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This week in history: Chicagoans let loose on Armistice Day

The scene in the Loop on the first Armistice Day — Nov. 11, 1918 — was pandemonium as Chicagoans celebrated the end of World War I.

Armistice Day celebration in the Loop on Nov. 11, 1918
A Chicago Daily News photographer captured this Armistice Day celebration in the Loop on Nov. 11, 1918. During this celebration of peace, boys in the crowd can be seen cheering and holding flags.
Chicago Daily News

As reported in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Across the Atlantic, the U.S., Britain, France and Germany signed the armistice on Nov. 11, 1918, ending World War I. (And, unknowingly, planting the seeds that led to World War II, but that’s for another day.)

In Chicago, residents packed the Loop in celebration, leading the Chicago Daily News to proclaim that the city had “turned topsy turvy.”

“From one end of the city to another, everything was turmoil,” the paper said. “Its millions of citizens gave themselves without bounds to the delirium of joy the news of the war’s grand finale had evoked in them. Pandemonium was in the saddle wherever its citizens congregated.”

The paper continued:

“There was no semblance to order in the mass of pushing, howling, yelling, cheering, laughing humanity that packed Clark, State and LaSalle streets and Michigan boulevard and the crosstown thoroughfares from as early as 3 o’ clock this morning.”

From above, make-shift confetti flew down to the streets, the paper reported, and people rattled paper horns and other noisemaking devices. Businesses closed for the day because so few people wanted to work, and “the employers appreciated this.”

Even on the streetcars and L trains, motormen celebrated by “clanging bells and blowing the sirens,” the paper said.

Amid the festivities of the many street parades that sprang up, Chicagoans held mock funerals for Kaiser Wilhelm of newly surrendered Germany.

“There was one cortege that was impressive,” the paper noted: “It consisted of a solemn faced band playing Chopin’s death march, a black hearse bearing a black casket, on which was inscribed, ‘The Kaiser’s Coffin — He’s Going Where HE Belongs,” and a long procession of mourners with black bands around their hats.

“Ever and anon the procession would stop, and somebody (‘mourner’) would emit a nerve shattering howl and turn a somersault amid the frantic applause. And then the procession would continue.”