February 1933.

[16] The 31 October 1931 Chicago Defender reported twelve sections. The 11 December 1930 Maywood Herald stated that there were forty-two.

[17] Maywood Herald, 11 December 1930, 21 May 1931.

[18] Undated article in Community Canning Project Scrapbook, Box 1, file 25, Lombard Historical Museum (LHM), Lombard, Illinois; Maywood Herald, 25 April 1934, 15 May 1935.

[19] Maywood Herald, 24 December 1930.

[20] Ibid., 17 November 1932.

[21] Ibid., 7 August 1930.

[22] Ibid., 22 January 1931.

[23] Ibid., 15 January 1932.

[24] Ibid., 27 November 1930.

[25] Ibid., 9, 16 August 1933, 6 September 1933. Also 9 March 1933 about the banking moratorium.

[26] Ibid., 3 April 1935, 10 October 1934. Also Frank Anthony Jenks, “The Historical and Educational Development of Proviso Township High School, 1910-1954” (MA Thesis, DePaul University, 1954) 8.

[27] Ibid., 10 October 1934.

[28] Ibid., 2 February 1930.

[29] Ibid., 27 December 1933.

[30] Ibid., 10, 17 January 1934.

[31] Ibid., 21 February 1934, 9 May 1934.

[32] Festival of Progress: Maywood, Illinois 70th Anniversary (Privately printed, n.d.), 4.

[33] Ibid., 20.

[34] Maywood Herald, 20 October 1935.

[35] Ibid., 15 November 1928.

[36] Ibid., 5 November 1936.

[37] Ibid., 7 November 1940.

[38] Chicago Daily Tribune, 6 May 1935.

[39] Thomas G. Littlewood, Horner of Illinois (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1969), 154.

[40] Maywood Herald, 2 July 1936, 30 July 1936.

[41] Ibid., 14 August 1936.

[42] Ibid., 31 October 1936, 5, 12, 19 November 1936, 17 December 1936.

[43] Ibid., 5 November 1936.

[44] Ibid., 5 November 1936.

[45] Ibid., 17 November 1936.

[46] Ibid., 12 November 1936. The HOLC was the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation, a New Deal program that allowed homeowners to take out loans on their homes, thus avoiding foreclosure.

[47] Ibid., 19 November 1936.

[48] Ibid., 19 November 1936.

[49] Ibid., 12 February 1937.

[50] Ibid., 8 April 1937.

[51] Frank Z. Glick, The Illinois Emergency Relief Commission (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940), 5, 114.

[52] Connie Divers Bradley, interview by author, Maywood, Illinois, 1 October 1998.

[53] “A History of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, Maywood, Illinois 1871-1976” (Privately printed, n.d.), 11.

[54] Maywood Herald, 31 December 1926.

[55] Ibid., 25 February 1927.

[56] Provi (yearbook of Proviso High School, 1930-1937), Microfilm collection, rolls # 2 and 3, Maywood Public Library. Also Festival of Progress.

[57] Chicago Defender, 31 October 1931, 21 November 1931.

[58] Ibid., 3 January 1951. Also Maywood Herald, 7 November 1934, 6 March 1935, 20 October 1935.

[59] Chicago Defender, 16 July 1932.

[60] Maywood Herald, 12 December 1934.

[61] Josephine Becker, Geraldine Stenson, and Northica Stone, interview by author, Maywood, Illinois, 3 December 1997.

[62] The Days of Wine and Roses (videotape), West Town Historical Museum (WTHM), Maywood, Illinois.

[63] Answer to a question posed by the author regarding suffering during the Depression, at the videotaping, 21 March 1998.

[64] Chicago Defender, 21 April 1934; Maywood City Directory.

[65] Maywood Herald, 18 June 1931.

[66] The Days of Wine and Roses.

[67] Ibid.

[68] The Judeo-Christian Perspective: A Century Glance video recording produced by Cliff Johnson (River Forest: Concordia Media Productions, 1997). A video recording about religious life in Oak Park and River Forest—towns just east of Maywood. Most of the interviewees remember events from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.