Explore Cicero History
The Local History Room
The Local History Room at the Cicero Public Library contains a diverse collection regarding the history of the Town of Cicero, including some of the collections held by the now-defunct Cicero Historical Society.
In-person visits to the Local History Room, for research or otherwise, are available by appointment only. Appointments are subject to staff availability. Patrons may bring their own cameras to take photos of collection items without flash.
If you have a local history question, you may contact the Reference Department via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (708) 652-8084 x6. Reference staff will make reasonable efforts to answer submitted questions.
Pictured: The Cicero Public Library, 1921.
General History Resources
The most comprehensive early history of the Town of Cicero comes from the book The Town of Cicero: History, Advantages, and Government, by Walter Bishop Spelman, A.B. This book is available to read online, as well as in print within our local history collection. For other print books in our local history collection, look HERE.
Cicero Revisted, an overview of the history of Cicero, is available as an eBook HERE.
In 2001, This American Life recorded a 4-part radio series on Cicero’s past and present.
Photography and Architecture
Many historical photos of Cicero are available online to view. These include:
- Chicago Tribune’s Photo Gallery of Cicero, Illinois
- What Was There: Historical Photos of Cicero Buildings
Additionally, Cicero has been home to the following historical buildings:
HISTORIC AND CURRENT CICERO PUBLICATIONS
The Local History collection includes the following historic newspapers on microfilm, available for use in the library:
- Suburban Leader: March 2, 1927 – November 28, 1929 (incomplete, some issues missing)
- Cicero Life: January 18, 1933 – March 29, 2013
The following newspapers are available to read in print at the library:
- Cicero Town News: 1990s — Present (incomplete, some issues missing)
- Cicero Independiente (Bilingual English/Spanish): 2019 — Present (incomplete, some print issues missing, all editions available online)
For a list of print city directories and telephone books, see below:
- Cicero City Directories: 1913, 1920 – 1945 (some editions missing)
- Telephone Books: 1973 – 2018 (some editions missing)
Hawthorne Works and Western Electric
Hawthorne Works, a large factory owned by the Western Electric Company, employed thousands of Ciceronians during its operations from 1905 to the 1980s. Hawthorne Works manufactured telephone equipment. In 1954, employees unionized under IBEW Local 1859. Within two years, the IBEW Local 1859 grew in numbers into the top ten locals for size, at 13,200 workers.
Today, the Hawthorne Works Tower on Cermak and Cicero Avenue is all that remains of the Hawthorne Works plant. Below is a list of online resources about Hawthorne Works and Western Electric:
- Hawthorne Works, a concise retelling of the company, is available as an eBook HERE
- Hawthorne Works Plant History
- Photo Collection of Women Workers at Hawthorne
- Company History of Western Electric
The Eastland Disaster
The SS Eastland was a passenger ship that capsized in the Chicago River on July 24, 1915. Almost all of the passengers aboard the ship were from Cicero. The ship carried Ciceronian Hawthorne Works employees and their families as they headed to a company outing. 844 passengers and crewmembers died in the tragedy.
In 2019, WTTW aired a new documentary titled Eastland: Chicago’s Deadliest Day, which is available to check out HERE.
Cicero is home to Morton College, District 99 and 201, and private schools. For more about the history of specific schools in the Cicero area, see below:
- History of Morton College
- Morton East High School History: Morton Over the Years
- T.G. Masaryk Czech School
- Our Lady of Charity Catholic School
The Local History Room also has a collection of yearbooks from Cicero schools. The Genealogy section HERE contains a list of yearbooks available to view in person.
Chicagoland and Illinois History
For more digital resources on the history of Chicagoland and the state of Illinois, see the following links below:
Inkie.org offers free access to community collections on Chicagoland and Illinois history.
Illinois Digital Archive contains state and community histories from other Illinois libraries.
The Library of Congress also offers access to some historical Chicago directories.