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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Kate's Brief History


Naperville 1920 Flashback: Built to Be Haunted?

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In 1920, North-Western College (now North Central) celebrated its 50th anniversary in Naperville and was making plans to build Pfeiffer Hall. The Halloween season seems a good time to talk about how Pfeiffer is the site of many reported hauntings. 

Henry and Gustavus Pfeiffer, who were founders of Pfeiffer Chemical Company, were major donors and named the hall for their mother Barbara. Henry attended North-Western in 1875 and briefly operated a drugstore in Naperville on west Van Buren. In further business dealings, the brothers amassed a very impressive fortune. Henry and his wife, Annie, never had children and were inspired by “The Gospel of Wealth,” an article written by Andrew Carnegie who believed that those blessed with exceptional wealth had a responsibility of philanthropy. 

Carnegie built over 2,000 libraries across the country – in fact, there is one on North Central’s campus – and the Pfeiffers also shared their fortune with schools and churches in many states. In total, North Central College received $475,000 from Henry and Annie and were instrumental in providing the $230,000 it cost to build Barbara Pfeiffer Memorial Hall.

North-Western College was associated with the United Methodist Church and Pfeiffer Hall opened in 1926 as the Chapel-Music building with seating for almost a thousand. The auditorium continues to host speakers, plays and musical performances today, despite its haunted reputation.

Among the many ghosts sightings that have been reported are “Charlie Yellow Boots” and “The Lady in White.” Charlie is thought to be a custodian who worked at Pfeiffer until the 1950s and wore distinctive boots. A psychic supposedly described the spirit’s footwear which was recognized by someone who remembered the janitor. 

The Lady in White has been seen applauding from her seat in the audience during shows. The most popular candidate for who the Lady might be is Miss Anna Pates of Oak Park and there is considerable evidence to support that theory. 

Don Shanower was a professor in the theater department at North Central College from 1955 until 1986 and was also one of the founders of Naperville’s Summer Place Theatre. In the spring of 1966, he directed his students in a brand-new musical based on “The Mutiny on the Bounty.” “Bligh Me” was written by Robert Lewis and John Danyluk and this was a preview of wh

Naperville 1920 Flashback: Power Farming

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1920 was the first year that America’s population tipped toward an urban rather than rural majority. DuPage County and the surrounding area was still mainly farmland and towns like Naperville supplied farmers’ needs. 

Motorized tractors for the most up-to-date Power Farming were quite new. Henry Ford and his son Edsel had only started offering their Fordson tractor in 1917. It ran on kerosene and was intended to replace horses and oxen on farms. Because Ford’s automobiles had already created a widespread sales network, Fordson tractors were a favorite purchase.


The Cromer Bros. in Naperville sold the Henry Ford & Son tractors as well as the Mogul 10-20 from International Harvester. According to the Naperville Clarion newspaper ad about a “Power Farming” presentation, they operated out of a building at 22 Water Street. When one looks at the 1921 Sanborn map, however, it’s clear that this earlier Water Street is on the opposite side of the DuPage River from where Water Street is today. 

That short stretch of Water Street in the 1920s extended from Chicago Avenue where Washington Street intersects and is now considered part of Chicago Avenue. This Clarion ad invites farmers to 22 Water Street and looking at the Sanborn map, there is a “Farm Machinery” building identified at that location, which seems to place it east of today’s Empire restaurant, where the photography studio is now. All of the buildings on that side of the street have changed hands many times and exactly which building housed Cromer’s I have not been able to confirm. 


Motor Co. Inc. is also listed in early 1920s directories across the street at 13-19 Water Street. In 1946, th

Naperville 1920 Flashback: August’s Blackbirds

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In 1920, Naperville was just a small, mainly rural, community with a population of only 3,830. It was so rural, in fact, that City Council minutes listed expenditures for horse feed and shoeing that were regularly paid to August Springborn, the Assistant Superintendent of Streets. Although the minutes don’t say exactly what Springborn needed a horse for, he probably used a cart rather than a truck for his work on the streets.

Naperville’s residents in 1920 were no doubt more tuned into their environment than most of us are today. The Chicago Tribune carried a column by Larry St. John called “Woods and Waters” in which St. John discussed such outdoor sports as casting, which was a popular competitive activity in the early 1900s for all ages and genders. 

One of St. John’s readers wrote from Naperville asking for advice on how to get rid of annoying flocks of blackbirds that congregated every August in town. They roosted in trees in great noisy numbers and made a mess on the sidewalks that in the late-summer heat was really unbearable.

Another reader from Kalamazoo wrote in to comment that it sounded like Naperville had grackles rather than true blackbirds and that many other towns had a similar problem. 

Those of us living in the now-mainly-urban city may not notice it, but our birds’ habits have changed since May. We used to hear a lot of birdsong in the early morning as avian families marked out their nesting territories, but the songs wane towards summer’s end because the children have, quite literally, left the nest. Parent birds now spend their time recuperating from the demands of childcare, molting and resting up for fall’s migration. 

This pre-migration breather is why the grackle

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Using Tech for Book Marketing

Don and Kate Gingold


Kate and husband Don have been building websites since 1996 for all sorts of clients, including authors.

As the Internet has evolved, producing books and marketing them has become much more complicated. Whether traditionally-published or self-published, authors today need to know their way around websites, blogging, social media and other online marketing tools.

Kate regularly writes about online marketing for Sprocket Websites and provides tips and techniques for entrepreneurs, small- to medium-business owners and not-for-profit directors. Since being an author today is not really different from being an entrepreneur with a small business, most of those tips are just as useful to authors.

Frequently Kate also writes about tips specific to authors, some of which are available here.

The Sprocket Report

The Sprocket Report is published every other week with Internet marketing tips, tools and techniques. The archive features articles from 2011 up to the present. You are welcome to read how business owners are using technology to market themselves and apply those tips to your author business.


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