Illinois Humane Society

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The Illinois Humane Society (now the Bright Promises Foundation), founded in 1869 just after the Civil War, is an organization for the purpose of providing services to disadvantaged animals and children.

As one of the first agencies in the country to deal with abused and neglected children, it advocated for legislation to address child protection in the workplace and society. Over the years, IHS operated full-scale family service offices in Chicago. As organizations were set up to care for animals, IHS restricted its activities to disadvantaged children.

From 1973 to 2007 IHS acted as a private society providing seed money to projects serving disadvantaged children in Illinois. In 2008 its purpose became to address the most important issues facing disadvantaged children in Illinois, changing its name in 2009 to the Bright Promises Foundation.

A fountain outside Mary McDowell Settlement House[edit]

There were few opportunities a century ago for travelers on the streets of Chicago to obtain fresh drinking water. In 1877 the Illinois Humane Society began erecting public drinking fountains. They commissioned a design "both pleasing and practical" by which water would flow at three levels, for people at the top, then horses, and finally dogs and small animals near the ground level. The cost was US$70 per fountain, plus $60 for a hookup to the city water pipes, including the services of a plumber and stonemason.

An undated fountain was outside the Mary McDowell Settlement House at 4630 S. McDowell Street, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Sixty-seven such fountains were maintained throughout the city at one time. One is still in use at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Michigan Avenue, opposite the Water Tower; a second is on display in the Museum of Science and Industry.

Headquarters of the Society, 1912[edit]

In 1893 friends of the Illinois Humane Society, including Marshall Field, Philip Armour, and George Pullman, purchased a home at 1145 S. Wabash to serve as the Society's headquarters.

Marking the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, 1965[edit]

The Illinois Humane Society building at 1145 S. Wabash Avenue was closed and later demolished. A fixture from the building was removed and rehung at the new Polk Street offices of the Society's Children Service Division.

The Illinois Humane Society today[edit]

As of 2014 the Illinois Humane Society continued its work by providing seed money grants for new, innovative programs serving the needs of disadvantaged children in Illinois.

The records of IHS are archived at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a collection of IHS papers are at the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield. A book detailing IHS history is available from the IHS office.

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