Kewanee's Gettyspig Address!

The following account was written by Dave Clarke of the Kewanee Star Courier.

It's Kewanee's "Night Before Christmas"...our own Gettysburg Address.

The impromptu speech by State Rep. Frank P. Johnson (pictured to the right) rang through the chambers of the 66th Illinois General Assembly in the spring of 1949 and declared for all to hear and know that Henry County, and particularly Kewanee, was the Hog Capital of the World.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had just determined that the county had produced the most hogs in the nation in the quadrennial census of agriculture.

There are those over the years who have doubted that Johnson could have delivered such an eloquent oration "off the cuff."  But the Star Courier columnist had extensive experience on the speaking circuit and traveled the country entertaining audiences with his booming voice and masterful way with words.

It's therefore not surprising that he silenced the knaves from Chicago districts who mocked him from the gallery and put to rest once and for all those who would scoff at King Hog.

Imagine the tall, white-mane lawmaker from Kewanee brought out of his seat by the squeals and hog calls that interspersed the reading of the official resolution:


I had not intended to speak on this resolution - it speaks for itself.  But I was deeply pained, grieved and humiliated by the raucous laughter and derisive jeers which greeted its reading.

"I would not be true to my district or to His imperial Majesty King Hog, if I allowed those insults to go unanswered.

"It should not be necessary to remind you sons and daughters of Illinois of the significance of this great championship which the farms of Henry County have brought to our beloved state.  The hog is the very foundation of Illinois prosperity and has played a vital role in the history, the economy and the development of this great state.

"Our pioneer forefathers who cleared the wilderness and conquered these prairies were nourished and sustained on a diet of hog and hominy.  The boys in blue from Illinois who ran the batteries at Vicksburg, scaled the heights of Lookout Mountain and marched with Sherman to the sea were strengthened for those ordeals by rations of salt pork from the farms back home.

"We of this house take great pride in the ability of our illustrious speaker, the Honorable Paul Powell.  Whence came those sterling qualities that have molded his granite character?  He came from Johnson County where they weaned their babies on bacon rind and his youthful years were nurtured by a diet of hog jowls and turnip greens.

"We have praised our Illinois athletes for the great victories they have brought to our state - and rightly so.  May I remind you that King Hog played an important role in those magnificent victories?

"We have been informed that the pictures of the Rose Bowl game are to be shown to this assembly.  Study these pictures and you will observe a PIGSKIN in every play.

"And watch carefully for the dramatic climax of that historic game.  That climax came when a blond-haired youth from KEWANEE, Illinois, the HOG CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, scampered over the California goal line for the winning touchdown.

"you can appreciate Eddie Tunnicliff's magnificent achievement when you understand that the tender years of his youth were strengthened by daily breakfasts of Henry County bacon.

"And you, my colleagues from the Great city of Chicago who grunted the loudest during the reading of the resolution, you in your innocence may cherish the delusion that you have little in common with the Illinois hog.  I assure you that you do - PLENTY.  Every city must have some economic justification for its existence.  That was true in the ancient past and it is true today.  Ships made Carthage.  The wars made Rome.  Beer made Milwaukee.  Gold made Nome.  Cotton built Atlanta.  The harbor built New York.  But good old Chicago was built on pork!

"Mr. Speaker, in view of these historic facts and economic truths, I ask unanimous consent for the suspension of the rules and the immediate consideration of this resolution."

There was no debate on the motion and the resolution creating Kewanee as the Hog Capital of the World was immediately adopted on a unanimous vote!

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