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Bonfires, senators and downtown tanks

New poster designed by Neal Ormond IV for 175th anniversary (2012) Aurora. | AurorHistorical Society

New poster designed by Neal Ormond IV for the 175th anniversary (2012) of Aurora. | Aurora Historical Society

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Updated: August 10, 2012 6:10AM

Aurora is celebrating its 175th birthday this year. More information about Aurora Historical Society events is available at To commemorate the anniversary, The Beacon-News is revisiting stories from 50, 100 and 150 years ago. Here’s what Aurorans were talking about this week ...

... in 1862.

The Beacon reported on a successful Independence Day in Aurora. Aurora had no formal citywide celebration, but many groups had their own festivities.

The German Turner’s Association marched through the town, singing and playing instruments. The Hibernian Society also marched through the streets, danced and “made a record of their love of liberty.” Soda fountains and ice cream parlors were full; firecracker and whirligig men took in unprecedented profits.

In the evening boys set up huge bonfires on either side of the Fox River, burning boxes and barrels that “magically accumulated from no one but the boys knows where.” 1912.

U.S. Sen. Albert Hopkins, an Aurora resident, said he would consider being reappointed to Congress after a scandal left Illinois’ Senate seat open.

After many years in the U.S. House, Hopkins had been elected as senator in 1903. But fellow Republican William Lorimer helped engineer Hopkins’ primary defeat in 1909 — a time when senators were elected by the state legislature. Then, in 1910, a member of the Illinois General Assembly admitted he had been paid $1,000 to vote for Lorimer.

After lengthy hearings, Lorimer’s election was declared invalid and he was removed from the Senate in July 1912. Beacon-News reporters contacted Hopkins for comment.

“The United States Senate has declared there was no election,” he said. “This leaves the question where the people at the primary election placed it. If (it is) the will of the people, I shall be appointed as my own successor.” 1962.

Residents were surprised to see a tank driving through the city’s downtown streets. It belonged to the U.S. Army Reserves, which were moving into their new headquarters on Sullivan Road. It took a half-hour for the tank to go the approximately six miles from the old headquarters at 1031 W. Lake St.

The tank got four miles per gallon of gas and could go 76 miles without refueling. The Aurora tank was used for training personnel.

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