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 reference@cicerolibrary.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.  

Click Here for Genealogy and House History Resources

Photography and Architecture

Many historical photos of Cicero are available online to view. These include:

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
  • Telephone Books: 1973 – 2018 (some editions missing)
INDUSTRIAL HISTORY

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:

 

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.

The Eastland Disaster Historical Society works to preserve the memory of those who perished. More information and footage about the Eastland Disaster can be found on WTTW.

In 2015, the Chicago Tribune released a 100 year tribute video. The Friends of the Bohemian National Cemetery also unveiled a memorial for the anniversary of this tragic event.

In 2019, WTTW aired a new documentary titled Eastland: Chicago’s Deadliest Day, which is available to check out HERE.

 

Cicero Schools

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:

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.orgoffers free access to community collections on Chicagoland and Illinois history.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago contains history from libraries and museums around Chicago.

Illinois Digital Archive contains state and community histories from other Illinois libraries.

The Library of Congress also offers access to some historical Chicago directories.

 

Spotlight on CPL Offerings

Seed Library

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ESL Learning Center

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Voter Learning Center

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Student Learning Center

Library Contact Information

5225 West Cermak Road
Cicero, Illinois 60804
Ph: (708) 652-8084
Fax: (708) 652-8095

Library Hours

HOURS: Mon-Thurs 9am-8pm, Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 10am-5pm, closed on Sundays
Public computers shut down 30 minutes before closing

HORARIO: lun-jue 9am-8pm, vie 9am-5pm, sáb 10am-5pm, cerrado los domingos
Computadoras para el público se apagan 30 minutos antes de cerrar

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