Thursday, April 5, 2018

April 5, 1937 -- "Little Egypt" Dies

April 5, 1937 – Mrs. Frieda Spyropoulos, known throughout the world as “Little Egypt,” as a result of the dance that she performed as part of the show at the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893, dies in Cook County Hospital at the age of 65.  Spyrpopoulos’s maiden name was Fahred Mahzar, and there is some debate over the early years of her life, especially as to when she came to the United States. The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that she “came to this country early in 1893 with a troupe of Syrian performers who had been engaged for the World’s Fair.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 4, 1937] Whatever the timing of her arrival was, she made quite a stir once Sol Bloom, the entertainment director for the fair, booked her for “The Algerian Dancers of Monaco” attraction at a Midway attraction called “A Street in Cairo.”  Tame by today’s standards, her “shimmy and shake” packed ‘em in, provoking Anthony Comstock (who bragged that he had destroyed 15 tons of books, 284,000 pounds of plates for producing “objectionable books”, and nearly 4,000,000 pictures while being responsible for 4,000 arrests and the suicides of 15 people) to demand that her show be shut down.  She later said of the fuss, “I did not have any vulgarity like they have today.  No nakedness.”  Although she did make several appearances at the Century of Progress World’s Fair in 1933, Spyropoulos settled down to a quiet life on Fairfield Avenue on the southwest side, marrying Andrew Spyropoulos, the owner of a restaurant at 705 South Halsted Street in the heart of what is today the University of Illinois Chicago Circle campus.  The above photo gives a peek at “A Street in Cairo.”  The caption that accompanied the picture reads in part, “No ordinary Western woman looked on these performances with anything but horror, and at one time it was a matter of serious debate in the councils of the Exposition whether the customs of Cairo should be faithfully reproduced, or the morals of the public faithfully protected.”

April 5, 1962 – The maiden flight of a new Alitalia DC-8 from Rome to O’Hare is marred as the jet is forced to circle at 20,000 feet while thunderstorms sweep through the area.  Among the passengers on the jet, which lands nearly two hours after its scheduled touch-down, are 14 former Italian pilots, men who were part of a squadron of 96 flyers who came to Chicago on July 14, 1933 in two dozen sea planes.  The impressive display was a part of the great Century of Progress World’s Fair that took place on the city’s lakefront in the summers of 1933 and 1934.  Marshall Italo Balbo commanded the group, and the citizens of the city were so impressed by the heroic display of the aviators that they named a street for Balbo.  The flight in 1933 took 16 days to complete.  The return flight on this date in 1962, even with the weather delay, took 11 hours and 49 minutes.  You can learn more about the feats of Balbo and his men here and here. 

April 5, 1969 -- More than 20,000 people march down State Street in opposition to the war in Vietnam. As the march assembles, demonstrators are given printed instructions to cooperate with police and ignore counter-protestors. A select group of 800 Chicago police officers is also instructed to show courtesy to the marchers. The only major disruption comes at Fourteenth and State where a protestor and counter-protestor get into it with each other. National Guard troops, already in the city because of incidents stemming from the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King a year earlier, are not needed.

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