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.

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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).

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