ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES
From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
ORDINANCE FOR RELIEF OF THE NEEDY AND SUFFERING POOR
December 14, 1896
Since the stock market crash of 1893 the nation's economy had been in turmoil. Thousands of businesses failed and over a million people were unable to find work. In the worst months of the nineties overall production was down by twenty-five percent. A mild recovery was experienced in 1895 but the slump returned and remained through 1896 and 1897. In Chicago the needs of the unemployed exceeded the means of charity organizations. The Chicago Relief and Aid Society, the city's semi-official welfare institution, could not meet demands nor could the mutual aid societies of the various ethnic groups. In the winter months public buildings, including city hall, were opened at night to accommodate the homeless.
This ordinance was referred to the Committee on Finance the same day it was submitted. The following week that committee without comment recommended that it be placed on file and with that the full council concurred.
Points to Consider
How was this ordinance proposing to provide for the needy? How does this proposed method of welfare compare to those employed today?
Describe John Coughlin.
Contrast conditions described in this document with the image of the "gay nineties."
What causes economic depressions?