Weird, wacky and strange laws in Illinois

By Holly New

Sometimes, I’m not very proud to live in Illinois.

From our crooked politicians to our increasing debt, Illinois has a lot of room for improvement. I decided I wanted to seek out something that makes Illinois unique and interesting, something I could be proud of (obviously aside from being surrounded by corn).

What I found may not exactly be positive: Illinois has some of the funniest laws on the books.

Galesburg has a real knack for strange laws. According to its municipal code, it is illegal to burn bird feathers and citizens are not allowed to “jostle or willfully crowd any member of the public….” The municipal code also states “No rider of a bicycle shall remove both hands from the handlebars, or feet from the pedals, or practice any acrobatic or fancy riding on any street.” As an avid hands-free rider, I know that if I had lived in Galesburg, my childhood would have been ruined.

According to “Wacky Laws, Weird Decisions and Strange Statutes,” written by Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts, K. R. Hobbie, Ted LeValliant and Marcel Theroux, not only is it illegal in Illinois to catch fish using dynamite, but in Joliet, it’s forbidden to try on more than six dresses in one store. On the plus side, in Decatur, it’s illegal to drive a car without a steering gear. As silly as it sounds, I think that’s for the safety of us all.

My favorite law is one cited by Dennis Baron, professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: “A 1923 Illinois law making American, rather than English, the official language of that state was quietly amended in 1969 because Illinois residents continued to speak and teach English in defiance or ignorance of the statute.”

What makes these laws so funny to read is the realization someone probably did the thing that is now illegal. Some serious incident must have happened where someone jostled a little too hard or tried on too many dresses, making the city feel it was necessary to go about writing a law preventing it. People will never cease to amaze me, but then again, neither will the government.

The moral of the story is there is always something to love about where you’re at. These laws demonstrate human nature at its finest, but that’s what makes people so amazing (and I don’t even want to know how many people tried to drive without the power to steer). Despite the various negatives living in Illinois comes with, there are positives: beautiful nature, excellent colleges and really silly laws.

Home, sweet home.