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Violence during the interwar period


Wrigley building Chicago river Illinois
Wrigley building Chicago river Illinois

Violence marred the interwar period. Race riots erupted across the United States in the summer of 1919, the worst occurring in Chicago on July 27. When a black youth swimming in Lake Michigan drifted into an area reserved for whites, he was stoned and drowned. Police refused to arrest the white man whom black observers considered responsible, and angry crowds gathered on the beach. Violence erupted and continued throughout the city for 13 days, resulting in 38 dead, 537 injured, and 1,000 black families left homeless. The riots shocked the nation and prompted many volunteer organizations to work for equality.

In 1919 the U.S. Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, also called the Volstead Act, which enforced the prohibition of alcoholic beverages under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

While the Volstead Act was in effect (1919-1933), Chicago was notorious for its illegal alcohol smuggling, called bootlegging, and for ruthless gang warfare. Gangsters like “Bugs” Moran and Al Capone fought turf wars to control the huge profits from illegal alcohol sales and gambling. The violence was epitomized by the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre of 1929, in which Capone won control of Chicago’s underworld when his henchmen, dressed as police officers, killed six of Moran’s gangsters and a visitor.

During the 1920s the state expanded its transportation infrastructure to meet the increased demands of industry and commerce. The government built a statewide highway system of hard-surfaced roads and began work on the Illinois Waterway, which eventually connected Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

Great Depression


The decade-long Great Depression that followed the stock-market crash of October 1929 threw thousands of Illinoisans out of work. The state’s farmers suffered from the drastic decline in farm prices and, especially in western Illinois, a long drought resulted in soil erosion and lost crops. Four special sessions of the state legislature were called in 1932 to set up emergency relief programs. Under the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt federal funds helped create huge public works projects. Farm areas that had suffered soil erosion employed soil conservation measures and the state’s agricultural base was diversified:

Soybean cultivation began at that time. In 1933, in the midst of the depression, Chicago celebrated the 100th anniversary of its incorporation as a town by holding a Century of Progress Exposition. The financially successful exposition helped keep many businesses in the Chicago area from going bankrupt. In 1937 the discovery of new oil fields near Patoka set off a boom in oil production in the southern part of the state. "Illinois" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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