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‘Odd’ ordinances in history

At one time, it was illegal to spit on the sidewalks in Batavia. And it also was against the law to swim nude in the Fox River within St. Charles city limits, but only during the day.

The Tri-Cities had their share of “odd” ordinances in history. But as times changed, the need for some of the ordinances has diminished.

For example, When James K. Lewis was mayor of St. Charles from 1875 to 1877 and 1879 to 1881, an ordinance was enacted that made it illegal to swim nude or semi-nude in the Fox River within city limits during the day, according to information provided by the St. Charles History Center. Today, it is illegal to swim in the Fox River within St. Charles city limits, said Kim Schult, records division manager with the St. Charles Police Department.

During Lewis’ tenure, ordinances also made it illegal for people to roll hoops, fly kites and “other boisterous amusements which interfered with the movement of pedestrians” in crowded areas.

The book “General and Special Ordinances – City of St. Charles,” published in 1926, outlines all of the ordinances in place during that time period. Back then, those younger than the age of 21 could not legally smoke cigarettes, and shops needed a license to sell cigarettes. Shops also needed a license to sell or distribute milk.

Another ordinance made it illegal to “throw, lay or place” banana skins, orange peels or other fruit on any sidewalk within the city.

Similarly, it was illegal to place anything in the streets that could injure a horse, such as glass, nails, fruit or vegetables.

And anyone who wanted to exhibit a stud horse within city limits in 1926 was out of luck. Operating a wagon back then without a license was out of the question, and so was driving a wagon too fast.

Likely for safety reasons, shops could not sell or weigh any gunpowder in the evenings or “after the lighting of the lamps in the store or place.”

Batavia also had an ordinance that barred people from spitting on sidewalks when chewing tobacco was popular.

Marilyn Robinson, who used to write columns for the Kane County Chronicle, wrote in 2000 that: “Long ago, a great many men chewed tobacco. Women wore long dresses with skirts that hit the sidewalk behind them as they walked along.”

Robinson went on to write that, “The men fumed and chorted, but the women campaigned and at last signs were posted on all the telephone posts, ‘No spitting on the sidewalk.’ ”

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