By Jared Olar
Recently the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection received an old photograph donated by the Morton Public Library.
The photo, taken June 15, 1932, pictures a large group of people on the steps of a building — in fact, the U.S. Capitol building. At the bottom of the image is a caption that was inscribed on the negative, describing the occasion as a tour of Washington, D.C., by the Kiwanis Club of Pekin and a party of Peoria teachers, who had traveled to the nation’s capital via the Baltimore and Ohio and Alton Railroads. Herbert Hoover was then the president of the United States and was seeking re-election, and the Great Depression was then in its third year.
The Pekin Kiwanis will mark their 96th anniversary this spring. Information about the Pekin Kiwanis Club that is on file in the Local History Room tells us that the Kiwanis Club was founded as a social club for tradesmen and merchant in Detroit, Mich., the first club being chartered in Detroit on Jan. 21, 1915, only two years before the U.S. entered World War I.
Pekin’s club was organized only five years later, on May 24, 1920, and its first president was Pekin attorney and Tazewell County judge Jesse Black Jr. At the time of the Kiwanis Club trip to Washington in 1932, the Pekin club president was Oscar Van Boening.
Two years prior to that, the club president was Pekin Daily Times owner and publisher F. F. McNaughton – and McNaughton himself went along on the D.C. trip, chronicling the experience day-by-day in his “Editor’s Letter” column on the Daily Times front page that week. In one of those columns, McNaughton appends a list of all of the Kiwanis Club members and the club members’ families who went on the trip. His tally may help to identify people in the group photo.
Keep your eye on this column space. Over the next few weeks, this column will reprint F. F. McNaughton’s daily log of the Washington, D.C., trip.