A digital companion to the biography Becoming Richard Pryor
In late-1941 Mayor Woodruff and Peoria’s city council feuded over the protection of vice in the city.
“Council-Mayor Fight Widens As New Edict On Vice Is Ignored,” Peoria Journal-Transcript, Dec. 17, 1941.
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1942–1945: WWII Comes to Peoria
Reform This Town!
gamblingMayor Ed Woodruffprostitutionurban reform
Federal agents were condemned in Peoria for their violent tactics
Early on, Peoria was “the city of high spirits,” a center for the distillery business
In the wake of kidnappings and murder, the State Attorney ordered Peoria's gambling houses closed
Diamond Lil, a black madam in Peoria, was squeezed by the DA but refused to name names
In late-1941 Mayor Woodruff and Peoria's city council feuded over the protection of vice in the city
A spike in VD in Peoria led the US public health board to take action
The Jaycees led the attack against the red-light district
The Christian Century editorialized against Peoria as “the sinkhole of midwestern vice”
Illinois's State Attorney stepped in where Peoria's mayor did not, attacking the red-light district
All of Illinois law enforcement was marshalled to stamp out vice in Peoria
After the military threatened a further crackdown, Peoria police took action
A judge sent a stern message to Peoria's brothel owners and prostitutes
The city council urged the Mayor to work with the US Army to fight vice
The health department was empowered to inspect anyone thought to have VD
Ministers called vice “sabotage” and accused Peoria's citizens of thwarting the war effort
A $1000 order of penicillin was urged to combat the city's growing “social problem”
A harbinger of major reforms to come, the wealthy bluff outvoted the valley for the first time in 1945
In a stunning defeat for Sin City, Mayor Ed Woodruff was clobbered in the 1945 mayoral primary
Woodruff's defeat marked the end of an era in Peoria
A grand jury widened the crusade against vice to the taverns frequented by prostitutes
Peoria had been “the biggest little wide open town in the Midwest,” but what was next for the city?
As violence rose amongst Peoria's criminal elements, the state moved to rein the town in
New Mayor took the profit out of gambling
The Saturday Evening Post's panoramic view of Peoria, from its “valley” to its “bluff”
When he refused to let Peoria be an “open town,” the state's attorney had his life threatened
A new partner in the coalition against vice: the Advertising and Selling Club
The killing of the head of a gambling syndicate, in 1948, gave a huge boost to Peoria's reformers
Peoria's reformers imagined they were pitted against bossism and corruption
“Cleaning up Peoria” meant more raids on Bris Collins' place
Reformed Peoria, an "All-America" City
“Good Government” comes to Peoria
Peoria's new reform-oriented mayor was undaunted by the bombing of his home
After 3 years and 2 hung juries, Collins was given the minimum sentence
Collins, labeled as the “racket boss of Peoria,” took a one-year prison term
Feminist pioneer Betty Friedan praised World War II veterans for turning around Peoria.
Reform meant a new, professionalized city management, but did not go uncontested
Shutting down brothels was no easy task
Prostitution was tightly monitored, and even more tightly controlled, in 1950s Peoria
Collins escaped the law, for once
Peoria's Mayor threatened the livelihood of Harold's Club by taking away its liquor license
The FBI joined the crackdown on prostitution in Peoria
From the newspaper of the All-American city, a guided tour of the old “Empire of Vice”
Reformed Peoria looked back at days of gangland kidnappings and murder
Editorial looking back to the “liberal” days of Peoria
Three decades after the decline of Roarin' Peoria, some still missed “the Good Old Days”
A well-known hub for prostitution was demolished in 1979.
The last remains of Prarie Alley were demolished in 1980
An AP reporter's survey of a century of prostitution in Peoria
Did the lives of prostitutes change for the worse with reform?