Historical Dead-Letter Laws in Chicago

Did you that it was once (not so very long ago) illegal in the city of Chicago for a child to climb a tree?  Thanks to a poorly-drafted ordinance against “flagpole sitting,” this was the case.  How many of us have conveniently avoided traffic in the Loop by taking Lower Wacker Drive?  That, too, was technically illegal, due to an obsolete law prohibiting  vehicles from driving in tunnels under city streets.  As of January 27, 1974, female bartenders were prohibited, as was the public display of any flags other than the U.S. Flag, state flags or the flags of friendly nations (so, a female bartender in a sports bar displaying flags or pennants of local sports teams would have been public enemy #1).

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Duke University Archives

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Duke University Archives

All of that changed on January 28, 1974, when a group of Chicago aldermen petitioned the city council to repeal these and other obsolete and/or nonsensical laws that were still on the books.

What prompted the sudden push to update the city’s laws? One alderman stated that that it was, “our contribution to the grand old tradition of spring cleaning.”

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