From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 44COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMANDER OF G.A.R. POST NO. 5 NOTIFYING THE CITY CLERK OF THAT POST'S INTENTION TO UNDERTAKE THE RELIEF OF INDIGENT VETERANS
July 8, 1895
The Panic of 1893 ushered in four years of economic depression nationwide. As production slowed unemployment rose significantly and those without jobs were unable to provide for themselves and their families. At the request of the Grand Army of the Republic, a national organization of Union Civil War veterans, the state's general assembly passed legislation in June of 1895 which allowed the G.A.R. to intercede on behalf of indigent veterans of the War of the Rebellion. Overseers of the poor were prohibited from sending destitute veterans, their families or the families of deceased veterans to any almshouse or orphan asylum. Instead overseers were to draw on relief funds established by local G.A.R. posts in order to provide for those specified individuals in their own homes.
The G.A.R. was organized in Springfield, Illinois in 1865. The George H. Thomas Post No. 5 was established in Chicago in 1873. Its meeting hall in 1895 was at the Masonic Temple. This building had been constructed with a steel frame by Daniel H. Burnham and John W. Root in 1892 at the corner of State and Randolph Streets. Standing eighteen stories, it was Chicago's leading skyscraper at the time of its completion and indeed the world's tallest building, a fact which did not prevent its demolition in 1939.
Points to Consider
What was the purpose of this document and what was "An Act to regulate the granting of relief to indigent war veterans and their families"?
What was the Grand Army of the Republic? Name organizations similar to it today?
Architecturally, what was the significance of the Masonic Temple where the G.A.R.'s Commandery Hall was located?
Do war veterans currently receive any kinds of special benefits? Should they and why?