Monday, February 19, 2018

February 19, 1906 - Supreme Court Finds Chicago Blameless in Mississippi Pollution

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1902,
the date he was appointed to the U. S. Supreme Court
February 19, 1906 – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes hands down a unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court in which the jurists find that the City of Chicago does not pollute the waters of the Mississippi River to any great extent.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “The decision throughout is a rebuke to the politicians in Missouri for their action in this case, because it shows that after all their labor they had been unable to establish, even by inference, that the sewage of the city of Chicago after passing through the drainage canal and the Illinois river was half as harmful to St. Louis as the sewage of that city is to towns and villages lower down the river.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 20, 1906] The court finds that there is virtually no evidence that would indicate the sewage of Chicago reaches the waterworks in St. Louis. In fact, the suit that St. Louis filed is, in effect, thrown back in the city’s face as “the court warns the Missouri city that if they had won their suit against Chicago many other suits would be instituted, and St. Louis would be held responsible for the contamination of the father of waters as far south as the Supreme court might care to recognize the injury to health.”  The court does not doubt that the Mississippi River is polluted and becoming more so.  Its decision absolves Chicago from blame for the pollution in the river around St. Louis as the justices indicate, “Where, as here, the plaintiff has sovereign powers and deliberately permits discharges similar to those of which it complains, it not only offers a standard to which the defendant has a right to appeal, but as some of those discharges are above the intake of St. Louis, it warrants the defendant in demanding strictest proof that the plaintiff’s own conduct does not produce the result, or at least so conduce to it that the courts should not be curious to apportion the blame.” Reaction in Chicago is swift as Chief Engineer Isham Randolph says, “It is a great victory and due in large measure to some pioneer scientific work which the sanitary district instituted.”

February 19, 1918 – Frank Lloyd Wright tells members of the Chicago Woman’s Aid at the Art Institute that he sees in Chicago “at once a despair and a great hope.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 20, 1918] "A Chicago smokestack has more vitality as a work of art than the effete gray ghosts of a dubious past which now haunt the lake front at the foot of Monroe Street,” the architect tells his audience.  He continues, “Is anything uglier than dirt—unless it is noise?  We have both.  Some one defines dirt as ‘matter out of place.’  In this sense Chicago culture is just dirt—matter out of place in all its ugliness.  Chicago is Indian for onion—in name, as in reputation, unesthetic [sic].”  Wright suggests a new city seal, according to the newspaper’s coverage, a “shield trifoliate—on onion, beautifully emblazoned on the shield; beside the onion, on the right, a pig, rampant; at the left, a poet, also rampant.”  He blasts the building that houses City Hall, calling it a “big bluff in vain classic costing thousands a month for great columns that are a huge and expensive load to carry instead of carrying the load.”  Demanding a new vision to replace the old Beaux Arts style he sees as  out of place in the middle of the Midwestern prairie, he says, “We are plundering the old world of all its finery and dressing ourselves up in it as a kind of masquerade.  This is not culture in any real sense.”  In his conclusion, Wright states, “Only revolt can save the city for the culture that is for all time.  One thing Chicago must do; she must take her great heritage—the lake front – and shape it to her own liking.”  The eight-year-old City Hall against which Wright railed is pictured above in a 1915 postcard.

February 19, 2009 -- Full-out rant at the Board of Trade as CNBC commentator Rick Santelli rails against President Obama's mortgage bailout plan. "The government is promoting bad behavior," Santelli storms. "This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?" Santelli follows up by suggesting that a modern Chicago tea party might consider dumping derivative securities into Lake Michigan. It was on this Thursday morning that a whole new era in American politics is born. Here's the segment, just for old time's sake . . 

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