Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Look at Chicago--April 27

Found on the pages of The Chicago Tribune, these are just some of the events that occurred in Chicago on this date as the great city grew . . . (A few days early with this one; we're off for a wonderful week of Maddie-sitting.)

April 27, 1865
On this date The Tribune gave details of the events of the day before, a day on which John Wilkes Booth was killed and his accomplice, David E. Herold, was captured.  The paper reported, “In John Garrett’s barn near Port Royal, Va., Herold professed himself willing to surrender to the troops surrounding them, and so he was taken.  Booth proposed that he would fight the whole detachment.  The barn was set on fire.  When the roof was about to fall in, Booth, with a revolver in one hand and a carbine resting on the floor, made a demonstration as tho to break thru the guard.  To prevent this. Sgt. Boston Corbett fired, intending to cripple Booth, but the ball struck a little too high and resulted fatally.  Booth lived for more than three hours.  His last words were:  ‘Tell my mother that I died for my country.’”

*  *   *  *  *

It was on this day that one of the worst maritime disasters in the country’s history occurred when the Mississippi river packet Sultana exploded near Memphis, Tennessee.

The Sultana left from St. Louis on a routine trip, picking up a load of paroled union prisoners at Vicksburg, Mississippi before heading back north.  Despite the fact that there were two other steamboats standing by, 1,966 men and 36 officers were crowded onto the Sultana.   They joined 100 other passengers and 85 crew members aboard a boat that was legally chartered to carry 375 souls.

In the early hours of the morning the boat’s boiler exploded, killing scores of men instantly.  Almost immediately the ship was in flames, and those aboard began to jump into the great river to escape certain death.  Throughout the day of April 26 the boat had travelled close to shore to avoid the current, but in the middle of the night the Sultana was in the middle of the river.  Those who jumped from the flames still thought shore was only yards away, but in reality the safety of land was as much as four miles distant.

In some cases survivors, many of them badly burned or scalded, were carried by the current all the way back to Memphis.  They were the men who first sounded the alarm.  The Tribune reported, “Rescue boats could find the scalded, maimed, and water logged only by their shouts and many drifted past in the darkness.”

Most of the dead were never found.  Bodies were found as far south as Vicksburg, the city from which the boat had departed.

Captain Frederick Speed, an unfortunate moniker, if ever there were one, was convicted of overloading the boat, but Secretary of War Edwin Stanton overturned the conviction.  The official death count was listed at 1,547 although the exact number who lost their lives on that dark night will never be known.  Even this number puts the Sultana explosion ahead of the 1,517 souls who lost their lives on the Titanic decades later.  Despite the carnage, the horror of the event was largely obscured by the coverage of President Lincoln’s assassination and today most people have never heard of the Sultana.

April 27, 1884
Out on the far northwest side of Chicago there is a neighborhood known as Dunning.  It was named after Andrew Dunning, who purchased 120 acres in that location after the Civil War in hopes of starting a nursery and a new community.  For decades, though, the area was synonymous with the city’s infamous home for the insane that was located there.  In his book Challenging Chicago Perry Duis described Dunning in this way, “. . . the county constructed a separate 40-by-100-foot wing at Dunning for those classified as the insane poor.  They were confined to 7-by-8-foot cells behind heavy iron doors, their special medical needs left untreated and their food and clothing limited to barely enough to allow survival in the unheated building.”

On this date in 1884 The Tribune ran an exposé on the conditions at Dunning.  By 1884 conditions seemed to have improved somewhat although patients were still confined to cells in the overcrowded facility.  The paper stated, “One of the strongest impressions made upon the mind in the course of a walk through the institution is that its accomodations are everywhere taxed beyond the limits of reason.”

Dr. Spray, the institution’s Superintendent, accompanied the paper’s reporter on a walk through Dunning and strongly reacted to the cell system, saying, “Abolish the cell system; put them in large dormitories, keeping only enough cells for the accommodation of the more violent.   I would favor treating them as sick men.  They behave much better in this way and there is also an advantage to be derived from the fact that they can always be kept under the eye of a watchman.”

As the two men strolled, they passed 30 patients or so, most of them with “their wrists bound by leather ringlets lined with chamois-skin to a strong leather belt securely locked around the waist.”  They passed a man named Jake who, for the seven years before Dr. Spray took over, had been chained to the floor in solitary confinement.  “I find that he is gradually improving,” the doctor said.

At one point they came to “the most dismal place in the entire institution,” where “The very sunlight seemed affected by the overhanging gloom.”   This was the section serving those with “terminal dementia.”  To quote the article, “They have voices, but they do not speak; ears, but they do not hear; a brain, but no thought; for, as the medical books say, they have entered ‘that tomb whence no errant intellect ever returns.’”

As they made their way through the asylum, Dr. Spray offered his opinion on treatment of the insane, “Insanity being a disease, the inference is,” he said, “that it should be decided by medical and not legal authority.  An insane patient should not go into court . . . The insane law is at present not only absurd but outrageous, and it would be much easier for designing people to send a sane person to the asylum under the present system than if the question were to be decided by physicians of known experience.”

April 27, 1892
During the night of April 26, 1892 fire broke out on the top floor of the Athenaeum Building on Van Buren Street (located on the south side of Van Buren about halfway between Michigan Avenue and Wabash).  The Athenaeum had been in existence since at least 1874, one of its principal sponsors being Ferdinand Peck, the man whose leadership got Adler and Sullivan-designed Auditorium Building constructed.   According to a journal at the time it was in this arts center that “a young man or woman may study foreign languages, elocution, history or science.  He may in some sense enter good society, and here he will form life-long acquaintances.”  The building was finished in 1886 and remodeled again in 1891.

Unfortunately on that April evening the exhibition of the Society of Artists was just beginning with judges still arriving in the city.  There were 89 paintings on display and five works of sculpture along with a number of other submissions in a back room that did not qualify for the final round of judging.

The fire was first noticed when at 9 o’clock “a man standing in front of the New Jerusalem Temple, across the way from the Athenaeum, on Van Buren street, heard an explosion and found himself in the midst of a shower of glass.”  Almost immediately flames burst through the northeast corner of the seven-story building.

The building was packed at the time with 600 students and teachers in various classes when the fire broke out.  On the fifth floor, where the Chicago Law College was located, one law class had 175 students; another 40.  A drawing class on the same floor had 75 students in attendance.  One floor below the original working drawings for the buildings of the World’s Columbian Exhibition were on display.  Fortunately, the students escaped and the drawings received only minor water damage.

In an interesting historical side note involving another notorious figure in Chicago history, the Financial Secretary for the Chicago Society of Art sat down at midnight to write the following letter:

Mr. Charles Tyson Yerkes, Dear Sir: The gallery of the Chicago Society of Artists and all the paintings competing for the Yerkes prizes are entirely consumed by fire; the loss is total, no insurance.  Inclosed please find your check for $500.  In returning it I beg to thank you again for your generosity.  Yours very truly, Wm. W. Vernon, Financial Secretary, C. S. A.

April 27, 1919
Negotiations reached their final stage in the attempt to bring the North Shore electric trains directly into the Loop.   It was expected that the electric lines would use the tracks of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad between Foster Avenue in Evanston and Wilson Avenue in the city.  The advantage of the proposal would be that passengers on the North Shore would no longer have to transfer at Davis or Church Streets in Evanston in order to complete their ride into the center of Chicago.

*  *  *  *  *

It was announced on this date that the plans had been completed and the financial arrangements nearly in place for the construction of the Drake Hotel where Oak Street met the newly extended Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue.  The hotel would be 12 stories high with a 400 foot frontage on Lake Shore Drive with an unobstructed lake view.

Containing nearly 800 rooms, many arranged in suites and apartments, it would be constructed for between $3,500,000 and $4,000,000 and “cater to the most exacting clientele.”  Operated by the Drake Hotel Company, the owners of the Blackstone on Michigan Avenue about a mile to the south, the plans were drawn by the firm of Marshall & Fox.  It was hoped the hotel would be ready for the Republican convention in the summer of 1920.

*  *  *  *  *

Beat writer James Crusinberry ganged up on the Cubs today as he described the team’s 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  “Apparently forgetting entirely they were champions, the Cubs tossed away another game of ball . . . The trouble was the north siders didn’t play big league ball and Pittsburgh simply sparkled in every way.”


Casey Stengel, who had missed training camp, managed a triple in the sixth inning, scoring the three Pirates who were on base.  Stengel scored when the Cubs shortstop, Charley Hollocher, fumbled a grounder just long enough to miss the play on Stengel at the plate.

The Cubs were still in the game despite squandering a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the sixth as Max Carey, the Pirates center fielder, made a great running catch for the third out, leaving the bases loaded.

Then came the eighth inning.  The Tribune reported, “Just what happened in the eighth was hard to understand, but it was something quite disgusting.”  Casey Stengel led off with a single and stole second base.  The next Pirate hitter walked, and the Pirate second baseman, George Cutshaw, laced a drive toward right field.  The Cubs first baseman, Fred Merkle, dove for the ball, narrowly missing it.

At this point the wheels came off.  Harry Weaver, the Cubs relief pitcher, failed to cover first base.  Charlie Pick, the second baseman, somehow grabbed the ball that Merkle had missed, firing it toward first base in time to get Cutshaw easily.

But there was no one covering first base.  The ball rolled all the way to the grandstand wall, with Billy Southworth and Casey Stengel both scoring as Cutshaw parked himself on third.  “It was awful stuff to look at,” wrote Crusinberry, “and from then on the Cubs didn’t have a chance.”

The Cubs went on to a 75-65 record, finishing third.

*  *  *  *  *

The Tribune announced in this edition that as of April 6 sixteen divisions of American fighting men had sailed for home.  It was estimated that by September 1 of 1919 only 20,000 members of the Allied Expeditionary Force would still be in Europe.

When the armistice was signed there were only three ports available in France that were capable of handling the huge volume of men and supplies that were about to come through them.  These were St. Nazaire, Brest, and Bordeaux.  Shelters, bathing stations, and delousing stations had to be established at each port along with the facilities that would enable 2,000,000 men to receive medical examinations and provide care for the wounded and the sick.

The operation had become so efficient that the unloading and loading of a ship in one of the French ports was completed in just over two days, a third of the time it took to turn the same ship around in New York City.

April 27, 1930
A new plan was announced on this day for the development of Congress Street.  The plan called for the widening, without grade separations, of the street at an estimated cost of $39,000,000.

The previously proposed plan for a depressed highway was rejected by the west side committee of the Chicago Plan commission, and double deck express highways were proposed on Polk and Monroe streets instead.

By far the most ambitious part of the plan was the proposal to cut through the middle of the block between Van Buren and Harrison streets from Wells to State street in order to bring Congress street all the way east to Michigan Avenue.  The architects who drafted the plan represented the firm of Bennett, Parsons & Frost.  (Of course, this is the same Edward H. Bennett who, along with Daniel Burnham, created the Chicago Plan of 1909, a plan that proposed making Congress Street the central east-west axis of the city.)

The proposal envisioned that Congress Street would be 126 feet wide from Michigan Avenue to Robey Street, with the width increasing by 20 feet between Robey and Central.  East of Robey the plan called for two forty-foot roadbeds separated by a six-foot median, with eight-foot sidewalks and eight feet of parkway between the curb and the sidewalks. 

One of the positive aspects of the plan was that cutting through the center of Harrison Street to the center of Van Buren would create more street frontage with as many as 30 new business corners. 

The expressway finally began two decades later
Joseph K. Brittain, former president of the Chicago Real Estate Board, said of the plan, “By cutting Congress street through the blocks where it does not exist at the present time we materially assist in proper utilization of the territory.”

The plan was an ambitious one that was in keeping with the immense scope and vision of the original Chicago Plan of 1909.  But the Depression and World War II intervened, and it wasn’t until 1948 that work began in earnest on the project that would eventually see the Congress and Eisenhower Expressways completed in the late 1950’s.

*  *  *  *  *

                                                                               (JWB, 2011)
On this date Claude A. Welles, the general manager of the Merchandise Mart, announced that 82 percent of the 4,000,000 square foot building had been leased and that by May 3 about 200 tenants would have moved into the new building.  Many of the tenants were eastern manufacturers who recognized the “great central market” that Chicago had become.

“The Merchandise Mart embodies the modern idea of a concentrated market, that of bringing the buyer to market instead of attempting to take the market to the buyer, via trunks and sample cases,” said Welles.

“The buyer can enter the mart in the morning, attend to all his business and personal affairs during the day and do practically all of his buying without leaving the shelter of one roof until bedtime.  The building is a modern wholesale city in itself, having a host of activities.  It will provide every modern business facility; railroad transportation, telegraph, telephone, radio broadcasting station, bank, barber shop, drug store and restaurants.”

The main restaurant in the new building was built to serve 10,000 people a day in its five divisions.

April 27, 1966
With the Post Office band sounding a retreat, the United States flag was lowered for the last time from the old post office building at 219 South Clark Street on April 26.   The building was closed earlier in the week in preparation for its demolition and the construction of the new post office and federal building to be built between Adams and Jackson on the west side of Dearborn.  “We feel a little downhearted when an old friend passes,” said Postmaster Harry H. Semrow, “but we must make way for progress.”

*  *  *  *  *

On the same day that the flag was lowered at the post office Bell & Howell announced a new line of home movie cameras that required no manual settings and used an advanced 8 mm. film that the Eastman Kodak company would manufacture.

There would be two models of the new home movie camera, priced from $160 to $220.  As part of the announcement Bell & Howell unveiled a new movie projector that would produce a screen image twice as bright as that of the conventional 8 mm. projector.  It would be priced around $190.

Eastman Kodak said that its new film, to be called Super 8 Kodachrome II, would come in a cartridge so that it would be impossible to double expose of fog the film.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Look Back at Chicago--April 13

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

Player with Railroads
April 13, 1882
The Railroad Gazette published two diagrams showing the movement of east-west and west-east trains during 1880, the tables showed conclusively that Chicago was the most important  railroad center in the country.  Chicago’s trunk lines received 1,513,986 tons of eastbound freight.  Buffalo, New York received 1,031,792.  The next closest Midwestern city was Peoria with 390,148 tons.

Traffic from the east also saw Chicago trunk lines handling three times as much freight as the next closest midwestern city.  Chicago handled 346,582 tons while St. Louis saw 115,776 tons.

The Tribune stated, “It also appears that of the whole traffic of all the trunk lines to the Atlantic, and from the Atlantic to the West, including California, no less than 15 per cent of the whole transportation both ways is to and from Chicago, establishing the fact that as a shipper and receiver, and as a distributing point for railway traffic, Chicago exceeds all other points in the interior of the country.”

April 13, 1890
Interesting article on this day about “How Policemen are Built”.  The Tribune reported that Chicago had a police force of over 150 tons with a chest measurement of nearly one mile.  These measurements were “unequally distributed” among 1,700 men.

What followed was an interesting look at how police officers were hired.  First, they had to present to the Superintendent of Police a petition signed by at least five Chicago citizens of good character and habits, backed by an affidavit from one of those citizens that “each petitioner has known the applicant intimately and well, that he is ‘a man of good moral character, correct and orderly in his deportment, and not in any respect a violator of law or good order; that he is a man of sober, temperate, and industrious habits, and not addicted to the habitual use of intoxicating drink or other harmful excess.’”

Each of the five individuals was asked also to affirm that he had never seen the applicant “drunk or know or heard of his being drunk, nor of his having been guilty or arrested for any criminal or disorderly conduct or act,” and that he was “a man of truth and integrity, of sound mind, good understanding, and of a temper and manner fit for a policeman.”

It’s a wonder they found anyone to join the force.

Applicants were to have been Chicago residents for at least two years, qualified to vote, be able to pass a medical examination, and be not less than 5 feet 8 inches nor more 6 feet 4 inches in height.  In 1890 there was just one officer on the force who reached the maximum height.  The average policeman weighed about 180 pounds and had a chest measure of about 37 inches.

*  *  *  *  *

Under the headline Men Who Make History it was announced that the first meeting of the Board of Directors of the World’s Fair was held at the Sherman House.  At the meeting Edwin Walker was elected Temporary Chairman, Rollin A. Keyes was elected Temporary Secretary, and the directors who answered the roll call were H. H. Kohisast, C. L. Hutchinson, Ferdinand Peck, M. A. Ryerson, and Stuyvesant Fish.

A committee composed of Owen Aldis, S. W. Allerton, and E. S. Pike was charged with making arrangements for permanent quarters for the committee.  Another committee of five men was given the job of exploring ways in which the second installment of five million dollars could be raised for the project and directed to report their findings at the next meeting within a week.

*  *  *  *  *

The White City at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition
Later in this same issue the editorial board of The Tribune weighed in on the location of the fair.  Apparently, the piece ran as a reaction to a proposal that the fair be a “fair of neighborhoods” with various sections of the city each hosting one aspect of the exposition.

“Were the Fair cut up into chunks and scattered over the face of the city it would be a flat failure financially and in every other way. There would be few visitors to an exposition the fragments of which they would have to hunt in different points of the compass to find . . . Go to the great Barnum, the showman, and learn wisdom from him.  He pitches but one tent, no matter how big it must be, and gathers all his attractions under it.  He does not put his menagerie in one part of the city and scatter his rings around other parts,” said the editorial.

The piece speculated that the talk of such a “scattered” plan most probably stemmed from the fact that a majority of the Fair’s directors had “personal interests” which they worked for.  Not such a bad guess, I’m thinking.

The editorial concluded, “The truth is that the great benefits are not to localities or division.  They are general to the whole city and its suburbs, and will extend into neighboring cities and counties and States.  The West, the whole country, will feel the stimulus of the great Exposition and will thus be its beneficiaries.  It is the mind, not the pocket, that will derive the greatest advantage.”

The mind . . . not the pocket.  That idea has been a tough sell in the Windy City.  But in the cast of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition the sale got done.

*  *  *  *  *

On this date ground was broken for the new First Regiment Armory which until 1967 stood on the corner of Sixteenth Street and Michigan Avenue.  At 4:30 in the afternoon the First Regiment marched down Michigan Avenue with flags flying and drummers drumming.

The First Regiment Armory
As The Tribune described the scene, “The regiment was drawn up and the Gatling gun men tramped into the vacant lot with their picks and shovels while the rest of the regiment roared a chorus . . . The regiment then marched into the lot, and Col. Koch, having leaped from his brown charger, introduced Dr. Thomas, the Chaplain of the regiment, who told them how great an enterprise they were christening.”

Ceremonial shovels were filled and then “the boys by companies had their chance.  There was a quarter of an hour of fun.  The boys fired the dirt over the wagon and under it, and at each other, and on the populace which stood grinning near by.”  At five o’clock the regiment marched home again.

The First Regiment Armory was erected in an interesting location.  John Root designed the structure for Daniel Burnham’s firm, and it was built just blocks away from the houses of some of the most prominent members of Chicago society—Marshall Field, Potter Palmer, Phillip Armour, George Pullman and their peers.

When the city erupted in labor strife after the Haymarket Affair of May 1, 1886 the prosperous members of Chicago society began to fear for a general uprising.  They used a fair amount of their political pressure to get the armory built.  It was a most impressive structure, but it’s gone now.  It was torn down in 1967.

April 13, 1917
The largest single draft of potential sailors ever processed through the Great Lakes Naval Training station came to Chicago on this date and marched through the loop to the tune of a marching band as they made their way east.

According to The Tribune “The draft of 1,000 men leaving today have been drilled almost every minute of the day since they entered the station.  Some of them have been at the station less than a month, but none of them longer than six weeks.”

The women’s section of the Navy League met the sailors at Northwestern station in 100 automobiles.  Those who had no ride marched behind the cars and the Great Lakes Naval Training station band. 

Interestingly enough, one portion of the marchers paraded through city hall “to set an example to slackers at the marriage license bureau.” (The day before the march there were 457 marriage license issued, and there were hundreds of men waiting in line, waiting to obtain them.”

Captain W. A. Moffett, the Commandant at Great Lakes, stated, “We are getting men of the highest caliber . . . But just because they are coming a little faster than they were last week is no reason for patriots to relax.  Every American should realize that they navy is now in real action and that thousands of recruits are necessary.  Persons who cannot themselves enlist should respond to their country’s call by getting others to.”

The Roosevelt Memorial Bridge (JWB, 2011)
April 13, 1927
The counsel for the Lincoln Park commissioners, William H. Beckman, opened negotiations today that would remove the obstacle to the outer drive link bridge.  The move came after the approval of a $2,000,000 bridge bond resolution.

Mr. Beckman said that one of the few things that stood in the way was the negotiation with the federal lighthouse department in Milwaukee that would exchange a piece of government property in the way of the proposed bridge for a nearby piece of city land.

Following that the lawyer expected to initiate condemnation proceedings for property held by W. O. Green, president of the Chicago Canal and Dock company.

April 13, 1963
Marlon Brando was in Chicago where The Tribune caught him “in a green upholstered leather chair at the Ambassador East hotel.” 

With “his right hand in his shirt front in a Napoleonic gesture” he said, “Because I have not consented to spending time being interviewed about my personal life by Hollywood columnists, I have been ruled surly and churlish.  These stories have had concentric repercussions that have spread around the world.”

In town to promote his latest film, The Ugly American, he took one hour to answer five questions.  A Universal-International Pictures press agent stood at the ready, “nibbling on a sweet roll” with crumbs on his two button suit.”

Brando’s principal theme, though, was the unfair coverage that he had received from the press.  “I haven’t got a chance,” he said.  “I’m running up sand dunes with washing machines on my back . . . Perhaps I should throw this glass of orange juice on the floor (at which point he shook the glass and spilled a little on his trousers) . . . I would be considered better copy if I acted in a salacious way.”

The article concluded “He said he is a nice guy, a father, and a man with genuine concern for his fellows.”

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Nicholas J. Melas Centennial Fountain and Water Cannon

The Nicholas J. Melas Centennial Fountain and Water Cannon (JWB, 2011)

Since the great conflagration, the streets of our city have been conspicuous for their dilapidated and filthy condition.  Our warehouses, hotels, and business palaces have been replaced, by the enterprise of private individuals, by more substantial and finer edifices than those we had before, but the authorities have done nothing whatever to have the streets correspond with the splendid buildings that are lining them.  On a muddy day it is a hard undertaking to attempt to cross any one of our thoroughfares without sinking in the mud, while in dry weather it is pulverized by the many vehicles passing over it into the finest atoms of dust, through clouds of which the people of the city have to wend their way, inhaling with every breath these fine and sharp particles which cause the premature death of many citizens, and plant the germs of throat, lung and other diseases in the system of many others.  Chicago can best be compared with a peacock, which rejoices in the most superb plumage, and yet has the dirtiest feet of any bird on the face of the earth.

So began an article in The Chicago Tribune on June 18, 1873.  The article went on to specifically identify the problems caused by the city’s poor sewer system, not the least of which was the fact that the death rate in 1872 was 3,180 people higher than the year earlier, giving the city nearly that of New York City and New Orleans.

The lengthy article concluded, “This city is situated on a level plain having very little elevation in its highest points, and the refuse matter of the large population cannot be carried away by heavy rainfalls, except where it has an outlet through sewers, consequently a green pestilential mass of filth is continually standing in the gutters of, rather, ditches, of most of the unsewered streets, and even in the sewered ones where the houses are not connected with the sewer in the street.”

By the end of the 1870’s things hadn’t changed a whole lot, and the voice of The Tribune was becoming more strident on the issues.  In an editorial on March 5, 1880, the paper proclaimed, “The sanitary question is one in which screaming eagles on pinched half-dollars must sooner or later come to the front.  It is a question of life and death.  If answered negatively, all future public improvements within this, the third great city of the Union, will be but monuments erected in the memory of those who were sacrificed by a few municipal mercenaries.”

JWB (2011)
Finally, on February 1, 1889, The Tribune detailed the provisions of the bill that had been drawn up in Springfield, a bill that would allow the newly created Chicago Sanitary District to undertake a huge project that would, hopefully, solve Chicago’s sewage problems once and for all.  As envisioned the project would involve spending ten million dollars to dig a new canal that would reverse the flow of the Chicago River and send Chicago’s sewage into the hinterlands rather than the lake.

The bill had a number of provisions, all of which are, in retrospect, interesting.  The first was that at no point was the new waterway to “occupy any portion of the Illinois & Michigan Canal outside the limits of the county in which such district is situated for the site of any such improvement, except to cross the same, and then only in such a way as not to impair the usefulness of said canal.”  This provision had the effect of allowing the Chicago Sanitary District to use the I & M canal from Bridgeport to Willow Springs.

Next, “That the sanitary district shall be liable for damages to real estate within or without the district which shall be overflowed or otherwise damaged by reason of the construction or enlargement of any channel or other improvement, and actions to recover such damages may be brought in the county where such real estate is situated, or in the county where the sanitary district is located, at the option of the party claiming to be injured.”

Third, “That any channel or outlet constructed under the act which shall cause the discharge of sewage into or through any river or stream beyond or without the limits of the district shall be of sufficient size and capacity to produce a continuous flow of water of at least 200 cubic feet per minute for each 1,000 of the population, and in such condition that the water thereof shall be neither offensive nor injurious to the health of the State, and before any sewage shall be discharged into such channel or outlet all garbage, dead animals and parts thereof, and other solids shall be taken therefrom.”

(JWB, 2011)
The focus, it seems, was not so much to treat the sewage so much as it was to keep the stuff moving along.  And . . . I wonder what industry the last sentence of that clause was intended to call to attention?

Fourth, “That in case any channel shall be formed by which the water of Lake Michigan shall pass into the Illinois River the channel shall be of such size and capacity as to produce and maintain a continuous flow of not less than 300,000 cubic feet of water per minute, and to be of a depth of not less than fourteen feet, and a current not exceeding three miles per hour; and if nay portion of any such channel shall be cut through rocky stratum such portion of said channel shall have double the capacity above provided for, and a width of not less than 160 feet at the bottom and a depth of not less than eighteen feet.  And the channel shall be kept of such a size and in such condition that it will maintain a continuous flow of not less than 20,000 cubic feet of water for each 100,000 population of the district.”

Fifth, “And, if at any time the General Government shall improve the Desplaines or Illinois River form the point where such channel shall empty directly into either one of said rivers, so that the same shall be capable of receiving a flow of 600,000 cubic feet of water per minute or more from said channel, and shall provide for the payment of all damages which any extra flow above 800,000 cubic feet of water per minute from such channel may cause to private property, so as to save harmless the said district from all liability therefrom; then such drainage district shall within one year thereafter enlarge the entire channel leading into said Desplaines or Illinois River from said district to a sufficient size and capacity to produce and maintain a continuous flow throughout the same of not less than 600,000 cubic feet of water per minute at a current of not more than three miles per hour.”

(JWB, 2011)
Sixth, “When the channel shall be completed with a capacity of 800,000 cubic feet per minute it shall be declared a navigable stream, and the General Government shall have control of it for navigable purposes when it improves the Illinois and Desplaines River for navigation.”

Finally, “It is also stipulated that any district having established an outlet for drainage or sewage shall have the right to permit territory lying outside its limits to drain into and use any channel or drain made by it, upon such payments, terms, and conditions as may be mutually agreed upon; and any district formed under this act is given full power and authority to contract for the right to use any drain or channel which may be made by any other sanitary district upon such terms as may be mutually agreed upon, and to raise the money called for by any such contract in the same way to the same extent as such district is authorized to raise money for any other corporate purpose.”

In one of the grand engineering and construction feats of the modern era, the whole project was finished just as the twentieth century began.  On January 29 of 1900, The Tribune announced, “Test Capacity of Canal” in its headline.  It was on that cold, blustery day that the commissioners of the Chicago Sanitary District and Mayor Carter Harrison rode the steam yacht Juliet out to Lockport, where, for the first time, the gates of the dam were raised and “water at the rate of 375,000 cubic feet a minute passed  . . . through the gates”.

The report went on to describe the scene “ . . . greenish water roared like the breakers of Lake Michigan as it struck the bed of the Desplaines and started on its journey to the Mississippi.” 

At this point, that was about as far as a boat could go.  In effect, the navigable portion of the canal ended at Lockport.  But more was to come.  And with 35 miles or so of open water between Chicago and Lockport, there were a lot of miles of water for the sewage of the rapidly growing city to find a place to settle.

(JWB, 2011)
Skip forward nearly a century and on February 19, 1988 The Tribune announced that the Metropolitan Sanitary District had awarded the Blinderman Construction Co. Inc. of Northbrook a $3.65 million contract to build a cannon that would shoot an eight-story arc of water over the Chicago River at the lakefront.  Along with the cannon a fountain would be built at McClurg Court to celebrate the centennial of the district.  The cannon would shoot the arc from the river’s north bank to the south bank and would automatically stop the stream if winds threatened to blow the water onto streets or nearby buildings.

Designed by Lohan Associates the Nicholas J. Melas Centennial Fountain and Water Cannon is an impressive addition to the river walk opposite the shiny highrises of River East.  According to the AIA Guide to Chicago, “The summit of the stepped granite pavilion represents the eastern continental divide (located just southwest of Chicago), with water flowing east to the Atlantic Ocean and west to the Gulf of Mexico.”

During the warm weather months the water cannon shoots its eighty-foot arc of water across the river on the hour for ten minutes.

                                                                                                                                                      (JWB, 2011)
What does the future bring?  From the looks of things – big changes.  In November of 2011, a protracted battle between the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and local politicians ended in Chicago’s agreement to disinfect wastewater before dumping it into the river.

The new standards came about as a result of a May, 2011 letter from the E.P.A. demanding that stretches of the rivers be clean enough for “recreation in and on the water.”  These standards are to apply to the North and South branches of the Chicago River, the North Shore Channel, the Cal-Sag Channel and the Little Calumet River.

Perhaps in my lifetime folks will be able for the first time in the history of the city to jump into the river without having to don protective gear. 

Or maybe the Cubs will win the World Series.

We’ll see what happens . . .

By the way, more about Nicholas J. Melas, the guy after whom the fountain at McClurg Court is named in an upcoming blog.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Look Back at Chicago -- April 6

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

April 6, 1881
The American Meteorological Association, changing course, proposed the recognition of an already established system of equal hour distances from each other, taking Greenwich as the starting point.  For Chicago, once the adoption of the new system was complete, this would mean setting clocks back 9 ½ minutes so that when it was noon in Greenwich, it would be 6:00 a.m. in Chicago.  The Eastern states would be under “Atlantic time” while the Midwest would be under “Valley time”.  The Rocky Mountain region would operate under “Mountain time,” and the western states, eight hours slower than Greenwich, would be under “Pacific time”.

It was at the Grand Pacific Hotel that the Standard
Time system was adopted on October 11, 1883
A circular that the Association published stated, “Over seventy standard meridians are now in use by railroad and other companies throughout the United States and Canada; the larger towns and cities frequently adopt their own special local times, and the smaller ones adopt the railroad times most convenient to them; there are thus now in ordinary use at least 100 local times or meridians, many of them differing but a few minutes from each other.”

A little less than 18 months later, on October 11, 1883, the heads of the major railroads in North America met in Chicago at the Grand Pacific Hotel on the corner of LaSalle Street and Jackson.  The meeting resulted in the adoption of their own Standard Time System of five standard time zones for the continental U.S.A. and Canada.

*  *  *  *  *
Also on this date The Tribune carried an illuminating editorial on barbed wire, patented just seven years earlier by Joseph Glidden in DeKalb, Illinois.  First, the article pointed out the drawbacks of the post and board fences used earlier.  “The original cost of the cedar posts and the lumber for fencing was very great, and this cost was a continuous one . . . It required three cedar posts to the one post required for the wire fence.  It was easily broken, easily pushed over, its great weight rendered the posts insecure, and the whole was easily thrown down by cattle.”

The advantages of the new barbed wire fences were that “It requires two-thirds less posts, is comparatively lighter, is not thrown down by wind or snow, does not catch the snow and hold it in drifts; is even in case of a break easily and cheaply repaired, but, above all, protects itself against any pressure or violence from live stock.  An ox or a horse never touches it but one, and that very briefly.”

A ton of barbed wire made two miles of three-strand fence.  In 1880 40,000 tons of wire were sold, equal to 80,000 miles of three-stand fence.

The editorial came in response to the ruling of one Judge Blodgett concerning a case in which the complainants accused the major manufacturers of barbed wire of engaging in a monopoly.  The suit upheld the exclusive right of the patentees to manufacture barbed wire.  “All other manufacturers have been enjoined, and last January there was conference in this city, at which it was said the successful patentees submitted terms upon which all other manufacturers were obliged to take out licenses and pay a royalty for the privilege.  Thus was established one of the greatest monopolies ever created in this country,” the editorial stated.

April 6, 1888
On this day word came from Pittsburgh that the strikers at Andrew Carnegie’s Edgar Thomson Steel Works had rejected the steel baron’s offer to institute a sliding scale of wages and that Mr. Carnegie had therefore ordered a complete shutdown of the plant until January 1, 1889.  This action would have the effect of throwing 5,000 men out of work.

Andrew Carnegie's Edgar Thomson Steelworks
Mr. Carnegie stated, “We have no strike nor any quarrel with our men, nor any desire to introduce new men.  We shall simply wait until the men think better of our proposition and decide to give the plan a trial . . . The iron and steel business had become and is rapidly becoming so bad that we must work our men as our competitors do—namely: two shifts in twenty-four hours, instead of three.”

Four years later the Edgar Thomson plant would become the site of one of the most serious labor actions in the country’s history.  While Andrew Carnegie was abroad, Henry Clay Frick cut the wage of steel workers, causing men at the Duquesne and Edgar Thomson Works to join a strike.  In response, Mr. Frick brought in thousands of strikebreakers and 300 Pinkerton guard to protect them.  The result was the death of ten people and injuries to hundreds more.

*  *  *  *  *

In action at the City Council the following ordinance was passed, “That the Lake Street Elevated Railway Company of Chicago is hereby authorized to construct and operate by steam or electricity an elevated railway on and along Lake street in said City of Chicago, commencing on the east side of Canal street in said city and running thence west on said Lake street to the western city limits.  Said construction of said railway to be of double track at a clear elevation of fourteen feet above the surface grade as established by the City of Chicago, and to be constructed according to the plans and specifications of the Meigs system of elevated railways.”

Elevated trains meet on the Lake Street Elevated line (JWB, 2011)
Authority was given to the company to “construct and erect its girders for the said railway over every street, alley, or public way which the said railway on the route as hereby designated crosses, and the said railway company may also construct at all necessary and convenient places such sidings, switches, turnouts, supports, connections, landing places, stations, water tanks, and all necessary and convenient buildings and approaches thereto, telegraph and telephone signals and all other requisit and convenient appliances upon said route as shall be required for the convenience and safe and rapid operation of said railway.”

Construction, according to the ordinance, was to begin within six months and, when finished, “no more than five cents shall be charged for a single ride over said railway.”

The line, when completed in 1893, was Chicago’s second elevated line.  It began operating from a terminal at Madison and Market Streets and carried passengers as far west as California Avenue.  By 1894 the line reached Laramie; five years later it ran as far as Austin Avenue.  The line was finally extended all the way to Forest Park by 1910.

*  *  *  *  *

Even as plans were moving forward on the newest form of public transportation, The Tribune was warning its readers of the perils of riding the cable cars.  “There are several things the public has yet to learn,” the article stated.  “The first is that the tunnel is not wide enough to permit standing on the side step of the long cars when going through the tunnel. The second is that it is dangerous in the extreme to walk through the driveway of the tunnel . . . There is barely room between the cars for a man to stand sideways.  Should any part of his clothing catch on the passing car he would be seriously injured if not killed.”

“The third thing people have to learn is that passengers for the North Side who board south-bound cars on LaSalle street so as to be sure of a seat will have to pay an extra fare for the privilege.  North-bound passengers are not taken on without an extra fare until Monroe street is reached.  In other words, the corner of Monroe and LaSalle streets is considered the terminus of the line on the South Side.”

*  *  *  *  *

A. G. Spalding, the President of the Chicago White Stockings, talked candidly about the future of the club.  “I want to say that for seventeen years—from the beginning of the season of 1871 to the close of last season—the grounds of the Boston club had the poorest appointments of any club in the country . . . Now the club owns the grounds and can afford to put up a $75,000 grand stand.  The Chicago club has leased grounds and for that reason cannot afford to erect an elegant and substantial grand stand.  When we get grounds of our own Chicago will have a grand stand second to none.”

The park that Spalding promised was not completed for another 26 years.  In 1914 over a period of six weeks Weeghman Field (today Wrigley Field) was constructed for $250,000.  West Side Park, where the White Stockings, the precursor to the Cubbies, played, was located on a small plot bounded by Congress, Loomis, Harrison and Throop streets.  Foul lines were reportedly as short as 216 feet in a park that could hold about 10,000 fans.

Spalding played for the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox, batting .282 in 500 major league at-bats.  A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, he served as president of the White Stockings from 1882 to 1891.  In 1876 he founded the Spalding sporting good company, which turned out to be a fairly good decision on his part. 

April 6, 1916
Poor Officer Daniel F. Kenney . . . for 24 years he worked out of the East Chicago Avenue station, not once being called before a trial board.  But on this day he was transferred to the Cragin Staion by the Commissioner.

On election day he was detailed to watch a polling place at 1038 North Clark Street when early in the morning he arrested two women for insisting upon voting before the polls were open. 

Mr. Kenney said that “someone” was trying to “get” him and that he would resign rather than go to Cragin.

It probably doesn’t take a lot of detective work to figure out why Mr. Kenney was asked to finish his career in just about the farthest west precinct in the city.

*  *  *  *  *

In the same edition came the headline Office Hours in Saloon. Wife Declares Husband Spent Most of Every Day Drinking and “Sleeping It Off.” 

“How much time did your husband spend in saloons?”  Mrs. Emma Offenloch was asked in her suit for divorce against Benjamin Offenloch yesterday.

“Well,” she replied, “he would go into a saloon at 5 o’clock in the morning and stay until 8 or 9 o’clock; then he would come home and sleep until 11 o’clock.  He would go back to the saloon again and drink until 3 o’clock, then come home and sleep off the effects and return in the evening.”

“He’s a record breaker,” commented Judge McKinley, who granted a decree.

*  *  *  *  *

Also on this date Colonel Theodore Roosevelt threw his hat into the presidential ring, running as a Republican.  He told a “political caller” who expected to be a delegate to the Republican convention not to nominate him “if he expects the colonel to pussyfoot on a single issue he has raised or unless he things the nomination is in the interests of the United States.”

“Don’t be for me unless you are prepared to say that every citizen of this country has got to be pro-United States, first, last, and all the time, and not anything else at all, and that we stand for every good American everywhere, whatever his birthplace or creed and wherever he now lives, and that in return we demand that he be an American and nothing else, with no hyphen about him.”

April 6, 1927
Panic overtook the Madison Hat works on the fourth floor of 174 North Michigan Boulevard as 200 women rushed to the street when an awning underneath the windows caught fire and the flames and smoke intruded into the floor on which the women were working.  Traffic was stopped on the street for ten minutes while the fire department extinguished the blaze.  Most probably the fire started from a carelessly discarded cigarette butt.

*  *  *  *  *

Also on this date the Massachusetts Supreme court denied Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti a new trial.  Mr. Sacco was incarcerated in the county jail in Dedham while Mr. Venzetti was being held in the Charlestown state prison.  The two men were accused of murdering Frederick A. Parmenter and Alexander Berardeilli on April 15, 1926.

The main contention of the defense was the two accused men were convicted not because the jury believed them guilty but because they had admitted they were radicals.

April 6, 1962
The Balbo Pillar (JWB, 2010)
An Alitalia DC-8 was forced to fly in circles 20,000 feet above Northbrook, waiting for a storm to break, so that it could land.  On board were 14 former Italian pilots, all now generals.  They were part of a squadron of 96 flyers who came to Chicago on July 15, 1933 in 24 sea planes as part of the Century of Progress exposition.  The flight took about 12 hours.  The original flight took 16 days.

For more on the flight that led to the naming of one of Chicago's downtown streets and the display of a historic artifact east of Soldier Field, see my two blog entries on the remarkable flight and subsequent visit of Balbo and his aviators.  They were posted on April 22 and 26 of 2010.

*  *  *  *  *

The Chicago Black Hawks “skated and stickhandled their way to a 4 to 3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens tonight to take a lead of three games to two in their Stanley Cub semi-final series.

Bill “Red” Hay scored the winning goal for the Hawks at 1:39 of the third period.  The game started with a flurry by the Cnadiens.  “In those first 20 minutes, a period in which they swarmed all over Goalie Glenn Hall as they free-wheeled thru and around the Hawks in spectacular fashion that had the home crowd of 14,959 delirious.”

But the Hawks drew first blood as Bobby Hull scored at 2:55 of the first period in the Hawks’ first shot at Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante.  “Bobby picked up the puck just short of the center faceoff circle and powered over the blue line just to the left of center when Fontinato and Tremblay caught him in a sandwiching grip.  The strong man kept plowing.  He was within 10 feet of the goal when he managed to rip his stick arm free for a weak nudge.  Plante misplayed it and the puck slithered over the goal line on is left.”

The Hawks went on to defeat the Canadiens, four games to two.  They met the Toronto Maple Leafs in the final series, losing in six games to a team that would go on to win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

*  *  *  *  *

Picasso at the Daley Center (JWB, 2008)
Also on this day Robert W. Christensen, executive director of the public buildings commission, told the planning board that bids would be opened within days for the demolition of building on the site of the proposed, multi-million dollar civic center to be built in the block bounded by Dearborn, Clark, Randolph, and Washington streets.

For the story behind this monumental project check out my blog entries on the Richard J. Daley Center (There are three different entries regarding the Daley Center, posted in June of 2011).