If you were asked to name one person who contributed most to the development of Joliet, who would it be? Perhaps “ Hog” White who was appointed poundmaster to enforce the ordinance of prohibiting hogs and pigs from running loose around the city in 1853. Or Frederick Bartleson who was the first volunteer for military service from Joliet when the civil war broke out in 1861. But many would argue it must be John D. Paige. Who was this colorful character whose list of public service is endless? Mr. Paige was involved in every major reform in Joliet from 1875 until the early 1900’s. His lists of accomplishments include mayor, fire department chief, police department chief, township assessor and leadership on numerous committees and boards.
He arrived in Joliet from Oneida County New York in 1844 with one dollar in his pocket. In 1869 he developed a process of bottling flavored drinks under pressure using carbonic gas. Why would this be so important to you? Next time you pick up a can of Pepsi or Coke think of the man who helped invent soda pop, John D. Paige. In 1877 he became Joliet ’s first recognized fire chief. Although Joliet had a fire department prior to 1877, Paige transformed the department from a volunteer to a paid unit. He insisted that enough horses be purchased in order to keep some in harness at all times ready to be hitched in ten seconds. The department drilled regularly under the chief’s watchful eye and became so proficient that the Joliet Fire Department was awarded top honors in 1878 at the National Fireman’s Tournament in Chicago . While acting as police chief he reorganized and modernized the department. He purchased new uniforms, acquired the first patrol wagon, installed a telegraph system that connected neighborhood call boxes and implemented a system of daily written reports. As mayor Paige appointed the first black officer to Joliet ’s police department.
John D. Paige certainly contributed to the social, political and economic development of Joliet . If you would like to read more about John D. Paige or Joliet’s early history, you can read Joliet A Pictorial History by Robert E. Sterling at the Joliet Public Library.