Robbins was incorporated on December 14, 1917 and named for Eugene S. Robbins, a white real estate developer who laid out the village's early subdivisions. The village's founder and first mayor was Thomas J. Kellar, who noted in an early interview "Our people in Robbins are mostly people who get tired of the white fights and the crowded city. They come out here to raise chickens, make gardens, and be a little more free". Kellar, who was a clerk for the Cook County Board of Assessors, was tasked with investigating the procedures of incorporation. Thomas J. Kellar School in Robbins was named in his honor and first opened for the 1954 school year.
After incorporation the community became a popular recreation spot for black Chicagoans, who crowded its picnic grounds and nightclubs on summer weekends.