Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chicago: A Look Back at March 29


Found on the pages of The Chicago Tribune, these are just some of the events that occurred on this date as the city grew . . .

March 29, 1880
In a lecture at the Franklin Scientific Society in Philadelphia, Professor George F. Barker, M. D., a professor of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania, delivered his observations of Thomas Alva Edison’s electric light in its latest form.  “I know all other generators, and Edison’s is best of all.  With a resistance of only one ohm he gets 165 units of energy.  The theory upon which it is built is exactly the reverse of previous inventions of electrical generators.  Edison aims at low resistance, but high motive force.”

(JWB, 2007)
Dr. Barker spoke in an auditorium that was lit by seven incandescent lamps.  In a complicated series of experiments conducted at Menlo Park the professor determined that one could operate three electric lamps for the same cost as one gas-burner light.  “Until gas can be furnished for 60 cents per 1,000 cubic feet the electric light is cheaper,” Dr. Barker stated.

When Mr. Edison learned of the calculations and the ultimate determination, he told Dr. Barker, “If that be so, man is absolute master of Nature . . . Electricity is light and heat.  We have only to place our engines at the coal mines and transmit the heat and light wherever it is needed.”

*  *  *  *  *
The Ute Indians arrived at the Grand Pacific Hotel on the corner of LaSalle Street and Jackson this day after negotiating in Washington about ceding their reservation in Colorado to the government.  The entire party, including the agents for the Utes, numbered 22 persons.  The Tribune described the scene in this way, “When they passed through Chicago on their way to Washington they were attired in the mixed garb of the Indians and the whites, a soft hat and blue or red shirt being conspicuous, with occasionally a vest.  This time they return in all the glory of slop-shop garb . . . The average Indian doesn’t take kindly to civilized habillments, but the Utes do.  They glory in an ill-fitting frock-coat and pants, and vest.  And their white shirts swell them with pride.”

The delegation had been summoned to Washington, D. C. as a direct result of the “White River Massacre” that had occurred just a year before.  In the battle Major Thomas T. Thornburgh and 13 soldiers were killed as they advanced across the White River into Ute land, in violation of assurances that the Utes had received that soldiers would not encroach upon their territory.  A separate band of Utes attacked the White River Agency and killed ten employees and Nathan Meeker, the overseer.  Three women and two children were also taken hostage.

(JWB, 2010)
Reaction was immediate and hostile until Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz (Recognize that name?  There’s a beautiful high school in Chicago named after him.) interceded and stopped the movement of troops against the Utes until the hostages could be released.  A treaty was finally negotiated, which included reparations to the Meeker family, a payment to the Utes, and the removal of the White River Utes to Uintah Reservation in Utah.

History is amazing, and it’s often tough to find congruency in events.  But it always startles me to realize that just five years before William LeBaron Jenney saw his Home Insurance Building finished on LaSalle Street, the cavalry, homesteaders, and Native Americans were still battling it out on the western plains.

March 29, 1897
If it’s in the paper it must be true.  On this date The Tribune reported that Christopher Bettarie, a butcher, residing at No. 29 Emerson avenue, was attacked by his blooded St. Bernard dog on the previous day.  His wife came to his rescue with a revolver and began the work of trying to kill the dog.  “The first bullet fired struck her husband instead of the animal and made a bad wound in his left hip . . . The report of the revolver, which was fired from but a few feet away, enraged the dog still more.  Battarie and his wife both belabored it with their fists, but it retained its grip on its master’s arm.”

Mr. Batterie was in a fix, so it seemed.  The dog wouldn’t let go of his arm, and he understandably refused to allow his wife to fire another slug toward him.  Finally, neighbors heard the ruckus and intervened, rescuing the butcher who had badly lacerated arm and a bullet in his rear.

Arriving at the scene of the mayhem, the police arrested Mrs. Battarie, believing the shooting to be intentional.  At the station, though, she was able to prove her innocence.  Mr. Battarie was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where it was believed he would make a recovery, barring the onset of blood poisoning.

*  *  *  *  *

Chicago’s foremost citizens gathered at the Commercial Club of Chicago to hear Daniel H. Burnham outline his plan for the lake-front park system.  Virtually everyone in attendance was in favor of the system that would unite the north and south parks into a continuous band of green along the lake.  The only objection was to the selling of frontage along the lakeside for residences.  This was a legal issue as the South Park Commission had not legal authority to conduct real estate transactions of this sort.

(JWB, 2009)
Phillip Danforth Armour stated after the meeting, “The park will be an excellent thing for Chicago.  I believe Burnham’s plan is entirely satisfactory, and there are many advantages to be obtained from such a scheme . . . I think Mr. Burnham well qualified to arrange the details of such an immense park scheme.”

Robert Todd Lincoln, the first-born son of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, added, “I certainly should favor connecting the North and South park systems.  The greatest expense connected with making this connection would be that of bridging or tunneling the mouth of the Chicago River.  It would seem to me a raised bridge would be necessary.  That would be a big item of expense.  The riparian rights could be obtained, I believe, if it was agreed that no buildings should be erected on this park property.  I believe eventually we will see the Lake-Front Park idea practically adopted.”

Harlow N. Higginbotham, who served as President of the 1893 Century of Progress World’s Fair, stated, “From Park row to Jackson Park the made land ought all to be devoted to park purposes, with drives, trees, a lagoon, walks and fountains, statuary, and everything that would make it a pleasant place.  North of Park row there ought to be a wide driveway and the Field Museum, a public library and the armory might be conveniently located in this strip.”

Frank Orren Lowden, who would go on to serve as the Governor of Illinois from 1917 to 1921, said, “We who have lived so near the lake have not thought of the esthetic development of the water frontage and the natural beauty which is lying dormant there.  I remember that when Lord Coleridge returned from a trip to this country, in speaking of Chicago and the lakes he said that the thing which struck him most was the indifference of the city toward the beauties of the lakefront.  I think we are awakening  to a realizing sense of the truth of his criticism.  Mr. Burnham’s scheme is an ideal plan, and it seems to me as practical as the World’s Fair would have been two years before we realized the gigantic nature of the World’s Fair scheme.  Such colossal enterprises cannot be grasped in a moment.  Specialists might arrange some of the details differently, but the plan itself strikes me as an ideal one.”

*  *  *  *  *

In the ongoing labor wars it was announced that the tanners of Chicago had once again gone on strike.  Despite the work of the newly created State Board of Arbitration, talks broke down, meetings were held, and “the men were full of fight and ready to go out in a body today.”

The union’s central issue, just as it had been during the labor unrest that led to the Haymarket disturbance 13 years earlier, was an increase in working hours.  Employers planned on instituting a ten-hour work day within the week while the workers were asking for a nine-hour day, paid at the ten-hour rate.  It was estimated that 500 men would strike on this day with another 1,500 more walking out on the next.

Companies were standing firm with one large firm deducting 20 dollars from each worker’s wages, a sum that would be forfeited if there were a strike.

*  *  *  *  *

The United States battleship Iowa left Cramp’s shipyard in Philadelphia for its official trial voyage before heading to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where it would be placed in dry dock and given a coat of fresh paint.  The new battleship was expected to become “the most powerful fighting machine in the new navy.”

Its main battery of four 12-inch, eight 8-inch and six 4-inch guns was complemented by 20 6-pounders and six 1-pounder rapid firing guns and two Gatling guns.  Its side armor varied in thickness from three to 14 inches with its turrets protected by steel from 5 to 15 inches thick.  With a displacement of 11,000 tons, it was expected to “in every respect equal, and will probably outclass, the lastest type of English battleships as represented by the Magnificent and Majestic.”

The new behemoth didn’t last long.  After serving heroically in the Spanish-American War and World War I, she was used for target practice and sunk in 1923.

March 29, 1915
Racing to 508 Case Street, located in “a dingy row of north side rooming houses,” James F. Bishop, the public administrator for Cook County, found “an unprotected litter of unframed age-cracked canvases reported to him as a veritable mine of old masters.”

Albrecht Durer-- Christ on the Cross
The treasure trove belonged to Louis Hellman, “septuagenarian recluse,” who died after a stroke.  When the Cook County administrator left the deceased’s apartment, he carried with him “paintings the value of which . . . was several hundred thousands of dollars.  Among them was a lost Rembrandt—Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.  Another was Apollo and the Muses, variously credited to Annibale Caracci and to Rubens.  Still another was a priceless old drawing by Albrecht Durer—Christ on the Cross.

It appeared that Mr. Hellman was of a noble German family and had come to the United States “after an unfortunate love affair.”  He had begun a career as a seller of art but failed at his attempt because “he could not force himself to part with the finest pictures that came into his hands.”

“I have come into this room a thousand times before,” said one of Mr. Hellman’s few friends.  “It always looked this same way, dirty and neglected, with canvases stacked against the walls by the dozen.  Hellman—Von Hellman he used to be—told me that the paintings he had kept for himself were the cream of something like 10,000 he had handled.”

*  *  *  *  *

March 29,1915
From the North Shore suburb of Highland Park this day came another episode of carnage on the railroad tracks.  Joseph Leuer, who owned a garage at 136 North First Street received a call from a motorist whose car had broken down and sent his two sons, Frank, 27-years-old, and Louis, a 16-year-old, to tow the vehicle to the garage.

They hooked onto the car and sped west to Elm Street toward the railroad tracks that ran parallel to St. John Avenue.  A long line of empty passenger coaches obscured the view of the tracks, and the gates at the crossing were open as the tow truck approached.

The sound of the collision between train and truck could be heard at the Leuer garage, which was only 150 feet away from the crash.  Mr. Leuer came running to find his youngest son screaming for his legs to be amputated so he could be extricated from the wreck.  It was 15 minutes before he could be freed, and he died on his was to Lake Forest Hospital.

An angry crowd gathered around Mike Tomi, the towerman at the grade crossing, and he started to run down the track before he was caught.  “I rang the bell,” he protested.  “I range the bell!  I couldn’t see the engine for the smoke.  It was not on schedule.  I had no time to lower the gates, but I rang the bell.”

“This thing has got to stop,” said Mayor Frank P. Hawkins of Highland Park.  “At the very next meeting of the council I am going to see that drastic action is taken to make the railroad protect life here.”

*  *  *  *  *

Ten thousand people who attended the Moody Church approved a plan for a city-wide revival campaign to be led by “Billy” Sunday.  “It was the largest attendance in the history of the Moody church,” said the Rev. E. Y. Woolley, the associate pastor.

(JWB, 2011)
The Rev. George L. Robinson, professor in McCormick theological seminary, a long-time friend of Mr. Sunday’s, said, “Our faculty expect to extend to Mr. Sunday a formal invitation to come here for a revival campaign.  I would almost be willing to dismiss all the classes of the seminary in order to enable the students to get the benefit of the meetings.  Chicago is Mr. Sunday’s home city, and we need him here.”

The pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Rev. W. S. Plumer Bryan, said, “It is said that Mr. Sunday received $47,000 in Philadelphia.  He won more than 40,000 converts.  This is only a little more than one dollar a head for the converts.  Suppose the ministers of Chicago were all paid on the basis of the number of converts they gained.  Some of them would have hard work in making a living.”

“Chicago is a big city, but not too big for God,” said the Rev. James E. Walker, chairman of the west side committee which started the campaign.

March 29 1938
The will of Mrs. Kate Allerton Johnstone, daughter of Samuel W. Allerton, an early Chicagoan who was one of the founders of the First National Bank of Chicago, was entered into probate.  Mrs. Johnstone’s estate came to about $320,000, of which $200,000 was placed in trust for her only son, Vanderburgh Johnstone of Las Vegas, New Mexico.  Two grandsons, a brother, and friends were also to receive gifts of property and cash.

*  *  *  *  *

Bad news for the White Sox as Luke Appling’s fractured ankle was placed in a cast this morning and estimates of the star’s recovery went from five weeks to three moths.  X-rays revealed that Mr. Appling had broken both bones of his lower right leg.  Accompanied by Chicago White Sox Vice-President Harry Grabiner, Appling was set to return to Chicago at the end of the week.

Mr. Appling returned to action on June 18 against the Boston Red Sox.  He drew a walk.   The great shortstop went on to play in 82 games during the 1938 season, ending the year with a .303 average.

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