Cicero's History

graphicThe Town of Cicero is the only incorporated town in Cook County, and one of the oldest and largest municipalities in the State of Illinois. It bears the name of the great Roman statesman of the First Century B.C., Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Among the townships created by the County Board in 1849 was a 36 square mile tract bounded by what are today Western, North and Harlem Avenues, and Pershing Road. On June 23, 1857, 14 electors met to organize a local government for the district, which they named "The Town of Cicero." Railroads, immigration and the Civil War contributed to economic growth in the new township, which by 1867 numbered 3,000 residents. In that year, the state legislature incorporated the Town of Cicero as a municipality with a special charter, which was revised in 1869. Township and municipal functions have subsequently been discharged by a single board of elected officials.

Cicero’s rapid development in these early days collided with the expanding political power of its neighbor, the City of Chicago. By 1889, Chicago had annexed more than half of the original town. An 1899 referendum ceded the Austin neighborhood to the city and in the following year land containing a race track was transferred to Stickney Township.

graphicOn July 21, 1899, Ernest Hemingway, winner of both the Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes, was born within the Town of Cicero, in what is today the Village of Oak Park. In 1901, the three remaining components of the Town-today’s Oak Park, Berwyn and Cicero-voted to separate. The surviving Town of Cicero retained less than six of the 36 square miles carved out in 1849. Immigrants and their families swelled the town’s population, however, and housing construction boomed within its diminished territory.

Served by a network of railroads, Cicero attracted many industries in the twentieth century and became the largest manufacturing center in the state after Chicago. The Cicero Flying Field established in 1911 was one of the first airfields in the Midwest.

W. Edwards Deming began his pioneering work on management techniques in the 1920s at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works, an industrial colossus which employed more than 40,000 people during World War II and was the dominant business in town for eight decades.

From the early townsmen who fought in the Union Army during the Civil War, Ciceronians have proudly served in the armed forces. Their bravery is exemplified by Boatswain’s Mate Joseph P. Steffan, who died aboard the U.S.S. Arizona in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Capt. Edward C. Krzyzowski, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in Korea.

Cicero is composed of eight neighborhoods, with their own distinct characteristics and names: Boulevard Manor, Clyde, Drexel, Grant Works, Hawthorne, Morton Park, Parkholme and Warren Park. Three U.S. Presidents-Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush-visited Cicero on their roads to the White House. The Town of Cicero has a colorful history, which forms a part of the larger stories of the county, state and nation.

 

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