Streator, Illinois, located 93 miles southwest of Chicago on the Vermillion River and at the southern extremity of LaSalle County where it joins Livingston County, existed as a settlement originally called “Hardscrabble”. In 1865 it was termed “Unionville” as a result of the first town platting. Streator did not acquire its present name until 1868, in honor of Dr. W.L. Streator. Doctor Streator never lived in Streator, but was an occasional visitor. Doctor Streator was from Cleveland, Ohio and was a capitalist and physician. He had been chosen as head of the Vermillion Coal Company, a company which carried on the first larger mining operations in the area. In 1870 Streator had a population of 1,486 and was chartered as a village April 6, 1874. Growing in numbers it had 5,157 in 1880 and changed to a city organization under a charter issued July 3, 1882 having a population of about 6000. By 1912 it claimed to have 18,000 in the city and surrounding area.


In 1912 Streator was reached by gravel roads from every direction, but due to standing on two producing seams of coal and 40 feet of workable shale there was none better in America for the making of vitrified brick. Soon the gravel roads were suspended by brick to accommodate the automobiles owned by the rich farmers. In 1912 Streator reached the markets through seven lines of railroad radiating in twelve different directions, covering 45,000 miles and reaching thirty-one states and territories. It had thirty passenger and forty freight trains daily and handled eight million pounds of freight. It had fourteen coal mines, twelve miles of concrete, and seventy-five miles of brick sidewalks. Twenty churches of all denominations were located in Streator, as well as a modern opera house and four other picture and vaudeville theatres. Streator also boasted of three excellent hotels, three daily newspapers, and a German weekly.


Streator invested $15,000,000 in industries, inclusive of the American Bottle Company, whose parent and headquarters were in Streator. In 1912 Streator manufactured 7,000,000 milk jars, most of which were used in the Chicago milk trade. Streator’s bottle factory ran twenty-four hours a day and made 6,480,000 bottles per week. It produced three million square feet of rolled plate glass per year and furnished eighty percent of the wire and skylight glass used in the loop district of Chicago. Streator had a garter factory that produced three million pairs of garters per year. One and a half million pounds of Illinois Valley Creamery butter were made per year. In 1911 two and a half million cans of corn were packed in Streator in hopes of increasing that in years to come.


Streator was known for its coal. It had 25,000 acres of un-mined coal that was pronounced by the C.B. & Q. fuel inspector as the best engine coal in Northern Illinois. It had a mining capacity of ¾ of a million tons of coal annually. Due to thousands of acres of America’s superior shale, industry was a big part of Streator. It had four shale and clay working factories making brick, tile, and sewer pipe.


This is how Streator got on the map and a small part of the early history. For more information go to the Streatorland Historical Museum, where you will find thousands of photographs, memorabilia of early U.S history, books and more.


*Information for Streator’s history taken from “Streator 1832-1922” and “The Story of Streator”. Both books can be found at the Streatorland Historical Museum.