Wednesday, February 14, 2018

February 14, 1887 -- Tribune Editorializes Against Yerkes Scheme

Charles Tyson Yerkes
February 14, 1887 – With ordinances before the Chicago City Council that would allow Charles Tyson Yerkes to lay streetcar tracks on Jackson Boulevard from Market to Dearborn, on Market Street, from Jackson to Monroe, on Monroe Street, from Market to Dearborn, on Dearborn, from Polk to Michigan, and on Randolph Street from LaSalle to Dearborn, the Chicago Daily Tribune prints an editorial against the proposition.  “If it can be carried out,” the article protests, “every rod of thoroughfare in the business portion of the city, except the two blocks on Monroe street between Wabash avenue and Dearborn street, and the same length on Jackson street, will be tracked and double-tracked, and, in some instances, treble-tracked.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 14, 1887] “Mr. Yerkes talks confidently about the certainty of obtaining the approval of the Council for his ordinances,” the editorial concludes. “And he probably has knowledge whereof he speaks.  There is not a word about giving the city any equivalent for those invaluable franchises.  It is to be hoped, however, that there is yet sufficient honesty in the Council to delay if not altogether to defeat the Philadelphian’s plans.” The scheme ultimately fell apart, and it would not be until 1897 that the Loop elevated line would be completed.  Two years later Yerkes would liquidate all of his shares in the Chicago transit empire he began in 1886 when he arrived in the city, and say farewell to a city that he had come to hate.

February 14, 1882 – At least 1,000 employees of the Pullman Company go on strike after timekeepers notify them that they will be required immediately to pay their own fare to the company’s works on Illinois Central trains.  Passes had been issued on the trains free-of-charge, but the company says that the passes have cost about $8,000 a month since the company moved its manufacturing to a planned community named after its founder.  To say the least, the whole matter could have been handled more judiciously.  According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, “When the man to whom the distribution of the tickets was intrusted went around among the men he demanded not only that they should buy then and there, but also that each man should lay in a supply for six days in advance, paying cash for the same.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 15, 1882] Since the company had also recently changed the paydays from semi-monthly to monthly, a great number of workers were unprepared for the new expense.  The painters and carpenters struck immediately.  700 workers congregated as Mr. D. A. Grey climbed up on a bench and began to speak . . . “It was the old story,” he said, “of the conflict between capital and labor, and it resulted from the attempt of capital to ignore the value of labor.  The official who drew his princely salary of thousands did not appear to understand the situation of the man who was compelled to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning, snatch a hasty breakfast by candle-light, walk, it may be, a couple of miles to catch the train, ride fourteen miles in a dirty smoking-car, often standing all the way, work steadily and hard for nine hours—for which he received 27½ cents an hour—then ride fourteen miles back; in the dirty car, paying his own fare, and be obliged to wait a month for the wages due him.”  After an appointed committee met with company managers, its members returned to the waiting throng and reported the company was steadfast in its determination to charge the men for their railroad fare.   A worker jumped from the crowd and proclaimed, “The whole thing is just this, boys:  All we want is fair play.  I don’t think it is fair play to charge us for our fare out here, and I put it to a vote.  Shall we stand it?”  Greeted with a loud chorus of dissent, he continued, “Then I’ll tell you what to do.  Let every man pack up his kit, and if when the manager comes he isn’t willing to change the order, why we will all go home and find work somewhere else.  I think this country is big enough and fertile enough to give every man a living who is willing to work.”  Less than two years after Pullman began its bold experimental planned community for workers, a decade of give-and-take between management of the company and its employees begins, ten years of tension that would ultimately lead to the great show-down of 1892.  The Pullman Market Building, shown above, is the site at which the angry workers gathered.

February 14, 1903 -- Addressing the members of the Merchants' Club, Architect Daniel Burnham describes his vision of a Chicago that includes parks and lagoons, gardens, forests, and broad carriage ways.  Burnham urges those present to ensure that the lake be made a beauty spot that would, according to The Chicago Daily Tribune, "keep at home the millions that are spent by Chicagoans at Venice, Paris, and other beauty spots of the old world." The president of the Merchants' Club, Alexander Agnew McCormick, adds, "The Merchants' club is not committed and will not be committed to any fixed plan for converting the lake front into a park, but it does insist that the submerged lands along the lake shore shall be dedicated for a public park, to be used exclusively for a park. No buildings are contemplated in the general plan."

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