Friday, May 4, 2012

A Look Back at Chicago--May 4

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 . . .

May 4, 1885
At 11:05 p.m. on the night of May 3 a fire alarm sounded, sending the men of Engine Company 17 to the corner of Clark and South Water Street.  By the time the firefighters arrived, fire had broken through the roofs and windows of 161, 163 and 165 South Water Street.  All three buildings dealt in produce, fruits and vegetables.

A second alarm was sounded, and a half-dozen “steamers” traveled to the site of the conflagration.  Early in the fight ten men from Engine Company 17, along with personnel from Chemical Number 1, Engine 9 and Hook and Ladder 1, entered No. 163 and began to operate from the third floor, extinguishing embers from the floor above them as they dropped.  At some point the upper floor gave way directly over the heads of the firefighters, who found themselves “engulfed in a mass of debris, consisting of everything from 6 x 4 joists to bales of hay and cases of eggs.”

Marvin Mulvey, working with Truck No. 1, was buried six feet deep in crates, barrels, and cases.  Charles Bird, working alongside Mr. Mulvey was also buried in the debris.  Fifty of their comrades climbed ladders and came to the aid of the two men, but the efforts proved fruitless as both men had been crushed by the weight of the debris.

Mr. Mulvey was 25-years-old, unmarried and lived on Lincoln Street between Indiana and Ohio.  Mr. Bird was 32-years-old and had been with the department for two years.  From his work on the ladder he had earned the nickname of “Rushing Charlie”.

At some point during the tragedy the horses drawing Truck No. 3 broke loose and charged up South Water Street to LaSalle Street where they ran smack into a streetcar.  The loose team knocked down the horses drawing the streetcar, seriously injuring one of them.  Fortunately, no passengers aboard the car were injured.

May 4, 1893
Ignacy Jan Paderewski
Just four days after the Worlds Columbian Exposition opened, there was big excitement as the great Ignacy Jan Paderewski appeared at the fair on his way to New York where he would sail for Europe within a week, taking with him $160,000 from his concert tour of the United States.  While in Chicago he played two concerts at the Fair’s Music Hall.

It was a raw day, and the room was cold and draughty.  Men kept their hats on and “their overcoats pulled about their ears”.  Women were wrapped in sealskin cloaks. 

Theodore Thomas conducted the orchestra.  Mr.Thomas was noted for his tempestuous nature, and the guards at the doors refused to let anyone enter while the maestro was conducting.  The Tribune reported,  “After Thomas once raised his baton or Paderwski struck the first trembling note on the piano, no power on earth could force an entrance into the hall until the applause began.”

At one point the Fair’s Director of Works, Daniel Burnham, tried to enter during “the wildest raptures of a Hungarian rhapsody.”  He was stopped and “not until he displayed three or four kinds of bronze medals did the dignity of his presence overcome the fear of the wrath of rebuke of Theodore Thomas.”  The great architect was forced to stand until the piece was concluded.

When the great pianist and the orchestra began their final number the women “rose from their seats and waved handkerchiefs above their heads, while from the men came a steady salvo of cheers.” 

Paderewski left the fair in grand fashion.  An electric launch was waiting for him in the grand basin in front of the Manufactures Building when the musician appeared with Conductor Thomas and Daniel Burnham.  A “whole bevy of young women” rushed the water’s edge, to whom the pianist “raised his small silk hat and smiled upon them in a weary way as though altogether tired of homage and adulation.”

The motor launch moved along the basin, rounded the gold figure of the Republic, and turned into the north lagoon, all the while with young women following its course on the banks, “running and stumbling over each other in their efforts to wave a last long, soulful adieu” as the great pianist, sitting in the stern of the boat, disappeared into the “gray mist which hung over the waters of the north lagoon.”

*  *  *  *  *

In contrast to the magic of the concert there were some practical considerations regarding the fair that were aired on this date.  The Tribune bemoaned the fact, for example, that there was hardly any public seating in the Exposition grounds.  “A good plank well situated for a bench will anywhere be filled with ladies who have little regard for their dry goods when their backs are breaking in two,” cried the editorial.  The paper surmised that there were so few benches because roller-chairs were being rented at 75 cents an hour.  After all, why give something away for nothing when you can get six bits for it? The paper’s advice . . . “No one is really well equipped for a visit to the grounds unless he carries a lunch-basket and a camp-stool.”

*  *  *  *  *

The paper also decried the “ill kept” condition of the toilet-rooms within the great buildings of Jackson Park.  “The free rooms in many of these buildings are in an offensive and discreditable condition,” said the editorial.  Once again, money seemed to be at the root of the problem.  Apparently, as one strolled around the grounds of the great fair, it was clear that there were twice as many paid toilets as free ones.  In the Fine Arts and Fisheries Buildings there were no toilets at all.

More importantly, though, the paper bemoaned the “extremely offensive and unsanitary condition” of the free toilets.  They were cleaned in the morning and apparently received no further attention until the fair closed at night.  Most had no ventilation; facilities with windows had the windows fastened down.  “As a sanitary company derives a revenue of $60 to $75 from each of its closet-rooms it looks as if it might afford to keep the free closets in better connection,” the editorial declared.

The paper also took the sanitary company to task for going into the advertising business with its concession, a “manifest impropriety.”  The editorial stated, “Large frames have been hung up containing panels for renting purposes.  This is a complete departure from the rules governing the grounds and buildings everywhere else, and ought to be put a stop to if unauthorized.”

*  *  *  *  *

The view from the Manufactures Building at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition
Despite the glitches, the 1893 fair was still an unbelievably impressive affair.  This was clearly displayed when a reporter from The Tribune climbed to the top of the clock on the Manufactures Building and looked over the vast exposition as it underwent its finishing touches.

In the Manufactures Building alone one hundred carloads of exhibits had been delivered in the preceding four days.  Significant among this material was a collection of clavichords, spinets and harpsichords, including pianos owned by Haydn, Bach and Mozart.

Machinery Hall--interior
Machinery Hall was nearing completion, and it was expected that steam would be turned on within a day, so that the great engines would begin turning.  David S. Dickinson, the Superintendent of Installation in the Transportation Building, reported that the exhibits were complete with the exception of three French locomotives.

Seven carloads of orange and lemon-bearing trees had been received on the preceding day for display in the California exhibit in Horticultural Hall.  The erection of the orange tower and Liberty Bell, both completely made of oranges was expected to be finished on this day.  Over at the Mines and Mining Building one of Maryland’s contributions, a single piece of coal weighing eighteen tons, was installed.

In a surprise move the Fine Arts Building was opened on May 3 even though exhibits continued to arrive, principally from France and Italy, in great cases.  The work was far enough along, though, so that it was announced that visitors would be admitted to the building, which is now the Museum of Science and Industry, every day at 9 a.m.

*  *  *  *  *

Visitors on the previous day included R. N. Barr, Superintendent of Motive Power for the Chicago, St. Paul and Milwaukee Road.  The widow of General Custer and the general’s sister, Mrs. Margaret Custer Calhoun, also attended.  Lambert Tree strolled the Midway Plaisance with a party of friends.  W. J. Campbell, a member of the Republican National Committee, lit a 40-cent cigar after taking his lunch, when a member of the Columbian Guard informed him that there was to be no smoking on the grounds.  After mildly protesting, the official extinguished his stogie.

And The Tribune reported an amusing piece of conversation when a “fashionably dressed Londoner” approached a fair official at the Bureau of Railway Information.

“Ah, I thought you might be kind enough, as your lines penetrate every part of the country, to tell me which one goes near some land I own,” the Londoner began.

“Where is your land,” inquired the official.

At this point the Englishman called to his “man” to produce papers describing his property, whereupon it was discovered that the land was in the Argentine Republic.

 “I own stock in many of these American Railways,” the guest explained.  “And I thought, you know it would be a jolly scheme to go out on one of them and see my land.”

“We cover this country,” replied the official, “but haven’t completed the line to South America yet.”

May 4, 1920
In one of the preceding week’s news dispatches The Tribune took its readers on a tour of the Chicago State Hospital for the Insane in Dunning.  On this date in 1920 the paper covered the stabbing of John A. Carboy, the president of M. J. Corboy Plumbing Company at his home at 5131 Ingleside Avenue.  Mr. Corboy was attacked by his maid, a former inmate at the Dunning institution.

“She came to us well recommended and she was a good worker,” said Mr. Corboy.  “She was up early in the morning and worked late at night.  But she had a violent temper, so we decided to discharge her.”

The fracas started during dinner at which the girl “showed another fit of temper” as Mr. Corboy was entertaining guests.  She was forcibly ejected from the house, but she returned later, found a butcher knife and encountered Mr. Corboy in the hall.  Hurling a glass fruit dish at the startled owner with the knife behind her back, she managed to swing the knife around and slash Mr. Carboy’s back.

Examined by Dr. William J. Hickson, the maid exclaimed, “If I had had a revolver I would have killed him!  He made me sore.”

Later, as policemen were escorting her through the LaSalle Street exit of City Hall to the patrol wagon, she “jerked off her hat and sprinted up the street.”  But the usual traffic jam at Randolph Street allowed the policemen to overtake her.

May 4, 1931
It was announced that Evanston police were planning on making “serious war on the kind of bathing suits that are built to let in the maximum of sunlight rather than to display a minimum of skin.”

According to Policewoman Georgianna Juul all female bathers must have skirts on their suits and covering on their backs.  “The one piece streamline model is to be regarded as illegal for both men and women,” Ms. Juul said.

*  *  *  *  *

As the length of swimming suits was coming down, so, too, was the price of living.  Since 1929 the price of meat had been reduced by 30%, and fruit was half the price of a year before.  Developers asserted that the price of home construction had decreased by 20% so that “the man who began figuring on a $12,000 bungalow a year ago may now build the house of his dreams for $9,000.

The president of the Chicago Medical Society, James Harger, stated that physicians were caring for 50% more charity cases than a year before and that hospital fees were 25% lower than they were in 1929.  “Reputable physicians,” said Dr. Harger, “have always adjusted their fees to the patient’s ability to pay.  In the present situation, this means that the average doctor is performing fifty per cent more charity work and scaling down his fees at least 25 per cent on paying patients.  The lower prices on food sand medicines have been reflected in the lowering of hospital charges.”

May 4, 1954
The Tribune reported that the Union League on the preceding day had wired Vice President Nixon, the presiding officer of the Senate, that it “considers that the McCarthy-army hearings are detrimental to the best interests of the country.”

In the telegram the Union League stated “We condemn the rules under which the Senate hearing is being conducted.  We believe the proceedings have an unfavorable reflection on our legislative processes, that they needlessly and harmfully detract form the dignity of the United States Senate, and hold up to ridicule both the United States Senate and our army.”

*  *  *  *  *

Also on this day the French high command announced that Viet Minh forces had launched another heavy assault on the west side of the embattled fortress at Dien Bien Phu.  Hundred of Russian-made trucks were spotted moving into the hills, just one night after the Viet Minh troops called off their third big assault.

The 24-hour halt in fighting allowed the 11,000 defenders at Dien Bien Phu to rest and receive air-dropped supplies.  During this time the French dropped fresh paratroopers, ammunition and other supplies into the fortress.

The 14,000 ton Bois Belleau, which was formerly the United States carrier Belleau Wood before it was turned over to the French the preceding September, arrived off Haiphong with new squadrons of replacements and bombers to aid the depleted defenders.

May 4, 1965
Hancock Center (JWB, 2010)
Although the First National Bank of Chicago announced the plans for its new building first, the 100-story John Hancock center got underway on this day because the Hancock site involved far less razing work than the First National site in the middle of the Loop that required the demolition of three huge buildings, including the Morrison Hotel.

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