200 Years of Illinois: The Great Depression Is our dinner

breadlineMay 20, 1935 proved that budget impasses have played a part in Illinois history for a long time. That day, the papers printed warnings that over a million state residents faced hunger, perhaps outright starvation, due to wrangling between Springfield and the federal government.

The Associated Press put it succinctly:

Cupboards were bare in thousands of homes today where no food orders have been received for a week or more because the Illinois emergency relief commission has no funds.

The Depression was in full tilt boogie mode. With unemployment widespread, relief programs kept people fed and alive. Illinois was to receive $12 million in funds, if it ponied up $3 million on its own. Governor Henry Horner, like many other holders of his office, pled poverty–the state simply had no money. Known as an honest politician (unlike many other other holders of his office), Horner clashed often with Democratic machine politicians, including Ed Kelly, the mayor of Chicago, but the two agreed to use the influence of their respective offices to push through legislation that would hike the state sales tax to three percent. The increase in the tax raised the necessary funds, federal money came through, and Illinois avoided exacerbating an already serious crisis.

By the way, according to the papers, you could also buy a “full metal” refrigerator for $17.95.