Aurora Economic Facts and Firsts

 First steel plow that effectively broke the sod of Illinois plains came from an early Aurora blacksmith shop. Deere in Moline subsequently captured the market here and elsewhere.

 Towns west of Chicago waited for railroads to come to them, but not Aurora. The Aurora Branch Railroad was founded in Aurora and didn't build its own rail line to Chicago until 1864, after building west to Mendota, Galesburg, Quincy and Burlington. This was the kernel that grew into the great Burlington Northern Santa Fe, one of only two railroads that thrive and tower over all in the west to this day.

 Republican Party was founded in First Congregational Church in Aurora in 1854, despite similar claims of other communities and less than crystal clear records of that era.

 Aurora is the Roman goddess of dawn. As such it has always been associated with light, for example Aurora Borealis. Aurora has always used the slogan City of Lights. However, it was only coincidence that Aurora also was the first major town with electric streetlights throughout downtown. Aurora was named 30 or more years before the era of electric lights.

 Aurora may have been famous as a heavy metal fabricating center, but it was also an apparel leader. Three great corset factories dominated Aurora industry around 1900, including 2nd largest corset plant in the world. In 1912 Eade's of Aurora gave birth to the cotton dress in US with Percale Bungalow aprons. Later Kaufmann was largest US dressmaker.

 First iron ore was shipped from the rich Mesabi mines in 1890's and ended as ore was exhausted and shift to taconite was made in 1960. This coincided almost exactly with the dates of the rise and decline of Aurora's metal fabricating empire, all built on steel from Indiana mills where Mesabi ore was processed.

 Caterpillar was welcomed for new jobs it brought to Aurora in 1950's, just as Wal-Mart used to be welcomed as they expanded to new communities. Cat may have had some of same effects on local business, as did Wal Mart. The dozen large construction equipment and steel fabricators of Aurora are now long gone, as well as all those firms which acquired them, with one exception: Caterpillar.

 As with the end of Mesabi ore, the rise of O'Hare airport with freeways and tollways marked the decline of rail dominance, and with it Aurora's steel based manufacturing heyday. A reminder of the bridge between these two great eras survives to this day. ORD was a sleepy little military airstrip among the cornfields named Orchard Field, long before the 1950's when road replaced rail. The huge O'Hare of today spurred the beating of cornfields to new homes and suburbs as far away as Aurora, but still with the ORD symbol, as tie to a ever more vanishing past.

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