May 15, 1964 – The governors of four states participate in dedication ceremonies in Grant Park for a new tourist trail, the Hiawatha Pioneer Trail, which will meander through Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Illinois Governor Otto Kerner states that a similar tourist route in southern Illinois, the Lincoln Heritage Trail, has brought an additional million dollars into communities along the route. He estimates that the Pioneer Trail will double tourism dollars along the trail in the coming year. Minnesota Governor Karl F. Rolvaag says, “We are not the oldest or the newest region in the nation. We cannot talk of the Pilgrims or the Spanish conquerors. But we have a gallant history of our own which, with our lakes and woods and rivers, can attract visitors profitably if we drop our false modesty.” [Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1964] The route will be marked with signs that bear the portraits of a Native American and an American pioneer. It will follow the Des Plaines and Illinois River through Joliet, Ottawa, and La Salle, cutting through Kewanee to Rock Island. North of Chicago the road will move through the North Shore to Zion, heading west through Antioch to enter Wisconsin near Lake Geneva.
May 15, 1938 – An “autogiro” takes off from the Chicago Airport (today’s Midway) at 1:40 p.m., lands on the roof of the main post office at 1:45 and heads back to the airport 15 minutes later. This is a symbolic flight. The two-seater rotor craft will only carry 200 pounds of mail, and it can only fly about 100 miles per hour. BUT this event, as the Chicago Daily Tribune points out, “ . . . presages the day when all mail will be flown between these two points.” With pilot Johnny Miller in the cockpit, the autogiro takes off on the first day of National Air Mail Week, commemorating the day twenty years earlier when air mail service was initiated. The sacks of mail are delivered directly to Postmaster Ernest J. Kruetgenon who stands on the roof of the post office, 14 stories above the Chicago River. Only 200 guests are on the post office roof, but the event is seen and heard by many. The Field Building at 135 South La Salle opens its entire fortieth floor to spectators, and the Board of Trade opens its forty-fourth floor to the public. The event is also covered by W.G.N., WBBM, and the coast-to-coast Mutual broadcasting system.
May 15, 1893 –It’s a big, big day in the city as the first of the World’s Fair Congresses kicks off at the spanking new Art Institute, a building that will for the next seven days be the “Place aux Dames” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 15, 1893] or the site of the Woman’s Congress, a colloquium that “is to be conducted by women, for women, and the subjects that will be discussed are all related to some phase of the life of modern women.” Preparations have been ongoing since May, 1892 and provide for four classes of meetings, the largest of which will consist of two daily sessions held in the Hall of Washington and the Hall of Columbus, each of which will accommodate 3,000 people. Mrs. Potter Palmer and Mrs. Charles Henrotin will open the Congress on this day with a welcoming address. One subject that the Woman’s Congress will cover in depth is “Woman’s Progress,” with discussion of such topics as “civil and social evolution of woman; the administrative ability of woman; woman the new factor in industrial economics; the ethics of dress; woman as an actual force in politics; woman as financier; woman in municipal government; the political future for woman and woman’s war for peace.” One of the unique features of the Congress will occur on the final day, May 21, a Sunday, when religious services will be held at the Art Institute at which only women ordained as ministers will take part. On that closing evening a “sacred concert” will be held “in which the line of sex will again be drawn, both as to composers and performers, both being, it is hardly necessary to say, women.” The highlight of the concert will be the Columbian Ladies’ Harp Orchestra, “led by Mme. Josephine Chatterton, who has arranged for this harp orchestra a grand ‘Marche Triumphale,’ … the first time in this country so large a harp orchestra will be heard.
May 15, 1881 – With a fresh legal judgment giving the South Park Commissioners responsibility to improve and maintain streets that move people onto boulevards leading to or passing around parks, the Chicago Daily Tribune offers an opinion on what should be done with Michigan Avenue south of the river. The editorial shines a spotlight on the one thing “which all the property-owners and residents along the line of Michigan avenue ought to agree to, and which will greatly enhance the beauty of the new boulevard.” That is … getting rid of all the fences along the front yards that line the street. “It is only by this means,” the editorial says, “that uniformity can be secured and protection guaranteed against rickety or incongruous fences.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 15, 1881]