View Full Version : Chicago nightclubs 1941

Melanie Lynne Hauser
02-27-2007, 09:57 PM
Can anyone tell me what the legal age to enter a nightclub, in Illinois, would have been in 1941? I've seen many references to kids sneaking in, both as patrons and performers, but nobody ever specifies the age. I know the legal drinking age was 18 but I don't want to assume that's the correct answer.

And if you can't tell me - can you point me toward some place that could? Like maybe a forum with, ahem, older members who might remember?

02-28-2007, 09:06 PM
Where is Underthecity? He might be able to answer this.

Melanie, I'll nudge him for you.


03-01-2007, 12:47 AM
Limitedtimeauthor, thanks for the invite. And I did actually read this thread, but I hadn't posted anything because I really don't have an accurate answer.

From my own research in Cincinnati, I have a newspaper article dated April 8, 1953 that points out that you had to be 18 to enter burlesque houses. The manager of the Gayety said "We are not required to do this by law, we do it voluntarily through an agreement among the other burlesque theaters."

But that's in Cincinnati, and it was a burlesque house, not a nightclub. I suppose it would be safe to assume you had to be 18 to enter a nightclub in 1941's Illinois, but I can't swear by it.

(To address that question, I had to pull out my binder full of research! Kinda lucky I saved all of it.)

I've also spoken with numerous people told me they were underage and snuck in, as Melanie points out. It apparently wasn't that hard to do.


Melanie Lynne Hauser
03-01-2007, 01:32 AM
Thanks, both of you! I'll try calling the Chicago historical society next, although it's probably safe to assume it was 18, not 21. But I just want to make sure.

(In the movie "The Best Years of Our Lives," made in 1946, the Teresa Wright character is supposed to be 19 and is shown at nightclubs - while a movie isn't the most accurate source, at least it was made in the same era. But I also know it was up to each state to legislate this.)

03-01-2007, 04:32 AM
Hi Melanie,

I did try to find a good historical website regarding the legal age to enter a nightclub in 1941 Chicago, but nada. I donít think it would be unbelievable to have an 18-year old enter a nightclub in the 40s because Iím sure there were performers and showgirls that age. Chicago in the 40s was booming with jazz and mob activity, so nightclubs most likely accepted all kinds this wasn't that long after prohibition (1920-1933). My two cents. Good Luck!

Desert Author
03-04-2007, 09:43 PM

I doing the research for my last novel, which went from the early depression to the late 40s, I found that there were age limits, but back then people didn't worry about them as much as we do now. Being able to see over the bar, was often good enough to get a cold beer.

Also, if you worked for someone who frequented a certain saloon, you could get in with them, no questions asked except, "What's your pleasure, sir?"

Think of a more relaxed and accomodating time when being known was more important than being old enough.

Hope this helps,